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young otters playing on trail

This is a guest post by Chris Hondorf. We often recommend a wildlife tour with his company, Yellowstone Guidelines, when we create your custom itinerary.

Planning for a vacation in the Yellowstone area can be a daunting task. People are often unprepared for the vastness of the region. How do you plan a trip in the greater Yellowstone area when it encompasses over 15 million acres, two national parks, and a slew of small towns and neighboring communities? One simple answer comes to my mind…hire a guide. A guided tour is the best way to see the region including the main showcase, Yellowstone National Park.

Why Hire A Guide in Yellowstone?

Yellowstone was designed “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” The figure-eight road system, easy access to the main attractions like Old Faithful, Visitors Centers, and tons of informational panels/pamphlets make Yellowstone a great place for the average family to visit without the help of a professional guide service. HOWEVER, I believe that a guided tour of Yellowstone offers a unique, customized, and insightful experience into the park. Chances are this may be your one opportunity to see Yellowstone, so DO IT RIGHT!!!

Navigating Yellowstone

One of the most obvious advantages to a guide service is that you don’t have to drive. Sounds simple, but it really makes all the difference. When the guide drives, everyone gets to look out the window to enjoy the scenery and take photos. Otherwise, one parent, spouse, or family member misses out on seeing the park because they were too focused on the roads and driving. Let the guide worry about the transportation, where to go, where to stop, and the flow of the day.

Local Insight and Knowledge

A second reason to use a private guide service is for the local knowledge and information. Most guides live locally in the area and can make suggestions on where to go, what to see, and how to spend your time when not on a guided tour. The guide will narrate the day and explain the history, geology, ecology, and useful facts of Yellowstone. We can also provide real time information that may influence the rest of your trip like trail closures, road delays, and weather forecasts.


Wildlife Watching

If you were coming to Yellowstone and only wanted to use a guide service for one day, I suggest focusing on wildlife watching in the park. Yellowstone is home to the greatest display of animals large and small in the contiguous United States. Our guides are very familiar with the wildlife patterns of Yellowstone and know where to find the critters. As the seasons change, so does the movement and behavior of the animals. Guides know where to look and have a pulse on the Yellowstone landscape. Plus, you want to hire someone who spends the entire summer in the park.

Many times the animals of Yellowstone are not directly on the road. Bears and wolves can often be very far away and hard to observe. The great distance will have you thinking, “Is it an animal or is it a rock?” Well, we can answer that question. Our guided tours include binoculars and spotting scopes for everyone to use. The high-powered spotting scope can be the difference between seeing a grizzly bear or the rock, you think is an animal. A cool feature about spotting scopes is that my clients can use their smartphone cameras to take pictures and videos of animals through the scope. This allows people to capture images of animals in the far distance. Plus, we are more than happy to share all the pictures and videos we took on the tour.

Hiking and Backpacking

Yellowstone is home to the mighty grizzly bear (Ursus arctos). Yellowstone is bear country and hikers should always be bear aware when hiking in the park. A private hiking guide can help to provide a degree of safety and reassurance when navigating the wilds of Yellowstone. All of our guides carry bear spray and provide extra cans for people to use for the day hike. Bear spray is a mace or pepper spray designed to protect hikers from the chance encounters with bears. Also, a hiking guide will help you from getting lost in the wilds of Yellowstone.

What should you do when you see a grizzly bear?

Backpacking is the best way to see the heart of Yellowstone. Less than five percent of the park is developed, leaving most of Yellowstone unseen by humans. A guided backpacking trip is perfect for adventures of all abilities. We provide all the gear, planning, and supplies for a worry-free experience. All you have to do is show up!

So When Are You Coming?

Yellowstone is open year-round and can be enjoyed throughout the seasons. We offer tours for all the seasons and look forward to having you be our guest in Yellowstone National Park.

Chris Hondorf is the owner/operator of Yellowstone Guidelines. For additional information please visit

Check out my itineraries and guidebooks for planning your own trip and be sure to add a day with Yellowstone Guidelines.


  1. I am glad that you mentioned that having a tour guide around Yellowstone can help you see the park in a better more customized way. My wife and I want to see it all and understand everything there is to the park. The best way to do that might be by hiring a tour guide.

  2. Debbie Mandigo

    How much does a tour guide cost?

    • It really depends on the tour. Xanterra offers short group wildlife watching (and other) tours that are pretty affordable ($40-$90/per person). Private tours are longer, and catered to your wants, but can be $150-$300/person.

  3. Emily Reyes

    Hi! Our group is interested to get a tour guide for our get together vacation of friends on Sept 13 and 14 in Yellowstone. At present, there are 8 people and possibly up to 13, all adults. 9 of us are staying at Aspen Lounge Airbnb.
    Can you provide us options with price? Thanks.

  4. Joni Bovill

    My husband and I are planning to visit May 7-14. We hv an ATV tour of Slot Cyns scheduled for Fri, 5/13. We’d like to hike sometime, maybe in Teton. Or what’s best for first timers to the area? Guide recommendations?
    We do hike in CA—about 3-5 miles comfortably, but could do more if needed.

    • Hi! Sounds fun! I am curious where the slot canyon ATV tour is. In Grand Teton National Park, I like Hole Hiking Guides out of Jackson.

  5. Cathy Neel

    Hello. We have a group of 8 people arriving at Yellowstone Holiday RV campground and Marina on the west side of Yellowstone on the morning of May 22nd. Would like to hire a tour guide for the geysers if possible. Can you let us know approximately how much it would be and if they’ll be able to pick us up at the RV camp?

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