Winter Wolf Viewing, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park "Suggestion for Best Winter Trips"
Photograph by Henry H. Holdsworth
When snow blankets the nearly treeless Lamar Valley, it's easier to spot Yellowstone 's elusive wolves, bison and elk and their prey. Watchful winter visitors to this remote wolf territories are typically rewarded with multiple wildlife sightings. A pending proposal to remove the gray wolf from the US Fish and Wildlife Service List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, however, could impact future winter wildlife viewing. Observe and learn about the wolves this season during a multiday tour like the Yellowstone Association Institute's Winter Wolf Discovery or Natural Habitat Adventures' Yellowstone Wolf Quest .
When to Go: Winter Wolf Discovery trips depart July 22 and 29; January 5, 12, 19, and 26; and February 2, 9, 16, and 23. Yellowstone Wolf Quest, March 1-6, 5-12, and 13-20.
How to Get Around: In winter, the North Entrance (near Gardiner, Montana ) is the only way into the park by wheeled vehicle. Car travel is permitted on the park road from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance (closest to the Lamar Valley), but mud or snow tires or tire chains may be required. A limited number of guided snowmobile tours and commercial snowcoach operate within the park. Winter Wolf Discovery and Yellowstone Wolf Quest viewing tours include in-park transportation.
Where to Stay: Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is the only lodging in winter park accessible by car and is only open October 20-November 3. A new winter shuttle service is available from Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport to the hotel.
Where to Eat or Drink: In Bozeman, taste locally sourced fare at Montana Ale Works , housed in a restored railroad freight house. Menu items include bison pot stickers, Kobe burgers made with Montana Wagyu Cattle Company beef, and an extensive selection of regional craft brews like Big Sky Brewing Company's Moose Drool Brown Ale and Trout Slayer Wheat Ale.
What to Read Before You Go: Revised and updated in 2012, the Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone , by Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson (Lyons Press), examines the years since the wolves' reintroduction to Yellowstone in 1995.
Cultural Tip: Use binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens to view wildlife from a safe distance for both you and the animals. Getting within a hundred yards of a wolf or bear is prohibited in the park, and doing anything to willfully disturb or displace any wildlife (from any distance) is illegal.
Fun Fact: Northern Rocky Mountain wolves are indigenous to Yellowstone, and packs existed here when the park was created in 1872. By the 1940s, wolf packs were a rarity due, in part, to a government-subsidized wolf eradication program launched in 1915. Wolves were successfully reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 and 1996