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Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
16 posts
16 reviews
8 helpful votes
Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

I plan to take a 8 days tour to Yellowstone National Park departing from San Francisco in late Sep this year. Since I will be not be driving, therefore I plan to join a bus tour. My questions are:

1. Most of the tours I found cover the Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Teton National Park, the Antelope Canyon, the Horseshoe Bend etc. Is it too much to cover for in a 8 day trip?

2. Some tours say I can pay extra $50 or so to stay at the Yellowstone Cabin? Is it worthwhile, what's so special about the cabin?

3. Any recommendations on the tour operators?

Thank you.

10 replies to this topic
N. Idaho
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26,316 posts
111 reviews
45 helpful votes
1. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

Welcome to the TA forums! I'm glad you posted here before you booked with a tour operator.

Here are my thoughts:

1. Yes, this is WAY more than I would want to do. Go to googlemaps and figure out the mileage for each day. You are adding significant mileage on by starting in San Francisco which is a 2-day drive from Yellowstone/Grand Tetons. It's nearly 950 miles from SF to West Yellowstone so very long hours on the bus for that section. It's also 600+ miles from Jackson WY to Page AZ (where Antelope is located) which is an exceedingly long day in a bus.

2. I have no idea what they mean by this. If you can give us a link to the tour perhaps we can figure it out. There is nothing called *The Yellowstone Cabin* in Yellowstone.

3. The best tour operators are the local ones that cover just Yellowstone and Grand Tetons and start from a local base. Day tours out of West Yellowstone and those provided by Xanterra, the official Yellowstone lodging concessionaire and Yellowstone Forever!, a non-profit educationally focused group are excellent. There are also excellent wildlife tours in the Jackson area. The next ones would be the major US tour companies but they probably don't start in San Francisco and try to cover that amount of territory (Tauck, Caravan are 2 at very different price levels). There are some others focused on the area that would be good as well.

-->The ones I DON'T recommend are TAKE Tours and Tours4Fun. Most of the reviews are awful, including them leaving people who aren't back on time and getting gouged by the guide who collect money for *admission fees* when there is no admission. Another complaint is that they say they are bilingual but are in reality only offered in one of the Chinese languages. This may work for you if you are bilingual. Here is a long-running thread on TAKE tours which started as a review of a trip to Yellowstone. PLEASE read the whole 12 pages before you decide to book with this company or the similarly modeled Tours4Fun.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12…

It is very difficult to cover these parks without driving so I do understand why a bus tour would be appealing. If you need to do this, I would consider flying closer to Yellowstone/Grand Tetons and doing some of the local tours.

Pam

Salt Lake City, Utah
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23,579 posts
43 reviews
11 helpful votes
2. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

8 days is no where near enough time to visit these destinations from San Francisco. You have two plus days just just driving from San Francisco to Yellowstone. It's a two day drive between Grand Teton NP and Antelope Canyon. And then it's at least a two plus day drive back to San Francisco. And what is are the etc. places? I can't even imagine how a tour like this would even work.

If you must travel by bus, look at tours that originate out of Salt Lake City. Even then, tours that include Yellowstone, Grand Teton NP, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend will be almost impossible in 8 days. But at least you won't spend 4 days of the 8 riding a bus between San Francisco and these destinations.

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
16 posts
16 reviews
8 helpful votes
3. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

Hi Pam, thanks very much for your useful info. You are smart, yes, the tours I have been looking at are operated by the Tours4fun and Take Tours. I am not fond of joining bilingual tours here in the States as I had terrible experiences with the one I took in New York last year and that's why I want to know if there's any reliable tour operators. Thanks very much for your alerts here.

And here is the link to the tour info which mentions about the Yellowstone Cabin inside the park. I guess they are talking about the lodging inside the park where we might have closer encounter with the nature. https:/…additional_note

Thx again Pam.

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
16 posts
16 reviews
8 helpful votes
4. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

Hi Connie, thx very much for your advices. To play safe and also because this is what both you and Pam recommended, I will revise my trip plan to join tours at Salt Lake City or somewhere near Yellowstone.

In fact, I know I am greedy as I wanted to see the most out of my 3 weeks US and Canada trip. The bus tours I found are really attractive to tourists like me who have only a few weeks to spend. But, in order to create good memories for my trip, I'd better look for quality but not "quantity" in my itinerary.

Thx again.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Level Contributor
23,579 posts
43 reviews
11 helpful votes
5. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

That's a good decision. But the best decision you can make to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP is to rent a car and drive yourself. Is there a reason you prefer not to drive?

By the way, that itinerary on the link that you posted is awful. Lots of long days on the bus and very little time at the places where you need to spend more than 25 minutes or so.

TakeTours and Tours4Fun have an awful reputation. If a bus tour is what you really want to do, spend a bit more money on other tour companies. I can't recommend specific companies, however.

Edited: 8:06 pm, May 04, 2018
Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
16 posts
16 reviews
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6. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

Thx Connie. I really love to drive but since I will be the only driver in my group, I am afraid I will be too tired and not be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery. But most importantly, I don’t want to risk the life of my passengers when I am exhausted after the driving.

N. Idaho
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26,316 posts
111 reviews
45 helpful votes
7. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

NovemberPooh...I went to the link you posted about *Yellowstone Cabin* and I think something must have gotten lost in translation, lol!!

The best I can work out from that is they will have you staying in lodging in Yellowstone during those tours. I am guessing they will be the Old Faithful Lodge Cabins (this is where I usually stay!) but it could also be cabins at Canyon Village or Lake Village. There are tours that do stay in West Yellowstone at the West entrance so that may be where the others stay. Old Faithful would be the closest lodging to the West entrance so easiest for the tour bus to come collect you after it leaves West Yellowstone with the others.

I HAVE seen 4 Tours4Fun buses caravaning to OF early, early in the AM. It was about 7AM and I was near Fountain Paint Pots so the buses must have left West Yellowstone at least by 615A to have gotten to that point on the Grand Loop Road.

I am glad you are reconsidering. AND I can completely understand about wanting to see as much as you can when you are on an expensive trip to a new country and there is SO much cool stuff to see.

If you are unable to work out driving, here are a couple of suggestions off the top of my head. There are probably several other ways to do this including day tours from Jackson.

-Fly in to Bozeman. Take Karst Stage (www.karst.com) to West Yellowstone. (This transportation suggestion is kind of expensive). From West Yellowstone there are several day tour companies where you could take a tour of the Lower Loop one day and the Upper Loop another day.

-Fly in to Bozeman. Take Karst Stage to Mammoth. You have to contact them for a quote and it will probably be outrageously expensive. Look at one of the multi-day tours offered by Xanterra.

https:/…

Here is also one from Caravan which is a less expensive US tour provider but does get pretty good reviews. I have NOT done a tour with this company so no personal experience.

www.caravan.com/tour/usa-mount-rushmore

There is also a tour company called Cosmos that may have a tour but probably also includes Mt Rushmore.

Both of these companies may have mostly tour members from the US. Not sure of the age group they may cater to.

**editing to add: We were cross-posting and I saw your comment about driving. IF you fly somewhere closer like Jackson or Bozeman you will not have the long haul from San Francisco but will have a much more reasonable drive.

Pam

Edited: 9:44 pm, May 04, 2018
Spery, Iowa
Level Contributor
12,561 posts
180 reviews
60 helpful votes
8. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

How many are in your group? There are companies that would do a private tour. Look at Yellowstone Tour Guides, I think they can pick you up at Bozeman airport. I have not used them, but their trips look very nice on facebook. https://www.yellowstonetourguides.com/vacati…

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
16 posts
16 reviews
8 helpful votes
9. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

Thx Pam. Most probably I will fly to Jackson to join the local tours. And if I can get my friends to drive, that would be even better. If time allows, would go to Mt Rushmore too.

Thx thbergs. We have a group of four and private tour sounds good too. Will look at your info too.

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
16 posts
16 reviews
8 helpful votes
10. Re: Bus tour to Yellowstone National Park from San Francisco

Hi Connie,

I am looking at tours that originate out of Salt Lake City that include Yellowstone, Grand Teton NP. Can you recommend some tour operators? Just want good quality ones and budget is not an issue. Thx.

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