The non-profit Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI) believes you are never too young or old to learn. That’s why the organization includes among its extensive educational programs numerous experiences that are perfect for family groups.

Two programs are a particularly good fit for families: the multi-day “Yellowstone for Families” Lodging & Learning program and a stay at the Yellowstone Overlook with Private Tours. With both the Lodging & Learning program and Private Tours, participants are led by a YAI naturalist-guide who specializes in educating visitors about the world’s first national park – its geological mysteries, abundant wildlife and fascinating and sometimes befuddling human history. Naturalist-guides personalize their programs for the particular needs and interests of each group, so even very young visitors can begin to foster an appreciation for the natural and historic world of Yellowstone.

“Our naturalist-guides are adept at focusing their interpretive messages to the needs and interests of the group, and they have been known to get a little silly around their youngest charges, especially when they think they are beginning to turn kids on to the wonders of the park,” said Jeff Brown, education director for the Yellowstone Association. “For example, we haven’t found a kid yet who wasn’t at least a little interested in learning to identify animal scat. Children have so much fun they simply forget they are learning fundamental lessons about wildlife biology.”

Private Tours begin in the mornings from various lodges in the park, the Yellowstone Association Institute office in Gardiner, Mont., at the North Entrance to the park or the Overlook Field Campus, also in Gardiner. Tours are available for groups of any size and individuals of any age. The eight-hour programs explore four broad themes: wildlife watching on the Northern Range; natural history and geology; geysers, mudpots and hot springs; and day hiking. The daily rate for a private tour for a group of up to five participants is $495; for six to 13 participants, $650, and for 14 to 26 participants, $1,300. Pricing for larger groups is also available.

Private Tours must be reserved in advance. Beginning May 1, Private Tour participants can stay in the Yellowstone Association’s new Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus. The campus offers two three-bedroom, two-bathroom modern log cabins for up to 12 people and a two-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin for up to five people. Cabins have full kitchens and communal areas. The campus is located 1½ miles from Gardiner, Mont., and features unmatched views of the Mammoth Hot Springs area and surrounding mountains. Large cabins are $400 per night and the small cabin is $200 per night.

Selected the “Best Summer Family Camp in America” by “Good Morning America” and FamilyFun magazine, the “Yellowstone for Families” Lodging & Learning program is a popular choice for families with children between the ages of eight and 12. The program includes four nights of lodging at either Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel or Grant Village, expert instruction by a YAI naturalist-guide, four breakfasts and four lunches for each person and in-park transportation.

Each day, participants explore a different park theme, including “Mudpots, Geysers and Hot Springs; and Wildlife and Canyons and Waterfalls.” A typical day includes a morning of exploring with short hikes and sightseeing, Junior Ranger and other classroom activities. For the detailed itinerary visit “Yellowstone for Families” is priced from $639 per adult, double occupancy; $857 per adult single occupancy and $385 for each child. Rates to not include taxes or utility fees.

Families with children older than 12 also have several options. The “Trails Through Yellowstone” Lodging & Learning program is a good choice for active families with children 12 and older. And Field Seminars are popular for families with inquisitive teens who are at least 16 years old and are interested in specific seminar subjects such as wildlife, wildflowers, photography and history. Field seminars are typically two or three nights. Participants stay at the Yellowstone Association Institute’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus or in some cases, park lodges. The historic Buffalo Ranch offers log cabins with propane heaters, a bathhouse with private showers and common building with a fully equipped kitchen. Lodging is $30 per person night, and up to three people can share a cabin. 

Members of the Yellowstone Association receive a discount on all programs. For information about becoming a member visit

Reservations for Private Tours and other YAI programs and cabins at the Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus can be made by calling 1-406-848-2400. For Lodging & Learning program reservations call 1-866-439-7375. For more information about any Institute program visit or


The Yellowstone Association Institute is a non-profit field school operated by the Yellowstone Association in partnership with the National Park Service.  The Institute was founded in 1976 and offers more than 500 courses each year on the park’s plants, animals, geology and history.  Courses are based at the organization’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch and Yellowstone Overlook field campuses, at park hotels, and in the backcountry.

The Yellowstone Association was founded in 1933 to foster the public’s understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding ecosystem. In addition to operating the Institute on a break-even basis, the Association manages educational bookstores and a membership program that generate revenues for the National Park Service.  Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $21 million for Yellowstone.      

To receive a course catalog or for more information, go to, write to the Yellowstone Association at PO Box 117, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190 or call 406-848-2400.


Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".