In order to see more of Yellowstone without taking Pearl out on the often narrow and steep roads in the park, we signed up for one of the tours offered by Xanterra. Our tour was called the Circle of Fire tour and was an all-day tour. This popular tour has been running in Yellowstone for years, and it was not easy to get a seat. The first day we tried for was all booked, but our second choice was available. We were very lucky to get reservations and on a beautiful day, as it turned out.
These tours are not inexpensive ($79 per adult) but are a great way to see the park if you don't have a car or just want to leave the driving to someone else and learn more about the park at the same time.
This was our transportation; yes, it's a vintage Bluebird bus! Fortunately, the interior had been renovated, so it was pretty comfortable. No school bus seats here!
After the bus picked us up at our campground, Bridge Bay, our first stop was the Geyser Basin in West Thumb. We'd bicycled to this spot the day before but didn't walk around since we figured the tour would be coming here.
Note that the sign says to stay on the boardwalks. This should go without saying, but people have been killed when they strayed off the boardwalks as this is some seriously molten hot stuff -- water and/or mud.
The highlight of the tour was seeing Old Faithful. He was supposed to erupt sometime between 12:50 and 1:10 pm but flirted with us by releasing smaller amounts of steam until he finally erupted around 1:20. It was a brief show but very exciting when it finally happened. I'm so glad I finally got to see this as I've heard about the iconic Old Faithful since childhood, like most kids in America, I guess.
Our next stop was the Fountain Paint Pots nature trail, where we got to see more of Yellowstone's fascinating thermal features. This one was particularly disgusting.
The geyser below erupts continuously. Not as dramatic as Old Faithful, but certainly more dependable!
We also got to stop and check out several beautiful waterfalls and breathtaking rock formations. This is Gibbon Falls. One of the other couples on the tour took our photo.
Next up was the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River. You could smell the smoke from nearby wildfires here and see it in the upper part of this photo. This was disappointing!
Our next stop was Artist Point in the "Grand Canyon" of Yellowstone. It was dramatic and beautiful, but as you can see from the photos, there was a lot of wildfire smoke here. The river looks like molten gold in the late afternoon light, don't you think?
Tragically, a young park employee fell to her death here just a couple of days after our tour. It was such a weird feeling when we found out about this so soon after we'd visited.
We did drive past the prime wildlife viewing area of Hayden Valley, but as the tour was running a bit late and no wildlife other than the usual herds of bison were in evidence, we didn't stop.
Our guide, Michael, was super knowledgeable. Although we usually aren't much for tours, we did enjoy this one. It made for a long day, though. We were picked up at the campground at around 10:15 am (half an hour later than the scheduled time of 9:45) and returned around 6:30 pm. We would definitely recommend this tour if you come to Yellowstone!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs