Yellowstone in Winter

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When entering Yellowstone National Park in winter you sense that you have crossed into another world, one of quiet softness hushed by a thick blanket of snow.  Trees wreathed in frost loom like wraiths against the blue winter sky and towering waterfalls stand frozen in mid-plunge.  The crisp icy air enhances the ethereal effect of Yellowstone's famous geothermal features.  An exotic combination of mist-shrouded hot pools, bubbling paint pots, and steaming fumaroles creates an ever-shifting landscape of undulating clouds and mysterious shadows.  It is an unearthly world of crystalline perfection. 
"Yellowstone in winter is magical. It is truly a winter wonderland. See it with Jeff Vanuga who has been photographing Yellowstone for thirty years."
- G. Wrenn

Seemingly deep in winter sleep, Yellowstone is alive with wildlife. Bison plow through deep snow in search of buried autumn-cured forage. Elk patrol the glistening white meadows and graze on grasses still green from the heat of nearby hot pools and bubbling springs. Numerous animals have emerged from the park's backcountry to congregate in the warmer and more hospitable lowlands and river valleys. Bighorn sheep have come down from their lofty summer range for the promise of a milder winter climate in the foothills.

For years, the highlights of our Yellowstone in Winter trips have come from our expeditions—using comfortable, specially-designed snow coaches—deep into the snowy interior of the world’s first national park. By far, the most spectacular snowscapes and wildlife photo opportunities have come from the remote interior valleys, canyons and geyser basins. For four days we travel by snow coach into the heart of Yellowstone’s most productive areas for photography.

Waterfall and river canyon in winterTo wander through the interior is to float through a fantasy landscape. Steam rising from numerous geysers becomes a super-cooled crystal fog. It drifts through the trees like diamond dust, collecting on every surface until entire groves become assemblies of ghostly druids bowing rigidly into the wind. Through this ever-changing landscape move the animals. Enveloped in fog, frost and snow, they appear as apparitions from out of the shifting mists—living phantoms haunting the landscape to be captured with our cameras.

From our accommodations in West Yellowstone and at Old Faithful we journey into the Madison Valley, to the Firehole River, and to the Fountain and Norris Geyser Basins. We photograph the thundering, ice-shrouded Upper and Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and, with weather permitting, continue to the ever-changing snow and “skyscapes” of the Hayden Valley. On your right, trumpeter swans may forage along the frozen banks of the Yellowstone River. To your left, while starkly branching trees punctuate the whiteness, the drama of a tumultuous cloudy sky meets the stillness of snow-blanketed and subtly curvaceous hills.

We explore the fascinating Old Faithful area on foot. Some hiking on uneven surfaces and icy boardwalks or packed snow is required. The variety of geothermal features can best be photographed only when walking among the erupting geysers, pastel-colored hot pools, fumaroles and steaming run-off channels. Numerous big game species can be found in this area—the most abundant being buffalo, elk and coyotes. A wolf in Yellowstone's Lamar ValleyDuring the coldest days of winter, coinciding with the timing of our tour, the landscape is transformed into a winter wonderland of snow, “ghost trees” and graphic ice formations.

Traveling through the stunning Golden Gate by snow coach, our next destinations is Mammoth Hot Springs near the North Entrance. With lower elevations, this area typically receives less snowfall and therefore hosts overwintering bison and elk herds, among other wildlife. Using a chartered bus, we have a full day of photography, exploring from the McMinn Bench and Mammoth Terraces, through the expansive Lamar Valley, to Cooke City.

Join us on this magical journey through the crown jewel of America’s national parks with our exceptional leaders—both wildlife photographers who live there and know the park thoroughly! Our time-tested itinerary offers maximum time in the field for photographing some of the American West’s most stunning winter landscapes and impressive big game animals.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is an authorized permittee of Yellowstone National Park


Check out Jeff Vanuga's trip report from our latest Yellowstone photo tours
For trip questions or to enroll give us a call at (206) 463-5383

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Jan 29 or Feb 6, 2022) 
Participants fly to Bozeman, Montana, and transfer independently via scheduled shuttles to West Yellowstone, arriving in time for dinner. (D)

Days 2–3 
Yellowstone hot pool and landscapeUsing specially-chartered, track-converted snow coaches, we travel in the West Yellowstone area.  We visit the wildlife-rich scenic areas along the Firehole and Madison Rivers and Fountain Geyser Basin.  This section of the interior offers an enormous variety of wildlife, snow-encrusted trees, erupting geysers, hoar-frosted grasses and rugged mountain vistas.  The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is captured first thing in the morning, followed by the Hayden Valley and Norris Geyser Basin.  (BLD)

Day 4 
We photograph the Midway, Biscuit and Black Sand Geyser Basins on the way to the Old Faithful area—they contain a wide variety of active geologic features as well as some magnificent elk and bison.  Winter is a hard time for the park’s animals, but their lives are made a bit easier by the warmth of these thermal areas.  (BLD)

Photographing in Yellowstone in winterDay 5  
We have a full day to explore the Old Faithful area on foot.  From pre-dawn until sunset we photograph the Upper Geyser Basin, considered to be one of the premier winter photography locations in the park.  With weather and timing in our favor, we hope to capture the shooting geysers against a backdrop of stars and tree-form silhouettes. (BLD)

Day 6
This morning we continue our exploration of the Old Faithful area on foot.  Following lunch we travel by snow coach through the Upper Geyser Basin and the Gibbon River area  to Mammoth Hot Springs, photographing en route. Our lodging at the northern boundary of the park places us in close proximity to the McMinn Bench and the Lamar Valley, two of the richest wildlife areas of the park. (BLD)

Day 7
Red fox perched on rocks and snowWe have a full day to explore the Mammoth Terraces and iconic Lamar Valley.  Created by the flow of mineral-laden waters finding their way to the surface, the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are part of the unearthly thermal landscapes conducive to abstract photography.  Snow blankets, steamy vapors and colorful algae all add fantastical elements to your compositions.  
Depending on conditions on the McMinn Bench and in Lamar Valley, we hope to photograph bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk, coyotes, and bison, and experience the thrill of a possible wolf sighting or two! (BLD)

Day 8 (Feb 5 or Feb 13)
Following breakfast, return by chartered bus to the Bozeman airport in the midmorning in time for afternoon flights home.  (B)
Above itinerary may be subject to change, depending on local weather and road conditions.  Temperatures well below freezing are possible with the probability of ice and snow on roads and trails.  Elevations on this tour range from 6,000 to 8,000 feet.  To participate in this tour you should have reasonable endurance for short walks with your camera gear in wintery conditions!

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris is an Authorized Permittee of the US National Park Service

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Yellowstone in Winter

Jan 29, 2022 - Feb 13, 2022


A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days prior to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of entire trip fee
100% of entire trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger (trip participant) in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft or other conveyance, and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts, bankruptcy or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay, cancellations or changes in flights or other tour services, and by force majeure including sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine, epidemics and outbreaks, or other causes.  All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in flight schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure due to low enrollment, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure in which case the trip may be rescheduled, or a refund issued less any non-refundable deposits paid to tour component providers on behalf of the passenger, or a travel credit given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 4) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 5) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Yellowstone in Winter: Moderate Activity Level

Snow coach and small bus travel.  Most shooting is done from the road near the vehicles.  Hiking with camera gear for up to one mile (per hike) on a few days—occasionally on icy boardwalks near Old Faithful.  Microspikes recommended.  Yellowstone elevation is approximately 8000 feet above sea level.  Expect cold temperatures throughout the trip.  Occasional stops at toilet facilities throughout the day.
Trip Details
Multiple Departure Dates 2022
Fee: $5,995 from West Yellowstone, Montana
Deposit: 1,000
Limit: 12 participants
Activity Level: ModerateModerate
Tour 1: Jan 29 - Feb 5, 2022
Tour 2: Feb 6 - 13, 2022
  • Discover the park’s snowy interior using comfortable “big wheel” snow coaches with 6 participants and a leader in a 13-passenger vehicle
  • Explore the image-rich Old Faithful area on foot
  • Photograph wondrous interior landscapes with expert wildlife “shooters”
  • Includes a special excursion to photograph the wildlife-rich Lamar Valley
  • One of Joe Van Os’ Top Ten recommended wildlife and winter landscape photography trips in the world
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Tour Leaders
Eric Rock

Eric Rock

Jeff Vanuga

Jeff Vanuga

The Yellowstone in Winter photo tour under Jeff Vanuga's leadership was a memorable experience. The tour itinerary, locations/stops and other details were expertly planned and implemented.
—R.C. Vasavada

An awesome trip. An aspect of Yellowstone that very few people see—the wintery sights and sounds and having the park to yourself.
—A. Vaish

The ice formations are fabulous, from icicles in trees to the feather crystals on the grasses and fences, plus the frost on the eyelashes of bison.
—R. F. Norris