Afternoon: Check-in from 4-5 pm in hotel lobby
Dinner: Dinner served at restaurant adjoining the hotel.
Evening: Welcome, Introductions and Orientation in Hotel Conference Room.
Activity note: In and out of snow coach and some walking on snow and ice to view iconic sights.
Breakfast: Hotel complimentary hot breakfast
Morning: Meet in the hotel conference room for an overview of Yellowstone National Park. This natural history presentation introduces wildlife, geology, biology, human history and more. There will be time allowed to check out of hotel and prepare midmorning shuttle Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. Hotel vans will transport everyone 5 miles park's northwest gateway to the Mammoth area. There will be time allowed for a walk among the Mammoth Terraces to observe her ever changing, graceful travertine beauty; boardwalk, asphalt path and several hundred stair steps (downhill). About two tons of travertine 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. Mammoth area includes the Albright Visitor Center and Museum, and historic Fort Yellowstone.
Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a grill in Mammoth Hot Springs.
Afternoon: After lunch we will board snow coaches to begin the journey through Yellowstone's winter-white world. Coach through the Golden Gate to beautiful Swan Lake Flats. Continue via Obsidian Cliffs, Roaring Mountain and Norris Geyser Basin area, Yellowstone's most thermally active region. The voyage continues into the heart of Yellowstone to Old Faithful. Check into Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
Dinner: Plated meal in the Snow Lodge Dining Room featuring an entrée with a starch, vegetable, dessert and coffee or tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.
Evening: Free Evening to enjoy all the ambiance of the season and various seasonal activities on your own. Instructor and Group Leader will be available for questions and conversation.
Activity note: Travel via heated, over-the-snow coach; some short walks on snow-packed trails or boardwalks, stops for viewing, picture-taking. Several stops will include getting on and off snow coach.
Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in hotel dining room
Morning: Board your snow coach for an all day adventure in Yellowstone's frozen wonderland. Travel among forest and open park; through steaming, sulfur-scented & beautifully colored landscapes. Naturalist's interpretation continues as you discover ice-covered Yellowstone Lake, America's largest freshwater lake above 7,000'. Here, steam pinpoints West Thumb Geyser Basin where thermal features extend under the surface of the lake as well as along the shore. Find out about the geological forces still at work here.
Lunch: Sack lunches in the park
Afternoon: Adventurers continue on along Yellowstone River, through Hayden Valley to stunning Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which seems even more awesome during winter. Appreciate the mighty Upper and Lower Falls and beautifully tinted canyon walls. One is wonderstruck and speechless with earth's winter beauty.
Dinner: Christmas Eve Dinner at Old Faithful Snowlodge
Evening: Enjoy the seasonal festivities at Old Faithful. The lobby area offers comfortable seating near an inviting fire or you could bundle up for a short stroll outside to appreciate Yellowstone's star-filled sky and mountain-scented, winter air.
Activity note: Full day snowcoach journey includes getting on and off the coach, short walks on snow-packed trails for scenic vistas, steaming thermal areas, wildlife watching and picture taking.
Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in Snow Lodge dining room
Morning: Board snow coaches for exploration at Norris Geyser Basin. A walking exploration here reveals 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. A scientific drill hole here registered the highest temperature ever recorded in Yellowstone at 459 degrees F.
Lunch: Sack lunches along the "Loop"
Afternoon: Naturalist-led exploration at beautiful Fountain Paint Pot is the opportunity to appreciate a steamy, winter discovery of grand vistas and geysers including Clepsedra and Fountain, hot springs like Silex Spring and Celestine Pool and fumaroles or steam vents such as Sizzler. Nearby, Midway Geyser Basin reveals two of the largest hot springs in the world - Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser. Two hundred foot deep Grand Prismatic is known for its vivid colors, a result of algae and bacteria that live in its high temperature. Excelsior Geyser is a dormant geyser which turned into a hot spring following volcanic activity in the 1890’s.
Dinner: Christmas dinner at the Snow Lodge dining room.
Evening: An evening to enjoy the seasonal festivities at Old Faithful
Activity note: Walking on board walks and some stairs among thermal features.
Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in the Snow Lodge dining room
Morning: Old Faithful Snow Lodge check out. Naturalist-led exploration of the Upper Geyser Basin; appreciate all four thermal features - hot springs, mudpots, geysers and fumaroles (steam vents). Another golden day to put cameras and binoculars to good use.
Lunch: Lunch at Old Faithful Snow Lodge
Afternoon: Board snow coaches for an unforgettable voyage back to the Mammoth area via steaming, pungent Midway and Lower Geyser Basins. Ahead, your snowcoach trail flanks pristine Gibbon River to Gibbon Falls and northward to Mammoth area. Because only over the snow vehicles are allowed in Yellowstone during the winter, all will transfer to vans at the Mammoth Hot Springs area to ride down the hill into Gardiner, Yellowstone's Northern gateway town. Best Western check in.
Dinner: Dinner served in restaurant adjoining hotel.
Evening: Free evening after a long day of adventure.
Activity note: Field trip via motorcoach; some short walks on snow-packed trails and viewing from snow-packed parking areas.
Breakfast: Hotel complimentary hot breakfast.
Morning: Field trip by motorcoach into Yellowstone's northern range to view and learn about this vital habitat. Naturalist discusses natural history of area wildlife including predation, winter range, populations, reintroduction, current issues. Bring binoculars to observe wildlife that may include bison, elk, wintering waterfowl, bald and golden eagles, bighorn sheep. The possibility of seeing wolves exists; however, sightings cannot be guaranteed.
Lunch: Lunch choices at deli in Cooke City, MT
Afternoon: Enjoy travel through the northern range to the Cooke City area. Expect a day on the bus with stops along the way. The road from Gardiner (Yellowstone's NW entrance) to Cooke City (Yellowstone's NE entrance) is 52 miles and is the only road open to wheeled vehicles during the winter. In winter time, the road ends at Cooke City as 10,947' Bearthooth Pass - between Cooke City and Red Lodge, MT is closed. Until 1882, the town and the land around it were within the Crow Reservation. Following numerous skirmishes between the Crow and gold miners the reservation boundary was moved east. Prospectors often accompanied soldiers through Indian lands looking for gold. Gold was found nearby in the early 1870's and the area became known as the New World Mining district. The town was called Shoo-fly until 1880 when it became known as Cooke City, named after a mining investor named Jay Cooke Jr. Cooke promised to use his considerable influence to bring the railroad through the top of Yellowstone Park from Gardiner. This single move would have made the mining much more profitable in the Cooke area. Congress soon put an end to the possibility; Cooke ran into financial difficulty and lost his bonded mining claims.
Dinner: Final dinner in restaurant adjoining hotel.
Evening: Our week in Wonderland reviews the grand adventure and puts things in perspective.
Breakfast: Complimentary hot breakfast
Morning: Independent departures. Group shuttle departs lodgings at 8:30 a.m.