Blogging Yellowstone

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Yellowstone has always been one of my family's favorite places to visit. We're what you would call "outdoorsy" and whether it's the wildlife, or the hiking, or the gorgeous views, we just can't get enough of this place. We're not your typical Yellowstone visitors either. While many tourists like to visit the "big" places, like Old Faithful and the hot springs and hot pots, we pride ourselves on our animal stalking stills. Not kidding! 5:30 AM is LATE for us to get up, because we like to be out the door and on the road by dawn. Best animal sight-seeing time, guys, I'm telling you. And we are basically pros at that. At least, that's what we tell ourselves! 

If you're planning a trip to Yellowstone and want to do more than just watch Old Faithful erupt, here's my best tips for you to get the most out of your trip (and see things you can't see anywhere else!)

  • Get up early and get going. It's hard, but dawn and dusk are when most animals are active. Moose, elk, bison, and the harder-to-spot animals, such as black bears, grizzlies, and wolves are . You can definitely see them during the daytime- a lot of our good finds were midday- but the morning and evening hours are the absolute best. There's less people driving and/or walking around, and honestly, it's just a lot more beautiful. 
  • Stay in the park. If you can afford it, it's worth it to stay in lodges or cabins inside the park itself. Mammoth Hot Springs has become a particular favorite for us (and it's only an hour drive out to Lamar Valley, which makes all the difference when you want to be out there by 6:30 AM!) 
  • Don't spend all your time at tourist traps. Yeah, Old Faithful is awesome and it's really cool, but if you stick around to watch it twelve times, you'll be lucky to see anything more than a bunch of crying kids. Go beyond those, find more off-the-beaten-path hiking trails, and you'll be surprised what you come across.
  • Be prepared. You're driving pretty fast, and sometimes you can depend on the eagle eyes of others to catch those bears before you do- but work hard and look hard, and you'll see more than you could possibly imagine.
  • Know safety tips. Don't go stand next to the bison and it's baby. Don't get too close to that black bear on the side of the road. Don't pet the elk. Don't be stupid. That's how you die. Because either the bear will kill you, or I will. 
  • Be willing to stop... and wait. Watch for people with large scopes or camera lenses. Those people aren't waiting for elk to come around the corner. They're watching for grizzlies, black bears, wolves, badgers... the more evasive and harder-to-see creatures that grace the area. They'll be your best bet, and will know some of the best spots to animal-watch, because for some, it's their entire career to find and photograph these animals. 
  • Realize that sometimes, you may be able to see harder-to-spot animals, and that it may be worth it to invest in a good scope or camera. Most people will be more than happy to share their scopes with you, but if you want nice photos or a better view of that little speck that's actually a grizzly bear, bring or rent a scope. It'll be worth it when you can see every last gray hair on that wolf resting in the willows. 
  • Visit the northern and eastern part of the park. Most of the people tend to stay by Old Faithful and West Yellowstone. You'll have the most luck (and the best views!) by visiting the northern half of the park. Think Mammoth, Tower, Canyon (and especially Lamar and Hayden valleys). The less people- the more animals. It's worth it, trust me. Both Lamar and Hayden make bison-viewing very easy (there are literally hundreds roaming around here), but Lamar is best known for wolf sitings. 
  • Do what you love and do what makes you happy! The point is to enjoy the park. Don't feel like you have to stick in a rut! Change your plans, change your mind, and most of all, just make sure that you have a good time. It'll all be worth it, no matter what!

Getting our tourist side on!

Gorgeous landscape near West Yellowstone

Finally arrived at Old Faithful Inn! 

My happy parents! They are just overjoyed... ha ha!

There she blows! 

Watching Old Faithful

Day 2 and already getting our photography jam on!

Beautiful Teton morning

My heart is home!

Hidden Falls (on the Jenny Lake route)

Morning shot of bison in Lamar Valley

Can't get enough of these mountains!

Our first grizzly siting of the trip, in Lamar Valley near the buffalo kill

Gray wolf at the buffalo kill site

Uncollared rogue wolf crossing the river


Black bear spotting! 

Same black bear mom, nursing her twin cubs

Photographing a different set of black bear mom and cubs

Binoculars are a must! 

We love our animal stalking!

Two black bear cubs between Mammoth and Tower

Bison and posing calf. What a show off! 

Hiking the hot springs

Big boy bison is my new best buddy

5.2 mile hike to Fairy Falls! 

It was worth it! Gorgeous views

Fantastic time at Fairy Falls between Old Faithful and Madison

Look at that view!

I spotted this coyote pacing back and forth in this meadow. Gorgeous boy! 

Best part of the trip! Three fox kits between Madison and Mammoth

Got a little scratch! 

Showing off for the camera! 

Standing at attention just outside our cabin in Mammoth

Gorgeous moose we saw a few times on the east end of Lamar Valley

Nothing cuter than baby bison! 

Gorgeous sunset to end the trip! 

Can't wait to go back in September! 
All photos were taken with a Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Digital SLR and 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III telephoto zoom lens
Please do not use any of these photos without expressed permission