Lamar Buffalo Ranch

Lamar Buffalo Ranch

Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley is known worldwide for its breathtaking beauty and abundant wildlife. The Lamar River meanders through the valley and is flanked by the impressive Absaroka Mountains. Dramatic vistas reveal groves of cottonwood and aspen trees, complimented by a dazzling array of lakes, creeks, and pond.

Such is the setting for the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. The ranch was established in 1907 to preserve Yellowstone’s bison after they had been hunted to near extinction. The buffalo ranch remains a significant structure and symbol for its role in the history of wildlife management and the preservation of the American bison.

The Lamar Buffalo Ranch serves as a field campus for National Park Service and Yellowstone Forever Institute educational programs for visitors of all ages and interests.

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What to expect at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch

Yellowstone Forever Institute programs and facilities benefit from the hard work and generosity of volunteer program assistants. You will likely meet one, or more, of the program assistants assisting your program. Program assistants receive professional training in Wilderness First Aid, emergency response, and bus driving.

Additionally, they help with program logistics, cleaning and maintenance of facilities, and anything you might need during your time with us.

Your program payment includes lodging, tuition, and transportation during your program. It does not include transportation to the park, food, park entrance fees, and instructor gratuities.

For specific class details, including an agenda, a letter from the instructor, class specific equipment, and a recommended reading list, see the course letter listed in the program details.



The communal bunkhouse is open at all times and is the center of activity at the Ranch. It houses two classrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Students are urged to make themselves at home in the bunkhouse by meeting new people, enjoying a midnight snack, and relaxing with classmates.

A volunteer stands in the communal kitchen in the bunkhouse.

The first classroom is used as a mudroom where coats and boots can be left by the door. Be sure to bring a pair of slippers or moccasins to wear in the bunkhouse!

The ranch has a shared, heated bathhouse complete with men’s and women’s bathrooms and private showers.

The bathhouse at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. Don’t forget your flashlight!

As there are no bathrooms in the individual cabins, the bathhouse is nearby the cabins and has paper towels and hand soap for convenience. Students will be provided a code for the bathhouse door on arrival. Students will need to bring their own toiletries and bath towels.

Yellowstone Forever Institute students in Field Seminars stay in our rustic lodging at the historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch as part of their class fee. During Summer 2021 all participants will stay in a Private Single Cabin (cabin to yourself) unless otherwise requested (folks traveling together).

Each log cabin has three single beds, chairs, propane heaters, and reading lamps. Bring a sleeping bag, pillow, extra blankets if you like, a flashlight for getting around at night, and a non-electric alarm clock (cabins do not have outlets).

Stoves, lanterns, and candles cannot be used in or around the cabins, and smoking and food are not permitted in the cabins. Camping and pets (with the exception of service animals) are not allowed.

All lodging is available for check-in at 4:00 p.m. MST on the first evening and lodging check-out is at 9:00 a.m. MST on the final course date. On-site lodging is required for Lamar Buffalo Ranch courses, and dates are non-negotiable.

Please note that for Summer 2021 facility use may be limited or altered by COVID-19 mitigation efforts – see additional information here.

Kitchen and meals

Guests bring and prepare all their own food. The kitchen is a community area where everyone does their own cooking and cleans up after themselves. Meals should be kept simple since you will be preparing your meals in a shared cooking facility. It is equipped with gas stoves, a microwave, toaster, plates, silverware, cooking utensils, pots, and pans.

Additionally, ranch staff supply spices, coffee, tea, sugar, and creamer.

Please note, due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts shared facilities such as the kitchen will have limited or altered usage. For up-to-date information please visit our COVID-19 safety page.

The shared kitchen has all the equipment you need to make simple meals.

Please bring only what you will need during your stay as space in the kitchen and refrigerators is limited.

Program preparation

How fit do you need to be?

Each course is classified in difficulty with a 1 to 5 rating.

  • LEVEL 1: Be prepared to hike up to 1 mile per day, comfortably, through relatively flat terrain on maintained trails.
  • LEVEL 2: Be prepared to hike up to 3 miles per day, comfortably, with elevation gains up to 600 feet. Some off-trail hiking is possible.
  • LEVEL 3: Be prepared to hike up to 5 miles per day, comfortably, with occasional elevation gains up to 1,000 feet in undulating terrain.
  • LEVEL 4: Be prepared to hike up to 8 miles per day at a brisk pace, comfortably, with climbs up to 1,500 feet on dirt trails. Loose rocks, uneven footing, and off-trail hiking are possible. Good coordination is recommended.
  • LEVEL 5: Be prepared for brisk aerobic, destination-oriented hiking up to 12 miles a day. You should be physically conditioned to do these hikes comfortably. Elevation changes up to 2,000 feet on dirt trails or off-trail. Loose rock, uneven footing, steep hillside traverses, and stream crossings are possible. Good coordination is required.

All field activities will be conducted as a group. If you cannot meet the activity level expectations during your program, you may be restricted from participation in daily outings. We will not alter program itineraries or activities to accommodate participants who cannot meet the expectations of the stated activity level.

To see the difficulty level and fitness expectations for a particular course, see that program’s course letter and registration webpage. We recommend you begin an exercise program right away if you have not already done so. Participants residing at lower elevations may want to arrive a day early to adjust to the altitude. To learn more about how specific medical conditions can be affected by Yellowstone’s environment and our activities, please visit

What to bring with you

Below are suggested items to bring to all Field Seminar programs. For equipment and clothing specific to a course, please see the corresponding course letter.

Additionally, Yellowstone Forever field staff assigned to your program will be carrying a first aid kit, bear spray, and emergency communication device.


  • Mask – Facial masks will be required in all vehicles and where social distancing can not occur
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Day Pack – Enough capacity to carry extra clothes, water, lunch, camera, binoculars, field guides, etc.
  • Water Bottle – One-quart minimum
  • Sunglasses/Sunscreen/Lip Protector – Sun at high altitude can burn unprotected skin quickly.
  • Optics – Camera, binoculars, and scopes, if wanted. Yellowstone Forever does provide optics for all programs.
  • Notebook/Pencil
  • Flashlight/Headlamp – For walking to and from your cabin in the evenings and mornings.
  • Alarm – Nothing that needs to be plugged in.
  • Calling Card – There is no cell phone reception or internet service in the Lamar Valley.
  • Toiletries/Towel
  • Food/Snacks


  • Insulating Underwear – Capilene, polypropylene, or similar wicking fabric.
  • Mid-Weight Insulating Layer – Light, 200-weight synthetic fleece or wool shirt/pullover.
  • Heavyweight Insulating Layer – Wool, down, heavyweight fleece, or other synthetic fabric.
  • Waterproof & Windproof Outer Layer – Lightweight and breathable. Both jackets and pants.
  • Short-Sleeved Shirt – Synthetic wicking shirts are ideal.
  • Pants – Wool, fleece, or tights. Jeans are not recommended.
  • Hats – Both a brimmed sun hat and an insulating hat that covers your ears for cold weather.
  • Waterproof/Windproof Gloves – Lightweight glove liners and wool/fleece gloves or mittens.
  • Socks – Light wool or synthetic liner sock with heavier wool or synthetic outer sock.
  • Insulated Boots – Water-repellent layers outside, thick insulation inside, and fit over thick socks.
  • Off-Duty Shoes – Sandals, athletic shoes, or other leisure footwear.

Frequently asked questions

What airport should I fly into?
Commercial airlines serve the following airports near Yellowstone National Park all year: Cody and Jackson, WY; Bozeman and Billings, MT, and Idaho Falls, ID. The West Yellowstone, MT airport is serviced from early May to mid-October from Salt Lake City, UT.

Does YF offer a shuttle service?
Yellowstone Forever does not currently have a shuttle service available.

Is alcohol allowed at the ranch?
Yes, however it is BYOB and you must be 21+ years of age to consume.

Are tents or trailers allowed at LBR?
No, all participants must stay in a designated cabin.

How do I communicate with the instructor before the class?
All questions and communication about the program can be directed at the Instructor, who will reach out to you first. For general questions please reach the Contact Center at 406-848-2400 or [email protected]

What is an emergency number I can give family to reach me?

Can my spouse/partner stay with me and not take the class?
No, all participants must register in the class if they are utilizing lodging at the ranch.

What kind of food should I bring?
The kitchen has everything needed to make any basic meal. Breakfast and dinners typically take place at LBR and participants are able to cook full meals, however, remember you are sharing a fridge room and will have a large plastic tub (of your own) to put non-perishable items in. For many of the programs plan on bringing sack lunch items for lunch in the field. Per our Covid-19 mitigation plans, we will have participants sign up to use the kitchen in time slots, to avoid overcrowding of the facility.

Does YF provide linens for the cabins?
We do not. Please bring your own.

Can I rent equipment from YF?
YF does not have rental gear however there are locations in Bozeman, Gardiner, and Mammoth Hot Springs where gear can be reserved.

Can CPAPS be accommodated?
In most cases, yes. Please reach out to YF directly for more information.

Where can I park my car when on my Field Seminar?
There is a large, gravel parking lot at the ranch where you will be able to park your vehicle while attending your program.

Is an instructor tip included in my program payment?
Gratuities for the instructors are not included but are recommended and greatly appreciated.

Download a PDF with this information and more!

Download the PDF