No matter what kind of traveler you might be, Bozeman has something to offer you. Peek through our suggested itineraries for the Yellowstone area to see if something sparks your interest.
With more than 1,200 miles of hiking trails, getting out of the car and stretching your legs is a must in Yellowstone! Make sure that you are well prepared as the weather and conditions in Montana are known to change instantly. Always wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots, carry extra water, pack a coat or poncho in case of rain, know where you are heading and take a map and compass. It is also recommended to carry insect repellent, a first aid kit, bear spray, and to hike with another person.
Yellowstone Park is home to more wildlife than almost anywhere else in the United States. With more than 60 species of mammals and 200 species of birds calling it home, you're sure to see a large variety on your trip. With a little patience and a lot of sitting, watching and waiting, you can find many critters. Early morning and evening is when most animals are feeding and sightings are more frequent. Remember that all wild animals are unpredictable, especially those with young. To avoid any accidents, keep a safe distance and be aware. It is illegal to approach within 100 yards of bears or wolves, 25 yards of all other wildlife, or to disturb or displace animals in any way.
If you are hoping to see any and all animals, check out these hot spots:
- The cliffs between Mammoth and Gardiner, Montana - big horn sheep frequent this area.
- The North Entrance - pronghorn are often spotted in the sagebrush flats.
- Lamar Valley - with the highest concentration of grizzlies, and numerous reports of wildlife spotting, the Lamar Valley is an excellent choice for wildlife viewing.
- Hayden Valley and Pelican Creek - in the heart of the Park, Hayden Valley is a must-stop. Moose spend their days grazing the shores of Yellowstone River, while many species of waterfowl splash and feed in the waters.
If you are hoping to see a specific animal, check out their hot spots:
Bears inhabit meadows as well as forested regions of the park. Bears are most often seen in and around the Dunraven Pass area as well as Lamar Valley, Northern Range, Hayden Valley and Yellowstone Lake regions.
The best place to see a wolf is the Lamar Valley. More than 100,000 wolf sightings have been reported inside the Park since their reintroduction began in 1995.
September is the best time to watch these critters as they bugle and fight their way through mating season. You will see elk with huge racks guarding harems of over 30 cows and hear their eerie bugles. Look for elk throughout the Park, but especially in the Lamar Valley, Gibbon River, Elk Park, along the Madison River and in the Mammoth Hot Springs areas as well as in the Norris Campground, Madison Campground, Mammoth Hotel and Dunraven Pass, near Antelope Creek.
Moose are typically near streams, ponds and marshes. The best places to view moose are between Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs, around Yellowstone Lake, and in the Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley areas.
Pronghorn are most often found in the northern section of the Park, especially in the sagebrush fields around the North Entrance and occasionally in the Lamar Valley area. Drive the one-way dirt road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Gardiner for some of the best spotting areas.
Expect to see deer throughout the Park, but especially in sagebrush areas, particularly around the North Entrance. In the summer you'll see them high in the mountains, often in fields of wildflowers or along rocky, brush-covered slopes. Along rural roads look for them in alfalfa fields, a deer favorite!
Big Horn Sheep
Look for bighorn sheep along the cliffs between Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs, and on Mt. Washburn, between the Canyon and Tower regions, in the winter season. In the summer sheep frequently are found in the Gallatin and Washburn Ranges, the Absarokas and around the Red Mountains.
The most frequent spottings are around Seven Mile Bridge, between the West Yellowstone and Madison Junction. Also look for these large birds around Swan Lake, along the Madison and Firehole rivers, and along the Yellowstone River south of Canyon, between Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley.
Hearing a coyote is much more common than seeing one. The calls a coyote makes are high-pitched and variously described as howls, yips, yelps and barks. Look for them in meadows, forests and grasslands.
Eagles spend their days perched in trees, watching nearby waters for fish. Look for them around Yellowstone River and Lake, as well as Seven Mile Bridge.
Bison are almost always on the move and are seen in different areas during different seasons. One of the best spots is in Hayden Valley along the Yellowstone River. Some other hot spots are along the Madison, Firehole and Gibbon Rivers. Also try the Fountain Flats area and the Mud Volcano area, as well as the Lamar Valley. Lone Bulls are often seen around the Lake Hotel and Fishing Bridge.
There are more than 220 lakes and 1,000 streams in Yellowstone National Park swimming with 11 native and 5 non-native species of fish. Native fish are strictly catch and release, and there are limits on the number of fish an angler can keep. Cutthroat Trout, with their distinctive red slash on the underside of the jaw, are a primary food source for many Park animals including eagles, osprey, pelicans, otters and grizzlies. The fishing season begins the Saturday of Memorial Day and runs through the first Sunday in November, with a few exceptions. It is very important to thoroughly read all of the fishing regulations within the Park. (Regulations within the Park).
Yellowstone Fishing Fees
- $ 18.00 for 3 days (16 years and older)
- $ 25.00 for 7 days (16 years and older)
- $ 40.00 for an annual permit (16 years and older)
- Children 15 and younger may fish without a permit if they are fishing under the direct supervision of an adult who has a valid park fishing permit, or
- Children 15 and younger may obtain a free permit that must be signed by a responsible adult; with this permit, a child can fish without direct adult supervision.
Fishing permits are available at all ranger stations, visitor centers, and Yellowstone Park General Stores. Fishing permits are also available at many businesses in the Greater Yellowstone Area. No state fishing license is required in Yellowstone National Park.
- Lamar River
- Although a rather popular river for fishing due to its easy access (the Highway from Tower to the Northeast Entrance parallels the road through the Lamar Valley), it is not hard to find solitude if you are willing to walk. Most anglers focus on the area around Soda Butte Creek confluence, if you continue upstream you will find waters less traveled.
- Slough Creek
- Along the road heading east from Tower-Roosevelt, you will see Slough Creek which offers some of the best fishing in Yellowstone. The easiest access is provided by a trailhead heading up to Slough Creek Campgrounds. From here you will have to walk about 45 minutes to First Meadow, and two hours to Second Meadow - both are well worth the trek!
- Soda Butte Creek
- Many anglers agree that the Lamar Valley and Soda Butte Creek are the most beautiful spots in all of Yellowstone. The Northeast Entrance Highway borders this little river for the majority of its length, making access easy, just stop at a pull-out and walk across the meadows.
- Yellowstone River
- Not only is the Yellowstone River the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48, it is one of the most famous trout streams, revered for its beauty as well as the abundant fish. The most popular stretch is the nine miles south of Fishing Bridge to Buffalo Ford.
- Firehole River
- Named for the billows of steam that early explorers mistook for smoke, the Firehole has been a popular trout stream since the 1800s. With access provided by the Grand Loop Road, the best fishing is in the early summer, before the water temperatures rise and chase the fish upstream into smaller, cooler tributaries.
- Gibbon River
- Originating in the middle of Yellowstone Park at Grebe Lake, the Upper Gibbon River is difficult to access and requires bushwhacking through unfriendly terrain. For the best fishing and easiest access, try Gibbon Meadow via Grand Loop Road in the fall, when the large fish are migrating to spawning grounds.
Favorite Spots for Kids
- Blacktail Deer Creek, Indian Creek near campground, Gardner River at the picnic area between the North Entrance and Mammoth, Joffe Lake
- Yellowstone Lake along Gull Point Drive or at Sand Point
- Aster Creek near Lewis Falls, Lewis Lake shoreline
- East Entrance
- Middle Creek, Sylvan Lake
- Gibbon River at Virginia Meadows or other meadow reaches, Solfatara Creek near campground
- Gibbon River near Tuff Cliffs
- Old Faithful
- Goose Lake, Firehole River at picnic areas, Nez Perce Creek
- Northeast Area
- Pebble Creek near campground, Trout Lake
A Geology Timeline of Yellowstone National Park.
Petrified Forests can be found throughout the Park. The most accessible is a small forest near Tower Falls, past the Ranger Station. Possibly the most remarkable of all the forests is on Specimen Ridge. Covering many acres, there are fossilized trees that still stand well over 10 feet high.
Mud pots, just as the name implies, are bubbling pockets of heated "mud." The distinct odor that often permeates the area is caused by the sulfuric acid that erodes the surrounding rock, creating the goopy, smelly mess you won't soon forget.
Hot Springs are created when water that is heated within the earth's crust rises to the surface, creating a pool. Occasionally the hot springs water will dissolve the surrounding limestone and the sediment will get carried to the surface and deposited in flowing terraces, such as those at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Geysers are one of the most popular attractions in Yellowstone. Different from hot springs only in that they erupt and spew hot water and steam high into the air - Old Faithful can reach heights of 185 feet - these are a wonder to watch.
Fumaroles are similar to hot springs but lack an adequate amount of water to cause anything more than steam to leak out of the ground. Usually situated on higher ground above the water supply, high temperatures boil what little water is available, releasing a noisy burst of steam and gas.
Waterfalls are plentiful in Yellowstone. Boasting around 300 of these beautiful, natural wonders you don't have to venture far from the main roads to gaze on plummeting cascades. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone provides many vantage points to view two impressive sights; the Upper and Lower Falls. The Lower Falls, the Park's largest, plunges 308 feet into the river below.
Yellowstone Park has more than 1,100 historic structures.
Yellowstone National Park was established as the world's first national park in 1872. For the first few years, civilian staff was hired to run and protect the park. Their limited manpower and resources were no match for the many poachers, souvenir hunters and tourist camps that were set-up around the hot springs, some complete with bath and laundry facilities. In 1883, realizing that the park was in severe danger, Congress turned to the United States Army. In 1886 troops were stationed at Camp Sheridan, located at the base of Mammoth Hot Springs, in temporary frame buildings. After five years of horribly cold winters, the cavalry realized their assignment was going to be long-term and Congress appropriated funds for a permanent post. Fort Yellowstone's first buildings were finished in late 1891, with many more built as needed to accommodate the expanding army presence. In 1918, with the formation of the National Park Service, the army was able to withdraw from Yellowstone and relinquish control of the park.
- Canyon Area Historic Highlights
- Grant Area Historic Highlights
- Lake Area Historic Highlights
- Mammoth Area Historic Highlights
- Norris Area Historic Highlights
- Old Faithful Historic Highlights
- Tower-Roosevelt Area Historic Highlights
To keep the kids involved in the trip, sign them for one of two fun, interactive programs!
Children 5 years and older will explore the Park and learn interesting facts about the area and how it was shaped. Check out a Young Scientist Toolkit to assist you with your discoveries and hit the trail to learning. Once you have completed the booklet and activities you will be awarded a Young Scientist Badge, modeled after the National Park Service patch.
Children between the ages of 5 and 12 can complete a series of activities designed to familiarize them with the Park and its natural wonders. After filling out a booklet and taking part in Park programs, including hikes and Ranger-led programs, you will be awarded a Junior Ranger Badge modeled after the National Park Service patch.
Need supplies for your trip to the Park? The National Park Service has a plethora of activities, printable color pages and games to get your child interested in Yellowstone.