Yellowstone Association Institute Opening New Campus Just Outside Yellowstone National Park

The Yellowstone Association Institute is scheduled to open its new Yellowstone Overlook Campus later this spring. Yellowstone Association Institute photo.

For years the Buffalo Ranch in Yellowstone National Park's Lamar Valley has been the field headquarters for the Yellowstone Association Institute. Well, the association is expanding with the opening later this year of an 80-acre campus just north of the park near Gardiner, Montana.

The Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus, which the association acquired for $2.25 million, is scheduled to open May 1. The facility, which will be open year-round, is situated 1 ½ miles from Gardiner and offers sweeping views of the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park and the surrounding mountains. The campus is exclusively for park visitors participating in Yellowstone Association Institute educational programs.

The campus will include two large, three-bedroom, two-bathroom modern log cabins for up to 12 people and a smaller two-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin to accommodate up to five people. All cabins have fully equipped kitchens and include linen service. Visitors cook their own food in the kitchen and dine in large common areas. The large cabins are priced at $400 per night and the smaller cabin is $200 per night. YAI naturalist/guides pick up groups at the cabins in the morning and return them to the cabins after the programs, which last about eight hours per day. Programs are designed to meet the needs, abilities and interests of each group and cover topics such as wildlife watching, geology and hiking. Several single-day programs can be linked together to create a multi-day adventure.

“The Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus fills a real need for small groups in the area,” said Jeff Brown, educational director of the Yellowstone Association. “We are truly grateful to our members and supporters for making this expansion possible, and we are certain that the campus will encourage even more visitors to add an important educational component to their Yellowstone experience.”

I've long been familiar with the association, which earlier this year became a sponsor of the Traveler. About a decade ago I enrolled in one of their summer wolf-watching courses at the Buffalo Ranch while researching a magazine article on the park's wolf recovery program, and last week I joined the association on a half-day winter wildlife watching trek into the Lamar Valley. In the coming days, the Traveler will take a look at some of the association's course offerings for later this year, as well as offerings from similar associations and field institutes across the National Park System.

The Yellowstone Association Institute presently provides educational experiences annually to about 5,000 participants in its private tours, Field Seminars and Lodging & Learning programs. The addition of the Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus is expected to provide an opportunity for small- and medium-sized groups and increase the number of people who become educated about the world’s first national park.

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.

The fine print: 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 as well as 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.