Yellowstone Tours for Seniors

Have you been to Yellowstone National Park yet? Or ready to return? Are you, like so many of us, getting older and ready to have more adventures while you can? As we age, we want to fill in that bucket list, maybe visit all the national parks, or at least get to some of the ones we have not yet seen. Or we want to go back and revisit the places our parents took us in our childhood. Yellowstone National Park is high on many people’s lists. About one in six people in the US are 65 or older, and folks are retiring in droves. As a tour guide and aspiring senior myself (I am about to turn 65), I have a solid overview of what it’s like to explore Yellowstone as a senior,  or an older person, or a retiree, or a codger, whatever you want to call yourself. 

Yellowstone Tour for Seniors

Yellowstone for All

Yellowstone National Park provides no end of amazing experiences for all ages.  The idea that older folks are less able is inaccurate. Yellowstone is a huge and rugged park and can be a little challenging to get around, but most folks have little or no problem seeing the main attractions and even getting out in the backcountry a little. Seniors now are often able and fit, meaning everything in Yellowstone is accessible. For those with more mobility issues, there are still plenty of options in the world’s first national park.

Yellowstone is also a great place to bring the grandkids. I would wait until they are a little older, maybe 7 or 8, so you don’t have to constantly watch them, since it can be a hazardous place due to scalding hot springs, big wild animals, cliffs, traffic, etc. This is a great age for them to get their Junior Ranger badges meet National Park Service rangers and explore the fascinating visitor centers. It’s also a good age to start doing some hiking and learning about wildlife.


Off Season Exploration

Older folk often have more flexibility when they travel. If you want a less crowded Yellowstone, and you aren’t tied down by kids or grandkids school schedules, try spring or fall. During late May into early June – sometimes called the “Off Season” - most facilities and roads in Yellowstone are open, but the crowds are thinner. And the wildlife is kicking up their heels after a long winter, as well as having babies and teaching them how to be wild animals. 

The real off-season is mid-March to late April, and all of November until mid-December. At this time much of Yellowstone is inaccessible since the roads are totally closed. The one exception is the northern road from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance, which is open year-round and worth exploring any time for spectacular wildlife activity. If you come at this time take a tour with us, Yellowstone Guidelines, and we will show you some of the most incredible wildlife in North America.

Leave the Driving to Us

Yellowstone Guidelines can tailor your trip to your abilities and your desired sights and activities, or we can suggest what to see and do to make your trip unforgettable. Our trips are private so only you and your family or friends will be in the car with you. We specialize in wildlife watching and know the best times and places to spot grizzly and black bears, wolf packs, moose, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and many many other species. You can certainly find some of these animals on your own but we can help you get the best experience for your time and money. We also know our way around every corner of Yellowstone and can customize your journey to make sure you see as much as possible.

Bull Elk in Yellowstone
Be sure to get your America the Beautiful Lifetime Senior Pass. At 62 years of age, you qualify for this lifetime pass. It’s an $80.00 one-time purchase. This pass will get you and three other people into national parks, monuments, national lakeshores and seashores, national battlefields, etc. You can also use the pass for discounts when you reserve campsites in national parks or national forests, and even some state parks honor these versatile passes.


Where to Stay

You can find plenty of hotels and Airbnb-type lodging near the Park. Gateway towns Gardiner and West Yellowstone are located right on the park border. A little farther away are Livingston Montana (our home base), Bozeman, Cody Wyoming, Island Park Idaho, and Jackson Wyoming. All have plenty of lodging and dining options. Only Bozeman and Jackson have jetports. National forest campgrounds are also abundant near Yellowstone. As with everything, reserve early and never expect to find a first come first served campsite or hotel room!

If possible, plan to stay at least a few nights in the Park. Yellowstone has six hotel complexes within its borders. Most locations have comfy hotels and private cabins. And with a dozen campgrounds to choose from, you can enjoy a campfire under the stars.

The famous and iconic all-log-built Old Faithful Inn boasts 327 rooms and is a 3-minute walk from the world-famous geyser. Old Faithful Lodge and Snowlodge are close by. The gorgeous Lake Yellowstone Hotel, the oldest hotel in any national park, offers 296 rooms plus cozy cabins, and the Lake Lodge has many more cabins nearby.  Canyon Village, near the glorious Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, has large new hotel units and is located near the middle of the Park. Grant Village allows you to stay near Yellowstone Lake and is also not far from Grand Teton National Park. Roosevelt Lodge is cabins only but offers more of the Old West feel with daily stagecoach and horseback rides and chuck wagon dinners. And finally, Mammoth Hot Springs has a modern hotel and cozy cabins, all located near some of the park’s best wildlife habitat.

Black Bear Eating in Yellowstone

Chow Down

You will find dining rooms and good meals to enjoy at all of the hotels. Dinner usually requires reservations. Some dining rooms, like Old Faithful Inn, offer buffet meals meaning less waiting for food.  It’s usually easy to get in for lunch at the hotels. There are also fast food places at some locations like Mammoth and Old Faithful. Some gift shops, like the Lower Store at Old Faithful and the General Store at Lake Village, have great lunch counters for a quick hot meal. 

Gift shops are found at most major locations. Grant Village, for instance, has three of them. These usually offer groceries as well, and beer, wine, and liquor are available. 


Ranger talk

Visitor centers are staffed by friendly rangers and are found at Mammoth Hot Spring, Old Faithful, Grant Village, Fishing Bridge, Norris Geyser Basin, Canyon Village, and Madison Junction. The ones at Fishing Bridge, Norris, and Madison are historic 1930s structures built out of local logs and rock during simpler times. Rangers can answer lots of your questions, and help kids earn their junior range badges. You can also inquire about ranger-led walks. The visitor centers also have educational bookstores run by the park’s partner organization, Yellowstone Forever.

Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground

There are 12 campgrounds in the Yellowstone, though a few may be still closed due to flood damage from 2022. Only the Fishing Bridge RV Park has electric hookups, but RVs are welcome in most campgrounds. Canyon Village has the largest campground, but all are well-run and reasonably priced. Bridge Bay and Grant Village campgrounds offer easy access to the spectacular Yellowstone Lake, while Madison Campground is a quick trip in from the west entrance and close to the Firehole River and the geyser basins.

What about the Bears?

Yogi Bear is a fond memory but Yellowstone has plenty of real bears, both black and grizzly. Some folks who visited the Park in the ‘60s can recall bears begging for food next to the road. These days bears feed themselves and most are well-behaved. Camping requires storage of your food and all food-related items in your car or even better in a bearproof bear-box. Hiking in bear country requires vigilance and care, but is well worth it to experience Yellowstone's endless backcountry. The park has nearly 1,000 miles of trails! Plan to buy or rent bear spray if you are going to do some hiking.

Information and Yellowstone Trip Planning 

Cell phone service is limited to a few areas of the Park, mainly at Mammoth, Old Faithful, and Lake. Expect large gaps in service. But hey, this is part of the reason you came right?

Medical care can be a long way away, though Yellowstone has several health clinics and does have EMTs on staff. Park rangers are trained medical professionals and tour guides are trained in First Aid. Bring your meds with you at all times and keep an eye on one another. Altitude can be a challenge for some people, with average Yellowstone elevations around 7,500 feet and many locations well above that. Take it easy on arriving, especially if you are not used to altitude, and drink plenty of water.

Bison On The Road
Weather is what the Rocky Mountains offer – if you don’t like it wait a minute. Plan to dress in layers and have solid and reliable footwear appropriate to the season. Off-season can be muddy and slippery. It can rain and snow and hail at any time of year. Spring is the wet season, but days are getting longer. Summer can be hot and dry and late summer may be forest fire season with smoke and haze and even air quality alerts.

Roads in the park are narrow and winding but generally well-maintained. Wildlife may be on the road at any time – give them room and be patient. Traffic can be heavy and traffic jams in summer are not unusual. Try to get out and about early in the day or in the evening to avoid some of the crowds.

Geyser basins (where the most spectacular thermal features are concentrated) generally require some walking to see the best features. Boardwalks and trails provide access. Some boardwalks are wheelchair-accessible though you may find hills to navigate. Overlooks around the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are fairly accessible. 

Restrooms are scattered throughout the park and it’s usually not hard to find at least a vault toilet. Take advantage of the flush toilets when you find them. The hotels are open to anyone so you can always borrow their restrooms, and visitor centers have good flush toilets. Picnic areas are plentiful in some parts of the park but few and far between in others. Be flexible about where you have lunch and find a table if you can. 

Extras to Enhance Your Trip

Consider adding a day or two in Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone’s equally spectacular neighbor to the south. Yellowstone’s sister park has fantastic hiking, boating, and sightseeing as well as a chance to see iconic wildlife like grizzly bears and bison.

If you plan to go through West Yellowstone don’t miss the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. This educational facility allows you to observe live grizzly bears, wolves, and river otters while learning about these fascinating critters. This is a must-see for kids!

Yellowstone’s rivers and lakes are chock full of fish. On the rivers, the Park Service allows catch-and-release fly fishing only. Yellowstone cutthroat trout are the native sport fish. Yellowstone Lake offers fishing for lake trout. You can hire fishing guides to take you out on the rivers or lakes, or get a park fishing license and try your luck.The marina at Bridge Bay on Yellowstone Lake also offers frequent scenic tours on the Lake Queen tour boat, where you can view a shipwreck and see the mountains as you learn about the geothermal nature of the lake. At Grant Village Marina you can take a guided tour of the lake in a sea kayak.

Yellowstone is also a photographer’s playground. We can get you out for the morning “magic hour” as the sun rises over the wild plateaus and mountains and to the waterfalls as rainbows form in the mist. You can often also find rainbows in the spray of the geysers! Bring the cameras and plan to put them to full use.

Norris Geyser Basin
Hot springs in Yellowstone are not for swimming – they are way too hot and it is illegal to touch most of them. However, nearby communities offer safe developed hot springs for your soaking pleasure.  Plan to bring a swimsuit and enjoy outdoor soaking at Bozeman Hot Springs, Yellowstone Hot Springs, Chico Hot Springs, Norris Hot Springs, and several other resorts in the area.


What Tour is Right for You?

You can find any number of package tours geared toward older folks. These are great if you want a group where you can meet people and don’t mind riding around on a bus. Some of the more high-end tours offer vans and naturalists as well as more in-depth experiences. If you want a more personalized trip with wiggle room, we can help. You can stay in or near the Park and we will fetch you and get you out to see the highlights and give you an in-depth, local’s view of this stunning landscape.

Yellowstone is waiting. Start planning now and see you in the Grand Old Park!

Blog post by Phil Knight. Phil Knight is Bozeman local, author, outdoor enthusiast, and guide for Yellowstone Guidelines. For tours and adventures in Yellowstone with Phil, contact us at 406-599-2960 or


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