DISCOVERING YELLOWSTONE’S SECRETS; LEARNING VACATIONS PROVIDE TRAVELERS WITH INSIGHTS INTO PARK’S MANY MYSTERIES

To wildlife biologists, entomologists, geophysicists, ornithologists, botanists, historians, mineralogists and other scientists, Yellowstone National Park is as compelling as an untouched patch of grass is to a bison. And the many of the discoveries made by the passionate professionals who make their offices in the Yellowstone wilderness are often communicated to Yellowstone’s visitors by a professional naturalist guide.

For more than a decade, concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the operator of the lodges and other concessions in the park, has partnered with the non-profit Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI) to offer multi-day educational vacations called Lodging & Learning packages. These packages include comfortable accommodations, some meals, in-park transportation and daily guided excursions into the park.

In addition to science, participants also learn practical and sometimes not-so-practical but still fascinating skills. For example, a child on a “Yellowstone for Families” trip may be tickled to learn how to tell the difference between bison and elk scat while her parents learn the tenants of “Leave No Trace” wilderness principles.

“Lodging & Learning vacations teach travelers to peel back the layers of the park, much like the many scientists who come here to discover its secrets,” said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra in Yellowstone. “While a casual visitor who stays a day or two will certainly be gratified by the park’s many viewpoint sights, our Lodging & Learning guests gain a much deeper understanding about those sights.”

Xanterra and YAI offer eight summer-season packages in all. The packages range from three to five days. All include daily field trips with a YAI naturalist guide, lodging in Xanterra-operated hotels, many meals, in-park transportation and optional evening programs. 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.

Rates quoted below are per person based on double occupancy and do not include taxes or utility fees. Single occupancy rates are also available. Members of the Yellowstone Association Institute receive a discount of $10 off the price of all packages.

The packages are:
Spring Wolf and Bear Discovery. This three-day package offered nine times during the month of May focuses on two of the park’s famous mammals and includes wildlife viewing excursions and hikes. It includes four nights at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The rate is $669 double occupancy.

Essential Yellowstone. This four-day package is offered seven times between May and September and includes five nights at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, wildlife watching walk around the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, field trips focusing on park geology and more. The rate is $1,179 double occupancy.

Old Times on the Grand Tour. This six-night/five-day package is offered 13 times throughout the summer season and includes two nights each at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Lake Yellowstone Hotel. A great program for visitors interested in human history, the tour follows the route once taken by stagecoach passengers, and it includes transportation in an Historic Yellow Bus with a retractable roof. The rate is $1,609.

Trails Through Yellowstone. This four-day/four-night package begins every Monday from late May through late September and includes two nights each at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Grant Village. This is a good choice for active travelers who want to learn about and explore the park’s backcountry. Participants take daily hikes in various park regions. Rate is $839.

Yellowstone for Families. Called the “Best Summer Family Camp in America” by FamilyFun Magazine, this program is designed for families with children ages eight through 12. Families explore the park together, and children work on their Junior Ranger badges. This package includes four nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel or Grant Village and is offered from early June through mid-August. The Mammoth package is $699 for two adults plus $435 per child, and the Grant Village package is $829 for two adults plus $495 per child.

Summer Wildlife Expedition. Participants in this active vacation explore the park by bus, foot and boat, and participants learn about the many wildlife species who make the park their home. The four-night/four-day package includes two nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and two nights at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Rate is $1,338.

Fall Wolf and Elk Discovery. This package follows the history and in some cases the trails of the park’s wolves and elk. Fall is the rutting season for elk, and watching their behavior during this period is fascinating and sometimes amusing. The package is offered eight times between late August and early October and includes four nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Rate is $649.

Roosevelt Rendezvous. Characterized as a camp for grown-ups, participants of this package have the run of Roosevelt Lodge after it closes to the general public for the summer season. Each day, participants choose a half- or full-day excursion such as animal tracking or photography. Buffet dinners and programs are offered every evening. Rate is $739, and the package is offered three times in early September.

To reserve any of these packages visit www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com or call toll-free (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375) or (1) 307-344-7311.