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Yellowstone Safari: A Seasonal Journey Through a Dramatic Landscape

Program Number: 1646RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/5/2013 - 5/10/2013; 5/1/2016 - 5/6/2016; 5/29/2016 - 6/3/2016; 6/5/2016 - 6/10/2016; 9/18/2016 - 9/23/2016; 9/25/2016 - 9/30/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Yellowstone, Wyoming
Price starting at: $799.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: National Parks
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 1 Brunch, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Take an unforgettable journey into Yellowstone National Park’s dramatic and changing landscape. Explore the seasonal changes and the dramatic composition that unfolds on the stage of Yellowstone’s magnificent scenery. Discover how the seasonal activity of indigenous wildlife plays together with the natural history and the unique geothermal features in this ongoing symphony. An experienced naturalist will lead the safari, which will investigate the specific natural activity of the season and how it plays into the overall rhythm of what defines the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.


• Safari through Yellowstone and watch the unfolding drama of the season that showcases the park’s grand and wild nature.
• Enjoy four field days in the park to learn about natural history and observe native wildlife during seasonal activity with plenty of actual viewing time.
• Experience Yellowstone's spectacular Northern Range and other prominent areas to learn about animal behaviors and adaptations. An expert naturalist provides lessons on how to view wildlife unobtrusively and how to behave in their environment.

Activity Particulars

Walk up to two miles per field day; several walks each day on established trails, boardwalks, stairs and rocky paths.

Elevations of 5,000-7,700 feet.

Date Specific Information


Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

5-1-2016, 5-29-2016

This date will spend all 5 nights just outside Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana, and drive into the park daily for all scheduled programming.

9-18-2016, 9-25-2016

The focus in September will be the activity of the elk for the rut/breeding season. Come hear the bull elk "bugle" attracting female elk.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Mammoth Hot Springs, 1 nights; coach to Yellowstone Lake, 2 nights; coach to Old Faithful, 1 night; coach to Mammoth Hot Springs, 1 nights; departure.

Coordinated by University of Montana Western.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

Yellowstone is the world's first national park, established in 1872, and is famous for its geysers and thermal features as well as its plentiful and diverse flora and fauna. There is also considerable human history within the park, from the early explorers and settlers to the historic park lodges.

Comfortable accommodations at various locations inside Yellowstone National Park.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Gene Ball

Raised along the rural Louisiana-Texas border, Gene's early outdoor experiences began a lifelong interest in wildlife, western heritage and preservation. After teaching and serving as director for the Hill Country Arts Foundation and Cowboy Artists Museum in Texas, he migrated to Wyoming to work at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. He then became director of the Yellowstone Association and Yellowstone Institute in Yellowstone National Park, and now freelances as a writer and naturalist.
Leslie Stoltz

Raised and educated in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Leslie Stoltz now lives in Big Sky, Montana, surrounded by the wild places that she loves. Her decade of work for the National Park Service in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks in the areas of research and education provided a wonderful foundation for her career as a teacher and park expert. Since the early 1990s, Leslie has worked for a variety of companies and non-profit organizations, teaching classes and leading trips in national parks and wild areas throughout the American West. Farther afield, she has led educational trips to Nepal, Bhutan, Tanzania, Botswana, Ecuador, and Mexico. Leslie also runs a non-profit with a mission to keep kids connected to the outdoors though scholarship opportunities for outdoor learning experiences.
Catherine Cain

A trained naturalist with degrees in zoology, cultural anthropology and biology, Catherine Cain is an accomplished leader with areas of expertise including interpretation of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Due to her knowledge and experience in the fields of zoology, geology, botany, and cultural anthropology, she has been involved in many teaching, administrative, and research positions, including eight years as marine research biologist. She is owner of High Country Discovery, providing natural history explorations of southwest Montana, and is a certified excursion leader for the Montana Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. In 1990, she was honored as the United States "Small Business Person of the Year" for the state of Montana as co-owner of WindRelated, Inc. She has recently started her newest venture, Southwest Montana Native Landscapes, offering landscape design services and a retail native plant nursery.
Meals and Lodgings
   Yellowstone River Motel
  Gardiner, MT 5 nights
 Yellowstone River Motel
Type: Motel
  Description: Lodgings are located on Gardiner's main street, Park Street, on Yellowstone's northern boundary. Yellowstone's northwest entrance at Roosevelt Arch is three blocks from motel. The Gardiner entrance was dedicated in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt.
  Contact info: 14 Park Street
Gardiner, MT 59030 USA
phone: 888-797-4837
  Room amenities: Refrigerator, microwave, in-room coffee, wireless internet, satellite TV, phone, air conditioning
  Facility amenities: Quiet, though one block from downtown. Grassy patio overlooks the mighty Yellowstone River. Within walking distance of shopping, ice cream, deli, lattes. Hair dryers, iron, ironing board available upon request.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Additional nights prior: varies Seasonal rates; call Yellowstone River Motel for information.
  Check in time: 4:30 PM
  Additional nights after: varies Seasonal rates; call Yellowstone River Motel for information.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Registration at motel between 4 and 5 p.m. You will be staying at Yellowstone River Motel that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after 11 a.m. grab and go brunch. You will be staying at Yellowstone River Motel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Please bring a Golden Age, Senior or National Park pass if you have one.
  Parking availability:
Free parking is available at the motel for the duration of the program.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Gardiner, MT
  Nearest city or town:  Livingston, MT is 53 miles north.
  Nearest highway: State HWY 89.
  Nearest airport:  Gallatin Field in Bozeman, MT, 89 miles
  From End of Program
  Location: Gardiner, MT
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Bozeman, MT


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Greater Valley Taxi
phone: 406-388-7938
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Group rate is approximately $68.00; call for information and current group rate.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Two hours. 




89 miles.


Reservations must be arranged at least three days in advance; call (406) 388-7938. Group shuttle departs airport at 1:30 pm. Meet Greater Valley at the large bear statue near the luggage carousel inside the airport between 1 and 1:30 pm. In order to take advantage of the group shuttle rate, you must arrive before 1 pm on Sunday and depart after 2 pm on Friday. Arriving in Bozeman a day early or staying an extra day may be more economical than booking individual transportation.


Bozeman, MT


To Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Greater Valley Taxi
phone: 406-388-7938
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Group rate is approximately $68.00; call for information and current group rate.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Two hours. 




89 miles.


Reservations must be made at least three days in advance; call (406)388-7938; you may be asked to leave a message. Group shuttle departs site at 11:30 am. Outside of the above scheduled times, individual transportation (not at group rate) can be reserved through Greater Valley Taxi (406)388-7938 or Karst Stage (406)556-3540 (72 hours notice required). Car rental and drop-off are available at the Bozeman airport; drop-off is not available in Gardiner or Yellowstone National Park.

Driving Directions
  Billings, MT Drive west 116 miles on I-90 to Livingston. Exit onto US HWY 89; proceed south 53 miles to Gardiner.
  Bozeman, MT From Bozeman, drive 26 miles east on Interstate 90 to Livingston. Turn south on US HWY 89 and travel south 53 miles to Gardiner.
  from the East (Cody, WY) Roads in the park may or may not be open in May - depends on winter snows/snow removal schedule; for Yellowstone road conditions, closures, etc., call (307) 344-2117. Travel east into Yellowstone Park 80 miles on HWYs 20 and 14/16 past Fishing Bridge area to junction. Turn north here to Canyon (16 miles). Travel 12 miles west from Canyon to Norris Junction. Travel north 21 miles to Mammoth; continue north five miles to Gardiner. Drive under Roosevelt Arch onto Park Street. Proceed to end of Park Street; Yellowstone River Motel is on left side of street.
  from the North (Livingston, MT) Exit I-19 onto US HWY 89. Drive south 53 miles to Gardiner. Proceed into town, cross the Yellowstone River bridge and straight ahead to Park Street. Turn left; Yellowstone River Motel is one block down at end of street on left.
  from the South (Jackson, WY) Travel north 86 miles on HWY 89/287 (slow miles as most of travel is through two national parks with speed limit averaging from 15-40 miles per hour) to West Thumb, then west and north 33 miles to Madison Junction. Drive east then north 14 miles to Norris Junction; carry on northward 21 miles to Mammoth; bear north five more miles to Yellowstone's northwest entrance at Gardiner. Drive under Roosevelt Arch onto Park Street; Proceed to end of Park Street; Yellowstone River Motel is on left side of street. For Teton National Park road conditions call (307) 739-3682 For Yellowstone road conditions call (307) 344-2117.
Elevation Note: Site elevation 5,260'. Activities take place at elevations ranging from 5,260' to 9,000'.

Equipment Requirements: Bring binoculars, durable water bottle (At high altitudes you are more susceptible to dehydration and altitude sickness. Carrying a water bottle with you and drinking plenty of water is of utmost importance to avoid these sometimes dangerous problems.) and fanny or day pack.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Check-In, orientation, welcome dinner and a look at the week ahead. Being here during this less visited time of year adds much to a springtime interlude in Wonderland.
(Sunday, May 5)
 Afternoon: Check-in between 4 and 5 PM.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at local restaurant
 Evening: Orientation and introductions
Accommodations: Yellowstone River Motel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: The rebirth and renewal of spring in Yellowstone provides one of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in North America. The adventure begins!
(Monday, May 6)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at local restaurant
 Morning: Welcome to Yellowstone National Park and the week's adventure. Morning presentations provide "An Introduction to Yellowstone's Wildlife." Spring in Yellowstone offers the optimum time of year for wildlife viewing. A variety of wildlife will be seen during this prime time of year; evening field trips offer even more opportunities. The Magic of Yellowstone awaits.
 Lunch: Lunch at nearby restaurant
 Afternoon: An acclimation walk near lodgings, with interpretation, is an opportunity to hear about the Gardiner area's natural history and to continue to become acclimated to the altitude. Free time to familiarize yourself with Yellowstone's northwest gateway community of Gardiner, Montana, altitude 5,260'.
 Dinner: Dinner at nearby restaurant
 Evening: Evening presentation: "Optics and Ethics of Wildlife Observation". Discover the correct way to use binoculars and scopes (both provided; however, bring your own binoculars if you have them) or brush up your own skills using tips provided by instructor. Learn how to view wildlife unobtrusively and how to behave in their environment.
Accommodations: Yellowstone River Motel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Field day in Yellowstone National Park's northern range, a sanctuary of open grassland, mixed forest, snow-capped mountains, sagebrush-dotted hills and the mighty Lamar River; a big country that provides forage and cover for a multitude of wild creatures.
(Tuesday, May 7)

Note: Several walks today, up to two miles total.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at nearby restaurant
 Morning: "Yellowstone's Wildlife" continues with an in depth look at predator/prey relations; wolves, mountain lions, coyotes. Be aware that each field day will include several walks, up to two miles per day, with interpretation. Be sure to bring binoculars if you have them and make sure the lenses are sparkling clean and ready to go; spotting scopes provided.
 Lunch: Lunch at nearby restaurant.
 Afternoon: Afternoon/evening field trip into Yellowstone National Park's northern range, the Lamar Valley, for an afternoon and evening of wildlife viewing; see bison, elk, pronghorn, marmots, osprey, waterfowl and some of the most pristine landscape in the nation. The Lamar Valley contains prime wolf habitat; however, wolves may not be present in the area at this time. Wolves are wide ranging animals. Expect one or more moderate walks to explore a variety of habitats.
 Dinner: Picnic dinners in Yellowstone
 Evening: Field trip continues with a late return to lodgings; remember, evenings offer optimum opportunity for spotting wildlife and gorgeous light for taking photographs.
Accommodations: Yellowstone River Motel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Field day into the Mammoth and Tower areas. Mammoth is the site of Fort Yellowstone, home to the cavalry who protected Yellowstone resources and visitors from 1886 to 1918. Mammoth is now administrative center for the park.
(Wednesday, May 8)

Note: Several walks today; up to two miles total.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at nearby restaurant
 Morning: Morning presentation, "Geology of Yellowstone", provides an overview of the Great Caldera's violent, geologic past, a great preview for tomorrow's field day which includes the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful. Free time.
 Lunch: Lunch at nearby restaurant
 Afternoon: Field trip into Yellowstone National Park to explore Albright Visitor Center and walk the beautiful terraces in the historic Mammoth district. Enjoy natural history exhibits, the Jackson and Moran galleries and bookstore at the visitor center, then find out how the graceful tiers of the cascading Mammoth Terraces were formed. Continue eastward to see Tower Fall and osprey nests built on pinnacles high above the mighty Yellowstone River. You'll be in prime bear and big horn sheep habitat; chances are good to see them but remember, they may or may not be visible depending on their activity at this time. See pronghorn, mule deer and a variety of waterfowl; perhaps moose and beaver. You are becoming an expert with the spotting scope now; talk about bringing wildlife up close and personal!
 Dinner: Picnic dinners in the Park
 Evening: Field trip continues with an evening return to take advantage of prime wildlife viewing time. Walks, wildlife viewing sites, scenic overlooks and picnic areas provide a background serenade of rushing water, sandhill cranes and meadowlarks or a singing, fragrant breeze. Expect one or more moderate walks during this day of exploration.
Accommodations: Yellowstone River Motel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Field day into the heart of Yellowstone to the Old Faithful and Canyon areas. Prepare for hissing steam vents, seething hot springs, glorious geysers, yawning canyon depths, roaring waterfalls, marmots, ravens, chipmunks and more.
(Thursday, May 9)

Note: Several walks today; up to two miles total.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at nearby restaurant
 Morning: Full field day into Yellowstone to the Old Faithful area via Gibbon River, Gibbon Falls, Obsidian Cliff and Roaring Mountain. Take a moderate walkabout at Fountain Paint Pots. Explore the Upper Geyser Basin; see Old Faithful and a variety of hot springs, fumaroles, geysers and the Firehole River. Moderate walking to explore the area's astonishing variety of hot springs features.
 Lunch: Sack lunches in the Park
 Afternoon: On to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for a look at the Upper and Lower Falls and the canyon's beautifully tinted walls. Enjoy a walk here along the Yellowstone River to appreciate its unique riparian environment and be right there for a heart stopping interlude where the mighty river roars and plunges straight down, 109 feet! Here is geologic splendor and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone ambiance. This day, as is any day in Yellowstone, is travel and exploration among a wealth of wildlife habitat. A grand landscape, your knowledgeable instructor's interpretation and the delight of numerous wildlife sightings add up to one of the best days ever.
 Dinner: Dinner at nearby restaurant
 Evening: A free evening is welcome after all the excitement of a day in Yellowstone!
Accommodations: Yellowstone River Motel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Bears of Yellowstone; Yellowstone Finale. Group closing and group photo; bring your own camera.
(Friday, May 10)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at nearby restaurant
 Morning: Morning presentations, "Bears of Yellowstone" and "Yellowstone Finale" wrap up the grand adventure, tie up loose ends, answer questions and bring the learning adventure to a gratifying conclusion. Closing and group photo; bring your own camera.
 Brunch: 11 a.m. grab and go brunch. Airport shuttle departs at 11:30 a.m.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Brunch

Free Time Opportunities
  Gardiner, MT Yellowstone National Park
Official web site for Yellowstone National Park. For additional information, visit
Two trailheads in town; each 3/4 mile from lodgings.
  Horseback Riding
Trailrides provided by Rendezvous Outfitters in Gardiner, MT (406) 848-7967.
Scenic float or whitewater rafting on Yellowstone River. For additional information, visit
  Yellowstone Association
Founded in 1933 to assist with educational, historical and scientific programs that would benefit Yellowstone National Park and its visitors. Operates book sale outlets in park visitor centers which supports expanded naturalist training and programs, finances publication of trail guides, books and pamphlets about the Park, helps with funding for museum exhibits and research equipment. The Yellowstone Association Institute sponsors outdoor courses for all age groups, some of which are especially designed for women, families and children. The Institute's purpose is to explore, understand and appreciate Yellowstone. For additional information, visit
  Yellowstone National Park concessioner
For a closer look at Yellowstone and to find out what's available in the Park- horseback riding, ranger-led activities, wildlife excursions and any other park activities. Xanterra Parks and Resorts is Yellowstone's principal concessioner and includes operations of park's lodging facilities, some campgrounds, restaurants, gift shops, interpretive tours, etc. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Searching for Yellowstone: Ecology and Wonder in the Last Wilderness

Author: Paul Schullery

Description: Eloquent, elegant, truthful and practical - an environmental history of America's best idea, Yellowstone.

Decade of the Wolf, revised and updated edition: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone

Author: Douglas W. Smith and Gary Ferguson

Description: Research and storytelling meld to document wolf recovery in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Wolf biologist, Smith, and nature writer, Ferguson, provide an inside look at the Yellowstone Wolf Recovery Project ten years after the controversial decision was made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to reintroduce wolves into the park. Smith, wolf project leader who has worked with the Yellowstone Wolf Project since its inception, has studied wolves for 25 years. Ferguson, whose writing largely arises from intimate experiences, followed through the seasons, the first 14 wolves released into Yellowstone National Park. Their collaboration offers hard facts and 'impressionistic portraits of individual wolves that reveal their epic lives full of struggle and conquest.' Here is the history of the return of the top predator to Yellowstone.

Restoring a Presence: American Indians and Yellowstone National Park

Author: Peter Nabokov and Lawrence Loendorf

Description: This first comprehensive account of Indians in and around Yellowstone corrects more than a century of ignorance. Detailed here is Yellowstone's native peoples and their story of a long engagement with a remarkable landscape.

To Save the Wild Bison: Life on the Edge in Yellowstone

Author: Mary Ann Franke

Description: The author brings clarity and revelation to one of Yellowstone's most complex struggles by tracing the history of bison and humans into the 19th century and further into the national parks era. Here's discussion of bison management and park policy - the battle over brucellosis, snowmobiles and groomed winter roads, desires of Native Americans, bison and predators.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

Author: David Allen Sibley

Description: Sibley, a talented painter, offers this wonderful, data-packed color guide with range maps and detailed descriptions of songs and calls. This book is perfect for field trips with short walks and may be too heavy for some to take to the field in which case it can await back in the car.

After the Fires: The Ecology of Change in Yellowstone National Park

Author: Linda Wallace, Editor

Description: The ravaging fires of 1988 caused many scientists to predict long-term devastation which did not come to pass. This scientific summary by wildlife biologists, ecosystem and forest scientists and landscape ecologists discusses the many things that changed and did not change in the Yellowstone area. Realize the role of fire in the ecosystem and the resiliency of nature.

Roadside Geology of Yellowstone Country

Author: William Fritz & Robert Thomas

Description: Updated, classic roadside geology book for the Yellowstone Region explains current geological theories.

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