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Canyons, Geysers, Hot Springs: Yellowstone in Action

Program Number: 10010RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/8/2013 - 10/12/2013;
Duration: 4 nights
Location: West Yellowstone, Montana
Price starting at: $599.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: National Parks
Meals: 11; 4 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Get inside Yellowstone National Park to experience the only essentially undisturbed geyser basins left in the world, with the greatest number of displays. In this stunning setting, investigate the volatility and inner workings of geysers such as Old Faithful, brilliant colors and intricate patterns of algae that ring hot springs and bubbling mud pots, and the hiss of steaming fumaroles.


• Background sessions on geology and the study of planet Earth set the stage for two full-day field trips into the park.
• Learn about the park’s early history and how a succession of explorers, trappers and developers responded to its wonders.
• Discover why Yellowstone is an important case study of human interaction with the environment.

Activity Particulars

Several moderate walks per field day, up to two miles, on trails, stairs and boardwalks.

Lodging and activities at elevations of 6,666-7,800 feet.

Date Specific Information


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

Coordinated by University of Montana Western.

West Yellowstone

West Yellowstone is a lively community hugging the western edge of the nation’s first park. The town is surrounded by forests and rangeland and is an ideal entry point into a land of incredible beauty created by a violent geologic past.

Modern, comfortable motel in Yellowstone's West Gateway Community, within walking distance of Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, downtown.
Meals and Lodgings
   Yellowstone Lodge
  West Yellowstone, MT 4 nights
 Yellowstone Lodge
Type: Motel
  Description: A modern, comfortable motel in Yellowstone National Park's West Gateway Community, the lodge is within walking distance of the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, IMAX Theatre and downtown. Remember, you are experiencing the atmosphere of a small, rural community and meal options are naturally limited. Meals served at local restaurants; sack lunches in the field. Please be aware that the single dietary requirement or preference that can be accommodate at this site is vegetarian - no meat. You may wish to bring supplementary items. Questions? call UM-Western Road Scholar (406) 683-7302.
  Contact info: 251 South Electric Street
West Yellowstone, MT 59758 USA
phone: 877-239-9298
  Room amenities: Individually controlled heat and air-conditioning, Cable TV, coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator, Wi-Fi, hair dryer, clock radio, telephone with data port and voice mail, iron/ironing board.
  Facility amenities: Heated indoor swimming pool and whirlpool spa, coin-operated guest laundry, deluxe complimentary breakfast, free wireless Internet available in lobby/laptop available.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Varies. Seasonal rates; call for information (877) 239-9298.
  Check in time: 4:30 PM
  Additional nights after: Varies. Seasonal rates; call for information (877) 239-9298.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Registration at motel between 4 and 5 pm. You will be staying at Yellowstone Lodge that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after expanded continental breakfast on site (6:30-9 am.). Airport shuttle departs at 8 am. You will be staying at Yellowstone Lodge the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Please bring a Golden Age, Senior or National Parks pass if you have one.
  Parking availability:
Airport parking is $5.50 per day.
To Start of Program
  Location:  West Yellowstone, MT
  Nearest city or town:  Bozeman, 89 miles to the north
  Nearest highway: State HWY 191
  Nearest airport:  Gallatin Field 10 miles west of Bozeman
  From End of Program
  Location: West Yellowstone, 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 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 for rates and reservations. You may be asked to leave a message. Group shuttle departs airport at 1:30 pm. In order to take advantage of the group shuttle rate, your flight must arrive before 1 pm on Sunday and depart after 11:00 am on Thursday. 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 current group rate.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Two hours. 




89 miles.


Return shuttle must be arranged at least three days in advance; call (406) 388-7938. Group shuttle departs site at 8:00 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 West Yellowstone or Yellowstone National Park.

Driving Directions
  Belgrade, MT Drive south on HWY 191 to West Yellowstone (89 miles).
  Billings, MT Drive west 150 miles on I-90 to Belgrade, then south 89 miles on HWY 191 to West Yellowstone.
  Cody, WY Drive west 131 miles on HWY 20/HWY 14-16 (through Yellowstone Park) to West Yellowstone. Call Yellowstone National Park (307) 344-2117 for road conditions, closures, construction, etc.
  Idaho Falls, ID Drive north on HWY 20 to West Yellowstone (100 miles).
Elevation Note: Lodgings and activities at altitudes ranging from 6,666' to 7800'

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 and welcome to Yellowstone; orientation and introductions.
(Tuesday, October 8)
 Afternoon: Check-in between 4 and 5 PM.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at nearby restaurant; walk up to 4 blocks.
 Evening: Orientation, introductions and an adventure preview.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Introduction to Yellowstone's geology and its natural history.
(Wednesday, October 9)
 Breakfast: Expanded continental breakfast on site.
 Morning: Yellowstone's Geology 101 provides an overview of what's happening beneath our feet. Discuss geologic processes that have shaped Yellowstone's landscape through the ages. Consider plate movement, the Yellowstone hotspot, volcanic activity, glaciation Earth history continues with basics of geyser basin plumbing. Find out what conditions over time have created the four types of thermal features - hot springs, mudpots, geysers and fumaroles. Introduction to life forms that live in hot water and their survival mechanisms.
 Lunch: Lunch at nearby restaurant; walk up to 4 blocks.
 Afternoon: The land, the place, the people: Geography of the Greater Yellowstone area continues to put things in perspective then an acclimation walk with instructor for introduction of West Yellowstone's early travel history. Find out about "pioneer" tourists who made their way west to Wonderland. What was travel like in the early days? What modes of transportation were used, were hotels available and what about camping? Free time.
 Dinner: Dinner at nearby restaurant; walk up to four blocks.
 Evening: Evening presentation: Yellowstone's Bears.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Field day in Yellowstone National Park to the Norris, Canyon, Hayden and Lake areas. Naturalist provides on board interpretation and leads exploratory walks.
(Thursday, October 10)

Note: Several moderate walks, up to two miles per field day, on trails, stairs and boardwalks.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at nearby restaurant; walk up to 4 blocks.
 Morning: Morning birdwalk or presentation to preview recent geothermal activity at the Norris and Lake areas. Mid morning departure into Yellowstone National Park with naturalist who provides interpretation on board and during exploratory walks. Travel along the Madison River to Madison Junction; with binoculars at the ready, watch for trumpeter swans, elk, bison, waterfowl and coyote. Continuing north along the Gibbon River brings adventurers to Yellowstone?s oldest, hottest and most active thermal area, Norris Geyser Basin, which sits at the intersection of three major fault lines. Evidence shows that thermal features have existed in the basin for the last 115,000 years. A scientific drill hole at Norris registered the highest temperature ever recorded in Yellowstone at 459 degrees F. Walk a portion of either the Porcelain or Back Basin Trail. Continuing east and for a time still following the Gibbon River, adventurers will cross the caldera rim and eventually arrive at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 20 miles long, 800' to 1,200' deep and 1,500' to 4,000' wide. A walkabout reveals steep canyon walls of striking, muted tints and scenic overlooks to stun the senses. Experience both 109' Upper and 308' Lower Falls. Examine the canyon's geologic story - of glaciers, a volcanic eruption, lava flows and huge ice dams. A visit to the new Canyon Visitor Education Center further reveals Yellowstone's violent geologic past.
 Lunch: Sack lunches in the Park
 Afternoon: Continue south following the mighty Yellowstone River as it threads among Hayden Valley's vast reaches. Appreciate the wide river, streamside forest, broad open meadows and spacious sagebrush country. Interpretation includes the significance of Hayden?s Valley?s wildlife habitat and a look at its geologic past. It was covered at one time by ice and later an ancient lake whose sediments support the grasses and shrubs used by bison and other wildlife and thus, the predators that shadow them. Exploration continues along the road that flanks the great river to where it flows from Yellowstone Lake near present day Fishing Bridge. Consider Yellowstone Lake's extensive 110-mile shoreline and the lake itself, an alpine lake extending 136 square miles, so large that it often creates its own weather. The lake?s western portion lies within the Yellowstone caldera; find out about volcanic activity taking place beneath its surface today. Expect to see waterfowl, shorebirds, pelicans, perhaps moose.
 Dinner: Picnic supper in the Park.
 Evening: Evening return to lodgings provides optimum wildlife viewing during the crepuscular hour.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: A field day among geyser basins, Fountain Paint Pot, Midway and Old Faithful, introduces a portion of Yellowstone's approximately 10,000 hydrothermal features. Prepare for steaming, roaring, bubbling, sulfur-scented adventure!
(Friday, October 11)

Note: Several moderate walks, up to two miles per field day, on trails, stairs and boardwalks.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at nearby restaurant; walk four blocks.
 Morning: Journey to Madison Junction, then south following beautiful Firehole River into Yellowstone's geyser country. The Firehole, a blue ribbon flyfishing stream, drains Lower, Midway and Upper Geyser Basins including Old Faithful. Sometimes fish in the river are killed as water from geysers and hot springs raise the temperature. At the same time, more food is produced for fish in the river since chemicals being released from volcanic rocks add nutrients that foster plant growth. Naturalist-led walk at Fountain Paint Pot, named for the yellows, browns and reds of the "pots." Mud pots are located above the water table, or at the highest points, in hydrothermal basins. The boardwalk offers more excitement, beauty, grand vistas and geysers including Clepsedra and Fountain. Discuss the cataclysmic volcanic eruptions that laid the foundation for the world's largest concentration of hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles here in Yellowstone. Bring binoculars for scenic and wildlife viewing; scopes available. Become acquainted with microbes and algae that flourish at temperatures exceeding 170 degrees Fahrenheit. These organisms are primitive life forms that are almost 4 billion years old; some are invisible to the human eye and others have thick mats that add brilliant colors –green, orange, yellow – to some hot springs. Find out about Thermus aquaticus and bioprospecting. Other elements that add color to some of the features include iron oxide and sulfur. Time may allow for an ‘eye popping’ investigation at Midway Geyser Basin, named “Hell’s Half Acre” by Rudyard Kipling who visited Yellowstone in 1889. Grand Prismatic Spring, at 111 feet deep, is Yellowstone’s deepest hot spring and, at 200 feet wide, the largest in North America. Located nearby is the dormant Excelsior Geyser, now considered a productive hot spring which discharges 4050 gallons of boiling water per minute into the Firehole River.
 Lunch: Sack lunches in the Park
 Afternoon: On to Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. The hot water beneath the surface here is over 400 degrees F; it cools to around 200 degrees F as it surges from the geysers. Old Faithful's eruption discharges about 8,500 gallons of hot water as it erupts to heights between 100 and 180 feet every 80 minutes or so. Enjoy Old Faithful then walk a portion of Geyser Hill's meandering boardwalk to view geysers and hot springs including Giantess, Lioness and Grotto. It is claimed that Geyser Hill contains one of the world's greatest concentrations of geysers. Visit legendary Old Faithful Inn, designed by Robert Reamer and built of local stone and logs during the winter of 1903-04. This treasure is now a National Historic Landmark and one of the few remaining log hotels in the country.
 Dinner: Dinner at nearby restaurant; walk up to four blocks.
 Evening: Yellowstone wrap up with Q & A. Closing, goodbyes and group photo.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Continental breakfast and departure.
(Saturday, October 12)
 Breakfast: Expanded continental breakfast (6:30-9 a.m.) on site.
 Morning: Independent departures. Airport shuttle departs at 8 am.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  West Yellowstone, MT Yellowstone National Park
Official web site for Yellowstone National Park. 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 support 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 chldren. The Institute's purpose is to explore, understand and appreciate Yellowstone. For additional information, visit
  West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce
provides local, area, Yellowstone National Park and statewide travel information For additional information, visit
  Free Heel and Wheel
Bike and ski rentals available For additional information, visit
  Rendezvous Ski Trails
Rendezvous Ski Trails consist of over 35 kilometers of gently rolling, beautifully groomed trails that wind through tall stands of lodgepole pine and open meadows on US Forest Service ground. West Yellowstone winters offer reliable snow for a rewarding Nordic skier's experience. For the summer visitor, the trails offer a great place to walk, hike, run or mountain bike. Be aware that you may encounter wildlife such as bear, moose or elk so stay alert and be prepared. For additional information, visit
  Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
The Center’s primary mission is to provide the opportunity for Yellowstone visitors to appreciate these creatures who have been removed from the wild due to their dangerous behavior. Finding out about their natural history and why they are in the Center teaches an important lesson of how man needs to shoulder the responsibility of helping bears stay wild. Seeing and learning about wolves helps show how important wolves are in the Yellowstone ecosystem. For additional information, visit
  Yellowstone Historic Center
Organized as a nonprofit organization to protect, preserve, and display the rich travel history of Yellowstone National Park. For additional information, visit Web Link:
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.

Windows into the Earth: The Geologic Story of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Author: Robert B. Smith and Lee J. Siegel

Description: Find out about the forces that shaped and continue to shape the Greater Yellowstone-Teton region. Illustrations and driving tours of both parks help visitors enjoy and understand the Earth's creative forces in this wondrous region.

Scorched Earth: How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America

Author: Rocky Barker

Description: The Yellowstone fires brought to the forefront longstanding conflict over whether federal land management should go with immediate fire suppression procedures or the ‘let it burn’ philosophy. The author, who experienced the Yellowstone fires of 1988 as an environmental reporter there, reviews US wildlands fire history by highlighting wildlands fire management. Discussion of this history and the history of federal lands management considers how these policies shaped the protection of public lands in the US today. Further explained are the details behind the creation of Yellowstone National Park and the role the US Army played in ‘protecting Yellowstone and shaping public lands in the West.’

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.

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.

Letters from Yellowstone

Author: Diane Smith

Description: Through correspondence - detailed letters and telegrams - follow an 1898 scientific expedition whose purpose is to collect flora unique to Yellowstone National Park. Learn of the park's early history, trials of pioneer scientists and the engrossing and often funny story of Cornell medical student and amateur botanist, Alexandria Bartram, who emerges as a brave leader and serious scientist. Delightful fiction.

Yellowstone and the Great West: Journals, Letters and Images from the 1871 Hayden Expedition

Author: Marlene Deahl Merril, editor

Description: Daily record of Ferdinand Hayden's historic 1871 scientific expedition to the Yellowstone basin. This expedition's findings influenced Congress to establish Yellowstone as the world's first national park. The expedition made many scientific discoveries as well as producing the earliest on-site images of Yellowstone by photographer, William Henry Jackson, and guest artist, Thomas Moran.

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.

For Everything There Is A Season: The Sequence of Natural Events In The Grand Teton- Yellowstone Area.

Author: Frank C. Craighead

Description: Dr. Craighead describes and illustrates the hidden patterns he sees in the natural world. For naturalists, this book is a remarkable chronicle of the interrelationships between all living things. For anyone interested in the Teton-Yellowstone area and the entire Northern Rockies, this book opens the door to greater understanding of the natural cycles of one of America's last wild places.

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