Home Travel The 16 Best Yellowstone National Park Tours

The 16 Best Yellowstone National Park Tours

by Atlanta Business Journal

Note: Some tour providers on this list may be running more limited operations due to COVID-19 or may impose testing or vaccine requirements. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.

Home to more than 2.2 million acres, hundreds of geysers and waterfalls, as well as Yellowstone Lake – the largest high-altitude lake in North America – Yellowstone National Park is a bucket list vacation destination for many travelers. For help planning an unforgettable visit to America’s oldest national park, consider a guided tour. In addition to in-the-know locals, these tours also provide hassle-free transportation from nearby cities like Jackson Hole, Wyoming. With the help of traveler and expert input, U.S. News determined that the following tours offer the best ways to take in all that the park has to offer. All of these top-rated excursions feature skillful guides who are eager to share their knowledge of the park’s unique geologic features and wildlife.

Note: Because of weather and other factors, the park’s roads are not accessible all year, and its entrances in Wyoming and Montana have differing seasonal opening and closing dates, so plan your visit accordingly. Additionally, tour companies’ prices typically do not include the park’s approximately $20 entry fee for each visitor 16 and older.

BrushBuck Wildlife Tours – Yellowstone Old Faithful, Waterfalls and Wildlife Day Tour

Take a day to observe Yellowstone’s scenery and wildlife on this tour. After passing through Grand Teton National Park, buses proceed to highlights of Yellowstone National Park, such as Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Upper and Lower Falls, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and numerous geyser basins. Throughout the journey, guides provide commentary on the area’s history, flora and fauna, which travelers typically find very insightful. Fees start at $299 per person (with a minimum of two participants), which includes use of binoculars and spotting scopes, as well as a picnic lunch. (Prices do not include the park’s entry fee.) Buses depart Jackson Hole daily from April through November starting at 6 a.m. and return about 12 hours later. Note: Tour-takers must be at least 6 years old. Private outings, as well as multiday tours are also available.

Teton Floats – Yellowstone Lower Loop Tour

See many of Yellowstone’s top thermal attractions on this small-group outing, which also travels through Grand Teton National Park. Marvel at the famously reliable Old Faithful, which erupts every 90 minutes, as well as geysers such as Beehive, Castle, Daisy, Grand and Sawmill. Other highlights include Fountain Paint Pot – a hydrothermal feature known as a mud pot, which is less watery than a geyser – as well the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Grand Prismatic Spring. In addition to enthusing about the scenery and wildlife, tour takers frequently praise the guides for their valuable information and entertaining stories. Pickups from lodging in Jackson and Teton Village occur between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., and buses return to the starting point between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tours happen daily from May to mid-October. Prices start at $299 per person, which includes transportation, use of binoculars, snacks and a picnic lunch (but not the park’s entry fee). Groups are limited to eight people, all of whom must be at least 4 years old. The company also operates tours in Grand Teton National Park, in addition to fly-fishing trips.

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Scenic Safaris – Yellowstone Snowmobile Tour (Old Faithful)

While certain parts of the park may be inaccessible by conventional four-wheeled vehicles in winter, that doesn’t mean there aren’t adventures to be had. This 45-mile snowmobile tour beside the Yellowstone River takes riders past points of interest, such as Moose Falls, Lewis Canyon and West Thumb Geyser Basin, to Old Faithful. Rides are offered daily from mid-December to mid-March, a period when some of the park’s larger animals move down to its lower valleys. Trip-goers generally find snowmobiling in the park a memorable experience, one enhanced by the helpful, informed guides’ commentary. Jackson Hole-based Scenic Safaris picks up tour-takers in the area between 6 and 7:30 a.m. and returns them to their lodgings between 6 and 7 p.m. Prices vary over the course of the season but are usually around $340 for drivers (16 and older), $210 for passengers 13 and older and $190 for passengers 8 to 12. (Note: 8 is the minimum age to participate). In addition to use of a snowmobile, prices include use of a helmet and snowsuit as well as breakfast and lunch. Groups are limited to 12 participants and a total of nine snowmobiles. If you’re interested in a private tour, fees start at $2,500.

Yellowstone Adventure Tours – The Best of Yellowstone

Visit the best-known Yellowstone spots – including Old Faithful and the Upper and Lower Falls – but also several lesser-known geysers, hot springs, waterfalls and wildlife viewing areas on this private excursion. Trip-takers consistently praise the enthusiastic, personable guides’ commentary about the park’s remarkable landscape and wildlife. Tours cost $1,450 for two people, $1,550 for three riders and $1,650 for groups of up to seven people. Prices include pickups from locations in Bozeman, Big Sky, Gardiner and West Yellowstone, Montana, as well as a picnic lunch, use of binoculars and scopes, and snacks. (Entrance to the park is not included.) These full-day expeditions, which occur from May through October, have start times that vary by season, but they generally begin early in the morning. Yellowstone Adventure Tours also offers private outings devoted strictly to off-the-beaten-path locations, as well as multiday tours of the expansive park.

Yellowstone Raft Company – Scenic Float

Admire the park from the water on this approximately two-hour raft ride. Sights include Boiling Beach, LaDuke Hot Springs, the Devil’s Slide (a cliff with a distinct stripe of red rock) and Electric Peak. Reviewers frequently praise both the beautiful scenery and the engaging guides. From May through September, tours are available daily starting at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The company asks that participants arrive about 30 minutes prior to departure to get ready and sign paperwork. Prices, which include transportation from the meeting point at the northern border of the park to the river, start at $69 for those 13 and older and $59 for children 3 to 12. (Infants can ride for free.) Private tours are offered for around $500 for parties of six; each additional person pays $59. Gardiner-based Yellowstone Raft Company also offers whitewater rafting, as well as kayaking and horseback riding.

Best Yellowstone Tours

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Flying Pig Adventure Company – 8-Mile Raft Trip

Experience Yellowstone by rafting its eponymous river on this two-hour trip. Along the way, you’ll paddle through Class II and III (novice- and intermediate-level) rapids with names like Queen of the Waters, Rock Garden and Sleeping Giant, and pass sights such as Devil’s Slide and the nearly 11,000-foot tall Electric Peak. Participants consistently describe this tour as fun and deem its guides friendly and entertaining. Trips operate from May through August starting at 9:15 and 11:15 a.m. and 1:15, 3:15 and 5:15 p.m. Fees start at $69 for those ages 13 and older and $59 for kids ages 4 to 12. Rafters must weigh at least 45 pounds. In addition to this 8-mile trip, Flying Pig offers an 18-mile ride, as well as an overnight expedition.

Wild West Rafting – Classic Half-Day Whitewater

Ride mild and intermediate rapids on an 8-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River on this two-hour outing. You may also glimpse deer, elk, osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife inhabiting the area as you paddle down the river. In addition to enjoying the views, travelers typically find the guides knowledgeable, enthusiastic and helpful. Raft trips run daily from May through September at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Rides cost approximately $69 for anyone 13 or older and $59 for children ages 5 to 12. Prices include use of life jackets and (on colder days) wetsuits. They also cover transportation from Wild West Rafting’s Gardiner office to the river. Full-day paddling trips, in addition to private outings are also available.

Geyser Kayak Tours – Day Paddle

Kayaking in the West Thumb Geyser Basin – the largest geyser basin in Yellowstone Lake – allows you to see geothermal features, some of them underwater, that would otherwise be inaccessible. This outing also travels to Potts Basin, an area with no boardwalk and, possibly, no other visitors. Travelers report enjoying the scenery and appreciate the informative guides. Tours begin and end at the marina in Grant Village on the western side of Yellowstone Lake. Trips are available daily from late May through late September at 9 a.m. (though they may begin at 10 a.m. toward the end of the season) and conclude at around 2 or 3 p.m. Tickets start at $200 per person for single kayaks and $175 per person for tandem kayaks. Children 5 to 12, who must ride in a tandem kayak with an adult, receive a $50 discount. Prices include a picnic lunch as well as use of all necessary kayaking gear. No prior kayaking experience is required. The company also operates shorter, three-hour sunset paddling trips.

Best Yellowstone Tours

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Wildland Trekking – Private Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This private trek through the park can be tailored to suit your preferences, with possible routes ranging from 3.5 to 8 miles and durations spanning four to seven hours. Whatever way you go, you’re likely to see Artist Point overlook, as well as forests, lakes, geysers, mud pots and meadows in areas away from the park’s boardwalks. You can sign up this excursion from mid-May through September. Reviewers enjoy the beautiful scenery as well as the helpful, patient and personable guides’ commentary. Prices depend on group size: for a single hiker, the fee starts at around $525, but prices drop to about $175 per person for groups of six or seven (and $135 for kids 10 or younger). Lunch, snacks and use of trekking poles is included in the cost. Groups meet at Canyon Village Education Center, the park’s principal visitor facility. Start times vary and will be established a week prior to your hike. Wildland Trekking also organizes multiday tours around the national park.

Yellowstone Hiking Guides – Grand Canyon Rim Hike

Walk the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on this six-hour, 6-mile trek and see Yellowstone landmarks like the river’s Upper and Lower Falls as well as forests and meadows. Hikers regularly find the views spectacular and the guides both knowledgeable and entertaining. Tours take place daily from June through early October. Groups meet at the Upper Falls View parking area off of South Rim Drive at 8 a.m. The excursion costs approximately $165 per person. Prices include lunch and snacks as well as use of trekking poles. The company leads a variety of hikes around the park, including the Lamar Valley.

Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris – Best of Yellowstone

Observe the wildlife and landscape of Yellowstone on this full-day, small-group tour, during which naturalists offer insights on the area’s ecology, wildlife and geology. Outings last 10 to 12 hours, depending on wildlife visibility, weather, road conditions and travelers’ particular interests. In addition to animals, you’ll see the park’s famed geysers, hot springs and waterfalls. Tourgoers regularly report seeing ample wildlife and appreciate the friendly, informative guides. Excursions are available from mid-May through October. Pickup from lodging in Jackson and Teton Village typically begins around 6:15 a.m. (or 7 a.m. in October). Prices start at $345 per person, which includes transportation, breakfast and lunch, and use of binoculars and sighting scopes (but not the national park entrance fee). Groups are capped at eight participants. Half-day (four to five-hour) iterations of this tour are also available.

Grizzly Country Wildlife Adventures – Yellowstone Lower Loop Tour

This tour hits many of Yellowstone’s top attractions – Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Fountain Paint Pots and Yellowstone Lake among them – as well as some lesser-known geological formations. In addition to seeing multiple geysers, lakes and waterfalls, you’ll have opportunities to glimpse some of the park’s diverse wildlife. The trip also includes a morning drive through Grand Teton National Park on the way to Yellowstone. Travelers frequently rave about the scenery and appreciate that the engaging guides try to visit off-the-beaten-path locations within the busy national park. Tours typically take place from mid-May through December. Departures from Jackson and Teton Village begin at 7 a.m. and vans return approximately 12 hours later. Fees cost around $345 per person, which includes transportation, lunch, snacks and use of spotting scopes and binoculars. (Tour tickets do not include admission to the park.) The company also leads wildlife safaris year-round.

Best Yellowstone Tours

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Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours – Yellowstone Snowmobiling Day Tour

Marvel at a snow-covered Yellowstone on this daylong snowmobile tour to Old Faithful. Stops along the way include Black Sand Basin and Moose Falls. During the six-hour, approximately 100-mile ride, you’ll likely see multiple geysers and waterfalls, as well as an array of wildlife. Reviewers consistently gush about the views and appreciate the professional and accommodating guides. Fees start at $400 per driver (who must be at least 16 years old and have a driver’s license) and $300 per passenger (who must be at least 6 years old). The fee includes pickup in the Jackson area, which occurs between 6 and 6:30 a.m. daily from mid-December to mid-March. It also includes a continental breakfast and lunch. (It doesn’t cover the park’s entry fee.) Groups typically return to Jackson between 4:30 or 5:30 p.m. The company also operates multiday tours.

Yellowstone Vacations – Snowcoach Tour Old Faithful

Snowcoaches – buses with oversized, low-pressure tires – allow you to experience Yellowstone during the less accessible winter months. This tour’s vehicles take passengers to popular locales within the park, such as Biscuit Basin, Black Sand Basin, Fountain Paint Pot, Madison Junction and, of course, Old Faithful. Passengers generally find the coaches warm and comfortable and the drivers (who double as guides) knowledgeable and passionate about the park. From mid-December to mid-March, tours are available to book daily starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. Rates start at $208 (with a 10% discount for children 15 or younger). Yellowstone Vacations also conducts snowmobile tours and, during summer months, bus tours.

Yellowstone Wild – Wildlife & Bear Watching in Yellowstone with a Private Guide

Calling all wildlife lovers! As its name suggests, this tour centers on seeing bears, wolves, bison and other animals that call Yellowstone home. Travelers regularly report seeing a wide array of wildlife and praise the guides for their animal-spotting skills and overall professionalism. This six- to eight-hour tour is private and fully customizable and is available to book throughout the year. Fees depend on group size and range from $700 for one person to $1,150 for groups of 10. In addition to a light breakfast and a full picnic-style lunch, prices include pickup from hotels in the Gardiner area (where Yellowstone Wild is based), but additional fees may apply for round-trip transportation to some other locations. Departures start around 5 a.m. Note: This tour is not considered appropriate for children younger than 5.

Yellowstone Insight – Day Tours – Wildlife Tour

This tour goes where the animals are, which means routes may vary, though a focus on the park’s Northern Range (including Mammoth Hot Springs) is fairly standard. Bears and wolves are among the wildlife you may spot during this daylong expedition. Tourgoers enthusiastically praise the guides for their expertise with regards to Yellowstone fauna. Tours, which are available to book year-round, generally start at around 5 a.m. in the summer and 6:30 a.m. in the winter. Rates start at approximately $650 for a single person and $50 for each additional person (except for children younger than 5, who can tag along for free). Prices include round-trip transportation to locations in the Bozeman area, as well as a continental breakfast and use of spotting scopes. Tickets do not cover the park’s entrance fee.

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