Montana & Wyoming Family: Yellowstone

Family Tour, Montana & Wyoming Family: YellowstoneFamily Tour, Montana & Wyoming Family: Yellowstone

Montana & Wyoming Family

Yellowstone

overview

With its 3,468 square miles of virgin lodgepole pine forests, sweeping acres of lush grasslands, one-ofa- kind geothermal features, and thriving populations of untamed wildlife, Yellowstone is not just a national park, it’s the national park. And as your family explores its alpine meadows and majestic animal habitats on a six-day adventure through Montana and Wyoming, you can experience it for yourselves—along with a whole world of Western wonder to boot. Spot wild elk, bison, antelope, snowshoe hares, coyotes, bighorn sheep, porcupines, and even black bears on dramatic hikes through the backcountry. Get soaked rafting through the shoots and rapids of Gallatin Canyon. Share a moment horseback riding through alpine meadows carpeted with wildflowers. Or just take a few seconds to enjoy the quiet music of wind in the aspen trees. The big sky of the American West is unforgettable to behold—and, like an open-air cowboy barbecue, the whole world tastes a bit better beneath it.

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
3-5 miles daily
Meet
Bozeman, Montana
Depart
Bozeman, Montana
Daily Itinerary
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itinerary
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
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From our blog

Family Adventure 
6 days, 5 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals included; wine or beer included with dinners
  • All accommodations (with private bathrooms) while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • Basic travel insurance coverage
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the CW staff

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Yellowstone National Park
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2
Yellowstone National Park
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3
Yellowstone National Park
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4
Big Sky
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5
Big Sky
View on map
6
Big Sky
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Day 1

Yellowstone National Park

Transfer to Yellowstone National Park. Mammoth Hot Springs; 2 miles, easy to moderate

From the meeting point in Bozeman, you set out on the scenic four-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park. Heading south to Livingston, Montana, you follow the path of the Yellowstone River through Paradise Valley and continue on to the northwest entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Here you stop for introductions and possibly a treat from the local scoop shop.

After, you embark on the first walk of the trip through the impressive Mammoth Hot Springs and terraces. This intricate system of travertine pools and ridges—formed when magmaheated water rises through seams of limestone—creates an unforgettable landscape. Pick your way through bubbling pools stained bright red, orange, or green by blooms of algae and marvel at the odd shapes and features that dominate this unique terrain.

Later, you continue your drive to Lake Yellowstone, North America’s largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet. En route you pass through Hayden Valley, a broad, lush habitat for roaming bison, elk, and deer. You also follow the beautiful Yellowstone River where you may spot swans, blue herons, osprey, and Canada geese. By late afternoon you reach the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, a grand lodge listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A highlight of this hotel is relaxing in the sunroom while listening to piano or chamber music, or playing on the black-sand beach. This evening you enjoy dinner in the lodge’s dining room, overlooking the serene waters of the lake.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Listed on the Register of Historic Places, this classic hotel dating from 1891 is set on the shores of beautiful Lake Yellowstone and surrounded by a network of walking and hiking trails. It has been restored to its 1920s grand style in its guest rooms, lake view “Sun Room,” and dining room, and reflects its peaceful natural surroundings.

Day 2

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone; 4-7 miles, easy to moderate

This morning you head north (approximately one hour) to the southern rim of the impressive Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The walk begins along the Wapati Trail through a beautiful open meadow carpeted in wildflowers. Along the way, your naturalist guides share insights, tales, and tracking tips about the wildlife you may encounter. If you are lucky, you may pass grazing bison, elk, or antelope. You then enter a forested area skirting a small lake and active mud pots before arriving at the edge of the canyon. The canyon is truly awe inspiring! This 1,200-foot deep, 20-mile long chasm reflects the bright red, yellow, and orange colors of volcanic rhyolite, hydrothermally altered and cooled some 600,000 years ago. The turbulent Yellowstone River roars and foams through the deep canyon and over two major waterfalls, the largest of which plunges 308 feet to the canyon floor. As you skirt the rim you enjoy spectacular views of the canyon, river, and waterfalls. After a picnic lunch, those looking for a longer option can continue their walk to the northern rim of the canyon, which provides dramatic views of both the lower and upper falls.

After a tasty dinner of classic Western fare at the hotel, enjoy an evening tour through the park in an antique yellow bus. Spot grazing elk in the magic-hour dusk light and enjoy the cool air through the vehicle’s open top.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Listed on the Register of Historic Places, this classic hotel dating from 1891 is set on the shores of beautiful Lake Yellowstone and surrounded by a network of walking and hiking trails. It has been restored to its 1920s grand style in its guest rooms, lake view “Sun Room,” and dining room, and reflects its peaceful natural surroundings.

Day 3

Yellowstone National Park

Visit Old Faithful and walk Upper Geyser Basin; 4 miles, easy to moderate

This morning you transfer early to the park’s most famous and largest geyser, Old Faithful. After watching the geyser erupt, we set out on foot to explore the miles of trails and boardwalks surrounding this rich geyser basin. Some of the park’s most impressive geysers and hot springs are clustered around Old Faithful, and your guides introduce you to the unique geology and geothermal activity of the area. It takes hundreds of years to establish the fragile crust of minerals surrounding these sites, so it’s important to tread carefully here. You may even pass large groups of grazing bison and elk. Bison often sleep near human habitation and pay little attention to people and cars, so they are much less surprised than you are by the close proximity. Lunch will likely be a picnic or boxed lunch along the trail, weather dependent.

This afternoon you check in to your next lodge, the historic Old Faithful Inn. Sometimes called the world’s largest tree house, this unique hotel is built of split logs and handwrought hardware. Most impressive is its central lobby, which rises to 76 feet, 6 inches, and boasts a massive, rough-stone fireplace. After some free time to further explore the geyser basin or the region’s visitor center, you reunite for dinner in the inn’s beautiful dining room. This evening, those with the energy may wish to join a ranger-led discussion or slide show.

Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, and the world’s largest log hotel, the inn offers clear views of the iconic Old Faithful geyser. The grand multistory lobby of twisted and curved branches with its massive stone fireplace evokes memories of the Golden Age of rustic grand resorts.

Day 4

Big Sky

Firehole swimming hole. Pocket Basin; 2 miles, easy. Visit to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Transfer to 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky

This morning you drive the short distance to the Firehole River for an optional dip. A popular swimming hole due to the warm runoff from the distant hot springs and geysers, this deep, warm-water pool offers a scenic spot for relaxation below tall cliffs. (Please note, this activity may take place on the afternoon of the previous day.) We then embark on a short walk into Pocket Basin offering the largest concentration of mud pots in the park. To reach this isolated area along the Firehole River you pass a large active area that features dozens of springs ranging in temperature from lukewarm to pools of 188-200 degrees F. The mud pots are formed when acidic gases break down the surrounding volcanic rock into true clays. There is not enough water to flush the clay away, so it sits there and bubbles with escaping gases making very peculiar noises.

Lunch is served in West Yellowstone with free time to browse the shops in this small town or visit the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. This not-for-profit educational facility provides visitors the opportunity to observe and learn about grizzly bears and gray wolves. All animals living at the center are unable to survive on their own in the wilderness.

Late afternoon you continue your drive (approximately one hour) to the beautiful Big Sky region of Montana. Along the way you drive through the lovely Gallatin River Valley made famous by the book and movie, “A River Runs Through It.” Your home for the next two nights is the 320 Guest Ranch, a classic Western ranch. After settling in, you partake in an outdoor chuckwagon barbecue with ribs or chicken, corn on the cob, beans, salad, and s’mores over the open fire. Hotdogs and hamburgers are offered for younger children.

320 Guest Ranch

Big Sky, Montana

Welcoming guests since 1898, this Western ranch along the Gallatin River features cabins with mountain views, an openair hot tub, horseback riding, and stocked trout ponds. A three-bedroom cabin is reserved for your family.

Day 5

Big Sky

Horseback riding. Gallatin National Forest; 4 miles, moderate

After breakfast, you embark on a two-hour horseback ride into the spectacular Gallatin River Canyon surrounding the ranch. The horses are gentle and well trained, so even those who have never saddled up may want to give it a try. The trail ride climbs into high alpine meadows blanketed in wildflowers and wild sage. Depending on the month, you may spot beautiful clusters of wild rose, lupine, geranium, phlox, paintbrush, and sunflowers. The views are equally breathtaking with sweeping vistas of the snowcapped Spanish and Gallatin Peaks. This afternoon you are free to relax at the ranch and enjoy the hot tub and tranquil setting, or join the guides for a walk in the Gallatin National Forest. The walk may leave right from the Gallatin River and ascend to a grassy plateau blanketed with light-green, silvery sage and wildflowers. The 320 Guest Ranch also has a well-stocked pond and casting lessons can be arranged directly through the ranch prior to your visit (please note that the cost of this optional activity is not included in the tour price).

320 Guest Ranch

Big Sky, Montana

Welcoming guests since 1898, this Western ranch along the Gallatin River features cabins with mountain views, an openair hot tub, horseback riding, and stocked trout ponds. A three-bedroom cabin is reserved for your family.

Day 6

Big Sky

Rafting the Gallatin River. Farewell in Bozeman

Take an adventurous raft trip down the Gallatin River. This adventure combines the thrill of white-water (primarily class III/IV rapids) with the magnificent views of the wild Gallatin Canyon. Experience the excitement of such rapids as House Rock, Screaming Left, and Mad Mile, and the periodic tranquility of floating on this pristine river.

After the morning’s activities, you transfer directly to Bozeman (approximately one hour) for a celebratory lunch at a favorite watering hole. Your guide will offer a drop-off either at the Bozeman airport or your post-tour hotel in downtown Bozeman.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Dave Akers

Dave has worked as a year-round guide in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for the past 15 years. Prior to living in Montana for 30 years, Dave grew up near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. In addition to guiding he enjoys his family, hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and most outdoor activities.

Brenda Goltz

Brenda has lived and guided in Yellowstone National Park for the past 10 years. A dedicated environmentalist and educator, she loves sharing her passion for the area with Country Walkers guests. Brenda is also an active volunteer assisting with wetland and habitat restoration projects and a graduate of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). In her free time she guides ski trips, teaches yoga and coaches youth in nordic skiing.

Scott Carsley

Scott has a deep passion for the outdoors and our natural surroundings. As owner of Yellowstone Alpen Guides for over twenty five years, he has guided, recruited, and trained guides for both our Montana Yellowstone and Family Yellowstone tours. With a degree in geology, Scott understands the intricacies of Yellowstone’s diverse geological make up, and imparts, and generously shares his knowledge with guests on our tours.

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