Day 1 - Flight from San Francisco to Salt Lake City - About 1.5 hours
This tour starts at the San Francisco airport. Please let us know approximately what time you would like to fly up to Salt Lake. If you do not specify a time we will try and get you on a mid morning departure. When you get into Salt Lake a shuttle will take you to a downtown hotel, the Crystal Inn, unless it is sold out. The Crystal Inn has a good, complimentary, hot breakfast buffet tomorrow morning.
You are now free to explore the famous Temple Square area, which is not that far away. We do not operate tours of Salt Lake ourselves but are happy to organize one for you once you have booked this Yellowstone tour.
Like almost all our tours, this is a small group trip. The vehicle used generally has between nine and 14 seats. Our guides are skilled in the geology, customs, traditions, history and people of the areas through which you travel – feel free to ask all and any questions!
The route to Yellowstone goes up Interstate 15, past the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains, before entering Idaho. At Idaho Falls you will leave the freeway behind, and start making your way through rural parts of the state. About 10 miles (16 kilometres) from West Yellowstone you go over the Continental Divide and into Montana.
When we get to West Yellowstone we will stop to get your sack lunches, before making our way into the world's first national park, and possibly the most unique!
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!
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.
We will take you to Yellowstone Motel, where you will be staying. After checking in you can explore the town, take a walk through the forest into Yellowstone, go to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center (a must see) or check out a movie at the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theater.
There is going to be a lot to see and do. We'll head out of West Yellowstone towards Madison Junction, where the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers meet to form the Madison River. Turning left (north) we'll make for Norris Geyser Basin. Along the way we'll stop briefly at Gibbon Falls.
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 areas: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin.
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.
Leaving Mammoth we will travel towards Tower Roosevelt, which is where the road to the park's north east entrance, through the Lamar Valley, is. There is almost always wildlife to be seen in this area, even bears!
At Tower Junction we will branch off the main upper loop road, and head through the Lamar Valley, towards the north east entrance to Yellowstone. This is a particularly beautiful part of the park, and where the keen wolf watchers are generally to be found.
Everyone wants to see a bear in the wild at Yellowstone, and the trip from Tower Junction to Tower Falls 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. Tower Falls is an impressive water fall.
Assuming that it is open, the road from Tower Falls to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone towers up into the sky as it crosses the Dunraven Pass at almost 9000 feet. We then drop down to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The Yellowstone River has carved an impressive canyon through the rocks, over which two falls drop. 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 will check out the canyon and falls.
Other areas along the route that we may visit, time permitting, include Obsidian Cliff, Virginia Cascade and Undine Falls.
One of the beauties of Yellowstone is that you never know what is around the next corner. This means that extra time could be spent looking at grizzlies, or perhaps trying to spot an elusive wolf, or even being stuck behind a buffalo jam for a while. For these reasons, today's itinerary is very flexible, and one or more of the above stops may be left out, depending on other activities as the hours progress.
A sack lunch is once again provided today. After a fun-filled day it is time to return to West Yellowstone.
You are on your own for dinner and will spend the night in the same place.
You will be picked up from your motel for the ride through the southern part of Yellowstone to Grand Teton. On the way we will once again go past the various geyser basins, and then climb over the Continental Divide twice, on the way to West Thumb.
As we drop down off the continental divide there are great views of Yellowstone Lake, the largest alpine lake in North America.
West Thumb is a delightful geyser basin, located right on the shores of the incredibly blue lake. We will stop to stroll around the boardwalk system that accesses the basin. An added bonus is that there are often elk at West Thumb.
The road between Yellowstone and Grand Teton is called the Rockefeller Parkway. It is only six miles and leads directly into the north entrance of Grand Teton. The main features of the park are the Grand Teton mountains, and a number of beautiful lakes.
You will see historic Colter Bay, Signal Mountain, Jenny Lake, Jackson Lake, Mount Moran, and much more. We also know the best places to find moose, and we will do our best to locate one or more for you.
You will take a leisurely drive through Grand Teton National Park, before arriving in Jackson. A sack lunch is provided today, which you can enjoy somewhere on the road.
You may like to spend more time in the Jackson Hole and Grand Teton area. The way that it works is that instead of continuing to Salt Lake City with the rest of the group, you can leave the tour in Jackson and spend a night there. We will put you on a shuttle back to Salt Lake City the next day. Please note that the shuttle makes several stops on the way, including one 45 minute layover. After you are dropped off in Jackson, the rest of the tour is unescorted. What this means is that you do not have a tour guide with you any more.
Please be aware that Jackson is a very popular destination and that the town does sell out. In addition, there are times when the hotel prices may be higher than we have quoted. If this is the case, we will always ask you what you want to do first, before charging your card. The motel will be in the moderate category, and upgrades may be possible. You can order the extension in Jackson when you check out. The price of the extension includes the shuttle back to Salt Lake in the morning.
If you do not extend your stay in Jackson, your tour continues as detailed below.
This tour is subject to a 3.00% per person fuel surcharge.
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. The payment schedule is as follows: This tour has at least one air leg. The cost of the flight(s), plus half of the remaining balance will be charged any time from when you make the booking. The final balance will be charged 30 or fewer days from the tour date, at our discretion.
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.
A purported or attempted cancellation will result in the entire amount being due, and being charged to your card immediately.
The name on your credit card statement will be USA Park Tours.
The days and dates this tour runs can be seen in the calendar at the top right of this page.
The entry fees to Yellowstone and Grand Teton are included.
The following meals are included: One breakfast, three sack lunches.
One night's lodging is included at the Crystal Inn in downtown Salt Lake City. Two nights accommodation are included at Yellowstone Self Catering Lodging in West Yellowstone. If lodging there is sold out, you will stay at a moderate category motel in West Yellowstone.
Prices are based on double occupancy. Single, triple and quad occupancy options are also available and will be seen at checkout. There are no taxes.
After ordering this tour please wait to receive a confirmation email from us before making any plans that are dependent on this tour.
The price includes the services of a guide/driver and transportation.
Vehicles are mini buses or executive vans, which are vans with individual, high back, reclining seats.
Portions of this tour may, at our discretion, be sub-contracted to other reputable vendors.
A minimum of two people may be required for a tour to depart. That is not two in your group, but a total of two.
This tour starts at the San Francisco airport. It drops off in the Salt Lake City downtown area.
The flight from San Francisco to Salt Lake City has one stop. Direct flights are available at a surcharge.
Bookings made within three weeks of the tour date may be subject to a higher charge due to higher flight prices.
If there are fewer than six people on the tour we reserve the right to have a shuttle take you from Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls on the second day, where our guide will pick you up. The same may apply on the fourth day, if there are fewer than six people. Our guide will take you from Jackson to Rexburg on the fourth day, where the shuttle will transport you to Salt Lake City. If this happens, the tour will start and or end at the airport, and not downtown.
At the start and perhaps very end, of the season, seasonal road closures and weather may prevent this tour being run as scheduled. In particular, the road from Old Faithful to Grand Teton generally opens in mid May. If that road is not open when you do your tour, more time will be spent in parts of Yellowstone, and Grand Teton will be omitted. In addition, Dunraven Pass (between Tower Falls and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone) also generally opens in mid May. Finally, general road maintenance in the park may affect the way this tour operates.
All times are approximate. We are not responsible for the consequences of any delays, and this itinerary may change without notice.