There’s still time to register for many of our exciting education opportunities before classes fill up!
*Last updated 5/20
Mammal Signs: Interpreting Tracks, Scat, and Hair
5/29 — 6/1
Mammals are elusive and hard to observe in the wild, but you can discover their behavior in the signs they leave behind. Through illustrated lectures and laboratories, you’ll learn about natural history, ecology, anatomy, gaits, track averaging, relative size, estimating track age and speed, identifying prints, finding clues, and following trails. During afternoons in the field, you’ll put your learning into practice as you explore animal behavior by reading the stories that tracks tell. Evenings will be spent analyzing data collected in the field. Expect to be hiking off trails, in mud, and wading in water. Credit offered.
Big Hikes in Big Sky Country
6/3 — 6/7
If you long to explore remote mountain terrain, this course is for you. Stretch your legs, your lungs, and your mind exploring the far reaches of Yellowstone’s backcountry on foot. You’ll travel light and fast through some of the most spectacular territory in northern Yellowstone, learning to cover miles of remote destinations while still appreciating the ecological forces at play on the landscape. You’ll hike up to 16 miles and 4,000 feet elevation gain per day, exploring distant and challenging trails rarely covered in Institute hiking courses.
Bears: Bones, Signs, and Stories
6/3 — 6/6
Ursophiles (Greek for “bear lovers”) unite! Discover a uniquely broad view of bears from their evolutionary origins to interpretation of their sign to compelling renditions of classic bear tales. In lectures and the field, you’ll learn about bear evolution, ecology, and management from carnivore ecologist James Halfpenny, and about the rich cultural history of bears from folklorist Jim Garry. We will observe these magnificent bears during the field trips.
Songbirds of Yellowstone
6/4 — 6/7
Step up your birding game in this class geared towards intermediate birders. Although we are surrounded by birds all the time, most people only notice a fraction of them. Using an increased understanding of bird habitat, vocalizations, and anatomy, you’ll learn how to more accurately identify and observe birds. Each morning will start early to catch Yellowstone’s impressive dawn chorus. You’ll then roam the park on hikes up to 6 miles in search of a variety of species, and maybe even add a few new birds to your list!
6/9 — 6/10
This is your chance to tour Yellowstone while learning about its ghost hotels and other historical oddities. Which park hostelry did an English nobleman describe as “the last outpost of civilization?” Was the Canyon Hotel lost because of a conspiracy to make the new Canyon Lodge viable? Do you really drive right through a now-vanished tunnel somewhere on the Grand Loop Road? You’ll uncover other fun pieces of Yellowstone’s history through antique photographs and stories told by your instructor, a park hotel expert. A limited number of rooms will be held until 30 days prior to the course; call us for details.
Home on the Range
6/18 — 6/19
A historically large bison population is changing the landscape of northern Yellowstone. Is there home on the range for the most diverse and abundant ungulate and carnivore community in North America? You can help answer this question by collecting data on diet, nutrition, habitat use, migration patterns and herd demographics for a variety of Yellowstone ungulate species. Your research will be used by scientists and managers to understand the potential impact the bison population is having on mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and bighorn, as well as the predators who rely on them for survival.
Slow Hiking and Careful Observation
6/20 — 6/22
If you like to hike with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and smell the wildflowers, then come along on these rambles down Yellowstone’s trails. You’ll take two easy short hikes each day, stopping often to observe wildlife, birds, wildflowers, and whatever comes into view. Along the way, discuss and learn about the park’s wildlife, history, and challenges—or whatever else comes to mind. You’ll hike through a variety of habitats in different parts of the park, each with its own hidden gems awaiting those who slow down and observe.
The Poetry of Science
6/20 — 6/22
Writers have been enthralled by Yellowstone’s beauty and mystery even before the park was founded. Yet, this place is also a wild laboratory; the scientific discoveries and inquiries pouring out of Yellowstone can be deeply evocative. Discover the ways your own personal field observations and the latest in Yellowstone science may inspire writing and poetry. You’ll begin each day in the field observing and writing on the spot (any genre). In the studio, you’ll practice an organic way of writing, calling on your unconscious, creative mind, with its genius for associations and voice, and evolving naturally toward revision and craft.
Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival
6/23 — 6/27
Ever wondered if you could survive in the woods? This course will show you how to travel confidently and comfortably while carrying only basic tools. You’ll learn techniques for primitive fire lighting, water procurement, campsite selection, shelter building, wayfinding, plant identification, and camp crafting. Knowing how to start a fire without a match, make water safe to drink without a filter, and spend a comfortable night without a sleeping bag will empower you to survive without modern conveniences when necessary—and more deeply appreciate the vast resources nature provides for our survival.
A Yellowstone Naturalist Experience
7/1 — 7/3
Explore northern Yellowstone as a naturalist does—with your senses on full alert. You’ll become more familiar with Yellowstone’s animals and plants by using your ears and eyes, feeling with your feet and fingers, and interpreting scents. Explore a track with your fingers to feel clues to the animal’s behavior. Examine a daybed with your nose to detect who slept there. You’ll observe nesting birds discreetly and decipher their songs and calls. And don’t forget the plants—search for wildflowers and their pollinators in forests, meadows, and wetlands. With this naturalist experience, you will become an insider outside in Yellowstone.
Fly Fishing for Beginners
7/3 — 7/6
Wily trout await you in the legendary fly-fishing waters of Yellowstone National Park. Learn how to catch them with classic fly-fishing techniques that you learn on dry land, and further refine on the park’s streams and rivers. You’ll find out how to select and set up the right equipment as well as learn the proper fundamentals of casting and presentation. On the water, you’ll look beneath the surface to examine the world of trout and the aquatic insects on which they depend. Above the surface we’ll examine the stream ecosystem and learn to “read” the water to understand where and how to present your fly. Learn skills and see Yellowstone up close through an angler’s eyes.
Meandering Through Wildflowers
7/5 — 7/8
Go beyond simple flower identification in this fun and engaging course. Delve into plant ecology, learning the structure of plants and their flowers from the ground up, and study the edible, medicinal, Native American, and wildlife uses for the plants you encounter. Meandering at a relaxed pace through sagebrush and grassland valleys, colorful subalpine meadows, and the cool, shady spruce forests along streams, you’ll have time for careful observation and meditation. Creative tools like poetry, song, photography, and sketching will help you learn, remember, and document the features of the plants and flowers you’ve come to know.
Casting the Fly: An On-Stream Clinic
7/7 — 7/8
Learn how to make the most of your precious time on the water in this focused workshop for advanced beginner and intermediate fly-fishing anglers. After a review of casting basics, you’ll spend your days on the Firehole and Madison rivers learning and practicing casting techniques with roving one-on-one instruction tailored to your experience level. Even experienced fly anglers will benefit from reinforced basic skills and this organized introduction to advanced techniques. Both days will be spent on the water learning not only about casting but also the wonders of Yellowstone stream and riparian ecosystems—and the challenges they face.
Tectonic Trout and Boiling Bacteria: The Geology of Ecology
7/7 — 7/10
Ever wonder why Yellowstone is called America’s Serengeti, or why NASA scientists come here to look for clues to potential life on Mars? On short hikes off the beaten path, you’ll explore the incredible convergence of geologic factors that created one of the world’s largest volcanoes, with its life-sustaining and life-threatening heat flow and its expansive, high-altitude plateau. Delve into the details as you study the park’s complex array of climate and soil. Follow the behavior and distribution of life in Yellowstone and how it relates to the geology of this magnificent landscape. Credit offered.
Fly Fishing II: Beyond the Beginner
7/9 — 7/12
Up your fly-fishing game by taking your skills to the next level. The Yellowstone and Lamar rivers will be your classroom as you learn to think like a trout. During full days on the river, you’ll dig in to trout ecology and stream entomology, deepening your understanding of cold water ecosystems and improving your ability to catch those canny fish. Learn how to handle difficult conditions, such as winds, brushy stream banks, and variable currents, while practicing responsible fishing. Our goal in this class is to broaden your fly-fishing skills while gaining a greater appreciation for Yellowstone, its rivers, and its river ecosystems.
Yellowstone Pika Project
7/11 — 7/12
Here in Yellowstone National Park, we have numerous pika sites that are accessible from nearby roadways. Due to their sensitivity to warming temperatures, monitoring the persistence of pika at sites around the park will help us better understand the effects of climate change on this species. Citizen science is a great opportunity to assist the park. The Yellowstone Pika Project is a continuation of a monitoring effort called Pika in Peril, which was recently discontinued. NPS has requested a citizen science effort that extends the original project in order to continue gathering this important data on pika in Yellowstone National Park.
Observing Butterflies of Yellowstone
7/12 — 7/13
Flitting among bluebirds and bison, from mud puddles to lupine, butterflies abound in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. You’ll explore their varied habitats and see many of the nearly 140 species living here. Learn how their sensitivity to local environments and microhabitats has resulted in this rich array. As you watch them, you’ll be able to study their field marks, flight characteristics, and preferred foods. On the second day, become a citizen scientist as you participate in the annual Yellowstone Butterfly Count. Your observations will be recorded in a national database that researchers use to track butterfly trends across the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Geology Field Trip: Yellowstone’s Northern Loop Road
From volcanoes, lava flows, and landslides to “ghost” hot springs and fault lines, the northern loop road in Yellowstone traverses a fascinating and varied geologic landscape. Through roadside excursions and short hikes, you’ll learn to decipher the story of Yellowstone’s ancient past written in the rocks. You’ll visit many varied geologic sites, including the hottest place in the park, the world’s largest geyser, and the Yellowstone caldera. You’ll also contemplate the formation of one of the iconic sites pivotal in the creation of the world’s first national park on a hike along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Lakota Creation Stories: The Animals of Yellowstone
7/13 — 7/15
Journey into the hearts and minds of the Lakota people as you learn about the cultural significance that Yellowstone animals have to the tribe. Stories, songs, and star knowledge will guide you into Lakota traditions as you travel to some of the park’s most beautiful settings. During the day, search for animals, and hike to culturally significant sites. In the evenings, you’ll gather around the campfire as the Lakota ancestors did, to hear stories of the creation of the world and the animals within it.
7/13 — 7/15
What does the future hold for Yellowstone’s wetlands? Explore some of the lesser known—but biologically important—areas of the park. Through field trips to wetlands on the northern range, you’ll learn about the rich biological plant and animal communities they sustain. You’ll work alongside specialists to inventory the dominant plant, macro invertebrate, and amphibian species of the wetlands you encounter. Along the way you’ll gain an appreciation for the dynamic nature of wetlands, and how they are being impacted by climate.
Old Times at Old Faithful
7/16 — 7/17
Imagine diving into a geyser-heated swimming pool as Old Faithful erupts in the background, or enjoying flowers grown in Old Faithful Village’s thermally heated greenhouse. Explore these long-gone experiences through site visits, antique photographs, and discussions with a park hotel expert. Find out why the village’s oldest building is abandoned in the forest and why the Upper General Store is nicknamed the B.A.C.; take your seats at the Bear Feeding Grounds that closed in 1936; and learn other interesting details about Old Faithful Village past and present. A limited number of rooms will be held until 30 days prior to the course; call us for details.
Native American Plants and Their Uses
7/16 — 7/18
Explore the relationship between people and plants from instructors whose ancestors passed on intimate knowledge of plants that spans thousands of years. Learn how to identify plants of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and how Native Americans use them for food, medicine, and other purposes. You will identify and collect plants during field trips in the Gallatin National Forest. In classroom sessions, you will use these collections to make traditional and contemporary medicinal salves, teas, and other medicines that you can use and take home.
A History of Humans and Bears
7/19 — 7/22
From the Upper Paleolithic period in the Alaskan tundra to modern-day Yellowstone, humans and grizzly bears have had an intertwining relationship of exploration and progress. These charismatic predators represent wilderness and primitive ways of life in a world where the untrammeled places necessary to their existence are becoming sparse and scattered. Through field trips to look for bears and engaging classroom lectures, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for our millennia-old relationship with grizzlies while immersed in a landscape that has seen cohabitation of both species for centuries.
The Bison of Yellowstone
7/28 — 7/31
The big boys are rumbling. It’s mating time in the land of the buffalo. You’ll divide your time between the field—observing the fascinating behavior of rutting buffalo—and the classroom—learning about one of the Old West’s enduring symbols. You’ll look at the biology and natural history of bison, its role in native cultures, and its role in the expanding white culture of 19th-century America. Learn how the Lamar Buffalo Ranch played a part in the survival of the bison, and explore the current turmoil surrounding bison management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Crow Tribal Culture and Yellowstone
7/28 — 7/30
The land we now call Yellowstone National Park used to be the heart of Crow country. Today it remains a place of deep meaning to the tribe. In this class led by a Crow tribal member, you will examine the tribe’s relationship to Yellowstone through a combination of classroom sessions and field trips to critical cultural sites. Hear explanations of how natural features within the park were created, and how the park figures into the origin of the tribe. You’ll also learn about contemporary Crow beliefs and practices in the park.
Into the Depths of Yellowstone Lake
8/7 — 8/11
Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-altitude (defined as above 7,000 ft. in elevation) lake in North America, straddles the southeast margin of the Yellowstone Caldera and lies in the heart of Yellowstone. On long day hikes, you’ll explore the rich geologic story of the lake by following in the footsteps of scientific mapping explorations from Ferdinand Hayden’s 1871 survey to today. You’ll learn how scientists have mapped underwater features over time and discuss exciting advances in navigation and technology. A limited number of rooms will be held until 30 days prior to the course; call us for details.
Storytelling Goes Wild!
8/6 — 8/9
30% off with code FS3019
How do we tell the story of wildlife conservation and sustainable development in the digital age? Join National Geographic Explorer Asher Jay for a special class on using multimedia and mixed-media outreach to build conservation campaigns. Jay, a multimedia artist and environmentalist, has created campaigns for countless conservation organizations, including a digital billboard for National Geographic displayed in Times Square. In this class, you will first choose a medium for your storytelling campaign, be it scrapbooking, mold casting, photography, or candle making. You will then take field trips in Yellowstone to collect images and information to build your campaign. With guidance from Jay, you’ll learn novel, sensorial ways to document the Yellowstone ecosystem, and build the skills needed to return home and design your own conservation campaigns.
Finding Your Voice in Nature
8/12 — 8/15
In this workshop, sound will be your guide. You’ll immerse yourself in the wilderness of Yellowstone National Park, exploring the natural soundtrack and drawing inspiration for your creative endeavors. Naturalist hikes, musical workshops, vocal exercises, and personalized discussion will facilitate an environment in which you can deepen your understanding of the sensory landscape in the natural world and within.
Hiking Yellowstone’s Geological Legacy
8/13 — 8/17
Only 5 spots left!
Close to 150 years of geological exploration and study have contributed to today’s understanding of Yellowstone’s geyser basins and hydrothermal systems. As you travel through the park—with hikes up to 8 miles on boardwalks and trails—you’ll visit a variety of hydrothermal areas, including lesser-known sites first described by early explorers. Learn about key scientific breakthroughs, from the 1870 Washburn Expedition to the modern-day Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, that have helped scientists understand how hot springs, geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles work. By the end, you’ll recognize characteristics of the waters, mineral deposits, vents, and bacteria found in geothermal areas, and gain a deeper appreciation for the processes at work underground. A limited number of rooms will be held until 30 days prior to the course; call us for details.
Animal Families: Lessons on Growing Up Wild
8/16 — 8/18
Only 4 spots left!
Whether it’s part of a wolf pack, elk herd, swan flock, or human family, every creature is continually learning throughout their lifetime. In this class we will explore the northern range of Yellowstone learning about the value of teachers and life experience in the animal kingdom. We will focus on wolf families and the strategies the older adults use to teach their young how to stay healthy and safe in the wild. We will spend time in the field looking for wolves with four-month-old pups just starting to incorporate into the pack. We will also discuss other species whose elders teach the family members valuable lessons gained through years of experience including many ungulates and birds living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
8/22 — 8/26
30% off with code FS3019
Wild animals find safe haven within the borders of protected areas and in the ecosystems surrounding them, but barriers to broader movement between these landscapes can isolate distant animal populations from one another, jeopardizing diversity and overall health. The National Geographic Society’s Beyond Yellowstone program, led by Chris Johns, is using a science-based approach to support wildlife-compatible landscapes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and beyond. Learn first-hand through field trips and meetings with local landowners how individuals, communities, and agencies can work together to address the challenges of species recovery and migration across public and private lands.
Painting Moran’s Yellowstone
8/19 — 8/23
Follow in the footsteps of Thomas Moran by learning to paint outdoors at some of the same locations that inspired the famous Yellowstone artist. Not only will you learn how to capture the essence of a scene, but you’ll also learn the significance of artists like Moran to Yellowstone’s history. Through classroom and field sessions you’ll practice incorporating the sensory experience of being outdoors—temperatures, sights, sounds, lighting, and atmosphere—into at least three of your own paintings. You’ll also improve your skill with composition, color theory, and painting in changing outdoor conditions.
Carnivores and Corridors
8/24 — 8/26
Only 1 spot left!
Yellowstone National Park contains all the large carnivore species present at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804), making it one of the most intact ecosystems in the lower 48 states. Come learn why Yellowstone represents a crucible for carnivore conservation, particularly for grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, lynx, and cougar. You’ll spend each day traveling off-trail, learning to read the landscape and wildlife behavior like a carnivore ecologist. You’ll even get to practice and apply wildlife research techniques.
Navigating the Wonders of Yellowstone’s Backcountry
8/24 — 8/26
Step off the trail and into adventure during this combination navigation, hiking, and natural history class. You’ll begin with an evening presentation about how to utilize a compass and topographic map to explore the wonders of Yellowstone’s backcountry. During the next two days, you’ll practice your new navigation skills and experience the thrill of setting your own course across the landscape. The pace is slow, so you can observe the life and land around you. Along the way, you’ll learn about the animals, plants, and geology you are seeing, as well as some of the park’s human history. Your guide is one of the park’s most experienced rangers.
Experience the Geology of the Northern Range
8/24 — 8/26
Yellowstone is a geologist’s paradise. Explore the natural features of Yellowstone and the surrounding area as a geologist does. On short walks to a variety of formations in and around the park you’ll examine up close the diversity of rock types and features characteristic of Yellowstone and its many geysers. Learn to make your own interpretations of what you see on the landscape, and gain a greater appreciation of the geologic processes that created the park. You’ll also leave with a new perspective—the ability to look at the landscape through the eyes of a geologist—in Yellowstone, or beyond.
Bats of Yellowstone
8/27 — 8/29
Meet the denizens of Yellowstone’s night sky: bats! You’ll visit day roosts, such as tree snags, talus slopes, bridges, and buildings where you’ll search for bats and their sign. In the evenings, walks to different locations will illustrate how bats utilize different habitats. You’ll learn about bat research methods such as acoustic monitoring and capture techniques, as well as ways you can help bats. By the end of the course, you’ll gain an understanding of where bats reside and an appreciation for the benefits that bats provide to natural ecosystems as well as modern agriculture.
8/27 — 8/30
Bison grazing in broad grassy valleys, cutthroat trout darting upstream, wolves howling in the distance—many of the experiences visitors cherish today are the result of arduous conservation journeys. Yellowstone is the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states, and a model for modern ecosystem conservation—but it wasn’t always this way. From bison, wolves, and bears to fish and fire, delve into some of the park’s biggest conservation issues by learning directly from the park scientists on the front lines. You’ll gain an appreciation for the science—and dedication—required to steward Yellowstone’s natural resources through modern challenges.
Experience the Geology of the Super Volcano
8/28 — 8/30
In this class you become the scientist, studying the Yellowstone volcano. You’ll travel many of Yellowstone’s geyser basins—including Upper, Midway, Lower, Lone Star, and West Thumb—evaluating field measurements on seismic activity, temperature, elevation change, gas emissions, and a variety of water quality parameters. Over the course of two days, you’ll record your data on geologic maps, illustrating the similarities and differences throughout Yellowstone’s geothermal features. You’ll also gain an appreciation for the scientific data critical to understanding Yellowstone’s volcano—and predicting eruptions. A limited number of rooms will be held until 30 days prior to the course; call us for details.
8/31 — 9/2
Digiscoping—taking high quality images at long distances through a spotting scope—brings birds and wildlife within the reach of any aspiring photographer. It can be as simple as “phonescoping” using the sophisticated cameras in today’s smartphones, or as technical as using a compact mirrorless camera and a fixed lens behind the eyepiece of a high-quality spotting scope. Either way, the results are great. Come learn about this exciting approach to photography from ZEISS Ambassadors Melissa Penta and Steve Ingraham. Bring your smartphone!
Raptors over Yellowstone
9/2 — 9/3
It’s a raptor time of year. Start your weekend with an evening classroom session about raptor identification and ecology and then head out in the field the next morning to watch for birds of prey (raptors) flying overhead on their journeys south. Join a former Yellowstone education ranger and bird expert and visit one of Yellowstone’s valleys—such as Hayden Valley—where you might see individuals filling up on plentiful grasshoppers and small rodents. With any luck, you’ll see eagles, osprey, and a variety of hawks and falcons.
Autumn Day Hiking in Yellowstone
Only 2 spots left!
9/16 — 9/20
Some days are diamonds—and autumn sparkles with more diamond days than any other season in Yellowstone. Chilly mornings give way to sunny afternoons. Cobalt skies press against the white of new snow in the high country. Golden sunlight plays upon cured yellow grasses. Elk enliven the air with their eerie bugles, and birds flock as they prepare to migrate south. Come spend three diamond days in Yellowstone, hiking up to 12 miles each day, with elevation gains up to 2,000 feet.