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Productive Travel in Yellowstone National Park

USA | Monday, 21 August 2017 | Views [321]

 Yellowstone guided adventures


Productive Planning 

I do truly prefer the real OTBT experience when it comes to wilderness travel. I don't want someone to carry my backpack and be at my heels jabbing a finger over my shoulder pointing out everything I can see for myself. Yellowstone proved an important exception to my preferences. Hiring help was probably the best decision I could have made. Opting for a guide did not sacrifice my freedom to wander; it was not a bargaining away of those special feelings: being afar, being away and relatively alone in the backcountry.

There's simply too much to see and do in America's oldest National Park. Local know-how is key to making the most of your time. The logistics of getting from one point of interest to the next would have been too overwhelming on my own. And I know how to read a map, choose a good guidebook and plan ahead.

Of course, it depends on your itinerary and wish-list, but in most cases, a well-planned adventure affords you maximum time to explore. Obsessing over last-minute advice or scrambling to adjust to unexpected situations (unavailable accommodations, Park closures, and weather conditions) costs a lot of time. Looking back, I am thankful that all the details were sorted out ahead of time, a schedule was in place, and for every Plan A, there was always a Plan B and C.    

Utilizing experience makes sense. I grew confident in that wisdom in the weeks leading up to my travels. The pre-planning consultations were thorough and specific. The adventure company I booked with were constantly in touch with me long before I showed up on Day One. They spent a lot of time getting to know me and my intentions for visiting Yellowstone. What was my activity level? What kind of gear did I have, what did they recommend and what might they be able to provide? Throughout the planning process, I made it very clear that I wasn't interested in any hand-holding on the expedition.

And there wasn't. Instead, I was handed fun lists of things to explore on my own each day. I must have mentioned my love for scavenger hunts (or maybe I didn't) because my guide surprised me with one before a setting off through the Lamar River backcountry. Also known “North America’s Serengeti”, he said this would be the most opportune part of the week's adventures for viewing wildlife. I hunted bison, elk, pronghorn, and bear, as well as many species of wildflowers I was as yet unfamiliar with. The list was a nice touch and my guide, as promised, stayed a respectful distance behind as I enjoyed the quiet solitude of hunting for these things on my own.  

Companies like Big Wild Adventures offer a variety of guided, multi-day adventures suitable for a variety of individuals and groups. I always assumed their services started and ended with daily carpooling around. Yellowstone offers hundreds of miles of overland sightseeing. I had always been wary of being in the backseat of any busload of tourists driving from attraction to attraction. In reality, their guides are the real deal. They can take you whitewater rafting, biking, fly-fishing, horseback riding and more as part of an ultimate Yellowstone experience. Because they have an established presence and local connections - professional guides get you private access to ideal river spots and can offer customized hikes, away from queues of slow-moving tourists, based on your endurance level.  


Satisfying Travel  

Eating healthy is key to maintaining that spirit of adventure that brought you to Yellowstone in the first place. I'm not great at planning meals to go. Preparing hot food requires camping cookware and a lot of items I would have had to buy. Another nod to organized, guided travel: they know what it takes to plan, pack and prepare nourishing food during the trip. Many tours promise three square meals, prepared by your guide and apparently there’s been an increase in culinary variety. As part of the initial consultations, I was able to specify allergies, whether or not I was vegetarian or if I preferred organic, all-natural foods only. I was surprised by all the options! Although I'm not a picky eater, it's good to know that I could have my dietary needs catered to for the journey. Like I mentioned before, I wasn't interested in having someone carrying my backpack the whole way. In retrospect, I wouldn't have had it in me to prepare a particularly memorable gourmet meal amidst the old growth forest at the top of Mirror Plateau in central Yellowstone. Good thing it was already there waiting for me! 

A good night's sleep is essential to a multi-day visit to Yellowstone. Personally, I enjoy nights in the tent mixed with nights in a bed. Lodges and cabins are available but not aplenty. Again, it helps to have those reservations secured prior to visiting the Park, especially during the summer. Some companies like Flying Pig Rafting help you acquire accommodations beforehand in coordination with your day-to-day itinerary.

Packages like these can be expensive but worth it. One night along the Yellowstone River in a peaceful cabin rental was a highlight of relaxation in the middle of my week-long trip. It was the one day I actually took to cooking for myself thanks to the outdoor grill and fully equipped kitchen available. 


Above all, you go to Yellowstone to get to know Yellowstone. Local guides know the area and know how to maximize time doing what you love. Before you say you can’t afford the extra expense of a guide – ask around, do some research see more of what they offer.





Tags: backpacking, montana travel, wyoming travel, yellowstone, yellowstone guide

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