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Best of Yellowstone Vacation

Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands.

U.S. Representative John Garamendi

You might not yet have visited Yellowstone, or perhaps not since you were a child, but take our word for it that Yellowstone is the best national park in the world.

So when you do visit Yellowstone, you want to make sure you do it the right way.

Yellowstone is large, at 2.2 million acres. There are five entrances, seven primary regions you can visit, nine lodges and nine visitor centers, approximately 600 active geysers each year, 900 miles of hiking trails, and 10,000 geothermal features. So the question is, how do you plan your vacation to maximize your time and have the best experience possible? How do you create the Best of Yellowstone Vacation?

That is where we come in.

On our Best of Yellowstone Vacation, we spend three nights either in or just outside the park. We visit all the highlights, often at the best times to avoid crowds, but also visit the lesser-known park features. We take early morning and evening drives to maximize our chance of seeing wildlife, including bears, wolves, and bison. We get off the boardwalks that are crowded with tourists and onto the hiking paths that are usually scarcely traveled.

Plus, if you book this as a private vacation, we will adjust our schedule based on your interests. We can do less hiking, none at all, or select more vigorous options for you. We can get up really early to go on wildlife drives or can sleep in and relax in the morning. But throughout the planning, you’ll have our local expertise in creating your Yellowstone vacation.

Travel Montana is an authorized permittee of Yellowstone National Park
Main Image Credit: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

Details

  • Activities: Hiking
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Price Per Person
          4 - 5 people: $2,350
          6 - 7 people: $2,100
          8+ people: $2,000
  • Single Supplement: $500
  • Public Tour Date: n/a

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Trip Highlights

  • Experience the wonders of the world's first and possibly best national park
  • Watch Old Faithful erupt in the evening, as we toast our day's successes
  • Search for wildlife including bears, bison, and wolves on morning and evening drives
  • Get off the tourist boardwalks on invigorating hikes tailored to your ability level
  • Swim in the Boiling River, naturally heated by geothermal hot springs

Please note for private vacations hikes will be adjusted based on the group's interests and fitness level and the order of activities will depend on the actual lodging selected for your trip. The below is a sample itinerary using Gardiner, Montana as base.

DAY 1

We will meet you in Bozeman after lunch, either at the airport or at the Lark Hotel. We'll immediately undertake the 75 minute drive to Gardiner, the small town serving as the northern gateway to Yellowstone, where we'll check into our hotel, deposit our luggage, and do a short introduction to the tour. We'll then head into the park to visit the Mammoth Hot Springs area. But before we visit the hot springs, we'll take a hike up Bunsen Peak or on the more moderate Beaver Ponds Trail. As the crowds wane along with the day, we'll spend an hour wandering the boardwalks around Mammoth Hot Springs, admiring the beautiful colors and bubbling mud pots. We'll then return to Gardiner for a Montana-style meal in  nearby restaurant.

DAY 2

Today is our main travel day, as we drive the Grand Loop of Yellowstone and visit all the major hotspots. We'll gaze upon Grand Prismatic hot spring, which has almost every color of the rainbow. Next we'll ditch the van to hike to Mystic Falls, where the Little Firehole River drops down from the Madison Plateau. Lunch will be on your own in the Old Faithful Lodge, after which we will watch Old Faithful erupt and take a tour of the many smaller nearby geysers. In the afternoon, we'll continue around the loop to the West Thumb geothermal area, which includes Fishing Cone, a hotspring in Yellowstone Lake in which visitors cooked fish immediately after catching them. We'll continue on the loop drive to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and take a walk to view the impressive Upper and Lower Falls. It is then on to Canyon Lodge for a casual dinner in the eatery, a visit to the museum, and then an evening drive through the Hayden Valley to see if we can spot wildlife. As the sun falls, we'll head back to Gardiner after a very long but productive day in the park.

DAY 3

This morning we'll sleep in, relax, and depart on a more leisurely schedule after breakfast. Our destination for the day is the amazing Lamar Valley, which is home to the largest herds of ungulates (hooved animals such as bison, elk, and deer) and the predators such as wolves that are near them. We'll start off with a hike, perhaps up Specimen Ridge or up Rose Creek to look for the pen used to release the wolves reintroduced to the park in 1995. We'll pack a lunch so we can eat on the trail. In the afternoon, we'll continue our drive through the Lamar Valley to look for wildlife. The Lamar Valley is actually one of the best places in the world to see wolves in the wild. We'll head back to Gardiner for our final dinner together and a well-deserved sleep.

DAY 4

This morning we'll again get up early to beat the crowds as we visit a Yellowstone hot spot - literally. We'll drive a short way into the park and walk a half mile to the Boiling River, an actual river heated by underground hot springs. We'll jump in for a morning soak, dry off, and have a picnic breakfast in the area. We'll then get our exercise by hiking the Beaver Ponds Trail, a five-mile loop that not only features beaver (and muskrats) but also is a good location for seeing bears. We'll head back to Gardiner for lunch on your own before leaving for Bozeman and the airport.

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHTS 1 - 3 >> YELLOWSTONE PARK

Please note for private vacations, your lodging will be determined by your tour dates and when you reserve. Availability is tight during the summer; the more advance time you give us, the more availability there will be. If possible and you prefer, we will spend all three nights in Yellowstone, at one or more of the lodges. Please note the lodges are rustic and not inexpensive but they offer the benefit of overnighting in the park. Another option is to stay in a nearby gateway town such as Gardiner or West Yellowstone, which have more varied lodging choices, often with more availability and lower prices.

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Arrival & Departure

We’ll meet you at 1:00 PM on the first day of the trip in Billings, Montana (airport code BIL), making it possible for you to fly in that morning or arrive the day before. We finish in Kalispell at the Kalispell / Glacier International Airport at 3:00 PM, meaning you can safely book flights for 4:30 PM or later, with an optional ride on to Missoula, arriving at 5:30 PM. Upon booking, we will send you a Pre-Departure Packet with complete travel information and suggestions for extending your trip.

What's Included?
  • One local Montana Vacation Company guide will accompany each trip. Additional guides added depending on group size.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your dinners and breakfasts are included. Gratuity for these meals is also included. In general, we leave lunches open so that you have time to explore and enjoy the local flavors en route.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • All group activities and official beer tastings are included.
  • NOT INCLUDED Beverages, desserts, lunches, gratuities to your guides, personal expenses and travel to and from the destination.
When To Travel

Old Faithful is at 7,375 feet of elevation, which affects its weather. In July and August, daytime highs average a beautiful 75 degrees at Old Faithful. It is a wonderful time to be in the park but also, by far, the most crowded. Average high temperatures are lower in April (47 degrees), May (55), June (65), September (64), and October (51) but crowds are much less. So it is a tradeoff. There is also more rain in the spring than in the fall. So if you are entirely free with your schedule, we would probably suggest the months of September (after Labor Day) and October for the best combination of weather and low crowds. But if you are not, any month from April through October can be outstanding in Yellowstone.

Shuttle Time

We get to explore the 2.2 million acres of Yellowstone National Park – and given the sheer size of the park itself, we will have to have spend time shuttling from point to point. But no fear, keep your eyes peeled as we drive as we will get to see some amazing sights along the way!

Food and Lodging in Yellowstone

Spending time inside the park is a top priority – you get to explore and experience so much more by staying in or very near the heart of Yellowstone. Since it is a national park, the accommodations and food options are not going to be equal to a five-star hotel. But, we think the rustic experience just adds to the overall adventure!

Delays in Yellowstone

It is not uncommon to get stuck by one of Yellowstone's famous "Bison Jams".  This is when a herd of bison has decided to cross one of the roads within the park and causes a traffic jam.  Though they can be inconvenient while trying to stay on time, it is a one-of-a-kind experience that you won't find anywhere else. Additionally, July and August are Yellowstone's busiest months so the park will be crowded if you choose these months for your private vacation. Your guides try to manage this by timing the tour schedule appropriately as well as showing you lesser known (and frankly better!) vantage points for some of the biggest attractions.

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.

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