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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 11:00:35 02/16/16

In Reply to: Organized Tours? posted by Erin K

Erin K,

With 8 nights in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, you have an excellent opportunity to see and experience much of the "Yellowstone Experience". I would stress that the quality of your trip will be proportionate to the time and energy you invest in pre-trip research.

I'm going to start with pros and cons of the Xanterra tours, but first, a question. What part of June are you talking about. In Yellowstone, it really makes a difference!

During the busiest part of the summer Yellowstone season (late June through the third week of August), the bus tours can be a handy way of seeing lots of the major attractions without having to struggle for parking spots. For example, if you arrive at the Old Faithful area shortly before a midday Old Faithful eruption, you can wind up parking a long ways from the action. With a bus, you get dropped off close to the Visitor Education Center or Old Faithful Lodge. Buses typically feature knowledgeable drivers who can impart a lot of local information that most folks are unlikely to come across. Having said that, you strike me as someone who gets out away from the crowd, and does due diligence in advance. I would suggest relying on your own research, and rely on the freedom you will have with your own vehicle carting you around the park.

One thing you will hear from many Yellowstone visitors, specifically those who become repeat visitors, is that the first trip was valuable in getting a sense of park highlights, and key learnings useful for planning future trips. Yellowstone alone is over 2 million acres, and it features an assortment of different environments. Using myself as an example, I first saw the park in 1967, and fell in love with the place. Over the next several decades, I made occasional trips from both the Seattle area and later, Colorado. In the 1990s, I started visiting 2 or 3 times annually. Finally, in 1997, I just moved to the Yellowstone area. Granted, I am not typical of the majority of Yellowstone visitors, but I know many others with similar experiences.

Since you are hikers, I would suggest getting out on at least one trail while you are in the park. You have the luxury of picking from many hundreds of miles of great hiking opportunities.

Regarding the lodging choice, for Yellowstone veterans, it would have largely to do with whether they could afford to stay in the interior. (Anytime I can afford it, I opt for being inside the park.) Otherwise, for some folks, it might depend on whether they plan on spending most of their time on the Northern Range, concentrating on wildlife viewing, to the relative exclusion of hydrothermal geology.

You have come to the right resource (this chat page), and you appear to have a genuine interest in researching your options. There are lots of knowledgeable people on this page who will chime in with their input. Just know that the specific part of June is key to a number of decisions you will be making.


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