We saw many of the more famous highlights of Yellowstone National Park as we were making the journey there from the Grand Tetons National Park so on our next day we decided to go searching for some wildlife. First though we started with some breakfast at the Yellowstone Grill in Gardiner which was packed but rightly so as the food was great and the service also top notch, so much so that we had breakfast here every morning during our stay even the day when we had to rug up and sit outside in the cold because there was such a queue inside.
On the way into the park from Gardiner you have to head up through Mammoth, where there are loads of elk roaming around the streets, and past Mammoth Hot Springs which is an area made up of calcium carbonate that has been deposited over thousands of years. We took the opportunity to stop here and wander around the boardwalks. These otherworldly formations are both odd and amazing at the same time and with the steam rising from them and catching the light from the sun it was so atmospheric and definitely worth stopping at.
We then continued on to the Lamar Valley in the north east of the park. This area is well known for its wildlife spotting opportunities and not long after dropping into it we had seen our first bison, which we then continued to see everywhere all spread out across the plains. There were even a couple that decided to bring traffic to a standstill and cross the road in front of us.
Our first official stop (not including the many times we pulled over in a lay by on the edge of the road to look at something exciting) was at the Trout Lake Trail head. This little 1.3mile lollipop loop starts with a fairly steep climb up to a cute lake with a very pretty backdrop. There were only a handful of other people around, mainly those who were fishing, and it was just a very peaceful and chilled out walk around the edge before descending back down towards the car.
We then continued slightly further out on the Northeast Entrance Road until we found a small picnic area at Soda Butte Creek. The view from here was great and we were having a lovely lunch until it started hailing heavily on us. We managed to tolerate the first outburst by taking shelter inside a tree however a few moments later it started up again and we had to retreat and finish our food in the car.
When the weather had settled down we went back in towards the centre of the park and stopped at the Slough Creek Trail head. We set off on a hike along one of the route signposted and completed a 6.4 mile out and back route where there was only one other person on the path the whole way. Again the beginning of this trail was up a moderately steep track that was made harder by the fact it was a bit loose underfoot but then went over the lip and down into Slough Creek itself. This hike didn’t really have an end point as such, you just have to decide when you’ve had enough and turn around (if you just keep carrying on you will eventually cross into Montana) but the views were great and it did provide us with a couple of our closest encounters with bison. The first one was lazing under a tree not far from the path that showed very little interest in us walking past it both on the way out and then again on the way back. The next was slightly more worrying for us when we turned a corner and there was another one blocking our trail. It then proceeded to follow the hike itself very slowly and stopping regularly to graze on the surrounding undergrowth. We followed it from a safe distance getting more and more concerned that it may take all week to get back to our car until it eventually turned off into the trees and walked away from us at an angle away from our route.
Following this we started the drive back towards our hotel but before we got far we were greeted by one of our most thrilling spots of the day, a coyote. It may not have been the wolves or bears we had hoped for, although it’s supposedly better at dawn to see these and you also have more chance if you’re with an expert, it was still special to see this smaller but no less awesome predator.
What animals did you see when visiting Yellowstone? Have you ever managed to spot any wolves there?
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