Field Notes

Yellowstone Tour Guides

by Monica RobinsonFeb 5, 2024
The Grand Prismatic Spring In Yellowstone National Park Shows A Rainbow Of Colored Algae

There are many ways to explore Yellowstone, but one of the best is to experience it with a local. Someone who knows the secret spots and the tricks to make your trip as memorable and easy as humanly possible. Someone like one of our guides at Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris. Folks who live, breathe and love this area so much that some have been guiding for over 30 years! 

A Resting Bison Is A Perfect Perch for A Group Of Cowbirds In A Grassy Field In Yellowstone National Park

There are a few different ways to get to Jackson Hole for your adventure. One of the most direct ways is to fly in, the airport is just 9 miles north of downtown! Your local airport may not offer direct flights to the Jackson Hole Airport, so be sure to do some research on connecting flights. As of this blog, known direct flights come from: San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake, Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Newark and La Guardia. If you live near any of these airports, congratulations! You can get a direct flight with the appropriate airline. If you don’t, then you’re probably looking at a brief layover at one of these places, which will add stories to your already growing repertoire of adventure.

The other way to get here is by road-tripping it! Jackson Hole is called a “hole” for a reason. Besides the fact that it was a trapper term for a valley, we do quite literally live in a hole in the ground as we are surrounded by five mountain ranges: the Tetons, the Snake River Mountains, the Gros Ventre Range, the Wind River Mountains and the Absaroka Range. These ranges made it difficult for the settlers to reach here during the Homestead Era, but fortunately nowadays there are established highways that wind through this incredible terrain. No matter which way you enter, you are guaranteed a drive with amazing views.  There are three main ways to get to Jackson by road, and each is a beautiful trip by themselves.  If you happen to be taking Highway 80 west, you will possibly go north from Rock Springs and enter the valley via Route 191/89.  This will take you through the lovely Snake River Canyon, where you should keep a keen eye out for Bald Eagles fishing along the riverway.  If approaching from the east, perhaps diverting from Highway 25, be prepared to pass through the lovely small town of Dubois, WY along Route 26/287. As you come down from Togwotee Pass you will see incredible distant views of the Teton Range.  If coming to Jackson from the west, you will pass through Idaho and crest over the iconic Teton Pass along Route 22. The views from the top offer great overlooks of the “hole” itself!

Professional Guide Jeffrey Meehan Instructs A Small Wildlife Enthusiast On What She Is Viewing In The Distance Through A Spotting Scope While On Safari In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Another item to consider is what kind of tour you might want to take. We have many options from a 4 hour half day in Grand Teton National Park to a 3 day tour that includes both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. For those who are staying for a week or so, it is recommended that you do these tours during the early part of your stay, then explore on your own armed with the insight of your professional guide from Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris. To break it down for you, here are the main options you will find through Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris:

  • The shortest, as stated above, are our half-day trips that have either sunrise or sunset options. Both options are great in terms of seeing wildlife, so just go with whatever fits into your trip itinerary and sleep schedule! As with all of the tours, your guide will be at your hotel at the assigned time. If you chose a private tour, then you’ll head on right away! If you chose a public tour, you may need to pick up another group or two before starting the tour. Either way, you’ll spend roughly four hours in Grand Teton National Park looking for moose, elk, mule deer, coyote, fox and other animals that call the area home. Most of our wildlife out here are crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), so while the timeline might seem short in comparison to an 8, 12 or even 72 hour trip, you are still getting ample chances to see our incredible critters.
  • Next up is one of our full-day tours! Besides having options for private or public, these come in two flavors: Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Park. The latter is only available during the summer season, as Yellowstone roads close to vehicle traffic for the winter. Both will start similarly to the half-day as you will be picked up at your temporary place of residence. If you choose a Grand Teton tour, then you can expect an eight hour day with most of the wildlife viewing in the morning, and then lunch around noon. If it’s during the winter time, lunch will be held in a restaurant in Jackson Hole, which is then followed by a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh into the National Elk Refuge. During the summer our lunches are chosen by you ahead of time and prepared by the local Teton Lunch Counter. We will dine somewhere in either park, depending on your guide and picnic spot availability. After lunch in the summer, we will continue to explore Grand Teton’s lakes and visually stunning views, before heading back around mid-afternoon.
  • Yellowstone full-days are ten to twelve hours long, but those hours are filled with opportunities to see the world’s first national park! After an hour and a half to two hour drive through Grand Teton National Park, we will enter Yellowstone. Depending on the guide and the road conditions, you will spend half of the day exploring the geothermals and the other half exploring the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Hayden Valley where most of the wildlife viewing is likely to be. Over the course of the day, we will most likely see Old Faithful, Mud Volcano, various hot springs, wildlife including bison, moose, elk, mule deer, bears, wolves, coyotes, and foxes as well as many different birds all before you head home for a well-earned dinner and sleep.
  • While it is recommended that you stay in the Greater Yellowstone area for seven to ten days, we know that not everyone can make this work. For those in this predicament, we have multi-day trips that take you through both parks! These 2 or 3 day safaris include meals and lodging near one of Yellowstone’s entrance gates.  This tour will begin in Jackson Hole with the incredibly scenic drive through Grand Teton. From there, be prepared to enter Yellowstone and see the keystone geothermal features like Old Faithful and colorful hot springs, as well as amazing natural wonders like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the towering 308 ft Lower Falls. With more than just one day to spare, there will be time to venture into the Northern range of Yellowstone National Park. This provides opportunities to see the only naturally forming travertine hot springs in the park, as well as the opportunity to venture into the Lamar Valley and search for wildlife, including the ever elusive Gray Wolf!

Along with seeing the wildlife, no matter what tour you’re on your experienced guide will share facts and stories about the animals in question, the history of the valley and a multitude of other fascinating information. Just make sure to ask lots of questions! All of our guides have varying backgrounds, but most are in biology, zoology, ecology, environmental sciences, geology, history, education and/or photography and know the valley like the back of their hand. They love the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and are hoping to spread that love to others. In order to do this, they will come prepared with binoculars and spotting scopes as the wildlife may be a little further away than our eyes can make out. They also may be close, or even on the road, which might bring up some safety concerns- so listen to your guide who will know how to handle these situations. 

The wildlife in these parks are just that, wild, and getting too close can cause them to charge. Your guide will be the best asset you have to make sure that everyone in your group can enjoy witnessing these critters without anyone getting hurt. Visitors are not allowed within twenty-five yards of our herbivore species, and one hundred yards (or a football field) away from any of our predators. Also, please note that if we see wildlife by the road, it is a safe bet that others have seen them too. If your guide says it’s safe to head outside of the van and put the spotting scope on them, be careful as you traverse the road. Our animals might be dangerous, but distracted drivers are too!

To prepare for your adventure, make sure you bring everything you need. Layers will be a big necessity. Even in the summertime our mountainous home makes for some serious temperature variation. We can start out the day in the 40s and leave in the afternoon in the 80s. Bring a synthetic and/or wool underlayer to wick away the sweat that might build up and will, especially in the winter, lead to chill. Add a sweatshirt, fleece and any waterproof top layer you would like to have. No matter the season, bring sunscreen and apply it both before and during the tour. Be sure to re-apply before going to Old Faithful, as there is no cover. Lastly, while we will bring a copious amount of snacks, feel free to bring anything you would want to snack on throughout the day.

Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park.

Whether seeing a wild moose or witnessing Old Faithful erupt is on your bucket list, we have a tour and a guide for you! If there are any specific interests you have, any places in particular you want to see, or maybe general questions about your tour, feel free to contact us either online or by phone at 307-690-6402. As long as you prepare accordingly, including a place to stay, means of travel, and clothes, we will handle the rest by driving you to, through, and from some of the most beautiful parks the United States has to offer.


More Adventures

Explore the National Parks

Monica Robinson
Our Expert

Monica Robinson

Writer / Naturalist Guide
See Bio