Yellowstone & The Tetons | Cultural Exploration

Wilderness Management & Heritage of the American West

Travel through he American West’s most iconic National Parks: Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons. During your student travels in Montana and Wyoming, gain an understanding of how individuals and interest groups relate to and manage the territories that make up the American West. Join members of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe at their traditional Fourth of July powwow. Study the effects of the U.S. land distribution policies in the West from varying perspectives and learn how today’s practices attempt to balance wildlife conservation and cultural heritage. Swim in a river that is naturally heated by Yellowstone’s famous geothermal features, attend a rodeo in Jackson Hole, and sleep under the stars in the Teton wilderness.

June 29, 2017  –  July 11, 2017
At A Glance:
  • Adventure
    Outdoor exploration, hiking, biking, swimming, and other active pursuits
  • History
    Exploration of the country’s past, politics, and culture, and visits to historical sites
  • Mountains
    Focus on outdoor exploration with day hikes or alpine trekking
  • Wildlife
    Exploration of flora and fauna in natural habitats, national parks, or wildlife reserves
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
Group will meet in Billings, MT and depart from Jackson Hole, WY
Cultural Exploration
13 days
Typical Group:
14 – 16 students, 2 leaders
$ 4,390 + airfare
  • Visit Old Faithful, The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, and The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
  • Attend a fourth of July powwow  as invited guests of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe
  • Ride horseback on a pack trip and sleep under the Wyoming night sky
  • Discuss resource and land management practices with tribal representatives and government officials

Leader Profile: HEATHER WEAS

Education: Montana State University, B.A., Global Multicultural Studies and Francophone Studies

While at Montana State University, Heather focused on North African language and culture and studied abroad in Morocco and France. She worked for the Office… read more

While at Montana State University, Heather focused on North African language and culture and studied abroad in Morocco and France. She worked for the Office of International Programs at Montana State, advising study-abroad students, and for a State Department program called the Middle Eastern Partnership Initiative, leading students from the MENA region around Montana. Heather received the Undergraduate Scholars Grant and returned to Morocco to research the effects of the Arab Spring on the indigenous Amazigh population in the High Atlas Mountains. Heather is EMT and Wilderness First Responder certified. She has united her passions for teaching and adventuring in the mountains by working as an outdoor educator in China, where she guides international schools on outdoor leadership programs. Heather is proficient in French and conversational in Arabic.  She has led the Cultural Exploration program in Australia, New Zealand, & Fiji.  


Departure • Travel Day • Join your fellow high school student travelers and leaders in Billings, Montana. Spend the first night of your trip in traditional log cabins along the Yellowstone River and get to know your group around the campfire. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Northern Cheyenne Tribal Lands • 2 days • Begin your journey in the tribal lands of the Northern Cheyenne. Meet with Cheyenne elders and community members to gain an understanding of the tribe’s spiritual connection to their land. Learn how designated reservations are managed under the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Visit a historical buffalo jump site and discuss frontier conflict at the site of Custer’s last camp before the Battle of Little Bighorn. Then, attend the Cheyenne’s annual Fourth of July powwow as invited guests and witness traditional ceremonies, sporting events, and dance competitions.

Yellowstone National Park • 4 days • Next, travel to Yellowstone National Park and spend your first afternoon hiking in the abundant wildlife area of Lamar Valley. Scan the prairie with spotting scopes for wolves, grizzlies, and thundering herds of bison that were once hunted to near extinction in an effort to eliminate the Native Americans’ most prized food source. Join expert historians from the Yellowstone Association on a hike to explore historic sites within the park, and learn about challenges facing the National Park Service’s “dual mandate.” Examine topics such as wolf reintroduction, bison management, climate change, and the roles that citizens, organizations, and agencies play in the stewardship of public lands.

Grand Teton National Park & The Teton Wilderness • 5 days • Travel along Yellowstone’s Grand Circle Loop to neighboring Grand Tetons National Park. Settle into mountain cabins on the shores of Jackson Lake with the majestic Grand Tetons as a backdrop. Enjoy a day trip to Jackson Hole and visit photographic archives documenting the Native American history of the region, then head to a modern-day, competitive rodeo. Visit Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge and debate opposing viewpoints of this controversial wildlife sanctuary. Venture into the Teton wilderness on an overnight horseback pack trip to experience authentic cowboy and ranch culture firsthand. Celebrate your final night together around the campfire sharing stories and new perspectives from your journey in the American West.

Return • Travel Day • The group will say goodbyes in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

A Day in the Life: YELLOWSTONE

Due to the traveling nature of this student program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in Yellowstone National Park.

6 AM  Rise early to spot wildlife such as wolves and young pups playing outside their dens
9 AM  Enjoy breakfast together at camp
10 AM  Hike to a hidden alpine lake with a park expert who specializes in public land use and stewardship
12 PM  Break for a picnic lunch along the trail
4 PM  Enjoy a relaxing soak in the “boiling” river heated by Yellowstone’s natural geothermal features
7 PM  Have dinner as a group and stroll through the quaint town of Gardiner, Montana
9 PM  Have a group meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule

She loved the group and the team building. She felt like a traveler instead of a tourist.

— Julie & David Eskenazi, Indianapolis, IN

What to Expect

Independent Project • Pursue an independent project and explore an aspect of local culture of particular interest to you—become an expert on Yellowstone’s wolf reintroduction program, tell the story of one of the West’s famous settlers, or learn a traditional dance.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer program. You can expect to hike trails with elevation gains, camp in the backcountry, and horseback ride during this program. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations • Accommodations in Yellowstone and Wyoming are varied, ranging from simple cabins to canvas tents with cots. During our time on the Cheyenne Reservation we sleep in basic tents with sleeping pads. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Meals • We begin each day with a quick breakfast of cereals, yogurts, and fresh fruits to give us time to get out and enjoy early wildlife watching or beautiful mornings out on the trail. For lunches and dinners, we find small restaurants or purchase food at local markets for a picnic.

I never thought I would meet such wonderful and thoughtful people (both other students and trip leaders). It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

— Stephanie H., The Potomac School,  McLean, VA

Ask Us

Call Erika at 802.387.5000 or email

The Cultural Exploration Yellowstone & The Tetons summer program is directed by Erika Skogg. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school student travel abroad summer programs, please get in touch!

Erika Skogg

Montana State University, B.A., Photography and Filmmaking

After receiving her photography degree, Erika worked with the Canon Photography in the Parks program, teaching photography throughout the U.S. national park system. Her photography is represented by National Geographic Creative, and her travel writing and photography appear at National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog. Erika has led a Putney program in Peru and National Geographic Student Expeditions to Yellowstone, Tuscany, Ecuador & the Galápagos, Peru, Tanzania, and Iceland. She also leads National Geographic photography expeditions for adults to Morocco and Cuba and Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions by ship through Alaska’s Inside Passage. Erika is based in Colombia and Vermont, where she works with our Outreach team and organizes programs in Colombia, Britain, and the American West.