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13845
Montana

Yellowstone: The Great Caldera

Yellowstone is both the world at its most primordial and the world at its most sublime. Come explore the park’s many natural wonders on the learning adventure of a lifetime.
Rating (4.89)
Program No. 13845RJ
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,849
Montana

Yellowstone: The Great Caldera

Yellowstone is both the world at its most primordial and the world at its most sublime. Come explore the park’s many natural wonders on the learning adventure of a lifetime.
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,849
Program No. 13845 RJ
Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 10 - May 16, 2021
Starting at
1,849
May 31 - Jun 6, 2021
Starting at
1,849
Aug 9 - Aug 15, 2021
Starting at
1,849
Sep 20 - Sep 26, 2021
Starting at
1,849
May 9 - May 15, 2022
Starting at
1,949
Aug 8 - Aug 14, 2022
Starting at
1,949
Sep 19 - Sep 25, 2022
Starting at
1,949
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 10 - May 16, 2021
Starting at
2,289
May 31 - Jun 6, 2021
Starting at
2,289
Aug 9 - Aug 15, 2021
Starting at
2,289
Sep 20 - Sep 26, 2021
Starting at
2,289
May 9 - May 15, 2022
Starting at
2,389
Aug 8 - Aug 14, 2022
Starting at
2,389
Sep 19 - Sep 25, 2022
Starting at
2,389

At a Glance

Yellowstone's cast of thousands includes bears, wolves, volcanoes, thermal features, winter range, flora, fire and history. Understand their vital roles in a magnificent ecosystem. Naturalist leads discussion and provides interpretation during five full days in the field for exploration of diverse habitats and steaming geyser basins.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles total throughout each day on varied terrain; Getting on and off motorcoach multiple times daily; Travel times vary within the park. Elevations of 5,260-9,000 feet.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Enjoy five full days in Yellowstone exploring pristine rivers, waterfalls, beautiful vistas and learning the basics and ethics of wildlife viewing.
  • Meet supporting players — exploration and survey parties, the military years, current issues and evolving management philosophy.
  • Visit the Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center, which houses the Yellowstone Archive, a Collection of 5.3 million items.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
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.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of 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.
Profile Image of Leslie Stoltz
Leslie Stoltz View biography
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.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Decade of the Wolf, revised and updated edition: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone
by Douglas W. Smith and Gary Ferguson
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.
Searching for Yellowstone: Ecology and Wonder in the Last Wilderness
by Paul Schullery
Eloquent, elegant, truthful and practical - an environmental history of America's best idea, Yellowstone.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers: Western Region
by Richard Spellenberg
This revised edition presents more than 940 full-color images showing western North American wildflowers in their natural habitats. The guide sports a waterproof, washable cover meant to be thrown into a pack and has a checklist/lifelist for those who like to keep track of identifications. The book is a good learning tool as its entries are color and shape sorted so that one may appreciate floral characteristics other than color. The identifier may compare flowers grown in the west to those grown in other areas of the country.
Windows into the Earth: The Geologic Story of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
by Robert B. Smith and Lee J. Siegel
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
by Rocky Barker
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.’
Old Faithful Inn: Crown Jewel of National Park Lodges
by Karen Reinhart and Jeff Henry
Thoroughly researched and complete history of Old Faithful Inn, complete with stunning photography.
Roadside Geology of Yellowstone Country
by William Fritz & Robert Thomas
Updated, classic roadside geology book for the Yellowstone Region explains current geological theories.
Restoring a Presence: American Indians and Yellowstone National Park
by Peter Nabokov and Lawrence Loendorf
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.
Interpreting the Landscape: Recent and Ongoing Geology of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks
by John M. Good and Kenneth L. Pierce
Text, photography and graphics explain how both parks were formed - the product of volcanic eruptions, profound glaciation and earth movements. The authors describe 'how processes originating half way to the earth's center seem to be the primary force which created volcanic fires, glacial ice and the mountain ranges of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.'
After the Fires: The Ecology of Change in Yellowstone National Park
by Linda Wallace, Editor
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.
Wolf Land
by Carter Niemeyer (author) Jenny Niemeyer (Editor)
Carter Niemeyer has followed wolves – and captured many – since he helped reintroduce them in the Northern Rockies in the mid-1990s. In his second memoir, Wolf Land, he takes us across the rugged West as he tracks wolves, shares in their lives, and seeks middle ground for these iconic animals, both on the land and in our hearts. Carter Niemeyer is an Iowa native and a recognized expert on wolves, livestock depredation, and trapping. He is the retired Idaho wolf manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Niemeyer wrote his first memoir, Wolfer, in 2010.
The Sibley Guide to Birds
by David Allen Sibley
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.
To Save the Wild Bison: Life on the Edge in Yellowstone
by Mary Ann Franke
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.
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7 days
6 nights
16 meals
6 B 5 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Program Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Gardiner, MT
D
Yellowstone River Motel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 2:00 p.m. Walking about 1/2 mile to and from dinner on gravel roads with uneven and rocky terrain.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to confirm when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: From the hotel, we’ll walk to a local restaurant for a plated 3 course meal, water coffee, and tea; other beverages are available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This program will be led by both the Group Leader and an instructor, who is an expert naturalist and will lead the educational portion of the program. Unless specified otherwise, all transportation will be provided via private motorcoach, requiring the ascending/descending of a few steps when getting on/off. Remember to bring your own water bottle. Ice water will be available in coolers on the bus during travel, from which you may fill your water bottle; disposable cups will not be available. Expect to walk an average of 2 miles per day. The Greater Yellowstone area is considered high desert, very dry. At high altitudes you are more susceptible to dehydration and altitude sickness. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Yellowstone Ecosystem, Mammoth Hot Springs
Gardiner, MT
B,L,D
Yellowstone River Motel

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles total over several moderate walks throughout the day; established trails, asphalt paths, boardwalks and down several hundred stairs at Mammoth Terraces. Getting on/off motor coach; driving approx. 20 miles; about 1/2 hour.

Breakfast: In our meeting room, a short four block walk from the hotel, we will enjoy a hot boxed breakfast with a breakfast burrito, fruit, and yogurt, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: In our meeting room at the hotel, we’ll then engage in a presentation led by our expert instructor on the unique nature of Yellowstone National Park. Established in 1872, Yellowstone was the first National Park in the world, created by President Ulysses S. Grant. Known for its geothermal activity and diverse ecosystems, Yellowstone spans almost 3,500 square miles of lakes, valleys, canyons, rivers, and mountain ranges. Home of the highest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states, the park is the center of one of the last undisturbed ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.

Lunch: We will walk to a local restaurant for pizza lunch including side salad and a soft drink, coffee, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Then we will board our motorcoach and travel to the Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District where we’ll walk the Mammoth Terraces to observe the ever-changing, graceful travertine beauty. About two tons of travertine, a type of limestone, are deposited daily as hot, mineral-laden water wells up from beneath the earth's crust to add to terraces that began building thousands of years ago. If time allows you may want to visit the Albright Visitor Center and Museum and/or Fort Yellowstone independently.

Dinner: We’ll ride to a nearby restaurant to enjoy a plentiful buffet featuring salad, entrées, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages can be purchased in town and brought into the restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Yellowstone Park Heritage & Research Center, Canyon Area
Gardiner, MT
B,L,D
Yellowstone River Motel

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles total on several walks throughout the day; pavement, boardwalks, rocky and uneven terrain; extended periods of standing at the Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center. Driving approx. 84 miles total; about 2.5 hours, with stops.

Breakfast: We’ll walk to a nearby restaurant for a hearty plated breakfast ordered from a select menu, plus coffee, tea, juice, water.

Morning: Our first stop of the day will be at the Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center for a docent-led exploration. Housed here is the Yellowstone Archive, a 5.3 million-item collection, the only national park collection affiliated with the National Archives. This golden opportunity offers a peek at uncommon, common and restricted treasures – the sumptuous gatherings of 130 years of Yellowstone's history, all contained under one roof.

Lunch: We will stop in the park to enjoy a sack lunch including a sandwich, chips, and fruit.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll take a field trip to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone for an interpretive walk led by our instructor. Along the way, we’ll learn the Canyon’s geologic story of ice and fire – glaciers and eruptions – which created its beautifully tinted canyon walls. While on the lookout for osprey and waterfowl, we’ll experience the roar of the 109-foot Upper Falls and see the mighty Lower Fall's 309-foot plunge into its Canyon depths. We’ll then board our motorcoach and transfer to the Canyon Visitor Education Center, which reveals more of Yellowstone’s violent geologic past. While here, we will enjoy some time for independent exploration of the numerous unique exhibits, discover the processes by which Yellowstone was formed, and learn about the influence it has had on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Dinner: In the cafeteria in Canyon Village, we’ll have a buffet lunch featuring salad, entrées, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then return to our accommodation and, on our way back, we will have the opportunity to take advantage of the crepuscular hour for some great wildlife viewing opportunities. The remainder of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
4
Norris Geyser Basin; Fountain Paint Pots
Gardiner, MT
B,L
Yellowstone River Motel

Activity note: Walking about 3 miles total on several walks throughout the day. Driving approx. 95 miles total; about 2.5 hours with stops.

Breakfast: Local restaurant plated meal.

Morning: We’ll begin our day’s journey aboard our motorcoach listening to enlightening commentary given by our instructor about the Great Caldera and its underground “plumbing system”. We’ll make various stops throughout the day to see some of Yellowstone National Park’s 10,000 thermal features – hot springs, mudpots and fumaroles – and over 300 geysers. They’re all a reminder of the area’s recent volcanic past, which laid the foundation for the world’s most diverse and intact collection of thermal activity in the world. Our journey will lead us to the Midway and Lower Geyser Basins, which spans 11 square miles and features one of the most diverse collections of thermal features found in the park. Our Journey will then lead us to Norris Geyser Basin for a walking field trip to see Yellowstone's oldest, hottest and most active thermal area. Located at the intersection of three major fault lines, evidence shows that thermal features have existed here for the last 115,000 years.

Lunch: At a picnic area in the park, we’ll have sack lunches including a sandwich, chips, and fruit.

Afternoon: Our exploration will continue at the Fountain Paint Pot in the Lower Geyser Basin area, which, at about 18 square miles, is the largest geyser basin in Yellowstone. While here, we’ll enjoy the sounds, smells and sights of Fountain Paint Pot, named for the yellows, browns and reds of the “pots.” Our walking boardwalk discovery here will offer beauty, grand vistas and geysers.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like in Gardiner. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: Evening at leisure

DAY
5
Upper Geyser Basin, Old Faithful
Gardiner, MT
B,L,D
Yellowstone River Motel

Activity note: Walking up to a possible 4 miles total on several walks throughout the day, more dependent on personal preference; boardwalks, paved trails, some hilly areas. Those who would rather not walk may enjoy the Old Faithful Visitor Center. Getting on/off the motor coach; driving approx. 114 miles total; about 4 hours with stops.

Breakfast: Local restaurant plated meal.

Morning: We’ll begin our day’s journey aboard our motorcoach listening to enlightening commentary given by our instructor as we journey down to the heart of Yellowstone - Old Faithful.

Lunch: At a picnic area in the park, we’ll have sack lunches including a sandwich, chips, and fruit.

Afternoon: Our next destination will be Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin where the hot water beneath the surface 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. We’ll follow our instructor’s lead and commentary as we walk and revel in the spectacle of Old Faithful before walking a portion of Geyser Hill's meandering boardwalk to view more geysers and hot springs including Giantess, Lioness and Grotto.

Dinner: At the cafeteria in the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone, we’ll use vouchers to choose from dishes on the buffet including salads, entrées, sides, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other food and beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then return to our accommodations for the remainder of the evening at leisure.

DAY
6
Yellowstone's Northern Range
Gardiner, MT
B,L,D
Yellowstone River Motel

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile total on several walks throughout the day. Getting on/off the motor coach; driving approx. 95 miles; about 3 hours with stops.

Breakfast: Local restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel, we’ll journey into the Lamar Valley, an expansive valley along the Lamar River in Yellowstone’s northern range, which is a wide-open haven for wildlife. Our instructor will offer onboard commentary as we soak in the expanses of open space with possible sightings of bison, elk, waterfowl, coyotes and more. As we drive and during stops along the way, we’ll consider the magnificent ecosystem and how all its aspects intersect to create a tapestry of life not to be found anywhere else in the nation.

Lunch: At a picnic area in the park, we’ll have sack lunches including a sandwich, chips, and fruit.

Afternoon: As we continue to travel back through the Lamar Valley to our accommodations, our instructor will continue to offer commentary concerning the wildlife populations, wolf reintroduction, predator and prey dynamics, and more.

Dinner: We will then take a short walk to a local restaurant for pre-set plated farewell dinner, which includes salad, a main entrée, dessert and water; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: We’ll gather for a wrap-up presentation in our meeting room for a closing presentation by our instructor on the natural history of Yellowstone and to review what we have learned and seen during our Yellowstone adventure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
7
Program Concludes
Gardiner, MT
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Pick up a hot to-go meal in the hotel lobby featuring a breakfast burrito, yogurt, and fruit. This concludes our program.

Morning: We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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