Walking into Hidden Yellowstone: A Full Ecology Adventure

Recognizing wolves and grizzlies as vital to the balance and health of this ecosystem helps us see with new eyes our role in healing the planet.


This Trip Is No Longer Running.

This trip is a special invitation to experience the wonders of Yellowstone with award-winning author Gary Ferguson – a man who’s logged over 10,000 miles walking through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Joined by renowned social scientist Mary M. Clare, cofounder with Gary of the Full Ecology Project, the couple offers an unforgettable introduction to the secrets of this, the largest intact wilderness in the temperate world. The chance to observe wolves and grizzlies and bison, along with their newborns, will leave you inspired and invigorated. What’s more, you’ll gain ways of listening to the wisdom of nature that will guide your daily life for years to come. Consider this adventure the perfect medicine in these anxious times of climate change.

May is a GREAT time to be in Yellowstone, before the crowds of summer hit. This is the best time of all to see the bounty of spring, including recently born elk and bears and wolves. We’ll hike each day, with multiple distances available so as to be suitable to all levels of physical ability. Besides wildlife watching, we’ll also be exploring the park’s incredible geothermal features.

Throughout our time together, we’ll engage in thoughtful conversations about some of the most important social and natural ecology questions of our time. And through those conversations, release the powerful answers to be found in all the ways we humans are linked to – and shaped by – these magnificent wildlands.

About Gary Ferguson and Mary M. Clare

Gary Ferguson and Mary M. Clare live in Bozeman, Montana where they  co-founded  “Full Ecology”, a project devoted to using the wisdom of nature to guide us through a world battered by the upheavals of climate change. Gary, a prolific writer of dozens of books on nature and science, has been on hundreds of radio and television shows, and frequently gives keynote talks about the power of the natural world. Mary has a 30-year career as a social and cultural psychologist, and is today focused on how getting in touch with the nature both around you – as well as inside you – can lead to a richer, more fruitful life. But we at Zephyr Adventures know the two of them from way back in the year 2000, when Gary and Zephyr’s owner Allan would hang out in Red Lodge, discussing the state of the world, visiting the local pub, and working to restore a 1940’s era grocery store that became a restaurant and community hub.



  • Cost Per Person: $0
  • Optional Single Supplement: $0
  • Activities: Hiking, Yellowstone Exploration, Animal Viewing, and Educational Discussions
  • Difficulty: All Ability Levels
  • Guides: To Be Determined

Other Info: > This trip is currently limited to 10 participants
> This tour can be organized a private tour for groups of 10 or more

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Trip Highlights

  • Experience a national treasure – Yellowstone National Park – before the busy summer season
  • Learn about and view local fauna including bison, wolves, bears, moose, and much more
  • Enjoy a variety of hikes near geysers, mudpots, rushing rivers, and cascading waterfalls
  • Discuss climate change, its effects on nature and you, and what you can do to adapt and thrive
  • Stay in the cute small town of Gardiner at the north entrance of Yellowstone

We reserve the right to alter our listed itinerary based on current snow conditions and wildlife movement to maximize your enjoyment!


Your guides will meet you in the early afternoon in Bozeman, Montana, where we begin and end our adventure. We’ll transfer from there through the Paradise Valley to Wonderland Lodge, our basecamp for the week, in the small town of Gardiner, about 90 minutes away. We’ll have a brief orientation and pack some energy food before heading toward the park’s northeast entrance and our first hike at Mammoth Hot Springs (Yellowstone’s headquarters). The hot spring terraces at Mammoth are unique from other thermal areas of the park. As hot water rises through the limestone from below it interacts with hot gases and forms an acidic solution that dissolves the rock and ultimately deposits a white chalky material known as travertine, which forms beautiful terraces on the side of the hill that we can walk among. There are over two miles of boardwalks and trails that make it possible to experience the hundreds of densely packed geothermal features in one of the most extreme environments on earth: geysers, pungent odors, hot springs with all the colors of the rainbow, microscopic life, and hissing steam. Because we are at a lower elevation than most of the Park, the elk and deer stick around because of the snow up higher. You’ll probably see many of them at Mammoth. This evening we'll have a happy hour and casual dinner in your guide's room at the lodge, then engage in a roundtable discussion in which we'll more formally meet each other and discuss the week's plan.

Hiking Mileage: approximately 2 miles 


Today we drive the western portion of the Grand Loop of Yellowstone; many visitors to Yellowstone do the entire park in one day but we split it into manageable portions to give us time to truly experience this amazing place. We'll gaze upon Grand Prismatic hot spring, which has almost every color of the rainbow. Next, we'll ditch the van to hike to Mystic Falls, where the Little Firehole River drops down from the Madison Plateau. Lunch will be on your own in the Old Faithful Lodge, after which we will watch Old Faithful erupt and take a tour of the many smaller nearby geysers. In the afternoon, we'll find a cozy spot away from the tourists and discuss Yellowstone, how it operates as one interconnected system, and how we as humans can choose to exist within that system or, instead, try to conquer it. We'll talk about how humans need a connection to nature and how that connection sometimes disappears in modern life. In the afternoon, we can optionally walk a half mile to the Boiling River, an actual river heated by underground hot springs. We can jump in for a quick soak, dry off, and continuing back to Gardiner where we'll enjoy a typical Montana dinner in a local restaurant. After dinner, if you choose, we'll walk - guided by starlight, moonlight or headlamp - to the iconic Roosevelt Arch to toast the world’s first national park.

Hiking Mileage: 5 or 6 miles


This morning we will get up very early and be on the road while it’s still dark. Our destination? Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, the best place in the world to see wolves. As the pale morning light reaches the pristine valley, armed with spotting scopes and binoculars, we’ll be on the hunt for glimpses of these ephemeral icons of the wilderness. Our hope is to see a lone wolf, a pack of wolves, or even some of the playful pups that are just old enough in May to be out and visible. Spring is an outstanding time for wolf viewing as the packs are still down in the valley because of the deep snows at higher elevations. As we trundle along the road, we’ll likely experience a few “buffalo jams” (Yellowstone’s version of traffic jams), and we’ll stop frequently to get out, view the landscape and the animals around us, and to hear from Gary (author of two books about the wolves of Yellowstone) talk about these majestic canines, who are once again such an integral part of the Yellowstone ecosystem. During the day we’ll hike from the Lamar Buffalo Ranch following Rose Creek up to one of three wolf acclimation pens built for the controversial reintroduction of wolves in the park in 1995. Three wolves transported from Canada were housed in this historic pen with the hope they would acclimatize and not run back north. The pen was opened after eight weeks and the three wolves began their new lives in Yellowstone. We'll take this opportunity to talk about how humans try to "manage" nature, with sometimes disastrous effects such as forest fires, but sometimes with the ability to correct past wrongs, as with the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. You’ll be happy to relax with a glass of wine or hot chocolate next to the fire tonight and regale one another with stories from the day. Another exciting day awaits us tomorrow!

Hiking Mileage: approximately 5 miles with options for more or less


Our route today takes us on the eastern half of the Grand Loop of Yellowstone. We are not in a rush this morning, so will sleep in a bit and have a leisurely breakfast. We'll then get half our driving done by shuttling to the West Thumb geothermal area, the farthest point away from home base we reach on this trip. We'll visit the geothermal features, which include Fishing Cone, a hot spring in Yellowstone Lake in which visitors cooked fish immediately after catching them. We'll then shuttle to Canyon Lodge for lunch in the eatery and a visit to the museum. In the afternoon, we'll visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, one of the most impressive sites in the park. We'll walk to view the huge Upper and Lower Falls, as well as the amazing canyon the river has carved. We'll find a secluded spot to sit down and talk shop. The discussion today is really about you - how you are doing during this world of political upheaval, COVID, and the effects of climate change including forest fires, heat waves, and floods. What does being in the Yellowstone Ecosystem have to teach you for dealing with these realities of our time? We'll talk about coping strategies, both for you personally and how you can contribute to the good of the earth. We'll learn from Gary and Mary, from each other, and from the simple act of sharing. We then head back to the Canyon Lodge for dinner before taking an early evening drive through the Hayden Valley to see if we can spot wildlife. As the sun falls, we'll head back to Gardiner after a long but productive day in the park.

Hiking Mileage: Approximately 5 miles


Before checking out today, we'll offer an optional early morning walk that begins at Mammoth Hot Springs and takes the old stagecoach road all the way back down to Gardiner. The sweeping vistas in the morning light can take your breath away, and there are usually plenty of bison, elk and antelope roaming nearby. We then check out and return to our starting city of Bozeman.

Hiking Mileage: up to 5 miles

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHTS 1 - 4 >> WONDERLAND LODGE / GARDINER, MONTANA  Wonderland is brand new, beautiful, small – only 6 super cozy rooms – and conveniently has a great restaurant on the main floor. It is in the heart of the tiny downtown of Gardiner, right next to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park. From our haven, we can set out on a variety of adventures and sometimes see elk wandering through town!

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Arrival & Departure

Your guides meet you in the cool mountain town of Bozeman, Montana just after lunch on the first day of the trip. If it’s possible for you to fly and arrive that morning, we can meet you at the airport. Otherwise, you can arrive any time the day before the trip begins. We’ll return to Bozeman’s airport the last afternoon of the trip, allowing you to fly out that afternoon. We can also leave you in downtown Bozeman so you can extend your stay, or visit nearby Big Sky. Bozeman (airport code BZN) is served by many major airlines: Alaska Air, Allegient, Delta, Frontier, and United.

What's Included
  • One local Zephyr guide.
  • Gary Ferguson and Mary M. Clare will be with us the entire trip, leading discussions and educating us.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your dinners and breakfasts are included, as well as some trail lunches. Gratuity for these meals is also included.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • Trail passes and park entrance fees are included.
  • NOT INCLUDED: Beverages, desserts, optional gratuities to your guides and hosts, personal expenses, and travel to and from the destination.

Gardiner's daytime highs in May are, on average, in the low 60s while nighttime lows are in the upper 20s. Gardiner is over 5,000 feet and most of the areas we visit in the park are over 6,000 feet in elevation, so while May often has sunny and warm days, it is also possible we'll see overnight or even daytime snows. (Gardiner averages only two inches of snow in May each year.) Our packing list will ensure that you are prepared for all types of weather Mother Nature throws at us.

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.

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