Wyoming

Heart of the Winter in Yellowstone

Program No. 21771RJ
Witness Yellowstone National Park in winter as veils of snow create a stunning backdrop for bubbling hot springs, thermal pools, pristine landscapes and the region’s unique wildlife.

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At a Glance

Witness snow-dusted buffalo, boiling geysers and all the wonders of Yellowstone National Park cloaked in its winter glory. It’ll feel like you have the park to yourself, as you traverse forests, open fields and geyser basins at a time when the park interior is accessible to only a few over-the-snow vehicles. Amid this transformed landscape, encounter winter wildlife as a naturalist interprets their long vigil for the return of spring food sources and witness the surreal spectacle created by the play of icy winter air with steaming thermal features bubbling and erupting from the earth.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Getting on and off snowcoach, with high steps and challenging conditions. Outside walking on snow & ice in below-freezing temperatures with stairs. Must be able to walk with balance and stability in winter conditions.
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

  • Photograph wildlife and winter landscapes accompanied by professional naturalists across the snow in warm, comfortable snow coaches with large windows.
  • Experience unique geologic and thermal features of the park that are even more spectacular in winter.
  • Witness a “bison-jam” and watch herds of these animals exhale vaporous breaths as they lumber across the ice and snow.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Zack Baker
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.

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

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 Shauna Baron
Shauna Baron View biography
Shauna Baron holds a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Science Education. She has more than 25 years of experience as an outdoor educator, studying large and small carnivores throughout the U.S., including wolves, bears, fishers, and bobcats. Shauna saw her first wild wolf while volunteering for the Yellowstone Wolf Project in 1996 and has since worked as a naturalist in Yellowstone National Park, developing outdoor educational classes for the Yellowstone Institute. She specializes in programs for disabled veterans, inner-city youth, and autistic groups.
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You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
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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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Bozeman, Montana
D
Springhill Suites

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

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby 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: Catered by a local restaurant in the hotel conference room.

Evening: Orientation. In the hotel conference room, 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 is staffed with both a resident instructor who will give lectures and lead field trips and a Group Leader who will deal primarily with logistics. Only “over snow vehicles” are allowed in Yellowstone National Park during the winter months. All of our travel in the park will be via snow coaches — specialized van-type vehicles that travel over snow and ice, moving at slow speed limits (25 mph). During our time in snow coaches, the instructor will provide commentary along the way and at stops to view winter landscapes and wildlife. The snow coaches are heated; however, warm footwear and warm layered clothing are necessary outdoors. 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. Prepare for check-out and transfer tomorrow.

DAY
2
Yellowstone Overview, Mammoth Hot Springs
Gardiner, MT
B,L,D
Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone

Activity note: Some short walks on snow-packed trails or boardwalks. Walking about 1.75 miles; several hundred stair steps (downhill), elevation change approximately 300 feet.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Enjoy an introductory lecture given by our instructor. During our morning class time our instructor will put Yellowstone into perspective as we hit the road and discuss some of the geologic processes that have shaped Yellowstone's landscape through the ages. We’ll consider tectonic plate movement, the Yellowstone hot spot, and how the Park's unique ecosystem and diverse habitats are a direct result of glaciations, as well as tectonic and volcanic activity. We will check out of our hotel, meet our motorcoach, and transfer to Yellowstone Park via the beautiful Paradise Valley.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We’ll head out after lunch via motorcoach for Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. We’ll walk among the Mammoth Terraces to observe her ever changing, graceful, travertine beauty. About two tons of travertine (a form 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. We'll check into our hotel upon arriving back in Gardiner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Our Instructor and Group Leader will be available for questions and conversation.

DAY
3
Yellowstone Winter Wonderland by Snow Coach. Old Faithful.
Gardiner, MT
B,L,D
Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone

Activity note: Getting in/out of heated snow coaches; short walks on snow-packed and sometimes icy trails or boardwalks.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant.

Morning: We will board the snow coaches and begin exploring the parks interior. Heading South past, swan lake flats, obsidian cliff and norris geyser basin. Our destination for the first day will be the Upper Geyser Basin, home to the most famous Geyser in the world, Old Faithful.

Lunch: In the Park, we’ll have sack lunches.

Afternoon: Our learning adventure will continue as we turn around and head back to Gardiner. We'll travel along the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers. The Firehole River is lined by several geyser basins which make Yellowstone so famous. Delight in the winter scenery as we return to Yellowstone's north entrance.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to bundle up and take a short stroll outside under Montana's star-filled sky mid mountain-scented, winter air, or relax at the hotel.

DAY
4
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley
Gardiner, MT
B,L,D
Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone

Activity note: Getting in/out of heated snow coaches; short walks on snow-packed trails.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant.

Morning: We’ll board snow coaches for a field trip to explore the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We will travel into the parks interior. Stops along the way.

Lunch: In the field, we’ll have sack lunches.

Afternoon: we will experience the roar of the 109-foot Upper Falls and see the mighty Lower Fall's 308-foot plunge into its Canyon depths. Our instructor will lead our examination of the canyon's geologic story of glaciers, a volcanic eruption, lava flows and huge ice dams as we have a clear view of the pinnacles towering among the canyon walls. As an early explorer wrote, "There are perhaps other canyons longer and deeper than this one, but surely none combining grandeur and immensity with peculiarity of formation and profusion of volcanic or chemical phenomena." Afternoon return to Gardiner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Winter wildlife
Gardiner, MT
B,L,D
Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone

Activity note: Getting on and off of the motorcoach. Driving about 95 miles, 4 hours round trip. Stops along the way. Walking up to 1 mile snow-packed and icy boardwalks and paths.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant.

Morning: We’ll set out by motorcoach for a field trip into Yellowstone's northern range to view and learn about this vital habitat. Our naturalist will discuss the natural history of area wildlife including predation, winter range, populations, reintroduction, and current issues. Bring binoculars in case we are fortunate enough to spot wildlife that might include bison, elk, wintering waterfowl, bald and golden eagles, bighorn sheep.

Lunch: Sack lunches in the park.

Afternoon: We will board our motorcoach and head back through Yellowstone's northern range, an expansive valley along the Lamar River, keeping our eyes open for wildlife as we enjoy our instructor’s commentary along the way.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. After a long day of adventure, enjoy some relaxation.

DAY
6
Yellowstone's Northern Range, return to Bozeman
Bozeman, Montana
B,L,D
Springhill Suites

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus. Driving about 150 miles; approximately 2 hours one way, 4 total. Walking about 1 mile through the day; packed snow and ice on trails, snow-packed parking areas.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant.

Morning: We’ll set out by bus for a field trip into Yellowstone's northern range for a half day. We'll try and catch some of the more elusive animals that we may have missed the first day. Enjoy this beautiful and important winter habitat . Bring binoculars in case we are fortunate enough to spot more wildlife in one of the most intact ecosystems in earth's temperate zone.

Lunch: Sack lunches in the park.

Afternoon: We will board our bus and head back through Yellowstone's northern range, an expansive valley along the Lamar River, keeping our eyes open for wildlife as we enjoy our instructor’s commentary along the way.

Dinner: Catered by a local restaurant.

Evening: In the hotel's conference room we’ll gather one last time as a group with our Instructor who will review our grand adventure in Yellowstone’s winter wonderland. We’ll have time for any final questions and answers. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning. Advance reservations required for airport shuttle (not included in program price).

DAY
7
Program Concludes
Bozeman, Montana
B

Activity note: If you made an advance reservation for the airport shuttle, it departs from outside the hotel at 8:30 a.m. Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant.

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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