Come join the wonderful spring weather in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. You’ll get beautiful weather, blue skies, incredible sunsets, and ravens singing in the morning breeze! At least that was what everyone thought. A wonderful, eight-day expedition almost felt more like a winter adventure into the fabulous national parks. We were gifted with rain, snow, cloudy skies, and occasional sunshine.
Did that ruin the expedition? No! It added flavor and variety to the spring atmosphere. This is the combined trip report for two separate Spring Yellowstone and Grand Teton Backcountry Journeys trips.
Day one was simple. We had a friendly orientation at the hotel, followed by a lovely dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill. YUM! During the orientation, I told the guests that they better enjoy the night while it lasts because it’ll be the most sleep they will get the entire week. The days are long during the spring expeditions so that means early mornings and late evenings with few breaks in between.
With the luggage packed in the sprinter van, we ate breakfast at the hotel at 6 a.m. before driving one hour and thirty minutes to Yellowstone National Park. After entering through the northwest entrance, stops were taken near Mammoth Hot Springs to begin warming up those photo fingers.
However, during the second tour, we received news of a Grizzly sighting south of Mammoth. So, the second group had their warm-up session photographing a bear. What a great way to start off the journey! The Grizzly bear was a young adult male who has been consistently hanging out between Obsidian Cliffs and Roaring Mountain. Both groups got to see the bear upon entry into the park.
On our way to West Yellowstone, MT, for lunch, we stopped at a few other places, including Gibbon Falls, Roaring Mountain, and the Madison River. After checking into our hotel, group one cruised up and down the Madison River, photographing bison while group two had some more wildlife photography practice sessions at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. This is a non-profit organization containing ambassador animals and plenty of educational resources. During our sunset shoot, group one photographed the distant mountains as the sun laid to rest behind the peaks. Group two, on the other hand, decided to skip the sunset shoot due to chaotic weather. They all agreed to crash early for the night so they could get some extra rest for the upcoming adventures.
Early morning on day three resulted in a photo session at a stand of bobby sock trees. These are a group of dead trees killed by thermal activity. Cloudy skies, fog, and snow prevented us from seeing a beautiful sunrise. However, the moody weather definitely made for some moody shots of the dead trees. Our solitude during the harsh weather made for an eerie morning. After shivering in the cold, we had a warm breakfast back in town before spending the day photographing the geyser basins. The Grand Prismatic and Old Faithful were two of the thermal features we visited. We also hiked at Biscuit Geyser Basin and explored Geyser Hill during a break between lunch and the Old Faithful eruption. Some of the guests also took this opportunity to check out the visitor center and the gift shops.
After an early dinner, we were back in the park to photograph the sunset at Fountain Paintpots Geyser Basin. Group one detoured up to Norris Geyser Basin to see Steamboat Geyser erupt. Steamboat is the largest geyser in the world, capable of erupting 300 feet into the air. Sadly, we only got to see one of its minor eruptions. It was still a nice bonus to the evening shoot. The second group got to experience one of the things Wyoming is known for: wind and cold. The high winds made it difficult to get some great photographs due to camera shake. The cold temperatures made your fingers go numb after a few minutes. When you’re a nature photographer, you always have to be prepared to shoot in any weather condition, because nature doesn’t always grant you your wishes. Once we adjusted to the extreme conditions, the outcome was a beautiful sunset over the distant hills.
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! Do you hear that? That is your alarm giving you your earliest wake-up call on this trip. For most mornings, we were in the vehicle, heading into the park by 5 a.m. However, on day four, we were on the road by 4:30 am. Most people go on vacations to relax, sleep in, and recuperate from that hard work life. Not on this trip! We have places to see, things to do, and photos to take! There’s no time to sleep in. Adventure awaits!
Waking up before sunrise, we traveled across the park for our morning shoot. Since the road through Hayden Valley was closed, group one spent the morning photographing the sunrise from Artist Point in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Group two spent the morning at Grizzly Overlook in Hayden Valley. Day four was when we had the major difference between the two tours due to road closure. Because the south gate to Yellowstone was still closed during the first tour, the crew ended up having breakfast in West Yellowstone, followed by a short trip to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Afterward, we drove 2.5 hours through Idaho down into Jackson, WY, before having a picnic lunch in Grand Teton National Park. Lucky for us, that also meant we got to see the famous Grizzly 399 and her four cubs, altogether before separating a week later.
Group two visited the Grand Canyon after their morning drive in Hayden Valley. During our scout near Canyon Village, we saw a black wolf trotting down the road in front of us. However, a white vehicle separated us from the canine. The wolf ventured off the road and disappeared into the forest before we were able to get any good shots.
A long drive after a light breakfast meant nap time for all but the driver. Sometimes it sounded like there were grizzlies growling in the van! But after entering Grand Teton National Park and having lunch, everyone was awake and ready to go!
We only spent a couple of days in Grand Teton National Park, but we accomplished a lot. Both groups saw plenty of grizzly bears and moose. We took scenic drives along Jenny Lake, photographed the stormy weather at Jackson Lake, and cruised up and down the roads searching for wildlife. Sunrises were shot at Schwabacher’s Land and the Moulton Barn. Sunsets were spent at Coulter Bay, Oxbow Bend, and the Cunningham Cabins. We even had an afternoon break so folks could visit the shops in downtown Jackson, or catch up on sleep.
After our final morning in Grand Teton, we traveled back to Gardiner, Montana, to check into our hotel, taking a few stops on the way. After an evening cruise in the park, we hit the beds in preparation for an early morning drive to Lamar Valley.
A lot of animals were seen during our adventure into Lamar Valley. We spotted bison, pronghorn, grizzly and black bears, wolves, moose, elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep.
Not all the animals were within photography range, but it was still great to see so many different species. I always look forward to the final full day of the expedition in Lamar Valley. It’s a beautiful place and you never know what you can find. After lunch and a short break, we were back out in the valley for our final evening in the park.
Another week and another adventure complete! On the final morning, we ended the trip back in Bozeman, MT, and all the guests departed for the comfort of their homes. If this Yellowstone and Grand Teton tour suits your interests, then we hope to see you next spring in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Trevor LaClair is an explorer who is passionate about wildlife. He has spent many years working with and around animals of all kinds, both in captivity and in the wild. The animals he enjoys the most are megafauna and dangerous animals. After growing up in Missouri, Trevor ventured across the country guiding in different places, including the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where he spent his free time tracking grizzlies and watching wolves.
After receiving his Bachelors in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri, Trevor obtained a Masters in Biology from Miami University. During the past few years, Trevor has had epic adventures exploring places such as Komodo National Park, Serengeti, and the Great Barrier Reef. He loves playing outside and going on epic adventures. His mission is to inspire people around the world to appreciate nature and conserve this planet’s natural wonders. Through entertainment and education, Trevor uses the power of media to bring viewers on global adventures and up close to amazing animals. You can follow Trevor LaClair on his adventures by checking out his website trekkingwithtrevor.com.