Yellowstone & Jackson Hole
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Vacation Style Holiday TypeDiscovery, Guided Tours, Trekking, Wildlife
Activity Level Leisurely
Group Size Small Group
For this trip, we will be staying in hotels with warm beds and hot showers every night.
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners & dining
- All accommodation
- All transportation while on the tour
- Expert tour and trekking guides for entire journey
- Travel insurance and other emergencies
- Visa fees and entry clearing fees (if from outside the USA)
- Liquors, beers and alcoholic beverages
- Flights to/from Wyoming
Arrival in Jackson, WY
Arrival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming: The Jackson Hole Airport is serviced by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, SkyWest Airlines and United Airlines seasonally. These airlines provide direct service to Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas Ft. Worth, Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, Newark, JFK-New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. Big Chill Adventures will arrange transportation for you from the airport to our accommodations for the night and we will have our first group get together at 5:30 pm at our favorite restaurant in town. If you like, we can get you optional add-on tickets to the Unsinkable Molly Brown performance at the Jackson Hole Playhouse that night, or you can wander through the vibrant downtown of Jackson Hole before retiring for the night.
After breakfast we will embark on an amazing white water rafting or float trip down the Snake River surrounded by the majestic mountains of the Grand Tetons. The whitewater rafting section of the Snake River is a Class III river, perfect for people of all ages and experience. Come rafting on the famous Lunch Counter and Big Kahuna rapids! Or, if you prefer, float along the Snake River and enjoy panoramic views of the Teton Range, Gros Ventre Range and Snake River Range. On this rafting trip you can relax and take it all in!
For those of you who want to try your hand at fly-fishing, you could forego the raft trip and for an additional fee we can arrange either a ½ day float or wading experience, with or without instruction.
In the afternoon we will drive North through the Tetons, with a stop for a hike near Jackson Lake. The Colter Bay area provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including bear, moose, elk, mule deer, beaver, muskrat, river otters, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, ospreys, great blue herons, as well as snowshoe hares and martens. We will have dinner and spend the night in Colter Bay.
Into Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone has many thermal features, but none as consistent in height, interval and length of eruption as Old Faithful; the world’s most famous geyser. Nearly every 91 minutes, Old Faithful Geyser erupts – shooting 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water into the air to reach an average height of about 145 feet in just 15 to 20 seconds. Eruptions typically last for 1.5 to 5 minutes, with a few puffs of steam signaling the end!
In the vicinity of Old Faithful, there are several geysers with semi-regular eruption cycles. Based on the likely eruptions, we will choose one with a picnic area to have lunch and wait for our another big show.
Old Faithful may be more famous, but the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is the most photographed thermal feature in Yellowstone, and that is why it is our next stop. Extremely hot water travels 121 feet from a crack in the Earth to reach the surface. The third largest spring in the world, the Grand Prismatic is bigger than a football field at 370 feet in diameter. The hot spring has bright bands of orange, yellow, and green ring the deep blue waters in the spring. The multicolored layers get their hues from different species of thermophile (heat-loving) bacteria living in the progressively cooler water around the spring. And the deep blue center? That’s because water scatters the blue wavelengths of light more than others, reflecting blues back to our eyes.
Our next stop is the fascinating Fountain Paint Pot area in Yellowstone National Park. It contains all four types of thermal features that are popular to view – geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles. We will walk the half mile boardwalk nature trail to see it all!
The last stop of the day, Firehole Falls, which is a 40 foot waterfall amidst 800-foot thick lava flows forming the Firehole Canyon walls. There is a swimming hole nearby in the Firehole River for those of you who want to take a dip. Just an FYI – the water is not geothermally heated!
Dinner and accommodations that night are in the town of West Yellowstone.
Mud pots and
We will start our day at the Artists’ Paintpots Trail. We’ll wander past a forest of scorched lodgepole pines. These conifers suffered mightily in the large fire of 1988. Once on the boardwalk, we will see steam blanketing much of the landscape. The Artists’ Paintpots are situated on a hillside, above the boiling pools, which means that they have less water to work with. As a result, mudpots are formed. An underground source emits sulfuric acid derived from hydrogen sulfide gas. This acid breaks down the rhyolite stone into grey clay, which then bulges and pops as gas bubbles rise up to the surface. Along this section of the path, you’ll notice that the Artists’ Paintpots feature a collection of pastel colors. This is because iron oxide stains their whitish/gray mud. When the Paintpots blow their tops, they can shoot mud up to 15 feet in the air!
Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest geyser basin in Yellowstone. The basin is comprised of two distinct sections: the Back Basin is in a regenerating forest setting. It contains geysers and hot springs tucked among the trees. The Porcelain Basin is characterized by a lack of vegetation. No plants can live in the hot, acidic, water emitted from the numerous thermal features in the basin. Porcelain Basin presents a beautiful but desolate visage which is unlike any of the other geyser basins in Yellowstone. Norris Geyser Basin is alsohome to the largest active geyser in the world, Steamboat Geyser. Steamboat can reach 380 feet and its steam phase can be heard miles away. Unfortunately, Steamboat is rare, the last major eruption was in 1991.
Our next stop will be Obsidian Cliff. About 90% of the Obsidian Cliff plateau burned in 1988. Although the fire did not affect the appearance or condition of the cliff face, it cleared the surface and most of the lodgepole pine overstory. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996. Obsidian is found in volcanic areas where the magma is rich in silica and lava has cooled without forming crystals, creating a black glass that can be honed to an exceptionally thin edge. Obsidian was first quarried from this cliff for toolmaking more than 11,000 years ago and gradually spread along trade routes from western Canada to Ohio. Unlike most obsidian, which occurs as small rocks strewn amid other formations, Obsidian Cliff has an exposed vertical thickness of about 98 feet.
The Sheepeater Cliffs are a series of exposed cliffs made up of columnar basalt. The lava was deposited about 500,000 years ago during one of the periodic basaltic floods in Yellowstone Caldera, and later exposed by the Gardner River. The cliffs are noted as a “textbook example” of a basaltic flow with well defined joints and hexagonal columns. They were named after a band of Eastern Shoshone known as Tukuaduka (sheep eaters).
On our way to our evening accommodations and dinner in Gardiner, Montana, we will drive through the lovely Golden Gate area of Yellowstone National Park.
Mammoth and petrified trees
Mammoth Hot Springs are a must-see feature of Yellowstone National Park in part because they’re so different from other thermal areas in the area! This is largely because limestone is a relatively soft type of rock, allowing the travertine formations to grow much faster than other sinter formations. It has been described as looking like a cave turned inside out. Mammoth Hot Springs is divided into two terraces, the Upper and Lower. Approximately 50 hot springs lie within the area. There is so much to see here in Mammoth Hot Springs that we will stay into the early afternoon!
After lunch it is onward to Petrified Tree! Tucked away on a tall, dusty-brown dirt outcropping in the northeast corner of the park lies a natural attraction just waiting for passerby to take notice. With a historical story to tell just as the parks other natural wonders do, Yellowstone’s petrified forest is a just as much look into the past as it is something to be admired in the present. Around 50 million years ago, scientists say this area of the park was flourishing with tall redwood trees, maples, magnolias, oaks, dogwoods, and pines when volcanic eruptions from the nearby Absaroka Mountain range buried the forest in ash. As the organic, woody material of the trees began to decay, silica-rich groundwater started to seep into the wood cells of the trees. This occurrence helped to preserve the buried forest by literally “freezing” the wood and halting their decomposition. Some of the oldest petrified trees uncovered by erosion in the park are up to 25 feet in diameter and count up to 1,000 tree rings.
The 132-foot drop of Tower Creek, framed by eroded volcanic pinnacles is our next stop. Its idyllic setting has inspired numerous artists, including Thomas Moran. His painting of Tower Fall played a crucial role in the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. The nearby Bannock Ford on the Yellowstone River was an important travel route for early Native Americans as well as for early European visitors and miners up to the late 19th century. A half-mile steep, switchback trail will take us to the bottom of the waterfall and back, if we want a hike before dinner.
We will end the day with an Old West Dinner Cookout in Pleasant Valley, which was the sight of ”Uncle John” Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel, one of the earliest lodging facilities in Yellowstone. Although the buildings are no longer there, a horseback or wagon ride takes us through the Valley for an evening not soon forgotten. “The coffee’s brewin’ over the open campfire, and the wranglers love talkin’ your ears off over a strong cup o’ Joe! When we ring the dinner bell, you’ll line up for real western beef steaks cooked to order, our signature Roosevelt Baked Beans, potato salad, coleslaw, cornbread muffins, and fruit crisp. And if all this is not enough, you’ll find your boots tappin’ to old western songs sung by our singin’ cowboy. You may have come here as a city slicker, but you’ll go back as a regular cowpoke!”
Our lodging this evening is at the Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone.
We will be starting our day as early as possible with a drive through the Lamar Valley to look for wildlife! The Lamar Valley is known for its wildlife viewing. Buffalo, elk, grizzly bears, wolves, black bears, antelope, otters, osprey, bald eagles and coyotes are just a few of the species we might find along the highway as we drive through the heart of this legendary valley of Yellowstone National Park.
We will stop for lunch in Canyon Village and then the rest of our day will be in and around the Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone. The canyon is spectacular, with the various terrain of rock and trees surrounded by the perpetual mist of the thermal vents and the river below. Yellowstone Falls consist of two major waterfalls on the Yellowstone River. As the Yellowstone River flows north from Yellowstone Lake, it leaves the Hayden Valley and plunges first over Upper Yellowstone Falls and then a quarter mile downstream over Lower Yellowstone Falls, at which point it then enters the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Upper Falls are 109 feet high. The brink of the upper falls marks the junction between a hard rhyolite lava flow and weaker glassy lava that has been more heavily eroded. Cascading from the 590,000 year old Canyon Rhyolite lava flow, Lower Yellowstone Falls is the largest volume waterfall in the Rocky Mountains of the United States. These falls are 308 feet high, or nearly twice as high as Niagara Falls.
We will visit the Sulphur Caldron, one of the park’s most acid hot springs, with yellow and turbulent waters reminding one of an evil witch’s brew. The Sulphur Caldron is almost as acidic as battery acid, but is a pool of life all the same. Bacteria live within the ultra-hot waters, creating the colors you see. Temperatures in the Sulphur Caldron at Yellowstone are about 190 degrees F!
Our last stop of the day will be Mud Volcano. The Washburn Expedition and the Hayden Survey discovered Mud Volcano during the early 1870s. Both groups heard the sound ”resembling the reports of distant artillery” for several miles before arriving at Mud Volcano. Mud Volcano at that time exploded with mud from its hillside alcove. Since then Mud Volcano has quieted but still remains a bubbling, seething spring. Iron sulfide is responsible for the dark-gray, blacker brown-colored water, while hydrogen sulfide produces the ”rotten egg” smell common to the Mud Volcano area.
Tonight’s dinner and lodging are in Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park.
Our last hurrah in Yellowstone National Park will be an 8:45 am guided fishing trip on Yellowstone Lake. If we are fortunate enough to catch and clean some fish during our two hours, we can have them cooked for our lunch!
We will drive through the East exit of Yellowstone, which provides a lovely drive to Cody, Wyoming, arriving in the late afternoon. We will have a final dinner together, and then your accommodations are at our favorite place in Cody, the Chamberlin Inn. After spending the night here, we will arrange your transportation to the Cody airport on September 2nd. The Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD) offers year-round airline flights to Cody, Wyoming on United Express or Delta Airlines. SkyWest Airlines is a code share partner with Delta Airlines and United Express. Mesa Airlines is a code share partner with United Express. Flights typically go through either Denver, CO, or Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Download full itinerary pdf available
Because we might go swimming or hot spring soaking in some places with rocks on the bottom, its a good idea to bring some water shoes or sneakers you don’t mind getting wet.