Quick Travel Guide •  Wyoming, USA

Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park

Last Updated On: September 25, 2020


When you think of Yellowstone National Park, you think of vibrant colored geothermal pools, erupting geysers, and boiling mud, but it is needless to say that the wildlife sightings in Yellowstone are just as thrilling. Wyoming boasts the biggest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states, turning Yellowstone National Park into an American Wildlife Safari Paradise. Yellowstone National Park is home to 61 different mammals, including bison (my personal favorite!), gray wolves, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn deer, black bears, and grizzlies as well as the largest herd of elk in the United States. But where do they all live you might ask. How can you find them? Keep reading because I will tell you all the secrets about how to see wildlife in Yellowstone National Park!

Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape

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The Best Spots For Wildlife Viewing in Yellowstone National Park

Now if you are looking for Bison, you won't have to look long. They are everywhere, scattered all around the park. Don't be surprised when you find them taking a break in the shade right next to a pristine hot spring. But to find any of the other animals, we recommend starting in either Hayden Valley, Tower-Roosevelt, and Lamar Valley. With lush and fertile environments, these three areas offer the best wildlife viewing in the park, but keep in mind that these are wild animals roaming freely, so you will also need some luck to spot them.

Hayden Valley is often the first recommendation if you ask in the visitors center, but our favorite is Lamar Valley. This valley is often referred to as the Serengeti of North America. Driving through the vast landscape is reminiscent of our afternoons spent in the African plains. Here you will easily come across herds of hundreds of Bison roaming freely through the plains.

All it takes to spot wildlife is some luck, patience, perseverance, and an early riser.

Bears, wolves, deer, pronghorn, and elk also call this valley their home turning Lamar Valley into a popular and rewarding American wildlife safari hub. Make sure you have enough time on your hands for a visit to Lamar Valley. Yellowstone National Park is way bigger than most people think and it won’t be fun if you are in a hurry, trying to rush through this stunning scenery. Mammoth Hot Springs is another area known for frequent elk and bear sightings. The best part is that even if you don't come across any wildlife, you can still explore the terraces and other beautiful geothermal features in the area.

Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape

The secrets to spotting wildlife

Generally speaking, the best time of the day to spot wildlife is during dawn and dusk. This is typically when deer, foxes, bears, and wolves are out scavenging for food and making their way across the fields. With that said, I can almost guarantee that you will spot wildlife while driving through Yellowstone National Park. Even if you don't manage to get up early or stay out late, your chances are very high to cross path with bison, deer, and the occasional antelope. Bear sightings are also not uncommon during the day. It is pretty hard to miss a bear in the park since there will be an unusual amount of cars parked on the side of the road leading to light traffic jams and a perk in curiosity. Definitely park and get out to see why everyone is in the area. Trust me, 9 times out of 10 you will be glad you stopped. 

  • Wake up early or stay out late: this is when your chances are at the highest since this is usually the time when animals tend to be out grazing or hunting.
  • Stop by at the nearest Visitor Center and ask for the latest wildlife activity: the rangers know the park pretty well and are often out making sure people keep their distance when bears end up close to the road.
  • Invest in a decent pair of binoculars: this way you can not only see animals in the distance but admire them up close all while keeping your safe distance. This tool will quickly become your best friend.
  • Be aware: this is a National Park and the animals don't look twice before crossing the road, so be sure to drive safe and be conscious of your surroundings.
  • Keep your distance. Don’t forget that these are wild animals and not a petting zoo. Keep a safe distance at all times. Although the animals may appear tame, they are unpredictable and simply still wild. Careless tourists are attacked every year due to irresponsible behavior.
  • Bring bear spray: Yellowstone National Park is bear country, so having bear spray is essential when venturing out into the park especially if you plan on tackling some backcountry hikes.
  • Don't feed wildlife: don't leave your food or garbage unattended and always make sure to store your food and cooking utensils in a secure place before leaving.

Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape

THE BEST AND WORST TIMES OF THE YEAR TO VIEW WILDLIFE IN YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

The best time to visit Yellowstone is either in the Spring from April - May, or during Autumn from September - November. This is when the temperatures are mild and the crowds are few.Autumn might just be my favorite time of the year thanks to the captivating array of bright and yellow-colored foliage, the entertaining moose mating season, and the perfect weather to take a soak in the boiling river.

Summer is usually the busiest time of the year, starting in June all the way to September.

Prices for accommodations usually start dropping after Labor day (the first Monday in September) but keep in mind that most facilities close by early November. Snow covers the landscape of Yellowstone starting from November - March. However, there is beauty to be found in Yellowstone during the winter months and some of the most overlooked backcountry skiing in the country. But keep in mind that depending on the weather road closures can start as early as October which can make it harder to get around the park.

With that said, wildlife viewing in Yellowstone National Park is almost guaranteed, but the season can impact the species you will see. April is the month when bison calves start running around the park. It is quite amazing to watch them learn how to walk and frolic around their parents, disrupting an otherwise peacefully grazing herd. May is when spring is at its peak and the meadows turn lush green. If you are eager to see bear cubs and elk calves then plan your visit around the months of May to June as this is when most animals have their young. There is nothing better than spotting a mother bear appear with her cubs in tow.

Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape

June & July are some of the busiest months in the park and the prime time to see cubs of all species being raised but also hunted by grizzlies, badgers, and peregrine falcons. August is a busy month for the bison bulls as they try to impress their female companions. The best place to spot herds of Bison is in and around the Lamar and Hayden Valleys. September & October is quite a fascinating time of the year, this is when the eerie high pitched bugle of bulls fill the air, fall colors start to cover the surrounding landscape and most animals start growing their deep furry and feathery winter coats. The months of September to November is also the mating season for the male and female moose. By November & December, most wildlife has gone dormant and you can only spot the occasional elk and bison gather around the rivers and thermal features.

Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape

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Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
Where To See Bears, Bison & More In Yellowstone National Park | Bare Escape
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