Yellowstone National Park sits atop many a traveler’s bucket list. Outdoor adventurers, wildlife enthusiasts, and conservationists come from near and far to take in all the splendor that is Yellowstone. For many, visiting Yellowstone is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Even for those who have visited multiple times, each Yellowstone experience is special. To make your time in Yellowstone even more meaningful, I wholeheartedly recommend taking a private guided tour of Yellowstone with MacNeil Lyons of Yellowstone Insight.
Twenty years ago when I was a super-cool seasonal Yellowstone employee, if you had suggested that I take a private guided tour of Yellowstone, I probably would have rolled my eyes and said, “Oh, please.” I lived and worked in Yellowstone; I knew the ins and outs of the park. I certainly didn’t need a private guide to show me around.
Well, let me tell you, MacNeil Lyons showed this know-it-all a thing or two about Yellowstone. He took my traveling party and me to parts of the park I’d never seen before and showed us features I never knew existed. But MacNeil is so much more than a private guide; he is like a biologist, geologist, historian, and gifted storyteller all in one.
Without giving away any of MacNeil’s secrets, I can tell you that a day in the park with him is sure to be unforgettable. The day will start early, probably before sunrise. MacNeil will have a healthy and tasty breakfast prepared, as well as coffee and hot chocolate. After a few hours of touring, when the bellies start rumbling, MacNeil will find a suitable spot for lunch. Just like breakfast, the lunch spread will be impressively healthy, abundant, and delicious.
A tour with MacNeil can be likened to an African safari, but instead of being bounced around in an open Land Rover, MacNeil’s guests are treated to the luxury and comfort of his spotless and warm Chevrolet Suburban that can accommodate up to 6 adults. While out on tour, MacNeil will amaze you with his unrivaled multi-tasking abilities. He drives with extreme caution, keeps out a watchful eye for any and all types of wildlife, and regales his guests with compelling stories of tours past and of his own off-duty, personal experiences. The most remarkable part is he does not fail in finding wildlife, and not just the obvious bison along the side of the road. MacNeil finds animals in obscure places that the average visitor on a windshield tour of the park would most likely miss.
What strikes me most about MacNeil is his devotion to Yellowstone. He is not in this touring business for the fame and fortune. He loves, respects, and appreciates the park as much as, if not more than, anyone I know, myself included. While guiding visitors through Yellowstone, he is acting as an advocate, stressing the importance of preserving a place like Yellowstone while also sharing cautionary tales of how we are “loving our parks to death“. And MacNeil is not just all talk. During my tour, while on a stop for photos at a pull-out, MacNeil noticed someone (a touron, no doubt) had dumped a heap of cigarette butts on the road. MacNeil knelt down and picked up all 27 cigarette butts (yes, he counted) and put them in his garbage bag, which he transported out of the park and disposed of after the tour. In pre-tour information from MacNeil, he states his no-plastic-water-bottle policy. Guests must bring an Eco-friendly water bottle which MacNeil will refill from his own reserve. At breakfast and lunch, you will not find paper plates or plastic cutlery. Instead, MacNeil supplies reusable plates, forks, and knives. I see this as an unfailing commitment to protecting our environment and, specifically, Yellowstone’s fragile ecosystem.
A private guided tour of Yellowstone with Yellowstone Insight is no ordinary tour, just as Yellowstone is no ordinary park. In order to experience what is most extraordinary about Yellowstone, spend a day with MacNeil Lyons.
Disclosure: I was hosted by Yellowstone Country Montana and its partners. All words and opinions are, as always, 100% my own.