Photograph Wildlife in Lamar Valley

Photograph Wildlife in Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone

Activities

Camping, Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking

Skill

Beginner

Season

Year Round

Added by

Brynn Schmidt

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Yellowstone is one of the country's top wildlife destinations and Lamar Valley showcases open plains with easy wildlife viewing and sweet mountain views -- it's also one of the best places to spot wolves.

This adventure is a little harder to pinpoint on a map because the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone encompasses a large area of the park. Also, the premier wildlife photography can be found on either end of what is officially "Lamar Valley" so you want to pay attention for a good part of the drive. You can easily find Lamar Valley on the Yellowstone Park Map. The best areas to spot wildlife are from about Slough Creek all the way to the NE Entrance at Silver Gate. Often in winter, there are moose toward the very end of the road before you leave the park.

In winter you have great chances of spotting wolves, coyotes, bighorn sheep, bison (the easiest to spot), moose, elk, deer and eagles. In the spring, summer and fall, add bears to the list. You may spot grizzlies here as well as black bears and occasionally even a badger or bobcat. Often the wolves and bears are far off in the distance and you need binoculars or a spotting scope to spot them. If you find a group of people with large cameras and scopes pointed at an area, most likely they are watching, or have watched, wolves or bears. If you are patient and hang out where these animals have recently been spotted, you have a good change of seeing them. No guarantee ever there - as we are talking about wildlife.

The three close-up photos here were taken with a Canon Mark II and the 400mm fixed 2.8 lens. The wolf and elk shot were taken from the car and the coyote shot with a tripod set up. The bison photo was taken on an iPhone.

Bison are the easiest to photograph and you will usually see plenty. The best time to drive through Lamar Valley is early in the morning and late in the day. This is when you have the best chance of seeing wildlife. Bison usually cross the road in the evenings creating "animal jams" on the roads. The best time of year to see wolves is actually in winter around February-March. They are very active during mating season. This wolf shot was taken at Christmas time and was taken closer to the Blacktail Deer Plateau on the way to Lamar Valley, but they are often photographed in Lamar Valley. Winter is a great time of year to be in the park because the crowds are so minimal compared to summer. If you do go in winter, dress in multiple layers. It can get down to -30 in the day time with strong winds as well.

Please remember to always pull off the road completely if you are watching wildlife. Do not block traffic and stay a good distance away from all wildlife. The park has rules as to how close you can get to the animals and you must abide by these rules for your safety and also to avoid a ticket, but mostly to keep both you and the wildlife safe.

Also, for winter travelers, you can only access the park by way of Gardiner and the north entrance to get to Lamar Valley. The NE Entrance is closed and you cannot get to this area from any other place. Be sure you plan ahead in winter for this.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Nearby Lodging

From $279/night

Under Canvas Yellowstone

West Yellowstone, Montana

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Winter Wildlife Galore

In the winter the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City is wildlife central for Yellowstone. During my 5 day visit Bison were constantly on, along, or near the road. Coyote and fox made regular appearances too as well as elk, eagles, and bighorn sheep. It was most -20˚F or colder during my visit so there wasn't enough open water to find otters. I saw wolfs everyday, 3 packs on my first day, but they required binoculars or spotting scopes to see close. I camped part of the time at Mammoth Hot Springs but they only had a few spots plowed. Overall an incredible experience if you enjoy winter and nature.

Amazing and accessible

Had an absolute blast photographing the bison in Yellowstone. We visited in early summer, so finding wolves, big-horn sheep or moose proved to be challenging. Still, entirely worth it as the bison, elk and deer were available to photograph at every turn. Even a couple bears in the distance.

Activities

Camping, Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking

Skill

Beginner

Season

Year Round

Added by

Brynn Schmidt

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