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Yellowstone’s Great Outdoors With Your Grandchild

Program No. 17306RJ
Explore the wonders of Yellowstone National Park with your grandchild as you horseback ride, hike, raft the Yellowstone River and learn about geysers, hot springs and fumaroles!

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At a Glance

Tie up your hiking boots, hop on horseback and climb into a whitewater raft to explore America’s first national park on foot, horse and water. With your grandchild by your side, take part in hands-on explorations of Yellowstone National Park in streamside habitats and forested mountains. Find out how the plants, animals, bugs, fish, water and weather patterns all work together to create this fascinating ecosystem. Plus, visit Old Faithful — the world’s most famous geyser — to investigate hissing fumaroles, steaming geysers, sulfurous mudpots and bubbling hot springs.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Walking up to three miles on moderate terrain. Horseback riding one hour. Whitewater rafting seven miles on Class II/III waters. Long distances travelled by large motorcoach. Elevations of 5,200-7,700 feet.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

What You'll Learn

  • Experience the exciting Class II and Class III rapids of the Yellowstone River on a rafting excursion, and enjoy a picnic lunch along the river.
  • Make trailside discoveries in the high country as you ride horses together, and end the ride with a cowboy cookout.
  • Set up camp along the river as you take in a Montana sunset and sleep under a star-filled night sky.

General Notes

Program is for grandchildren ages 9-12. For a comparable family adventure for all generations, check out "Yellowstone: A Great Outdoor Adventure With Your Family" (#20977). For a Yellowstone program with younger grandchildren (ages 8-11) see "Wildlife & Geysers: Yellowstone With Your Younger Grandchild" (#14910).
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Charlie Pyle
Charlie Pyle grew up on a family farm in Oklahoma, and he became enthralled with the Rocky Mountains and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem on family trips to Montana in the 1950’s. In Charlie’s long and distinguished career, he’s led trips to Alaska and Yellowstone National Park as a Girl Scout leader and served as a program assistant at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch and in Gardiner for the Yellowstone Association Institute, a volunteer park host at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, and a Wilderness First Responder.

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

Profile Image of Charlie Pyle
Charlie Pyle View biography
Charlie Pyle grew up on a family farm in Oklahoma, and he became enthralled with the Rocky Mountains and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem on family trips to Montana in the 1950’s. In Charlie’s long and distinguished career, he’s led trips to Alaska and Yellowstone National Park as a Girl Scout leader and served as a program assistant at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch and in Gardiner for the Yellowstone Association Institute, a volunteer park host at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, and a Wilderness First Responder.
Profile Image of Andrea Saari
Andrea Saari View biography
Andrea completed her bachelor’s in Ecology and went on to work as a bird field biologist in the summers and a ski-bum in the winters. She has been in Big Sky since 2003 working as a ski and snowboard instructor, as well as a naturalist guide in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. These days she can be found on the trails within the Gallatin National Forest and Yellowstone National Park, interpreting how everything in the ecosystem works together and the important role humans play as stewards.
Profile Image of Rick Bush
Rick Bush View biography
Rick was raised in Wyoming and moved to Montana after college to work for the Bozeman Chronicle. His career includes working as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, web developer and IT Manager. He has a degree in Journalism from the University of Wyoming and a Master’s degree in photography. He lives in Helena with his wife and is an avid bicycle rider and enjoys hiking, cross-country skiing, camping, and travel. When he is not Group Leading, Rick enjoys adventuring with Road Scholar as a participant.
Profile Image of Zack Baker
Zack Baker View biography
Zack Baker attended high school in Livingston, Montana, 52 miles north of Yellowstone. His love for the park started while snowshoeing and observing wildlife. At Montana State University in Bozeman, he earned a B.S. in plant science, but it was Yellowstone’s mammals that grabbed his interest. He led private wildlife watching, hiking, and photography trips, and drove snowcoaches in the winter. He joined up with Road Scholar in 2017 and is now the Program Director for Road Scholar at the University of Montana Western.
Profile Image of Virginia Shoup
Virginia Shoup View biography
Virginia Shoup comes to Yellowstone with a long history in outdoor education and the Girl Scouts. She first worked in the park in 2012, thinking it would be a fun summer job. After falling in love with the animals, thermals, and even the lodgepole pines, she never left. Over her years as a Yellowstone naturalist, Virginia has worked with families, teachers, school groups, and everyone in between. She uses her degree in theater to make the natural world come alive for students of all ages.
Profile Image of Heidi Schwandt
Heidi Schwandt View biography
Heidi Schwandt's upbringing on cattle ranches in Southwestern Montana gave her the freedom to explore the woods and mountains. A short stint with the Forest Service on a trail maintenance crew solidified her love of hiking. Heidi has been instructing Alpine skiing for more than a decade, including a women-only skiing program she piloted at her local mountain. Two decades as a 4-H volunteer have showcased her passion for connecting with people and inspiring them to learn by doing.
Profile Image of Ilene Cohen
Ilene Cohen View biography
Ilene Cohen grew up on the east coast but knew from a young age that she wanted to live in the western mountains. Ilene and her husband settled in Dillon, Montana over two decades ago to raise their son and enjoy all the beauty and opportunities of Montana. Ilene worked for the University of Montana Western for 17 years in student success services. One of her retirement goals was to work for Road Scholar in order to spend more time in Yellowstone and the Beartooths.
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While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
Check-in, Program Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Gardiner, MT
Absaroka Lodge

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration 4:00-5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, you will find the group leader near the front desk to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your 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: At a meeting room near the Lodge, catered by a local restaurant.

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. All transportation will be provided by a chartered bus unless specified otherwise. Be sure to bring your own water bottle. Water will be available on the bus during all field trips so you can refill your bottles; disposable cups will not be provided. Be aware that elevations in Gardiner and Yellowstone National Park from 6,500 feet to over 9,000 feet. Staying hydrated reduces symptoms of altitude sickness. This is a Road Scholar Intergenerational program. Grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren. If/when separate age group activities are conducted concurrently, program staff will supervise. Children are never to be left unsupervised. 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.

Old Faithful
Gardiner, MT
Absaroka Lodge

Activity note: Driving approximately 100 miles in Yellowstone National Park; about 2 hours one way with slower speed limits. Hiking up to 3 miles; approx. 2 hours throughout the day around Old Faithful and other geyser basins; maintained trails, asphalt paths, boardwalks, and stairs (downhill); some uneven and rocky terrain.

Breakfast: At a classroom near the Lodge, catered from a local restaurant.

Morning: Our instructor will involve kids in a experiential learning adventure as they discover the scientific aspects of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, its geology, diverse wildlife and the grand ecosystem that supports these populations. We’ll then all board a motorcoach and travel into Yellowstone National Park to the Old Faithful area.

Lunch: Sack lunches in the park.

Afternoon: Our exploration will continue around Old Faithful. Many of the parks thermal basins are located along this route. Fountain Paint pots, Midway geyser basins, and both Biscuit and Black Sand Basin. Stops as parking and time allows.

Dinner: At the Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria.

Evening: Transfer back to the Ridgeline Hotel. Be on the lookout for animals that may be more active in the evening.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Horseback Adventure.
Gardiner, MT
Absaroka Lodge

Activity note: Driving about 75 miles in Yellowstone National Park; approximately 1.5 hours one way with slower speed limits. Hiking approximately 2-3 miles; about 2 hours; asphalt and some rocky trails, boardwalks with some stairs.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant.

Morning: We will board our bus for an early departure to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Grand perspectives from Lookout and Artist’s Points reveal roaring water; beautiful, pastel tinted canyon walls giving a sense of the great canyon’s immensity. Generations explore a world of thundering noise, churning waters, cool mist and unique life zones.

Lunch: Sack lunches in the park.

Afternoon: Next we will continue our exploration around the Canyon area and then make our way back towards Gardiner via Dunraven pass. The road itself is at an elevation of around 9,000 ft. Mt Washburn towers over road at a height of 10,243 feet above sea level. We'll had back to the hotel and switch gears and prepare for horseback riding. we will board a small bus and shuttle to a premier outfitting ranch outside of Gardiner, MT. After the wrangler shares riding etiquette, we'll meet our horses and mount up for a ride on among the Gallatin National Forest's scenic landscape under the leadership of 2-3 wranglers. As we ride, take some time to appreciate your dependable mountain horse, the creak of saddle leather, scented mountain breeze of sage, and expansive views of the Absaroka and Gallatin Mountain Ranges.

Dinner: Back at the ranch, we will enjoy buffet dinner

Evening: Then we'll return to Gardiner where the remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Be sure to prepare for our outdoor camp-out tomorrow night.

Yellowstone Park morning, Rafting & Riverside Camp-Out
Gardiner, MT
Flying Pig Adventure Company

Activity note: Driving about 12 miles; approximately half hour. Hiking up to 2 miles; about 1.5 hours; moderate difficulty on uneven and rocky terrain.Getting in and out of rafts; assistance provided as necessary. Approximately 7 mile raft trip on class II-III whitewater; about 1 hour.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant.

Morning: We'll board our motorcoach and again venture into Yellowstone Park for the morning where we will enjoy a naturalist-led hike in the Mammoth area as we discover more about the unique thermal action and review information about the wildlife that inhabits this Greater Yellowstone area.

Lunch: Sack lunches in the park.

Afternoon: After an orientation and safety lesson from our raft leader, we will walk down several stairs and switchbacks to where we'll get in the rafts. As we begin to move along the river we will have the chance to practice paddling skills while floating on the area of the Yellowstone River that offers mostly Class II rapids. As we float our raft leaders and naturalist will discuss riparian habitat and help us identify birds along the shore of the river while we revel in the joy, excitement, and freedom of being on the water. Once we arrive to camp we will set up our sleeping area and enjoy some instructor-led games while we wait for dinner next to the river.

Dinner: Outdoors at our camp by the river, we'll share a delicious dinner.

Evening: We will have the opportunity of a lifetime to enjoy the outdoor classroom with the soothing sound of the river, the evening's beautiful light, and bird calls all while our instructor gives us a hands on natural history presentation. The pace will seem to slow down as we take in a Montana sunset that eases into a star-filled night.

Rafting, Wrap up.
Gardiner, MT
Absaroka Lodge

Activity note: Rafting about 8 miles; approximately 1 hour; Class II-III whitewater. Horseback ride of approx. 5 miles; about 1 hour on gentle horses over moderate terrain; horseback riding weight limit is 275 pounds. Walking about 1/2 mile to and from the raft outfitter building; sidewalks. Campfire dependent on local fire conditions and safety measures dictated by US Forest Service. Driving approx. 15 miles; about 1/2 hour; bumpy gravel roads.

Breakfast: On the riverside, we’ll have a warm breakfast prepared by the rafting guides.

Morning: After helping to pack up our gear, we’ll listen close as our rafting leader goes through safety procedures and teaches some more rafting techniques before continuing our rapid adventures! We will board rafts as our adventure continues another 8 miles down the Yellowstone River. The second leg of our rafting adventure will get our hearts racing as we navigate Class III whitewater, classified by American Whitewater as, “Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid.” Our rafting leader will lead us through maneuvers in fast currents and help us with the techniques needed for good boat control until we reach our destination.

Lunch: A riverside lunch provided by the rafting guides.

Afternoon: After getting off of the river we will bus back to town. We will then have a short walk back to our motel where we will have some leisure time before our finale dinner and wrap up session.

Dinner: At the classroom near the lodge, catered by a local restaurant.

Evening: Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends in a conference room after dinner. . Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes
Gardiner, MT

Activity note: Shuttle arrangements should be made ahead of time. Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the restaurant adjacent to the hotel.

Morning: This concludes our program. 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 Best wishes for all your journeys! Transportation to and from the airport should be arranged with the shuttle companies ahead of time.

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