Yes, Yellowstone IS grand, but that's not what the tour name refers to. The Yellowstone Grand Tour is a tour of the entire park in one day. Instead of doing a tour of Yellowstone's lower loop on one day, and a Yellowstone upper loop tour the next day, the grand tour offers a tour of both Yellowstone loops on the same day.
The roads running through Yellowstone make up a massive figure of eight. The lower loop of the figure of eight comprises most of the thermal features that are to be seen in Yellowstone, including, of course, Old Faithful! Today we'll be driving around the entire figure of eight!
From West Yellowstone we'll follow the Madison River to Madison Junction. At Madison Junction we will turn right, or south, and travel along the Firehole River which runs through Yellowstone's thermal areas. The Firehole is famous amongst anglers for its pristine beauty and selection of brown, brook and rainbow trout. Depending on the time of the year, this area is often teeming with wildlife. With any luck you will see bison, elk, Trumpeter Swans and other animals and birds. A special treat in the spring is the baby bison calves.
The first main thermal area we will be visiting is the Lower Geyser Basin, and Fountain Paint Pots. There is a boardwalk system running around and through the Fountain Paint Pots area, and it is a great place to go for a stroll, if the bison haven't got there first! Apart from the paint pots, there is also a selection of other thermal features in the area, including a number of geysers, one or other of which almost always seems to be erupting.
The next stop is the Midway Geyser Basin, home to Grand Prismatic Spring - one of the largest anywhere in the world - as well as Excelsior Geyser, now dormant, but discharging thousands of gallons of water every minute.
It is a short drive to the Upper Geyser Basin, home of Old Faithful, the world's best known and most reliable gusher. There is also so much more to the area than just Old Faithful. Old Faithful Inn, a wonderful old building - recently renovated - is located there - and a system of boardwalks will take you around the various other geysers in the area.
Yellowstone Lake is off to the east as we make the trip up to Fishing Bridge. From there we head through the Hayden Valley, following the Yellowstone River, up to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. On the way we will pass Mud Volcano.
The Hayden Valley is known for its wildlife, particularly large herds of bison at certain times of the year. It is also an excellent location to look for grizzly bears, especially in the spring and early summer when they may be preying on newborn bison and elk cubs.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is an unexpected treat amongst the thermal wonders. The Yellowstone River has carved an impressive canyon through the rocks, over which two falls drop. The Lower Falls is over twice the size of Niagara Falls! It is in this area that you can catch a glimpse of the yellowish tinge to the rocks, from which the Yellowstone River got its name, but at a different location. We'll check out the canyon and falls from a number of different locations. You get so close to the Upper Falls that you almost feel like you can reach out and touch the thundering water. Don't!
The reason this tour only starts running in the fourth week of May is that we have to wait for the road from Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to Tower Falls to open. It's the highest road in the park, and the snow sticks around a lot longer. We'll climb up into the sky over Dunraven Pass, topping off at almost 9000 feet, and then drop down the other side to Tower Falls. On the way you'll see an entire forest of snags (we'll explain). There is always the possibility of seeing a bear when we travel over Dunraven.
Everyone wants to see a bear in the wild at Yellowstone, and the short trip from Tower Falls to Tower Junction is one of the best places to do so. The spring can be a great time to go looking for bears, as you have the opportunity of seeing mothers with their new born cubs.
We'd like to be able to show you part of the Lamar Valley, but this will depend on traffic, buffalo jams, and how long we've taken to get to this point. On some tours there just won't be enough time to venture into Lamar Valley. This is a particularly beautiful part of the park which runs along a section of road between Tower Junction and Yellowstone's north east entrance, and is where the keen wolf watchers are generally to be found. There is often a lot of other wildlife to be seen here.
Whether we go to the Lamar Valley or not, we will now travel from Tower Roosevelt to Mammoth. There is almost always wildlife to be seen on the way.
The next stop is Mammoth Hot Springs, headquarters of the park, and home to a fascinating array of weird rock shapes, bright colors and sizzling hot springs. Elk are generally plentiful in this area, wandering around the old park buildings, and, if you're lucky, you might even see a whole herd.
You can stroll through the ever changing terraces at Mammoth, admiring the travertine creations and hot springs.
We'll climb up the hill out of Mammoth, passing Golden Gate and Roaring Mountain, on the way to Norris Geyser Basin.
Although not as well known as the other geyser basins, Norris is the most thermally active part of Yellowstone. It is divided into two separate basins: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin. Time permitting, we'll take a look at both basins.
Leaving Norris, we'll travel south, stopping at Gibbon Falls, on the Gibbon River. At Madison Junction, which we went through much earlier today, we'll turn right or west, and once again traverse the Madison Valley, on the way back to West Yellowstone.
Noting that this vehicle has no top, we will not be able to run the tour if the weather is bad. We will check the weather forecast about 48 hours from your tour date, and if the weather looks bad, we will give you a choice of cancelling the tour for a full refund, or taking the tour, but in one of our regular vehicles, like a small minibus or SUV.
Payment And Cancellation Details: CANCELLATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED FOR THIS TOUR. Changes will also not be accepted, and refunds will not be given. Please consider purchasing trip insurance as our cancellation policy is strictly enforced. Your card will be charged within 12 hours of making the booking. The credit/debit card used must be in your name and must be present, so we can take an imprint. Please contact us if this is not possible. Please ensure you have the card you used with you. If the card is not in your name please let us know ahead of time, as our credit card authorization process will need to be completed.
In the event of poor weather being forecast, we may, at our discretion, give you a choice of cancelling the topless tour for a full refund, or taking the tour in one of our regular vehicles, subject to availability.
The name on your credit card statement will be USA Park Tours.
The dates this tour runs can be seen in the calendar at the top right of this page.
A sack lunch is included.
Park entry is not included. If you have already paid for the park entry on one of our other Yellowstone tours, you do not need to pay it again. The pass is good for unlimited entries over a seven day period.
Pick ups take place at all in-town West Yellowstone properties.
All times are approximate and we are not responsible for the consequences of a late arrival back into West Yellowstone.
Portions of this tour may, at our discretion, be subcontracted to other reputable vendors.
The tour itinerary may change at our discretion without notice.
After ordering this tour please wait to receive a confirmation email from us before making any plans that are dependent on this tour.
There are no taxes. Please note, however, that a guide’s gratuity is excluded, but is expected in the USA for services well delivered.