Yellowstone National Park

Contiki Tours Review: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks


For nature enthusiasts or those looking for a change in their usual tours of going from city to city, visiting a national park in the United States is a great opportunity. Contiki provides a long National Parks tour through part of the American West Coast. But if you are pressed for time and still want to see some majestic sites, this short trip may be what you are looking for.

I took this tour even though I am a United States native just because I never found the time for it before. It also saved me the trouble of trying to figure out the logistics on my own when the given itinerary was exactly what I was looking for. I also thought it would be interesting to see if there was a difference in the way I would feel about taking a tour in my home country compared to my Contiki Scandinavia Tour or Contiki Great Britain & Ireland Tour. And I found myself pleasantly surprised that I still had the same excitement and adrenaline rush of being on a trip.

*Note that these activities and tours are subject to change depending on the weather, federally recognized holidays, month, and other restrictive conditions.

Group Size

The group size for this tour is a maximum of 30 people, so you can expect to have maybe 10-15 on average, maybe even less depending on the time you go. My group during my tour was only 8 people including myself. This made the trip seem more intimate as we all spent the same amount of time with each other.

Contiki Tour Guide

Accommodations

Contiki has recently changed the accommodations and now you will be staying at a local inn in Jackson Hole. During my tour, we slept outside in tents on the nearby campgrounds that allowed visitors to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. This is great for those who don’t get to spend as much time outdoors as they would like. Perfect for the kind of nights you want just relax around a fire pit joking and playing music.

It may change back to these accommodations depending on the time of year you go but I think Jackson Hole is a good alternative so you get some time to explore the town once you are done for the day.

Food

Breakfasts are provided but lunch and dinner are not during this tour. During my tour, our guide had purchased easy-to-cook camp food like burgers, sandwiches, and hotdogs. You can also purchase your own snacks at the national park gift shops or while in town for your time in the national parks. Since you are now staying in Jackson Hole, you will probably eat at one of the local restaurants either as a group or in your free time.

Transportation

For my tour, it started in Salt Lake City, Utah where we were picked up at the designated location before spending part of the day driving over to our first stop the Grand Tetons. Transportation will either be a large van or possibly a small tour bus. It all depends on the numbers. It’s an easy pickup and drop-off from the inn you will be staying at. I think this was a bonus to see additional parts of Utah while driving in to our campsite so it turned into a 3 state Contiki trip of Utah, Wyoming, and Montana.

Yellowstone and Grand Tetons Tour

  • Day 1: Jackson Hole via Grand Teton National Park
  • Day 2: Jackson Hole via Yellowstone National Park and West Yellowstone
  • Day 3: Jackson Hole via Yellowstone National Park
  • Day 4: Jackson Hole

Tour Highlights

Jenny Lake

Grand Tetons National Park Jenny Lake
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

First thing you see when entering the Grand Teton Nation Park is Jenny Lake. The glacial lake has crystal clear water that is pristine. With the mountains in the background it’s truly a nature paradise here. Before getting onto the ferry to get you to the other side you can walk along the bank for some great photos and splash in the water. There is the Jenny Lake Loop Trail you can take around the lake but depending on the time and group this is just the first stop on the exploration trail.

Snake River Overlook

Snake River Overlook
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Another fantastic scenic overlook here offering great panoramic views. Mostly made famous by photographer Ansel Adams it has made it a must-stop on your Grand Teton tour through the park for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Yellowstone Bison

Yellowstone Bison
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

The symbol of the American West, you may have a chance to see some of the Bison herds making their way through the fields and grasslands of Yellowstone Park. They have no concept of vehicles and you may see them crossing the road only to stop halfway. They may have become accustomed to the tourism but don’t get too close as they are still wild. You may see some Yellowstone Park visitors try to get as close as possible without disturbing them.

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear and Wolf Discovery Center

If you didn’t get as many opportunities to see the local wildlife while in the national parks, this is a great way to make up for it. This facility helps to conserve grizzly bears and wolves while educating the visitors about their behavior, natural habitats, and physiology. These animals will never be returned back to the wild because of various reasons.

And you also have the added bonus of seeing other Wyoming and Montana wildlife that shares the facility with them. These include the North American River Otters with the Banks of Yellowstone exhibit inside the facility. Their are only a few males and females at just a few years old but you can easily spot them swimming around curiously and interacting with each other. You also have the a number of aerial birds-of-prey spread throughout different enclosures. They include hawks, owls, and eagles.

Mormon Row

Outside of Grand Teton over nearby Jackson Hole is the beautiful Mormon Row. This is another great place to really see the landscape of the American countryside. It shows the settlement of the earlier Mormon pioneers in Wyoming with the wooden rustic homestead and barns. The singular road in and out makes it seems almost from another time entirely. And the backdrop of mountains and open sky make it such an amazing setting to really just breathe it all in. It’s a popular destination and technically within the park but it is sparingly crowded so plenty of opportunities to get some good photos of yourself in all the glory.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

The famous geyser is a cornerstone of the Yellowstone Park. The predictable eruptions make it extremely popular so you will always find a waiting crowd counting down the minutes to the next eruption. Hopefully, you arrive within a short time frame because you don’t want to just stand around waiting for it to go off. It’s interesting to see the natural wonder but don’t take too much of your time here. Once it’s done you should head off to other parts of the park.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

When you take a stroll through this part of the park you are going to see a multitude of colors (green, blue, yellow, red, and orange) from the natural phenomena. The elevated boardwalk trails lead you through the upper geyser basin and over to Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the country. There are several overlooks if you want to get some wide landscape photos for yourself.

Yellowstone National Park
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Is it Worth the Price?

I think this is underpriced for the number of days you will be spending in the park. Since the entry fees are less for an extended stay compared to just buying for the day it makes sense. This doesn’t include flight prices from wherever you are located so be sure to consider that when making your vacation plans. There is also the price difference now that the tour moved from campgrounds to an inn/hotel in Jackson Hole. Also, consider staying a bit longer and exploring other things to do in Jackson Hole.

Contiki has also thrown in the additional excursions of white water rafting and horseback riding. Getting that unique experience of white water rafting in Yellowstone even one time is a great story to tell. So you are getting a lot of nature and outdoors for your money’s worth. You might think it overpriced if you have done previous National Park tours but this is one of the most popular places in the country so you can expect a significant difference from the lesser-known areas.

Score 7/10

This was a great short trip to spend a few days outdoors and get into the experience of nature and camping. You may be like me where you keep saying you want to visit the U.S. National Parks at some point and keep putting it off for a later time. It is worth the effort to put yourself out there and enjoy this without taking too much of your vacation time away.

I will say the drawback then compared to now was not being able to spend some more time in the nearby towns. Yes, nature is great up to a point for some. So getting to enjoy the fruits of civilization even for half a day would be appreciated. This may have been commented on by others which would explain why the accommodations have been changed to Jackson Hole now. But better late than never.

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