Yellowstone in Winter

Wyoming and Montana

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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.

To 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 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 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. During 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 destination 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.

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 27 or Feb 4)
Participants fly to Bozeman, Montana, and transfer independently via scheduled shuttles to West Yellowstone, arriving in time for dinner. (D)

Days 2-3
Using 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 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)

Day 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
We 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 3 or Feb 11)
Following breakfast, return by chartered bus to the Bozeman airport in the midmorning in time for afternoon flights home. (B)

The 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 27, 2024 - Feb 11, 2024

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place 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 we accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days prior to departure and may be paid by check or bank transfer. If you wish to make your final payment with a credit card a 3% convenience fee will be charged.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation. Based on the cancellation date the following apply:

Trip deposits are non-refundable.
150-91 days before the trip start date: We will refund any payments made exceeding 50% of the total trip cost.
90-61 days before the trip start date: We will refund any payments made exceeding 75% of the total trip cost.
Within 60 days of the start of the trip: No refund.

If, on the trip start date, your space has been resold and the tour is full—as designated by “Limit” number of travelers on the tour website page—we will refund your payment, minus the non-refundable trip deposit and any discounts given to resell your space.

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

We strongly encourage you to protect your travel investment and purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. We can provide travel insurance options, or it can be purchased online. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available. Trip participants without travel protection insurance are considered “self-insured.” Without insurance you assume all risks and losses for any conditions requiring your cancellation.

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, including viral illnesses, 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. 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, and applicable health advisories. 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 email address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or email messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific details that are included in your trip fee. Generally, these 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, internal tour 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, 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.

Most of our trips are priced in double occupancy (shared) accommodations. Single accommodation is 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 accommodation 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 is 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, as well as 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 people 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, motor coach, automobile, van, boat, ship or aircraft or any other conveyance, and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned 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, pandemics 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, travel insurance premiums and medical related expenses; 3) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure or disease outbreak 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 signed Registration Form with the Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections must be returned 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.

I have read, understand, and agree to the terms, conditions, and provisions of the enrollment information, as stated on the Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris website and the Enrollment Conditions section of this form, especially noting the policy on cancellations, refunds, and limitations on responsibility.

I am aware that during any trip or tour that I am voluntarily participating in under the arrangements of Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., a Washington corporation, and its employees, agents and associates, certain risks and dangers exist while traveling in the United States, foreign countries, and wilderness areas in any country or territory that include the possibility of property damage, bodily injury, and death. There is a possibility of accident or illness occurring without access to immediate or timely medical treatment or facilities. There is a risk of tropical or communicable diseases that may require quarantine and removal from the tour at my expense, food-related illnesses, the risk of personal injury and property damage or delay or inconvenience by forces of nature, wildlife or wildlife models, quarantine, political instability, acts of terrorism, strikes, government restrictions or regulations change, thefts, and the risk of accidents during travel while on foot or by aircraft, train, automobile, van, bus, boat, ship, or other conveyance. I understand that such risks cannot be eliminated without jeopardizing the essential qualities of this trip or tour. In consideration of, and as part payment for the right to participate in such trips, tours and/or other activities and services arranged for me by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, agents and associates, I have and do hereby assume all risks, and hereby release Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, shareholders, agents and associates, and will hold them harmless from any and all liability, actions, causes of actions, debts, claims, and demands of every kind and nature, howsoever caused, which I now have or which may arise of or in connection with any of my trips or tours and participation in any activities arranged for me by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, agents and associates.

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, I agree to indemnify them and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, I agree to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington and further agree that the substantive law of that state shall apply in that action without regard to the conflict-of-law rules of that state. The terms hereof shall serve as a release and assumption of all risk for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, and for all members of my family.

If any part, article, paragraph, sentence, or clause of this Agreement is not enforceable, the affected provision shall be curtailed and limited only to the extent necessary to bring it within the requirements of the law, and the remainder of the Agreement shall continue in full force and effect.

I acknowledge that if anyone is hurt or property is damaged during my participation in this activity, I may be found by a court of law to have waived my right to maintain a lawsuit against Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, shareholders, agents, and associates, based on any and all claims from which I have released them.

Yellowstone in Winter: Moderate Activity Level

Snow coach and small bus travel. Many of the photography locations are situated at elevations in excess of 7,000 feet above sea level. Much of the time we photograph from the road in close proximity of our vehicles. At Old Faithful we travel on foot with short walks on established trails with slight grades in elevation. Snow and ice will make the trails slippery, and photographers will need to proceed with caution. Cold, subzero, and relatively dry conditions prevail at Yellowstone during winter months and participants can expect to spend a good portion of the day photographing in these conditions.
Trip Details
Multiple Departure Dates 2024
Fee: $7,995 from West Yellowstone, Montana
Deposit: $2,000
Limit: 12 participants
Activity Level: ModerateModerate

Tour 1: January 27 - February 3, 2024

Tour 2: February 4 - 11, 2024

Single Supplement: $1,200
  • 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
  • Includes all meals, lodging, ground transportation, national park fees, photo guides and instruction
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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