Yellowstone and Grand Tetons 2016 Trip Report

By Len Rue, Jr. on Dec 21, 2016

No matter how many times you go to Yellowstone, the park continues to amaze with photographic opportunities around just about every corner. Most of North America’s big game species are found here, including wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and moose. The 2016 tour especially offered a number of opportunities to photograph elk in Yellowstone. Every morning, when coming into the park from West Yellowstone, we found bull elk with harems along the Madison River—which offered great photo opportunities. The landscape subjects in both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone are endless. This was a year when smoke from forest fires was minimal and, overall, the weather was good for photography. Every day is an “early out” for the best morning light.  We stay out all day, taking box lunches with us.
Here’s a capsule summary of our eight days in the national parks—and what you can typically expect during this tour:
  • Day 1:  After a group van transfer from the Jackson Airport, every tour starts on the first afternoon at Jackson Lake Lodge, an historic inn located in the north end of Grand Teton National Park. The dining in the Mural Room is excellent!
  • Day 2:  First light found us at Mormon Row, a series of old barns and buildings dating from Mormon settlers from the 1880s. This is a full day of seeing and photographing the sights of the Tetons and Jackson Hole. Grand Teton is an excellent park to photograph herds of bison, pronghorn antelope and, sometimes, moose.
  • Day 3:  The day again started at first light—photographing the Tetons reflected in a series of beaver ponds along the Snake River. This is a travel day and after breakfast we load up the van and journey northward into Yellowstone National Park, stopping to photograph along the way. We did very well photographing a nice bull elk in great evening light as we headed for West Yellowstone, where we stay for the next several nights.
  • Day 4:  Every morning, as we journey into the park, begins by looking for and photographing elk along the Madison River. After our time with the elk, we head to Mammoth Hot Springs by way of Norris Geyser Basin, Canyon and Tower Fall (due to the fact that the road from Norris to Mammoth was closed for construction this year). Mammoth Terraces is a natural wonder that offers many photo opportunities. After dining at Mammoth Hotel, we headed back to West Yellowstone in the evening.  
  • Day 5:  The day was spent working our way over to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Lower and Upper Falls of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley and Yellowstone Lake—one of my favorite places in the park. This evening we dined in style at the historic Lake Hotel. After dinner we photographed the sunset from a viewpoint overlooking the lake.
  • Day 6:  Today we photographed the many geysers, hot pots and other thermal activity in the Lower, Midway and Upper (Old Faithful) geyser basins.  Yellowstone contains the largest thermal basins in the world and the photo opportunities are endless. This evening we dined in the historic Old Faithful Inn. 
  • Day 7:  Another travel day. We packed up the van and, after breakfast, slowly worked our way through Yellowstone, spending more time in the Norris Geyser Basin and in the Canyon area, as we made our way back to Jackson Lake Lodge in the Tetons for our final evening. When we returned to Grand Teton, after our days in Yellowstone, we found that many of the aspen trees had turned their bright yellow autumn hue—presenting us with images of fall color to add to our already memorable week of photography.
  • Day 8:  This was the day of goodbyes. After a great buffet breakfast in the Mural Room at Jackson Lake Lodge, it was time to take everyone back to Jackson Airport for their flights home. Many great friendships are made on these tours, and this one was no exception. After more than a week in Yellowstone and Grand Teton everyone would have many hours of photo editing to remember the trip by!