Yellowstone guide services and commercial bus tours abound, based both inside the park and in the gateway towns. Concessionaire Xanterra (www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com; tel. 307/344-7311) operates the in-park tours, many of them in historical yellow tour buses. The most intensive option whirls you to the major highlights on Grand Loop Road, an all-day affair taking off from Old Faithful, Mammoth, and Gardiner ($121–$128 adults). Other trips are shorter and more specialized, focusing on wildlife-watching, geyser basins, photography, and more. These tours range from 2 to 8 hours and cost $41 to $98 for adults. When the snow flies, snowcoach tours take over for the buses.
Xanterra’s tours don’t stop at the water’s edge, either: You can hop on a Yellowstone Lake Scenicruise for a boat trip around Stevenson Island, with historical commentary from the boat’s skipper. The cruise lasts an hour and costs $18.50 for adults. Guides will also take you out on chartered fishing and sightseeing rides on a 22-foot powerboat ($98/hr.). Chefs at some of the park restaurants will even cook up your fresh-caught lake trout for you.
Several standout tours begin outside the park. Yellowstone Vacation Tours (www.yellowstonevacations.com; tel. 800/426-7669) is one favorite out of West Yellowstone or Gardiner: Choose from an upper loop or lower loop tour and visit park hot spots with a certified guide. Trips cost $87.50 to $92.50. Yellowstone Alpen Guides/See Yellowstone (www.seeyellowstone.com; tel. 800/221-1151), also out of West Yellowstone, offers half-day tours of the upper or lower loops, plus multiday packages; tours start at $95 per adult. If you’d rather hand over trip-planning entirely, Adventure Bus (www.adventurebus.com; tel. 909/633-7225) will whisk you from Salt Lake City through Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Jackson on a 7-day tour, including hiking excursions and camping nights ($1,095 per person, most food included).
One of the best ways to really get to know Yellowstone is through the park’s nonprofit partner, Yellowstone Forever ★★★ (www.yellowstone.org; tel. 406/848-2400), formerly the Yellowstone Association. The group runs a staggering number of day and multiday courses on wildlife, geology, hiking, photography, fishing, and more. Many Field Seminars base you out of the Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus in the Lamar Valley or the Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus in Gardiner, both excellent perks of participating. Lodging & Learning programs are even more inclusive, including nights in park hotels and most meals.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.