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Xanterra Offers Customized Yellowstone Tours


    What would you pay for a customized tour of Yellowstone?
    That's an intriguing question in the wake of today's news from Xanterra Parks and Resorts that it is ready to whip up a personalized tour of the park for groups as few as two or three to as many as 36.
    Already there are plenty of options for Yellowstone visitors, and those at other parks, in search of interpretation. Just look at the myriad offerings from non-profits such as the Yellowstone Association, the Grand Canyon Association, and the Yosemite Association, just to name three.
    Even the National Parks Conservation Association is getting involved, offering a series of free guided hikes in Shenandoah National Park.

    Xanterra's pitch is aimed at groups interested in a fully customized tour of Yellowstone. This can be as simple as one of Xanterra's guides joining you in your own car or as elaborate as chartering a 36-passenger bus to haul your clan about the park.
    Naturally, this type of customized tour doesn't come cheap. If a guide joins you in your car, the fee is $310 for the first five hours, and then $45 for each additional hour. Opt for the bus and the price rockets to $590 for the first five hours and then $45 for each additional hour.
    Compare those costs to an $18.95 guidebook, and these treks seem exorbitant. Do you really need such personalized day trips in Yellowstone, or any other park, for that matter?
    (Hell, I've been giving advice for free to those who contact me. Perhaps I need to change my ways.)
    I really enjoy cruising about Yellowstone on my own and making discoveries -- at no cost -- along the way. Of course, I'm within a half-day's drive of Yellowstone, so I have plenty of opportunities to explore the park.
    If, on the other hand, you're embarking on your first and only trip to Yellowstone, this might be a good option for you to consider if you and your group really want to come away from the trip feeling you've experienced Yellowstone and all it offers.
    I can say the Xanterra guides I've encountered over the years are well-versed in the park and offer many great insights. And while Yellowstone National Park does offer an array of ranger-led programs, the park's staff just can't handle groups the size that Xanterra can.
    For more information on Xanterra's offering, call 307-344-5518.


Another example of the creeping commercialization overtaking many of the parks. I dare say that some of Gettysburg borough's gift shop owners would just love to be able to trash up the park entrance in used car lot style. I sensed this stuff coming when I first visited Yellowstone as a young teenager. The wildness is what matters most for me, not the opportunity to ride around in a cushy bus and have some guy jabber at me through a public address mic.

Hey Alan...different strokes for different folks...not everyone is fit enough (read: handicapped, elderly) to visit "your wilderness." So stop being so intolerant and elitist.... Bravo, Xanterra!! BTW, I am a NPS ranger...I feel the concessioners, for the most part, do a great job!

Our company, Tracks & Trails, arranges self-guided National Park camping trips for active families from around the world. In the early days we, too, felt that these sorts of tours were for braindead city folks who didn't get the wilderness ethic, and we seldom recommended them. Since then, we've come to realize that, for those with the money, a competent guide is worth his weight in gold. A day in Yellowstone with a friendly guide who's intimately familiar with the park's history, lore, plants and wildlife is a very different experience than the typical first-timer's frustrating meanderings around a very big, congested place. Just having someone else to do the driving so that you can actually look around as you move through the Park is worth a lot. We use a small company called Yellowstone Alpen Guides. They have been doing small-group Yellowstone tours for years, using a small staff of impeccably qualified guides. In our clients' post-trip surveys, these $500/day outings are consistently described as trip highlights and a great value. Alan, you hit it on the head when you said it might work for folks "embarking on your first and only trip to Yellowstone". Let's face it: that describes the vast majority of NPS visitors. If a pricey personal tour helps them grasp the real grandeur -- and fragility -- of our Parks, then I say bring on the tours.

I agree with SpecOps, bravo for Xanterra. Certainly there is nothing about this arrangement the prevents any of us from enjoy Yellowstone, from the geyser basins to the backcountry, on our own. For those people for whom the guided tour provides a benefit even greater than the price, then this is a boon for them. Even better, hopefully the NPS is getting a concessionaire fee from this arrangement, which will mean more badly needed funds for the Parks! ~Sabattis

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