In the winter of 1807, John Colter (a former member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) discovered the land now known as Yellowstone National Park. His reports of its gushing geysers, bizarre colorful springs and ethereal steaming pools of water were mocked, and the region was jokingly referred to as, “Colter’s Hell.” It was only later that Yellowstone’s beauty and allure was truly appreciated by other European explorers, traders and settlers – a slice of land so unique, it’s almost extraterrestrial.
Named America’s first official national park in 1872, Yellowstone has fascinated adventure-seekers for centuries. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder millions of people continue to visit every year. As the expert in educational tours for seniors in Yellowstone, we’ve compiled a list of experiences you won’t want to miss – from embarking on a wildlife safari to hiking through Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon.
It’s no secret that Yellowstone is home to many fascinating creatures. From enormous herds of bison and elk, to the more elusive grizzly bears and wolves, the region’s indigenous wildlife is definitely one of the top things to see in Yellowstone. Join a local biologist on a wildlife tour of Yellowstone to learn about the animals that roam Lamar Valley, also known as “America’s Serengeti.” At Yellowstone Lake, watch moose drinking from the water and ospreys soaring overhead. Extend your wildlife tour by searching for black bears in Hayden Valley, or head to Tower Fall to catch glimpses of antelope and bighorn sheep.
Road Scholar Recommends: Yellowstone Safari: Journey Through a Dramatic Landscape →
No Yellowstone tour is complete without a visit to Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the world. With a maximum height of 185 feet, it is not the biggest geyser in Yellowstone National Park, but the biggest and most consistent, erupting at regular intervals (which explains its name). With insight from a park ranger, learn about the science behind the gallons of water and steam surging into the sky every 30 minutes to 2 hours. Old Faithful also serves as a gateway to Yellowstone’s Geyser Basin, where you’ll find the largest concentration of geysers in the world.
Road Scholar Recommends: The Best of Yellowstone: From Colter's Hell to America's Hot Spot →
Thousands of walking and hiking trails wind through Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres, stretching past bubbling hot springs, rivers and iconic landmarks. There is a pathway for every skill level, from the most experienced hiker to the least. Hiking these trails is an excellent way to gain a full understanding of the breadth of Yellowstone’s wildlife, habitats and geology. Strap on your hiking boots and set off on a guided hiking tour to Artist Point, with tantalizing views of the Lower Falls, or join a naturalist on a walk past mountain peaks and hoodoo formations at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Road Scholar Recommends: Choose Your Pace: A Walk on the Wild Side in Yellowstone →
The vibrant rainbow hues of the Grand Prismatic Spring are unmistakable. As the most photographed thermal feature in Yellowstone, there’s a reason it’s on our list of top things to see. Located in the park’s Geyser Basin, it is deeper than a 10-story building and totals 370 feet in diameter – making it the third-largest hot spring in the world. On a Yellowstone tour, discover how the spring gets its signature bands of color with a naturalist, and learn about the life forms that thrive inside water that reaches a blistering 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Skip the summer crowds and plan a visit to Yellowstone during the winter, when the park is at its most peaceful. If you’re used to flying south for the winter, it may be intimidating to bundle up instead, but trust us – there’s something extraordinary about watching nature flourish in wintry conditions. From snow-dusted buffalo grazing on icy plains, to steaming geysers erupting into frigid air, the wonders of Yellowstone in the winter are endless. On a Yellowstone winter tour, look for animal tracks in the snow, learn about the park’s unique geological and thermal features or venture out on cross-country skis and snowmobiles to study the winter landscape.
Road Scholar Recommends: Heart of the Winter in Yellowstone →
Carved from the earth by the Yellowstone River, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone perfectly captures the park’s complicated geological history. With 20 miles of dramatic cliffs and shapes, the canyon’s hydrothermal features are evident in its brilliant rust-colored walls. On a Yellowstone tour with an expert naturalist, learn about the canyon’s geological origins and the glaciers and volcanic eruptions that shaped it long ago. Experience the roar of the 109-foot Upper Falls, hike to Inspiration Point and watch as the mighty Lower Falls plunges 309 feet into the canyon’s depths.
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Yellowstone is a photographer’s dream – sunsets reflected in calm lakes and pools of hot springs, captivating wildlife on the hunt and swirls of steam rising into a night sky peppered with stars. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, a Yellowstone photography tour is a great way to preserve these memories. Discover the secret to composing the perfect shot from a professional photographer and receive hands-on direction and feedback. Study lighting technique, proper exposure and more – all while learning about the picture-perfect landscapes and animals that serve as your inspiration.
Road Scholar Recommends: Inspired Images: Photographing the Wonders of Yellowstone →
You’re gathered around a flickering campfire with your family after a full day of learning and adventure, as a Yellowstone park ranger tells tales about the natural history of the landscape surrounding you. S’mores are roasting on the fire and children are chattering excitedly about the day’s wildlife sightings. A family camping trip is on our list of top Yellowstone tours for seniors because it’s a bonding experience you, your kids and grandkids will remember for years to come. Learn how to pitch a tent, explore Yellowstone’s most notable landmarks and remember what it’s like to be a kid as you participate in hands-on activities inspired by your adventures.
Road Scholar Recommends: Camping in Yellowstone & the Tetons With Your Family →
Ready to experience Yellowstone with the experts? Browse our complete collection of Yellowstone tours for seniors!
About the Author Hailing from London, England, Alexander Morris studied at The School of Oriental and African Studies in his home city. He began his Road Scholar journey 13 years ago designing small programs in the Midwest, learning a great deal about North America in the course of managing and developing unique programming. In his current position as the Director of Strategy and Program Development, his broader International perspective and knowledge is invaluable as he oversees new Road Scholar programming across the globe. Alex espouses the value of an occasional sabbatical to recharge creative batteries, spending four months sailing the Greek Islands prior to joining Road Scholar and more recently spending a year in Costa Rica.
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