Even if you’ve been to Yellowstone National Park before, there are discoveries to be made that only a resident scientist or a professional naturalist can reveal to you, from wildlife and flora to the park’s spectacular and unique geologic features.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the operator of the lodges and other concessions in the park, partners with the non-profit Yellowstone Association Institute to offer multi-day educational vacations called Lodging & Learning packages.
The tours include comfortable accommodations, some meals, in-park transportation by bus and/or boat, and daily guided excursions led by professional naturalist guides and/or scientists. Besides moving around the park by bus and/or boat, some walking and hiking gets guests into the spectacular Yellowstone wilderness. In addition to the science, “Leave No Trace” wilderness training is part of the fun and the learning.
The minimum age for all but the “Yellowstone for Families” package is 12 years old, and there is a maximum of 12 participants for all but the “Roosevelt Rendezvous” package.
A sampling of the once-in-a-lifetime learning vacations in Yellowstone:
Yellowstone for Families. Called the “Best Summer Family Camp in America” by FamilyFun Magazine, a program designed for families with children 8-12. Families explore the park together, and children work on their Junior Ranger badges. 4 nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel or Grant Village
Through mid-August. From $699 for two adults plus $435 per child
Summer Wildlife Expedition. By bus, boat and on foot, participants learn about the habitats and ecology of Yellowstone’s wildlife, from wolves, bears, bison to waterfowl and many other species. The 4-night/4-day package includes 2 nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and 2 nights at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. $1,338.
Fall Wolf and Elk Discovery. Following the history and the trails of the park’s wolves and elk. Fall is the rutting season for elk, and watching their behavior during this period is unforgettable. Offered 8times between late August and early October; four nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. $649.
Roosevelt Rendezvous. At a camp for grown-ups, participants have the run of Roosevelt Lodge after it closes to the public for the summer season. Choose a half- or full-day excursion such as animal tracking or photography. Buffet dinners and programs every evening. $739. offered 3 times in early September.
Essential Yellowstone. Through September, 5 nights at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, with wildlife watching in the Hayden Valley, walking along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, and touring the heart of the Yellowstone volcano, focusing on park geology and more. $1,179
Karen Misuraca is the author of several guidebooks, including Backroads of the California Wine Country; Backroads of the California Coast, and the newly released 8th edition of Fun with the Family Northern California. Check out Karen's new iPhone app, California Coast North.