For many Americans a trip to Yellowstone National Park is more pilgrimage than vacation. With magnificent scenery, amazing natural features, and extraordinary wildlife, a vacation to Yellowstone is a dream come true for many people. Luckily enough, when I lived in Colorado I was just a little over 10 hours away and was able to experience this wonderland numerous times.
And that wasn’t nearly enough… Yellowstone National Park is absolutely enormous! Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, and overlapping into parts of Idaho and Montana, it covers more than 2,000,000 acres of Rocky Mountain wilderness. It is within these acres that some of the wildest animals in this country live.
Bison, Wolves, Grizzlies
Many people go to Yellowstone to see these animals and the park does not disappoint. Yellowstone is renown for its herds of American Bison, which are known as buffalo to many people. Bison are everywhere! If you see a traffic jam, more than likely it is due to bison.
Elk are also plentiful in the park if you look around enough. If you don’t see them in open valleys, look for them in groves of trees.However, there is no guarantee you’ll see wolves or bears. Packs of wolves, as well as grizzly and black bears, live in the park but can be much more difficult to spot.
When looking for animals, I generally start in Hayden Valley. I will most likely see bison, maybe elk or a coyote there. Then I head to Lamar Valley, which is another outstanding location to spot not only bison, but also wolves and/or grizzlies. If you are truly interested in seeing these harder to spot animals, you will need to drive around and maybe even hike.
Before you get in your vehicle, or better yet, before you leave on your trip to Yellowstone, invest in a good pair of binoculars. Binoculars can make all the difference in not only spotting wildlife, but in viewing them clearly as well.
Wolves and bears are often far from the roads. Having binoculars allows you to see what everybody else is looking at, and keeps you from having to get closer for a better view, which can be dangerous.
Speaking of dangerous, wildlife in Yellowstone is wild! Don’t ever forget that and do not approach or disturb any animal. You never know how they are going to react. Oddly enough, bison usually injure more people annually than black bears and grizzly bears combined. With that being said, if you are going to hike in Yellowstone, always carry bear spray. It is available for purchase in the park and might save your life!
Early Bird gets the Worm
The best advise though is to get out in the early mornings and late evenings. You not only avoid the crowds, but you have the best chance of spotting animals. I often get up in the dark and drive to where I want to be by the time the sun comes up. Animals are the most active at dawn and dusk.
My husband and I were able to get the photographs of the wolf pack crossing a creek in Lamar Valley by being the early birds. We also spent many evenings hanging out in Hayden Valley until it was practically dark. I go to Yellowstone to see animals and that is always my first priority.
My second priority, after viewing animals, is taking photos at Yellowstone Falls and Old Faithful. No trip to Yellowstone is complete until you visit them. My favorite photo spot is Lookout Point at Lower Yellowstone Falls. Besides the crowds, it’s pretty easy to get a photo. On the other hand, you will need to plan a little better to get a good shot of Old Faithful Geyser erupting. The park posts predicted eruption times for each day in buildings around the geyser or you can download their Geyser app. Click here for most answers to Old Faithful questions.
Plan Your Trip
Yellowstone National Park is too big of a place and too broad of a subject for me to cover every aspect of it in one blog. I assure you though that it is an incredible place and one of my absolute favorite places to be. Let me urge you to make plans to go if you haven’t been. There are so many things to do, see, and experience, you’ll want to stay as long as you can.
Yellowstone gets close to 4,000,000 visitors annually and can be crowded, especially in the summer, so reservations are a must. The park offers many types of accommodations from campgrounds to RV sites to lodges and cabins. Reservations can be made for camp sites, lodging, restaurants, tours and other activities through Yellowstone National Park Lodges at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com. Check out their website for more information.
I am! For you and for me. Like I said earlier, after going to Yellowstone many times, it is never enough. I can’t wait to go back to the park myself and explore even more of it. If you go, or if you’ve been, please share in the comments some of your favorite spots to see animals or take pictures. I would love to hear about your experiences!