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Close Encounters of the Yellowstone Kind

12 Days Self Drive Tours

Virgin Holidays' view

Getting up close and personal with Mother Earth’s a sure-fire way to forget home and find yourself. Nowhere gives close encounters quite like Salt Lake City’s surrounds, which lead you through Yellowstone, cowboy country, and snow-draped mountain ranges.

A captivating cauldron of hot springs and geysers, Yellowstone’s probably the most extreme of the USA’s beloved national parks. With the next seismic burst due any century, 2-nights in West Yellowstone puts you near some of its most active sights, including the Norris and Old Faithful geysers, the Paint Pots, and its largest hot spring, Grand Prismatic.

But Mother Nature comes in all guises, and driving to and from Yellowstone reveals Vedauwoo’s ancient rock formations near Cheyenne, Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver, and Grand Teton National Park. Staying overnight at Jackson Hole and Steamboat Springs ski resorts puts you even closer to nature, with hiking, boat trips and soaking in hot springs.

Land of the cowboys, the Wild West spirit never left Wyoming and South Dakota, and nights in Cody, Deadwood, and Cheyenne let you experience their truly ‘western’ Main Streets, Deadwood’s daily ‘shootout’, historic spots like the Buffalo Bill museum and Calamity Jane’s grave, and maybe even one of the annual rodeos.


Day 1: Salt Lake City

Fly to Salt Lake City from the UK and on arrival pick up your hire car. Upon check in; please ask the hotel reception for your ATI Tour documentation pack which will include your tour essentials. Visit the famed Temple and the Tabernacle. Accommodation stay – 1 night in Salt Lake City.

Day 2: Salt Lake City – Jackson Hole

Arrive in Jackson by early evening. Enjoy exploring the rustic Old West with a walk around the old-fashioned town square of Jackson. Accommodation stay – 1 night in Jackson Hole. Driving distance 491 km.

Day 3: Jackson Hole – West Yellowstone

The short drive today gives you the chance to leisurely explore Grand Teton National Park. In Yellowstone, explore the diverse geothermal features of America’s first national park. Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs are the most famous sights of the park. Yellowstone’s wildlife roam the park freely, so prepare yourself for bison, deer, elk, moose and possibly a bear. Accommodation stay – 2 nights in West Yellowstone. Driving distance 130 km.

Day 4: West Yellowstone

Today, take an unforgettable journey into America’s first national park and nature’s wonderland - Yellowstone. Here, the
Earth is in action with geysers, mountain ranges and rivers, waterfalls, and ancient volcanoes. The iconic spots – Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone Canyon – will be familiar from photographs, but seeing them in person is a humbling experience. They’re not just as good as you’ve heard – they’re better. In addition to its superb scenery, the park is one of the world’s principal wildlife preserves. Home to eagles, grizzly and black bears, buffalo, elk and much more, you’re bound to see wildlife wherever you go.

Day 5: West Yellowstone - Cody

Founded in 1896 by the living legend Buffalo Bill, Cody offers visitors a taste of the real American West. Upon arrival we suggest visiting the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. In the evening, enjoy attractions that include rodeos, gun fight re-enactments and Western dinner shows. Accommodation stay – 1 night in Cody. Driving distance 172 km.

Day 6: Cody - Deadwood

Travel through the grasslands of South Dakota to Badlands National Park, once home to the buffalo and antelope, and filled with colorful rock formations. Continue on to the Black Hills, sacred to the Plains Indians and home to Mount Rushmore, monument to four great American presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Accommodation stay – 1 night in Deadwood. Driving distance 612 km.

Day 7: Deadwood - Cheyenne

Continue to Cheyenne, Wyoming’s capital city that embodies the spirit of the Old West. Considered the nation’s railroad capital, Cheyenne is home to a collection of steam engines, including Old Number 4004, the world’s largest steam locomotive and one of the eight remaining Big Boys on display throughout the country. Accommodation stay – 1 night in Cheyenne. Driving distance 484 km.

Day 8: Cheyenne - Denver

Today you’ll want to get out and explore some of the city’s must-sees. Larimer Square remains the heart and soul of the city, and according to some it’s the place to start your Denver experience. The hip district of Uptown is where you’ll find Denver’s largest green space, City Park. The gold-domed Colorado State Capitol with its 'Mile High' marker on the 13th step overlooks downtown, and a visit to Cherry Creek Shopping Center will round out your Mile High experience. Accommodation Stay – 1 night in Denver. Driving distance 180 km.

Day 9: Denver – Steamboat Springs

Today, you have the day to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. After crossing the Continental Divide of the Rockies, continue to the quaint ski resort of Steamboat Springs. Accommodation stay – 1 night in Steamboat Springs. Driving distance 260 km.

Day 10: Steamboat Springs – Salt Lake City

En route to the Mormon State of Utah and its capital, Salt Lake City. The followers of Brigham Young built one of the best-planned cities in the country. See the State Capital building and visit famed Temple Square and the Tabernacle before arriving at the hotel for the evening. May we suggest dinner at the Rooftop Restaurant for panoramic views of Temple Square (optional)? Accommodation stay – 1 night in Salt Lake City. Driving distance 590 km.

Day 11-12: Salt Lake City Departure - UK

Return your hire car to the airport prior to your flight back to the UK.

This tour is based on a Room Only basis.

*Denotes local charge – Optional trips and excursions suggested on the itinerary are bookable and payable locally.

This is a set tour itinerary, if you have booked any pre/post or optional tour arrangements please refer to your separate vouchers and final documents.

All hotels & locations are subject to change based on availability, final hotel list will be confirmed 25 days before departure.

Dates & prices

The table below shows our escorted tour departure dates.

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Prices are described as Guide prices on this website and may be higher or lower due to availability and date of departure.

Prices are for departure dates listed, ex-UK and are per adult based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room and with return economy flights where stated. Single room and flight prices are available at a supplement.

Please note some tours are subject to minimum numbers, please call our travel experts or visit your local retail store for full details as well as our latest prices.

Tour information

Please click here to download a pdf of the tour itinerary and additional tour notes.

Pre/Post Tour information

If you would like to extend your trip or make the tour part of a longer holiday, we can easily add on a pre or post night stays for you. Our Sales Team will work with you to arrange the best connecting flights and book any additional hotel stays. Simply tell us what you’d like and we can arrange it.

Time difference

GMT -8 hours

Tour inclusions

  • Accommodation listed above
  • Welcome phone call from American Tours International on Day 1
  • Virgin Holidays branded rucksack with tour documentation and Atlas, please ask when you check in at your first hotel for your ‘ATI Pack’
  • Beach blanket
  • Starbucks gift card

Tour exclusions

  • All flights and airport transfers in the UK
  • Travel Insurance
  • Car hire and insurance unless this has been booked by the sales consultant
  • Items of a personal nature such as food, snacks, drinks, laundry, tips and gratuities
  • The required ESTA application
  • Anything not detailed on the itinerary

Dining inclusions

Room only basis.

Included activities

Tours listed in the itinerary.


Accommodation listed on the itinerary is a mix of 3-4V graded properties. Please note some tours are up to 3 weeks in duration and there may be some nights when staying in remote locations e.g. the National Parks, when the ‘V’ rating may vary. Hotels are subject to change up until 30 days prior to departure, but you will be advised of any changes.