Yellowstone in winter is a photographer's delight: mineral pools burn through the snow, revealing their gem-colored depths; waterfalls freeze mid-spill; and elk and moose stand out clearly against the glistening white landscape. Record the beauty of winter in our oldest national park, zooming in on wildlife in the Lamar Valley, catching the interplay of steam and snow on Mammoth Hot Springs and rising early for a sunrise photo shoot in the Lower Geyser Basin.
Go on an early morning photo shoot in Lamar Valley, zooming in on wildlife against the sparkling snow: from elk, bison and bighorn sheep to coyotes and the elusive gray wolf.
Capture unique angles on famous sites like Old Faithful geyser without the crowds and discover some of the park’s lesser known areas, exploring in the comfort of heated snow coaches.
Learn about the reintroduction of Yellowstone’s wolves and meet a cinematographer who has produced films on the park and its wildlife for National Geographic.
Itinerary - 6 Days
Day 1 — Bozeman, Montana/Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming
Travel from Bozeman, Montana, to Yellowstone National Park, following the Yellowstone River through magnificent valleys on the lookout for bald eagles, mule deer, antelope, and bighorn sheep. At Mammoth Hot Springs take our first photo walk amid the steaming, colorful mineral spring terraces outlined in snow. Gather this evening for a welcome reception and dinner.
Best Western Plus Mammoth Hot Springs (D)
Day 2 — Lamar Valley
At Mammoth Hot Springs take our first photo walk amid the steaming, colorful mineral spring terraces outlined in snow. Then head to the open, wide vistas of the Lamar Valley to photograph wildlife at one of their most active times. Gray wolves were first restored to Yellowstone in the Lamar Valley in 1995, and the snow-covered meadows host herds of elk and bison. Use a spotting scope and your telephoto lens to find coyotes and eagles and perhaps an elusive wolf. An Emmy® award-winning wildlife cinematographer joins us this evening (his schedule permitting) to discuss his career shooting films on wolves and other wildlife for National Geographic.
Best Western Plus Mammoth Hot Springs (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone/Old Faithful
Travel by private snow coach to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone where winter adds extra magic to an already dramatic landscape. Walk to the rim of the spectacular gorge to capture images of its thundering waterfall and the ice arch that forms from the spray. Stroll amid the bubbling mud pots and fumaroles of the Upper Geyser Basin with your camera in hand. Continue to Old Faithful, stopping along the route to photograph a geothermal wonderland of erupting geysers, frozen waterfalls, and gem-colored mineral pools. Keep an eye out for wildlife—bison, encrusted in ice, often stand among the pools for warmth. Old Faithful Snow Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Old Faithful/Upper Geyser Basin
Awaken at dawn to photograph Old Faithful in the first light of morning. After breakfast, hit the trails on an optional snowshoe or cross-country ski excursion or go on a photo shoot near the lodge. This afternoon, head to the Upper Geyser Basin, discovering the geological forces behind Yellowstone. Focus on steaming, mineral pools, whose sapphire, emerald, and violet hues appear even more brilliant in the snow. After dark, step outside to admire the incredible canopy of stars in one of the world's best constellation-viewing spots, and work on low-light photography to capture scenes of steam, stars, snow and night sky.
Old Faithful Snow Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Yellowstone/Gallatin Canyon, Montana
After breakfast, head west stopping to photograph the colors and shapes of bubbling, popping mud at the whimsical Fountain Paint Pots. Leave the park via the West Yellowstone gate and travel to the Gallatin Canyon near Big Sky, Montana. Settle into a comfortable log cabin lodge at Lone Mountain Ranch - a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection (December 30 - through February 18 departures only). This evening, gather to share your best photos and toast your winter adventure in Yellowstone at a farewell dinner. Rainbow Ranch Lodge or Lone Mountain Ranch (B,L,D)
Born at home into the house his father built in rural Vermont, Ronan Donovan has spent his adult years immersed in the natural world. A biologist turned photographer and filmmaker, he spent 2011 in the canopy studying wild chimpanzees in Uganda, Africa for Harvard University. The experience inspired his desire to use visual storytelling as a way to reach a greater audience. Ronan's photographic journeys for National Geographic magazine include an entire year living inside Yellowstone National Park documenting the life of wild wolves, covering the human-wildlife conflict between wild chimpanzees and humans in Africa, and hiking volcanoes to photograph mountain gorillas. His images have hung on the walls of the Natural History Museum in London and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. For the past 10 years, Ronan has lived in Montana, where he loves to explore the Rocky Mountains around his home in Bozeman.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.