A bit more on timing, then info on activities

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 18:22:04 02/16/16

In Reply to: June 9-12 posted by Erin K


I neglected to mention in the previous post that by the second week of June, virtually all the various visitor facilities are open in Yellowstone. That is good news. The bad news is that if you patronize a place that just opened, you might run into some rookie employees who are early in the learning curve. I'm sure you will be sympathetic. Most of these folks are either college students or retirees.

Now, on to activities: First, know that when you talk to someone with Xanterra, particularly in Central Reservations, they are going to be pitching what they know. That is why you hear about needing reservations for dinner, reservations for certain activities, like the Roosevelt Lodge dinner ride, and reservations for horseback rides. This is all true, but the average Yellowstone visitor, particularly first-timers, does not engage in a lot of Xanterra activities.

I'm going to make a recommendation, then fine tune or further explain it later. Given your group demographics, and the fact that you say you like to get away from the crowd and get close to nature (Hooray for you, and your lucky daughters), I would counsel avoiding Xanterra's suite of offerings to a great extent, at least on this introductory trip. Yellowstone is so vast, and so diverse, you will likely find yourselves overwhelmed at trying to see as much as possible in the limited time available to you. Here is a quick coping recommendation: Utilize some of your time down in the Tetons for hiking. Grand Teton is a great park for hiking. You will be there early enough in the season that you will have decent wildlife viewing opportunities from the road, and possibly from the trail.

Now, let's take a quick look at free activities offered by the National Park Service. First, know that when you come through the entrance station, and pay your fee, you will be offered a tabloid publication, a map, and a few other handouts (most centered on safety and resource conservation). In that tabloid publication (newspaper-like), there is typically a separate section that contains information on the ranger/naturalist-led activities. They are organized by geography, centered on each Visitor Center, which are located at each of the major developed areas along the Grand Loop Road, and at Mammoth. There are all sorts of walks and talks, ranging from 20 minute presentations centered on a specific wildlife species or a slice of Yellowstone history, to traditional multi-media campfire presentations in the campground amphitheaters. In between, there are numerous 1-3 hour activities. There are also some fee-based hikes offered in this newish "user pays" era. I'm fairly certain you can access the latest park newspaper on the park website (NPS, not Xanterra). You would want the summer edition. Even if you had to look at the Summer 2015 edition, it would be very helpful in providing you with valuable familiarity.

More coming on Activities.

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