Yellowstone National Park may just be the most diverse park I have ever visited. While the Hydrothermal areas are fascinating to see, the wildlife is another huge draw for people visiting the park. While you can see plenty of wildlife throughout the park, the Lamar Valley has the largest population of wildlife of the whole park. Due to the large number of wildlife in the Lamar Valley, it’s often been referred to as America’s Serengeti. To name just a few of the animals you can see in the Lamar Valley are wolves, grizzly bears, bison, coyotes, pronghorn, elk and eagles.
Alot of people will just drive out to the valley and stop in one of the many pullouts to view the wildlife, but taking a hike is an even better way to see the wildlife. For safety from animal encounters, hiking is best done in groups in Yellowstone and you should avoid hiking alone or even with just two people. A great safe way to hike in the Lamar Valley is to go on a guided hike. When I visited Yellowstone, I booked my hike thru Yellowstone Hiking Guides.
Our guide met the 9 of us that were signed up for the hike at 8am at the Lamar Valley River Trailhead for a six hour hike that covered six miles along the Lamar River Trail. Since you must stay 100 yards away from bears and wolves and 25 yards away from all other wildlife, the guide provided us all with binoculars. We were also provided with hiking poles and a bag with lunch and plenty of snacks. The guide had bear spray on him and we were told to get into a tight circle behind him if we were to encounter a bear, which thankfully we did not, unfortunately we didn’t even get to see one from far away.
The hike started out by crossing a bridge and then we continued into the meadow. After taking so many hikes thru the woods, it was different to be hiking in a meadow. It definitely made for a warmer hike due to being fully exposed to the sun the entire hike. The great thing about having the guide was that he was able to tell us some information about the different wildlife and the area itself. In fact, everyone in the group was great about adding in their own knowledge about certain animals.
But probably the biggest highlight to having the guide and the others in the group was that everyone was on the lookout for wildlife and chances are someone would be looking in a different direction than you and could point out wildlife you might not see if you are in a smaller group.
While we didn’t get to see any bears or wolves, we got to see plenty of bison, even had some blocking our path that we had to wait for them to move before continuing on. We also saw quite a few pronghorn, an elk from quite the distance, osprey, a bald eagle and a golden eagle. I was quite amazed with the golden eagle and have now decided that I want to be an eagle in my next life. Who wouldn’t want to fly and then perch themselves up high above where they get a great view of everything!
This was definitely a time when I wish I had a fancy camera with a good zoom lense and wasn’t just using my good old phone as my camera. I’m very grateful for the binoculars though, the views I saw thru them will just have to live on in my memory instead of in a photo.
The hike is great for all abilities as we went slow and stopped often to view the wildlife. About halfway thru the hike, we stopped and sat by the river to have lunch. It was definitely a beautiful area to relax a bit in the middle of the hike. The lunch provided was pretty good, it was a sandwich, chips, apple, peanuts, fruit snacks and a granola bar. One of the things I would definitely recommend is to bring enough water. One of the people in our group just brought one 20 oz bottle, which was not enough. They suggested that everyone bring 2 liters of water with them.
I would definitely recommend this hike to anyone visiting Yellowstone, especially if you are traveling alone or with just one other person, safety in numbers in bear country is important! While we did not see any bears or wolves, the amount of bison and pronghorn we saw was quite amazing and I’ll never forget seeing that golden eagle.
Yellowstone National Park is huge! When I visited I stayed in West Yellowstone which ended up being a 2 hour 15 minute drive from the Lamar Valley, this is without the traffic caused by bison jams, which happens often! If you are not up for such a long drive (which includes the stress of a bison jam causing major traffic and making you late) so early in the morning, I would recommend staying on the northern side of the park the night before the hike in Gardiner, Montana.
I’ll end this post with a video of the hike after we waited for the bison to get far enough off the trail for us to go forward.
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