Lamar Valley Yellowstone wildlife fox

Where’s the best place to view winter wildlife in Yellowstone National Park?

Our vote is Lamar Valley

When the alarm clock sounded at 5 a.m. that first morning in Yellowstone National Park, we wondered why the heck we had booked an early morning tour called “Wakeup to winter wildlife.” We dragged ourselves out of bed, bundled up for the frigid morning and arrived at our meeting place before the sun was up.

Our destination was Lamar Valley in the park’s Northern Range. Its grassy valleys receive less snow than other parts of Yellowstone, making it easier for animals to graze. Animals that spread out among the park’s 3,000 square miles of mountains and ridges other times of the year are concentrated in the valley areas for winter. The result: Lamar Valley is one of the best winter viewing areas for wildlife in Yellowstone.

Bison (also called buffalo) frequent the Lamar Valley during winter.
Bison (also called buffalo) frequent the Lamar Valley during winter.
Winter offers great opportunities to view and photography Yellowstone wildlife.
Winter offers great opportunities to view and photography Yellowstone wildlife.

Some 100 wolves live in the park, so spotting one is rare. Our guide had intel where a wolf pack had been sighted the day before so our hopes were high and we weren’t disappointed. Through the lens of spotting scopes we watched a pack of wolves run and play along a river with the fascination of a child. We also spotted coyote and fox that morning – completing what they call in Yellowstone a “three dog day”.

We watched bison walk single file through fields of snow; saw bighorn sheep delicately walk down a rock face to graze on some tasty grass; watched as a fox listened for rodents under 2 feet of snow and then sprang into the air and did a headstand to snare its breakfast; saw elk and moose and trumpeter swans. By the time we returned to Mammoth Hot Springs for lunch our cameras had hundreds of amazing photos and our minds were spinning with the majesty of what we had seen.

We spotted this elk on our winter wildlife viewing trip.
We spotted this elk on our winter wildlife viewing trip.
Bighorn sheep are among the animals that call Lamar Valley home for the winter.
Bighorn sheep are among the animals that call Lamar Valley home for the winter.
We watched in fascination as a fox detected a rodent under 2 feet of snow and then leapt into the air and did a dive into the snow to snag his prey.
We watched in fascination as a fox detected a rodent under 2 feet of snow and then leapt into the air and did a dive into the snow to snag his prey.
Wildlife is easier to spot in winter because animals move into the valleys where grass is easier to access.
The only traffic jam you'll experience in winter is when bison or other wildlife use the road to move to a new grazing spot.
The only traffic jam you'll experience in winter is when bison or other wildlife use the road to move to a new grazing spot.