Experience

Yellowstone your way.

The true beauty of Yellowstone is that it offers a different experience for each visitor. No matter what area of the park interests you, we can help you gain a deeper connection to Yellowstone while you're here.

Experience Yellowstone Your Way

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Lodging and Learning

Our Lodging & Learning Programs are led by our naturalist guides and include most meals, in-park transportation, lodging and optional evening programs.

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Private Tours

Private Tours provide a fascinating way to see the many facets of Yellowstone. Tours range from one day to multi-day.

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Field Seminars

Our Field Seminars provide in-depth experiences alongside park experts. Field excursions and classroom presentations give a unique overview of the Yellowstone ecosystem.

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Youth, College, and Teacher

Youth Programs provide middle-school through college-age groups an opportunity to develop a deeper connection to Yellowstone. Programs are designed to engage the next generation of park stewards. Financial aid is available.

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Call 406.848.2400 for Reservations

For middle- and high-school-age groups

Bring your group to Yellowstone to experience an introduction to nature, national parks, and conservation. Students explore the natural history, geology, and cultural history of Yellowstone National Park while learning about the significance of parks and wild places to all citizens. Explore canyons, waterfalls, and geyser basins. Observe wildlife, take photos, paint, and hike. Students will be led by instructors with extensive experience leading and teaching youth in outdoor settings.

Based in Gardiner, Montana • 5 days

Approximate Program and Lodging Fees

$333 per person

*Rates are variable based on number of nights and program add-ons, are effective through March 31, 2016, and do not include taxes. Financial aid may be available.

 

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Call 406.848.2400 for reservations

For high school-age groups

Let Yellowstone be your high school classroom! Watch science come alive as your students use the scientific method and critical thinking skills to investigate Yellowstone in-depth. This flexible, inquiry-based, field program is developed to meet specific educational goals of various school districts. Choose from our menu of themes and our program staff will create a detailed itinerary that meaningfully connects with your school’s classroom curriculum and students’ interests and prior experience. The final itinerary will include multi-disciplinary full day programs, evening programs, interactions with natural resource professionals, and citizen science, all of which will revolve around the chosen themes. Early college credit is also available through the University of Montana Western.

Approximate Program and Lodging Fees:

3-day program $180 per person*
5-day program $270 per person*

*Rates are variable based on number of nights and program add-ons, are effective through March 31, 2016, and do not include taxes. Financial aid may be available.

 

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CALL 406.848.2400 FOR RESERVATIONS

Start: 8 a.m. at Gardiner, Mammoth, Canyon, or Norris; 8:30 a.m. at Lake

Explore the natural and geologic history of the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Lake areas. You’ll look for evidence of glaciers, lakes, and thermal features that sculpted the landscape while learning about the underlying volcano. You’ll also search for wildlife and learn about their role in the Yellowstone ecosystem. 

Tour length: Approximately 8 hours per day. 

Daily tuition:
1–5 participants $590
6–14 participants $800
15–28 participants $1,590

Rates effective through October 31, 2016, and do not include taxes. 

CALL 406.848.2400 FOR RESERVATIONS

Start: 8 a.m. at Gardiner, Mammoth, or Norris; 8:30 a.m. at Madison or Old Faithful 

Hot springs, geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles: Yellowstone is home to the world’s greatest concentration of hydrothermal features—more than 10,000!  With an Institute naturalist guide, you’ll explore geyser basins and the Yellowstone volcano to view these dynamic features, and learn about the fascinating geologic processes that make them work.

Tour length: Approximately 8 hours per day. 

Daily tuition:
1–5 participants $590
6–14 participants $800
15–28 participants $1,590

Rates effective through October 31, 2016, and do not include taxes. 

CALL 406.848.2400 FOR RESERVATIONS

Start: 8 a.m. at Gardiner, Mammoth, Canyon, Norris, or Roosevelt; 8:30 a.m. at Lake, Madison, or Old Faithful

Venture into the wilderness of Yellowstone on carefully chosen hikes that show you the park’s diverse landscapes. Enjoy the quieter rhythms of travel away from the roadside, and learn how to interpret animal signs. Along the way, you’ll gain insights into Yellowstone’s geology, history, and wildlife.

Tour length: Approximately 8 hours per day. 

Daily tuition:
1–5 participants $590
6–14 participants $800
15–28 participants $1,590

Rates effective through October 31, 2016, and do not include taxes. 

CALL 406.848.2400 FOR RESERVATIONS

Start: 6 or 7 a.m. at Gardiner or Mammoth; 7 a.m. at Roosevelt or Lamar 

Discover the diverse and abundant wildlife of Yellowstone’s northern range. Learn how to search for wildlife and interpret their behavior. You’ll also explore the vital role each species plays in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Early start times are recommended in summer to have the best chance of seeing bears and wolves.

Tour length: Approximately 8 hours per day. 

Daily tuition:
1–5 participants $590
6–14 participants $800
15–28 participants $1,590

Rates effective through October 31, 2016, and do not include taxes. 

CALL 406.848.2400 FOR MORE INFORMATION

Relive the golden age of Yellowstone’s Grand Tours and travel in a similar style as visitors of a bygone era. Tour the park in a classic Yellowstone bus with a retractable top for wildlife viewing. By day, explore the park’s colorful history and dynamic geology on walking tours of historic sites and thermal areas. Exclusive to this program, you’ll enjoy a guided tour of Yellowstone’s Heritage & Research Center. Relax each evening in the best park hotels.

5-day programs. Start Dates: May 16, 23, 30, June 6, 13, 20, 27, July 4, 11, 18, 25, August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, September 5, 12, 19

3 nights at Mammoth Hot Springs, 1 night at Old Faithful, 1 night at Lake Yellowstone
$1,739/$2,185

Rates are double/single occupancy and don’t include taxes or utility fees.

 

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Sold out—Call 406.848.2400 to be added to our waitlist

In May, the entire park is alive with the abundance of spring. Animals have emerged from winter; the grasses are greening, creeks are filling with snowmelt. Baby animals—from bison and elk calves to bear cubs and baby birds—are starting to appear across the landscape. It’s a great time to leave behind the pullouts and boardwalks and venture into the backcountry in Slough Creek, an area teeming with new life. You’ll begin with an evening session that will cover safety and preparation. Hike to a base camp on the second day, from which you’ll wander up to 8 miles on daily explorations of this inspiring backcountry valley. 

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  • Activity Level:
  • Start: May 27 at 6:00 PMEnd: May 30 at 5:00 PM
  • Location: Gardiner, Montana
  • $465.00
  • Instructor(s):
  • Jim Garry, M.S.
  • Patty Walton
Sold OUT—Call 406.848.2400 to be added to our waitlist

Mammals are elusive and hard to observe in the wild, but you can discover their behavior in the signs they leave behind. Through illustrated lectures and laboratories, you’ll learn about natural history, ecology, anatomy, gaits, track averaging, relative size, estimating track age and speed, identifying prints, finding clues, and following trails. During afternoons in the field, you’ll put your learning into practice as you explore animal behavior by reading the stories that tracks tell. Evenings will be spent analyzing data collected in the field. Expect to be hiking off trails, in mud, and wading in water.

Credit Offered

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  • Activity Level:
  • Start: May 28 at 9:00 AMEnd: May 31 at 5:00 PM
  • Location: Lamar Buffalo Ranch
  • $495.00
  • Instructor(s):
  • Jim Halfpenny, PH.D
CALL 406.848.2400 FOR MORE INFORMATION

Pack your boots and backpack for four days of hiking, wildlife watching, and discovery in Yellowstone. Hike with naturalist guides to explore the park’s diverse landscapes—including geyser basins, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and valleys rich with wildlife. Search for elk, bison, grizzly bears, wolves, and other animals on a sunrise wildlife watching expedition

5-day programs. Start dates: May 29, June 5, 12, 19, 26, July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, August 7, 14, 21, 28, September 4, 11, 18, 25 

2 nights at Mammoth Hot Springs, 2 nights at Grant Village
$1,055/$1,429

Rates are double/single occupancy and don’t include taxes or utility fees.

 

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Program Type Descriptions

Lodging and Learning

Our award-winning Lodging & Learning Program offers several exciting ways to enjoy Yellowstone. Your day is filled with park discoveries, led by naturalist guides from the Yellowstone Association Institute, who help expand your knowledge of the park with fascinating, one-of-a-kind experiences. For many, it’s the only way to see the park at its fullest. In the evening, you’ll step from the untamed beauty of Yellowstone and into the comfortable, relaxing accommodations and dining rooms of Yellowstone National Park Lodges—the official provider for all Yellowstone National Park hotels. Your program is all-encompassing, with most meals, in-park transportation, lodging and optional evening programs included.

Private Tours

One of the best ways to experience Yellowstone is through a Private Tour. Offered throughout the year, Private Tours provide a fascinating way to see the many facets of Yellowstone—from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to geysers and mud pots to wolves in winter. Our Private Tours are perfect for a personal visit, a family reunion, or an organized group. Choose a one day tour or combine several days with comfortable lodging at the Overlook Field Campus. Our Private Tours include your own naturalist guide, in-park transportation and use of professional spotting scopes. We provide drinks and snacks, but do ask that you provide your own meals.

Field Seminars

Imagine this: you’re on a ridgeline overlooking the Lamar Valley. Next to you, a wolf biologist whispers “Look down there!” As you peer through your binoculars you see a pack of wolves on the move. That’s just one exciting possible scenario with our Field Seminars. They present an in-depth way to experience Yellowstone. You’ll learn hidden secrets of the park alongside experts, such as an animal tracker, a photographer, or a geothermal scientist, among others. We combine field excursions and classroom presentations to give you a complete overview of the Yellowstone ecosystem. Most Field Seminars are offered at the historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus in Yellowstone’s remote and wild northeastern corner. Minimum age is 18 unless otherwise noted. For classes with a minimum of 18, children ages 16 and older are welcome if accompanied by an adult.

Youth, College, and Teacher

For many, a visit to Yellowstone is the beginning of a life-long connection to national parks. Discovery and exploration are brought to life by geysers, waterfalls, and wildlife. We offer programs for middle-school through college-age groups that are designed to engage the next generation of park stewards. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, it is our goal to help ensure future generations have life-changing experiences in the world’s first national park. Teachers and youth are eligible to apply for financial aid.

Financial Aid

Teachers and youth are now eligible to apply for financial aid to attend our educational programs.

For teachers: Through our membership program, the Yellowstone Association is proud to provide financial aid for teachers who wish to take one of our in-depth field seminars. Financial aid is awarded based on need. To apply, click here or call 406-848-2400.

For youth: We want to help youth who otherwise might not be able to experience the wonders of Yellowstone by offering financial aid to youth groups that have nonprofit, tax-exempt status. Financial aid is awarded based on need. To apply, click here or call 406-848-2400.

The National Park Service also offers educational resources and programs for youth and teachers. To learn more, visit http://www.nps.gov/yell/forteachers/index.htm.

General Information

General Information

Safety, Responsibility, and Risk

Your safety is important to the Institute. We have established procedures to reduce medical emergencies and to provide treatment of those that occur. All members of the Institute staff are trained to follow these procedures. Institute staff also receive additional training in driver safety, wilderness medicine, and the use of portable radios to contact National Park Service emergency services. The Institute needs and expects you to take an active role in protecting yourself. You should be careful to choose a program that is appropriate to your medical and physical condition. Before arriving for a program, you need to fully and accurately inform Institute staff of relevant medical conditions, consult with your personal physician about any relevant medical conditions, and obtain all recommended clothing and equipment. Once you arrive, you need to continually monitor your condition and any external hazards, make prudent decisions, stay hydrated and well fed, and keep Institute staff informed of how you are feeling. Despite our combined efforts, Institute programs entail some inherent risks, many of which are associated with moderate to vigorous physical activity in high altitude mountainous or wilderness terrain. Even programs that include little activity and do not stray far from developed areas may take place in areas where advanced medical care may be significantly delayed.

Release From Legal Liability and Collection of Health Information

On receipt of your completed registration form, we will send you an Assumption of Risks/Release of Liability form that must be signed by all participants, minors and adults. We will also send you a form to assist us in identifying medical issues that may arise during your program or activity. All information on this form will remain confidential and will be reviewed only by Institute staff or a licensed physician.

Code of Ethics

The Yellowstone Association Institute is committed to demonstrating a high standard of appropriate and ethical behavior in Yellowstone. As a participant in an Institute program, we ask that you adhere to the following Code of Ethics. In addition to the ethics highlighted below, the Institute abides by all National Park Service (NPS) rules and regulations. We also practice Leave No Trace guidelines for traveling responsibly in the wilderness.

Observing Wildlife: We will do our best to have as little impact on wildlife as possible. Animals will be observed from a distance, using high powered spotting scopes to help keep our presence from affecting their behavior. Participants should not expect to get close-up photographs of wildlife. We will adhere to NPS regulations by keeping a minimum distance of 25 yards from bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, coyotes, nesting birds, and 100 yards from bears and wolves. We will not entice wildlife with food, animal calls, or any actions that change their behavior.

Leave What You Find: It is illegal to remove natural or cultural artifacts (plants, animals, bones, rocks, etc.) from the park. Institute instructors have permission from NPS to manipulate plants, rocks, bones, etc. for educational purposes, and will return them to their natural positions and locations.

General Etiquette: Institute groups will be considerate of other visitors and respect the quality of their experience. Voices and vehicle sounds carry great distances and affect both wildlife and people. Remaining silent or very quiet while watching wildlife lets the sounds of Yellowstone (including wolf howls) prevail.

Roads and Vehicles: Expect wildlife on the road, and drive at or below the posted park speed limits. When stopping to observe wildlife or other park features, the Institute will move vehicles entirely off the road. If there is no safe pullout available, we will drive to the next safe place and walk back to observe the wildlife. We will not stop in the middle of the road, and should a traffic jam develop as a result of our activities, we will cease the activity.

Properly Dispose of Waste: We will pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Your instructor will discuss techniques for properly disposing of human waste in the field.

Traveling Lightly: When hiking or walking in Yellowstone, we will use existing trails and boardwalks, and follow appropriate techniques when walking off-trail. Walking around muddy or wet places in the trail increases erosion and negatively affects the resource; proper equipment is essential to hiking ethically. Participants should come adequately prepared with the equipment listed for their program and should expect to walk through mud, snow, or puddles in the trail.

Practice Sustainable Methods: We will reduce waste by minimizing paper and other disposable products used during programs. Recycling will be practiced in vehicles and at YA facilities. Effects of climate change, especially those evident in Yellowstone, will be highlighted by instructors, as well as the efforts of Yellowstone National Park and its partners to mitigate these effects.

Thank you for helping us set a good example in Yellowstone!

Transportation to and from Yellowstone

For all Institute programs (except backpacking), students must arrange their own transportation to and from the location where the program begins. For those arriving by air, we recommend renting a car or contacting our Information Specialists for information on public transportation.

Transportation during Institute Programs

The Institute's 14-passenger vehicles will be used for group transportation once a program begins.

Letter of Certification

For field seminar participants, the Institute will gladly provide a letter of program completion, which includes the program title, description, and hours of instruction.

Program Locations

All Lodging and Learning programs are held at park hotels. Field seminars may be based at either the Institute's Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus, the Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus, or at a park hotel. Backcountry programs take place in the wilderness in and around Yellowstone National Park. Private Tours and Youth and College programs take place in and around Yellowstone National Park. Program locations are included in each program description.

Altitude

Most of Yellowstone National Park is above 6,000 feet. If you are coming from a much lower elevation, it is wise to allow yourself at least one "easy" day to adjust to this altitude before beginning strenuous activity. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids while you are here to prevent dehydration.

Children

Children who meet stated minimum age requirements are very welcome in family programs. All other programs are designed for adults only. However, children 16 years and older may participate if accompanied by a participating adult.

Pets, RVs, and Camping

To avoid disturbing other students and resident wildlife, pets are not allowed at the Buffalo Ranch field campus or on any Institute programs. Park Service regulations prohibit camping and recreational vehicle use at the Buffalo Ranch field campus.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace (LNT) is a national education program designed to encourage minimum impact skills and ethics among outdoor users. The Institute endorses this program and includes the LNT curriculum in our classes.

General Winter Information

Getting to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus in Winter:

In winter, the only accessible route to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch is via the north entrance to the park at Gardiner, Montana. From the north entrance, proceed south to Mammoth and then east via the all-season road connecting Mammoth and Cooke City. All other routes are closed to automobile traffic from November to April.

Within the park, the only services accessible to the Buffalo Ranch are in Mammoth Hot Springs, 29 miles to the west. In Mammoth, a National Park Service campground is operated year-round on a first-come, first-served basis; the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is open mid-December to early March (please call Xanterra Parks & Resorts at 307-344-7311 for exact dates and reservations); and a limited supply of groceries is available year-round at the Yellowstone General Store in Mammoth Hot Springs.

Additional services are available in the gateway communities of Gardiner, Montana, (34 miles west) and Silver Gate/Cooke City, Montana, (23 miles east). Gardiner is a larger town, with year-round motels, restaurants, gas stations, a laundromat, and a grocery store. Silver Gate and Cooke City are somewhat smaller and more seasonal, with motels, restaurants, gas stations, and convenience stores.

Health Information

For health information click here.

Cancellation and Refund Policy

For cancellation and refund policy information click here.