Greater Yellowstone: Heart of the Continent
Take a deeper look at what makes Yellowstone and Teton National Parks true national treasures as you visit geological wonders, enjoy expert lectures and learn the region’s unique story.
Rating (4.88)
Program No. 2809RJ
9 days
Starts at
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9 days
8 nights
23 meals
8 B 7 L 8 D
Getting There
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Program Registration / Welcome Dinner / Orientation
Jackson Lake
Jackson Lake Lodge Cabins

Activity note: Charter bus pick up at airport 2:30 departure. Program registration 4-5 pm. Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Charter bus will pick up at Jackson Hole Airport; 2:30 pm departure. Arrival and check in at Jackson Lake Lodge. For those driving. Check in to Lodge and after you have your room assignment, come over 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, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: Enjoy a welcome BBQ themed Buffet with water, coffee, and tea; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions, review the program theme, up-to-date Daily Schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. 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 via private motor coach unless specified otherwise. 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. The Greater Yellowstone area is considered high desert, very dry. At high altitudes you are more susceptible to dehydration and altitude sickness. Carrying a water bottle with you and drinking plenty of water is important and a simple way to avoid these unpleasant and sometimes dangerous problems. Several walks per day, up to 2 miles total; optional walking to 3 miles at Old Faithful.

Snake River Rendezvous
Jackson Lake
Jackson Lake Lodge Cabins

Activity note: Eight mile scenic river float takes approximately 2 hours. Some extended standing at museum.

Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty buffet in the Dining Room, plus water, coffee, and tea.

Morning: Group Leader will designate a meeting place and we will depart via private motor coach to the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Our instructor will lead an introductory presentation of the Greater Yellowstone Area: an overview of the largest intact, temperate ecosystem on earth whose habitat continues to preserve the nation's wildlife heritage. Docent-led tour of the National Museum of Wildlife Art. The museum contains approximately 4,000 works of art; its exhibitions and programs focus on wildlife of the world.

Lunch: At the museum restaurant, order a 3 course meal off a limited menu plus water coffee and tea.

Afternoon: Enjoy a scenic Snake River float trip offering pristine riparian habitat, exquisite views of the Teton Mountain Range and natural history commentary from our Instructor. Expect to see waterfowl, songbirds, shorebirds, possibly deer. Post float, we’ll continue north back into Grand Teton National Park.

Dinner: In the Jackson Lake Lodge Dining Room enjoy a Mexican themed buffet plus coffee tea and water.

Evening: At leisure. Feel free to head to the back balcony overlook for wildlife viewing. Keep your eyes peeled for some moose activity.

On the Threshold of Wilderness
Jackson Lake
Jackson Lake Lodge Cabins

Activity note: Lots of getting on/off the motor coach; several walks up to 1 1/2 miles total. One mile Hidden Falls walk has some rocky terrain with elevation gain of 150'.

Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty buffet in the Dining Room, plus water, coffee, and tea.

Morning: Continue exploration of Teton National Park with a morning boat trip across jewel-like Jenny Lake where a backdrop of the mighty Teton Peaks stuns the senses. Enjoy a moderate 1 mile hike to Hidden Falls, truly hidden and delightful. Returning to the boat, we’ll ride back across Jenny Lake and head to our lunch stop at Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

Lunch: Picnic style box lunches includes a sandwich, chips, fruit, and bottled water.

Afternoon: Learn of early settlers in the Jackson Hole area; visit historic Chapel of Transfiguration and Menor's Ferry. The chapel, built by C.B. Loomis in 1925, was built to serve ranchers and their guests at the base of the Teton Range and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The land was donated by the owner of Menor’s Ferry, Maud Noble. Menor’s homestead, built by Bill Menor and sold to Noble in 1918, was the only homestead west of the Snake River. The ferry crossed the Snake River, allowing travelers to cross at one of the only locations where the river is a single channel instead of a braided stream.

Dinner: In the Jackson Lake Lodge, enjoy a plated meal plus water, coffee, and tea.

Evening: At leisure for scenic and wildlife viewing aided by spotting scopes. Several walking and hiking paths on and near Lodge grounds.

Across the Great Divide
Old Faithful
Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park

Activity note: Getting on/off the motor coach; elevation 8,391 feet at the Continental Divide. Several walks up to two miles total.

Breakfast: In the Jackson Lake Lodge Dining Room.

Morning: Morning presentation is a snapshot of Yellowstone's Geology. Discuss the geologic processes that have shaped Yellowstone's landscape through the ages. Consider plate movement, the Yellowstone hot spot and how the Park's unique ecosystem and diverse habitats are a direct result of glaciations, tectonic and volcanic activity. Checking out of our hotel, we’ll board our bus to depart Teton National Park and journey north into Yellowstone country.

Lunch: Sack lunches in route to Yellowstone National Park include sandwich, chips, cookie, fruit and water.

Afternoon: We will travel North into Yellowstone National Park crossing the Continental Divide for the first time. We will enter Grant Village, located near the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake and check into our rooms. Grant Village was built in 1984 and named after Ulysses S. Grant, president when Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872.

Dinner: Plated meal in the Grant Village Dining Room featuring a salad, main entrée with a side and vegetable, coffee, tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure

In the Valley of Geysers
Old Faithful
Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park

Activity note: Walking distances up to 2 miles on even terrain, stairs, and boardwalks; Optional walking up to 3 miles.

Breakfast: In the Grant Village Dining Room, enjoy a plentiful buffet with water, coffee, tea, and juice.

Morning: We will board our bus to head West, traversing the Continental Divide two more time to the Upper Geyser Basin, home to the world's largest concentration of geysers. Here is the world's best known and most beloved hydrothermal feature - Old Faithful- offering thousands of gallons of scalding water and billowing steam gushing skyward with each eruption. What a grand welcome to the Old Faithful area! We will enjoy commentary from our instructor to prepare us for our time in the Heart of Yellowstone. Upon arrival, we will enjoy an in-depth exploration of the Upper Geyser Basin led by our Instructor. With Old Faithful at its helm, the Upper Basin has the most concentrated geothermal activity in the park. Fueled by the hotspot beneath Yellowstone, the hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, and geysers are the result of volcanism, earthquakes, faulting and large-scale movement of the earth's crust. Splendidly named thermal features within the Old Faithful area include Plume, Beehive, Castle, Lion, and Doublet. 2-3 miles easy walking visit.

Lunch: Lunch buffet at Old Faithful Inn.

Afternoon: The history and architecture of the Old Faithful Inn comes alive with a tour led by historian author. A National Historic Landmark, it is said to be the largest log structure in the world. Built during 1903-04, the Inn is a masterpiece of rustic architecture intended to reflect the chaos of nature. Its 65-foot high lobby features a massive rhyolite fireplace made of volcanic rock. Additional time in the Old Faithful area offers the opportunity to check out the Old Faithful Visitor Center and historic Old Faithful Lodge and Old Hamilton Store. At the end of a glorious day we will board our bus to travel back to Grant Village.

Dinner: Plated meal in the Grant Village Dining Room featuring an entrée with a starch, vegetable, dessert, coffee or tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

In the Heart of Yellowstone
Lake Station
Lake Hotel Cabins

Activity note: Note: Getting on/off the motor coach. Several walks up to 2 miles total on uneven terrain, stairs, boardwalks and asphalt paths.

Breakfast: In the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

Morning: We will depart Grant Village and voyage on to Midway Geyser Basin, nicknamed Hells Half Acre. Midway is home to 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. It now discharges more than 4,000 gallons of boiling water per minute into the Firehole River. Next stop is Madison River headwaters and birthplace of the national park idea. Continue toward the massive and splendid wonder that is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Lunch: Picnic lunch in the Canyon area includes sandwich, chips, granola bar and water. Snacks: fresh fruit and cookie.

Afternoon: Discover the genesis of a canyon as you walk 3/4 mile along the South Rim. View Upper and Lower Falls from Artist Point .Delve into the park's geologic depths at Canyon Visitor Education Center, which reveals more of Yellowstone’s violent geologic past. With numerous unique exhibits, animations, audio-visual productions and real-time scientific data, the Center reveals the Yellowstone volcano and show how its geysers, hot springs and geologic history shape the distribution and abundance of all life found here today. Depart Canyon for Yellowstone Lake by way of Hayden Valley. Check in to Yellowstone Lake Cabins.

Dinner: Dinner coupons offer limited choices at Lake Hotel Dining Room including a salad, main entrée & dessert, coffee or tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure to enjoy the grand view of beautiful Yellowstone Lake, piano music and conversation or a leisurely stroll about the historic hotel grounds.

On the Grand Tour
Lake Station
Lake Hotel Cabins

Activity note: Getting on/off the motor coach; several walks up to two miles total on asphalt paths, boardwalks, stairs. Elevation at Dunraven pass is 8,859 feet.

Breakfast: Indulge in a buffet in the Lake Hotel Dining Room, plus water, coffee, tea, and juice.

Morning: Travel northward tracing the mighty Yellowstone River as it exits Yellowstone Lake to finally break out into Hayden Valley's vast, wide open spaciousness. The Hayden, a former lake bed, is now a shrub and grasslands habitat that supports a variety of wildlife from small rodents to large ungulates, scavengers and predators. Keep watch; you may spot bison, coyote, elk, raven, grizzly bear and birds of prey. Keep binoculars and camera at the ready. Continue on to the Mammoth area via 8,859' Dunraven Pass.

Lunch: In the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Dining Room featuring a salad, entrée, and dessert, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Walk the Mammoth Terraces to observe her ever changing, graceful travertine beauty; boardwalk, asphalt path and several hundred stairsteps (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. Visit the Albright Visitor Center and Museum, built by the US cavalry during "Fort Yellowstone" times (1886-1918) when the U.S. Army was called on for help and the Cavalry was sent in to protect Yellowstone's resources and visitors. Exhibits include park history and wildlife natural history, also information desk and book sales area. Tour historic Fort Yellowstone. Mammoth is now the administrative center for Yellowstone National Park.

Dinner: Plated dinner at Lake Hotel Dining Room featuring a salad, main entrée with a side & vegetable, coffee or tea and water; other beverages and dessert available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

Mystique of the Mountains
Jackson, WY
The Lexington

Activity note: Getting on/off the motor coach; several walks up to two miles total on uneven terrain.

Breakfast: Enjoy a buffet in the Lake Hotel Dining Room.

Morning: Depart Lake Hotel for West Thumb Geyser Basin. along Yellowstone Lake's wooded shoreline to West Thumb Geyser Basin. West Thumb is the largest geyser basin on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. It is speculated that its heat source is only 10,000 feet down. Thermal features here extend under the surface of the lake as well as along the shore; several underwater geysers were discovered in the early 1990s.

Lunch: Picnic style box lunch en route.

Afternoon: Retracing your journey south through both national parks is a visual review with supplementary interpretation. A fitting closure for the grand discovery is a relaxing two-mile hike along the shores of Leigh and String lakes for an intimate afternoon among the Tetons. Arrive in Jackson, WY for hotel check-in.

Dinner: Fine dining in the historic Wort Hotel featuring a buffet, plus water, coffee, and tea.

Evening: Closing is an opportunity for final questions, wrap up and reflections of a memorable journey.

Program Concludes
Jackson, WY

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

Breakfast: At the hotel buffet eggs, cereal, oatmeal, bread, juice, coffee, tea. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. We encourage you to join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!