By Christine Gianas Weinheimer Yellowstone Forever

Winter is an ideal time to watch Yellowstone National Park’s spectacular wildlife. Deep snow brings animals down to lower elevations, and they are easier to spot and observe against the park’s stark white landscape. Winter is also the best time of year to catch a glimpse of wolves. Yet knowing exactly when and where to go, and understanding wildlife behavior, will greatly increase your chances of a successful outing.

That’s where the naturalist guides from the Yellowstone Forever Institute come in. If you’re heading out for a day in Yellowstone, and are hoping to see the park’s legendary wildlife, these guides are ready to help you catch all the action.

Yellowstone Day Adventures, a new day-tour program launched earlier this year, offers a convenient, affordable, expert-led wildlife watching experience for visitors to Yellowstone National Park. Based on the popularity of the summer program, the Institute recently announced that they would extend the program throughout the winter season, with tours starting Dec. 19.

Pickup begins in Gardiner at dawn, when wildlife activity is at its peak, then the group departs for Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. This location offers the possibility to see several species including elk, bison and the park’s famous wolf packs.

“Whether our guests are from the local area or have traveled a great distance to see the park, this tour will help ensure that their visit is a truly inspirational experience,” said Zachary Park, Yellowstone Forever’s assistant director of Institute operations.

“The guides will adapt their route and schedule based on their knowledge of the latest wildlife activity, making the most of your time in the park. They will also provide you with the use of top-quality optics,” Park said.

Park explained that the tour includes the use of state-of-the-art spotting scopes and the latest digiscoping technology, which allows you to capture what you’re seeing in the scope on your smartphone, and share the images later with friends. He notes that the animals visitors most want to see, such as wolves, will likely be far from the road, so top-notch optics will ensure that guests enjoy an enhanced wildlife viewing experience.

Guests should plan to take home more than pictures, though, as they will also learn from fascinating commentary on the behavior and ecology of Yellowstone’s wildlife as well as in-depth, facilitated group discussions based on their interests.

“Yellowstone Forever Institute’s naturalist guides are experts on Yellowstone’s wildlife and ecosystem,” Park said. “This half-day tour is a rare opportunity to get in the field with high-caliber professionals who work closely with park researchers and can communicate the most recent scientific findings about the park’s wildlife.”

Yellowstone Day Adventures are offered on Wednesdays and Fridays this winter. Tours include early morning pickups in Gardiner, breakfast and hot beverages, specialized instruction, all transportation, scopes and binoculars, and digiscoping equipment.

To sign up for a tour, visit the Yellowstone Forever Park Store in Gardiner or call (406) 848-2844. You may sign up as late as 5 p.m. the day before the tour. Visit yellowstone.org/day-adventures for more information.

Yellowstone Forever is the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park. Learn more at yellowstone.org.