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Encompassing some of the most awe inspiring landscapes in the western United States, this short journey takes us from Mormon heartlands to the bubbling mud pools of Yellowstone National Park. For anyone who loves being in the outdoors this is the perfect trip. Discover magnificent rivers, hot springs and waterfalls, visit explosive geysers and walk under towering mountains. Search for the famous Yellowstone wildlife including bison and black bear.
Explore Tour Leader / Driver
4 nights comfortable hotel
3 nights comfortable lodge
Trip maximum 13
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our trip begins in Salt Lake City, the gateway to some of the USA's most dramatic national parks. We'll meet our Tour Leader and the group at the Crystal Inn Salt Lake Hotel before driving north immediately to Pocatello.
Our minibus will leave the hotel at 12pm, so in order to arrive at the hotel for this time, the latest your flight can arrive is 10am. We don't provide arrival transfers on this tour, but information on how to reach the hotel will be provided in your final documentation.
We travel together as a group out of the city, planning to stop at Antelope Island State Park for a view over the Great Salt Lake itself. This lake is a hot topic for Salt Lake City residents at the moment; it is 'drying up' at an increasing rate, with potential drastic consequences for the city. Witnessing this ourselves is a great introduction to this unique area. We should hopefully get our first sighting of an American Bison here, as the park is home to some of Utah's free-roaming herd.
After our visit, we continue north to Pocatello, which will take around two and a half hours (170 miles). On arrival, the Tour Leader will give us a briefing for the trip ahead and we'll go out for a group meal.
If flight times into Salt Lake City prevent you from landing at 10am, we recommend booking an additional night's accommodation. The city has plenty of scenic attractions, most notably the headquarters of the Mormon Church at Temple Square, where you will find the majestic 19th Century Salt Lake Temple and the neo-Gothic Assembly Hall.
Best Western Pocatello Inn (or similar)
We drive to West Yellowstone this morning, taking the highway to pass through Idaho Falls, before pulling off onto The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. This 28 mile route winds through the fields and pines of the Targhee National Forest, diverting travellers off the main highway and into a much more picturesque setting. We'll stop off at the highlight - Mesa Falls - a powerful set of two drops, fed by water that thunders through a steep volcanic canyon on the Snake River.
From here we'll continue to West Yellowstone, checking into our hotel before making our way to the national park. Sitting on an average altitude of 2400m (which can make the nights cold) and surrounded by five different mountain ranges of the Middle Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone is a gigantic park covering almost 9000 square kilometres in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. It is an ancient volcanic plateau home to more than 10,000 geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. Buffalo Bill was the first to bring tourists here (often royalty he'd met on his travels) and these visitors, like us, marvelled at the spectacular scenery. The volcanic activity frightened the Native Americans who believed this to be the land of evil spirits, and so the wilderness remained unexplored until it was declared America's first national park in 1872.
Our first taste of the park begins with a walk around Mammoth Hot Springs, a large complex of hot springs on a hill of travertine. The most well-known is the Minerva Terrace, boasting a wide range of bright hues and ornate travertine formations.
Yellowstone Lodge (or similar)
There are more geysers in Yellowstone than anywhere else on earth. Today we explore some of these, including the most famous - Old Faithful. As the name suggests, Old Faithful never disappoints its spectators - eruptions occur about 20 times a day, reaching a height of 30-55m.
Walking to the Upper Geyser Basin from here, we'll visit the site of the highest concentration of geothermal features in the park. Although scenery is the primary draw of this area, the park abounds with wildlife. Having been protected from hunters since the park's inception, bear, moose and elk are frequently seen. We'll be on the lookout for all kinds of wildlife over the course of our time here.
We'll also explore both the Mid Geyser and Lower Geyser Basin areas today, visiting the Grand Prismatic, the largest hot springs in the park and the third largest in the world. After a day walking the trails and admiring these natural wonders, we return to our hotel in West Yellowstone.
Exploring some more of Yellowstone today, we take in the parks impressive geysers, mud pools and its very own Grand Canyon. We'll visit Artists Point, a spectacular canyon viewpoint, and follow a trail along the south rim to the Upper Falls, negotiating our way through a breathtaking landscape of forested hills and thundering waterfalls. Whilst smaller than its more famous rival to the south, Yellowstone's Grand Canyon is still an impressive 32 kilometres in length and drops down over 360 metres in parts.
We'll also drive to Fishing Bridge and the Mud Volcano. This cauldron of boiling mud and fumeroles has an impressive loop walk which takes around an hour to complete, and gives us excellent views of some of the main features - the Black Dragon Cauldron and Mud Geyser are just two aptly named sites.
We'll drive back to our hotel this evening.
Route 191 runs the length of the USA, from the Canadian border in Montana right through to the Arizona-Mexico frontera, and straddles much of the mountainous 'Continental Divide' that separates the watersheds of the Pacific and the Atlantic. The 150 mile section that we'll drive today, from West Yellowstone to Jackson Hole, is one of its most gloriously scenic, taking us from wild Yellowstone to the mountains of the Grand Tetons.
We'll descend through the heart of Yellowstone National Park, passing Old Faithful before winding our way through to Lewis River Falls and the magnificent Lewis River Canyon. As we continue to descend, passing through the South Entrance of the park and leaving Yellowstone officially behind us, we'll slowly start to see a change in geography. The mountains of the Grand Teton range will start coming into view, with Jackson Lake appearing in the foreground.
We'll stop at Colter Bay and visit the Indian Arts Museum, before taking a walk on the Hermitage Trail. It's an easy 10 mile loop through forest and wetland, with the payoff being the awe-inspiring views of the lake and the Tetons in the background.
On the final stretch towards Jackson Hole, we'll stop at the Snake River overlook. This stunning bend in the river gives one of the most impressive and photogenic views of the snow-capped Tetons and the winding waters below. Then we continue to the lively cowboy village of Jackson, where it is possible to enjoy a cold beer at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
49'er Inn & Suites (or similar)
We have the morning at our leisure in Jackson, an ideal place to wind down after the last few days. The downtown area still has the boardwalks that are typical of the first town in the west. It's also an excellent centre for outdoor activities, and there is the possibility to take a scenic wildlife river float on the Snake River. Moose and elk may be spotted on the banks, and bald eagles have several active nests here, as well as the possibility to sight river otter or even the elusive beaver. With the impressive backdrop of the Tetons, it's a beautiful morning on the water.
In the afternoon we plan to drive to Jenny Lake, within the Grand Teton National Park. We'll follow the shoreline on foot, and continue on the scenic walk to to Hidden Falls. This round trip hike is around five miles and takes 3 hours to complete. On the return it is possible (instead of retracing your steps around the shoreline) to take the passenger ferry (optional), which zips across the blue waters of Jenny Lake from the Hidden Falls trailhead. High above hangs the Teton Glacier, a stunning finale to our walk.
We leave the mountains behind this morning, as we return to Salt Lake City. On arrival there will be time to take a stroll around the centre. Founded by a group of believers of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in 1847, the city is now their international headquarters and some of the finest buildings belong to the church. The setting, below the Wasatch Mountains and beside the Great Salt Lake, is superb and makes this a pleasant city to explore on foot.
Crystal Inn & Suites (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Salt Lake City.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Salt Lake City at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) - a 10 minutes' drive from the hotel.
There are great variations in the altitude and terrain of the areas visited and this is reflected in the temperatures. Desert areas can be extremely hot in the summer months (49°), though temperatures can drop dramatically at night. The mountains are cooler and wetter especially in the north of the Rockies. At the beginning and end of the season there may still be some snow around in the high passes and it can be cold, whereas in mid-summer the day time temperatures can soar.
2 Pin Flat
There are a number of exciting optional excursions you can do on tour. These activities are booked and paid for direct with the supplier and do not form part of your Explore holiday contract. Jackson - Wildlife float trip on the Snake River US$65-$95; Jenny Lake ferry US$10 per person one way
Pack for hot conditions in summertime. For departures earlier and later in the year, the weather can be cooler, especially at night in the desert so make sure you bring some warmer layers including a fleece. At anytime of year, you should pack a lightweight waterproof jacket, swimwear and a sun hat.
Lightweight walking/hiking boots with good ankle support, trainers and/or sandals for travelling.
Bring only the bare essentials - one main bag plus a small daysack for walking and for personal items. Main luggage cannot be accessed during the day. Soft luggage is more practical as it is stored in the trailer during travel. Bring plastic bags to keep things dry. Laundry facilities are available at various points during the trip.
Bring a water bottle (3 litre capacity), high factor sunblock, and sunglasses. You may find a walking pole and insect repellent useful especially in June and July.
During this trip, we use a range of comfortable inns, hotels and motels, with ensuite facilities. The accommodation in these areas may be 'no frills', but they offer a clean and comfortable base from which to explore the national parks. The hotel that we use in Salt Lake City is close to the airport, and our tour vehicle will be on hand to transport you into the city in the evening.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
USA: You will require either a visa or an ESTA (an evisa). Please read on for more information. Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA under certain conditions. This applies if you enter the country by sea or by air, and this must be done online via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have a biometric passport to apply for an ESTA. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba since the 12th of January 2021, you will not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. Your ESTA application will ask for Point of Contact information. Please note that if you're only transiting through the USA then this is not required. If you're visiting or staying in the USA on an Explore trip, then our USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. Entry requirements for the USA can change regularly, therefore, please ensure you have the most up to date information before you travel by checking the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html ETA - only if transiting via Canada Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ETA here - http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp - other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.