Wildlife viewing in Yellostone- with your Campervan!

Best places to catch wildlife in Yellowstone

Best places to catch wildlife in Yellowstone

Yellowstone’s spectacular natural beauty and furry inhabitants have been wowing park visitors for generations. One of the last few natural places to guarantee jaw dropping animal encounters, it’s no wonder that people travel from all over the world just to spend weeks in this one National Park!

Although there is a quite healthy population of free roaming bison, elk, and others everywhere in Yellowstone, it is helpful to know the good spots. On a recent camping trip I set out to find the best locations and times of day for animal viewing. My diligent “research” produced three top recommendations, two that are admittedly well known and one that will get you off the beaten path and away from the crowds.

Lamar Valley (often called the American Serengeti)

Located in the north east of the park, between Tower Roosevelt and Pebble Creek campground is Lamar Valley. This place is what you imagine the west would have looked like hundreds of years ago before the first gold rush, wagon train, or white man stepped foot here. Situated between the rounded Mirror Plateau to the south and several towering Peaks to the north- this large flowing valley is home to three wolf packs, bear, elk, Pronghorn, and the most densely populated herds of Bison in North America.

Even just driving in to the valley is awe inspiring, as you take a small curvy mountainous pass that opens up to miles of the untouched sagebrush and unmolested animal herds. Wildlife is so abundant along this 5-10 mile stretch of road that chances are not only will animals be easy to see- you will most likely be stopped by groups of them crossing the road.

This recommendation comes with one disclaimer- it’s not a secret. Depending on the time of year, you will probably be sharing Lamar with a few hundred people. On a related note, you should know that the two adjacent campgrounds (Slough Creek and Pepple Creek) operate on a first come/first serve basis and usually fill up by late morning. Once in the park, try calling the local Ranger Station for the most up to date campground information.

Hayden Valley

Conveniently located in the center of the park between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge, Hayden Valley is the most accessible place to see a large number of “big game” wildlife in such a small proximity. Straddling the Yellowstone River, Hayden offers several scenic over looks that each commands a different view of the valley. Not to be completely out done by its bigger brother to the north (Lamar)- this wider, flatter, valley is the permanent residence of a small but quite visible pack of wolfs. The Hayden Valley pack is such a park favorite in fact, that they even have their own Facebook page! The area also has Bison roaming in small groups, elk, beaver, Trumpeter Swan, and of course- Grizzly bears.

Pelican Valley

Off the road and not on most visitors’ radar, Pelican valley is this Blog posts best offered secret. Reader beware however- Pelican is located about a 2-3 mile hike from your nice comfortable vehicle and is fortunately/unfortunately home to one of the healthiest bear populations in the lower 48.

There are several trails that will take you in to the valley (Natural Bridge, Storm point, and Pelican Valley) with my recommendation being Pelican Valley. The trailhead is located just three miles east of the Fishing Bridge Visitor’s center. This five mile loop will meander through low lying woodlands that eventually open up to a wide open plain. Less pronounced then Lamar and Hayden, this area is surrounded by smaller ridges with less dramatic contrasts. What it lacks in topography however, it more than makes up for in (relative) solitude.

I have heard different statistics that say something like 90 plus percent of Yellowstone visitors will never go more than 50 yards from their vehicle while in the park. If this is true, then Pelican valley offers great evidence of it. With no road plowing through it, there are very few people. There is however, a fairly healthy population of wildlife

Additional resources:

I hope the above information helps you in planning your Yellowstone Campervan adventure. For some more wildlife info and safety tips, please check out the following:

PBS Interactive map of Yellowstone wolf pack territory and movements

National Park Service wildlife safety videos- know before you go!

Posted by Campervan North America

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *