FAQs

Still Have Questions?

Yes. In order to provide an appropriately educational, safe, and comprehensive tour experience, while ensuring we are adhering to our Code of Ethics, participants must be at least 21 years of age.

Yellowstone Trail Guides is based in Cooke City, MT at the North East Entrance to the park. All of our wildlife tours depart from either Cooke City, Gardiner, Mammoth Hot Springs, or Tower Junction with pickups available for an additional fee from: Canyon Village.

Our One Day in Yellowstone, Waterfalls, and Wildlife tours may also pick up at Canyon Village, Mammoth Hot Springs

Yellowstone is a HUGE park with 5 different entrances/exits, 371 miles of developed roads, a maximum speed of 45mph (unless posted less than this), and heavy traffic during the summer months. Not too mention as of 2023 CONSTRUCTION to repair roads from the flood of 2022

In general it’s a good idea to plan on AT LEAST 30 minutes of drive time for each stretch of road within the park.

A few examples of estimated travel times (in minutes – NOT in miles):

Bozeman to Gardiner, MT. – 1 and a half hours

Livingstone to Gardiner, MT.- 45 minutes to 1 hour

Emigrant to Gardiner, MT. – 30-45 minutes

West Yellowstone to Canyon – 1 hour

West Yellowstone to Mammoth – 1 hour and fifteen minutes

Big Sky to Canyon Village or Mammoth Hot Springs – 2+ hours

Old Faithful to Canyon Village or Mammoth Hot Springs – 1 hour and fifteen minutes

Grant Village to Canyon Village – 1 hour

Cooke City to Gardiner, MT – 1 hour and 30 minutes

  • We do not guarantee any wildlife sightings on our tours. In fact, we find that it is not “US” that finds the Wildlife, but the Wildlife seems to find “US”. The magic of Yellowstone is that the wildlife is truly wild and raw. We do however guarantee that your guide will use their knowledge, skills, and the vast network of other YNP guides, to do everything we can to find you the Wildlife you’d like to see. We live 4 miles from the NE Entrance and in the park nearly everyday. We know YNP pretty well.

Cooke City has outstanding Lodging Options.

  • Alpine Motel
  • Antlers Lodge
  • Super 8
  • Elkhorn Lodge
  • High Country Inn
  • Soda Butte Lodge
  • Yellowstone National Park is 3,500 square miles. Weather differs depending on where you are in the Park. It’s divided by mountain ranges, deep valleys and a massive lake. The weather within the 2.2 million acres can vary widely, so checking the weather in the park can be confusing. We recommend checking several different weather stations around the park, and finding an average of those if you’re planning to travel around the entirety of the park. Of course our Vehicle is climate controlled
  • Gardiner MT
  • Mammoth Hot Springs, MT (Higher Elevation)
  • Tower Junction, WY
  • Cooke City, MT (Higher Elevation)
  • Canyon Village, WY

Unfortunately we HAVE TO leave on time and unable to depart later than the start times listed on our website.

Yellowstone Trail Guides has a very high success rate in finding the top wildlife in Yellowstone. Which is why it’s impetrative we leave on time. Most of our large animals, and especially predators such as bears and wolves, are most active right at dawn. As the light increases, along with the temperature, our wildlife tends to bed down and/or move into more shaded areas. Therefore it is critical that we begin our day based on the natural habits and movements of our wild animals.

If the early start time is a bit too daunting, remember this: “Early Bird get’s the worm”.

In order to reserve your tour, a payment is due at the time of booking. Preferred payment method is via credit card through our secure booking system. The balance (if any) due will be charged to the card on file 30 days prior to your tour departure date.

Should you need to cancel your tour with us more than 30 days prior to your tour departure date, your deposit is fully refundable. Should you need to cancel your tour within 30 days of your tour departure date, your payment is non-refundable. We strongly recommend that you purchase third-party travel insurance that will protect you in case of unforeseen cancellations or changes to your travel plans (for suggested travel insurance companies, see Forbes Advisor).

Should your tour need to be canceled due to factors beyond our control, including (but not limited to) extreme weather conditions, wildfire, natural disaster, park closure, airline cancellations, or an “Act of God” we are unable to offer a cash refund.

As a small business, we regret that we are rarely able to make exceptions to our cancellation policy.

Multi-day mixed-group and private all-inclusive custom packages may have differing booking, deposit, and cancellation policies. When booking package tours, your confirmation email will explicitly outline the specific policies for that package. Please refer to our Bookings, Payments, and Cancelation Page to get more information

Park Rules and the Yellowstone Trail Guides Code of Ethics

As a licensed Commercial Use Permit holder with Yellowstone National Park, we must follow all park rules and regulations.

Additionally, as life-long proponents of wildlife and wild places, we will also follow our own ethical wildlife viewing practices. “We” (Yellowstone Trail Guides) will take this opportunity to guide you about how we can have the very best viewing and photography opportunities possible without having negative impacts on wildlife by respecting the animals’ space and movements as they go about their lives.

First and foremost Yellowstone Trail Guides LLC practices LEAVE NO TRACE AND IT’S PRINCEPALS

While on tour with Yellowstone Trail Guides LLC, we will observe the following park rules (subject to law
enforcement):

Keep at least 25 yards from all wildlife
Keep at least 100 yards from wolves and bears
Avoid remaining near or approaching wildlife, including birds, at any distance that disturbs or displaces
the animal.
It is our ethical responsibility as visitors to the park to make sure that our actions do not inflict undue stress or hardship upon the animals that we are observing. Wild animals in a natural setting do not have easy lives, and the last thing we want to do is make their lives any more difficult. Your guide is an expert at reading animal behavior, and the moment that our presence is bothering an animal, we MUST back off until we are no longer disturbing its natural behavior. Failure to promptly respond to your guide’s instructions to back away from wildlife may result in the termination of your tour, subject to the discretion of your guide.

This is where our optics prove invaluable. We use only the finest quality Swarovski and Vortex spotting scopes so that we can thoroughly enjoy our wildlife sightings at a distance that allows the animals to carry on about their business, as if we were not there. In fact, much of the time they probably don’t know we are there, yet our high powered and crystal clear optics give us an up-close and personal view. Furthermore, we must be mindful of any animal feeding on or resting near a carcass. Approaching such an area may drive the animal(s) away and deprive them of valuable food. It is important to remember that a carcass is regularly scavenged upon by any number of other animals, including grizzly bears, who will violently defend such a food source. Approaching such an area is strictly prohibited and can seriously put people and wildlife in danger. Finally, it is important to be mindful of the other park visitors and biologists who may also be observing the same animals. We promote quiet, respectful behavior to maximize everyone’s wild Yellowstone experience.

  • Clothing: Be prepared for any kind of weather, even in the summer! Our #1 feedback is: “I din’t realize it would be so chilly”. We recommend a warm pair of sock, closed toes sneakers or hiking boots, pants, and several layered tops which can be added or removed at the day progresses. Its also wise to bring a warm hat, gloves or mittens. WATCH THE FORECAST!!!
  • Your National Park Pass. If you don’t have one, Click HERE to learn more.
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen any prescription medicines you may regularly need.
  • Your Camera! With freshly charged batteries and an empty media card, you never know what you’ll see or when it’ll be around the next bend! Battery charger also.
  • A day pack – for extra layers and all items to be easily stored in the vehicle, and brought along on an adventure if your group decides to take a short hike.
  • Water Bottle! We will provide a water jug for you to refill your bottle throughout the day. If you have a reusable coffee travel mug that will work. We could also stop and refill it with your favorite hot drink!
  • A knowledgeable and professional guide
  • Transportation to and from our meetup location, and through out the park
  • A healthy breakfast and lunch, fresh made from a local café, along with snacks and drinks for everyone. Some Tours include Lunch
  • Use of high quality binoculars and spotting scopes provided by us
  • Gratuity is NOT included in the price of the tour. Tips are a common practice with guides in North America, and are an important part of their income.