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Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

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Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

We are considering making a trip to Yellowstone this year and would like to try and come in the very short spring season... late May/early June. We will be very limited on time for this trip, so will have to plan efficiently, which is something I've done well in the past so hopefully I can continue this trend! My prime objective is wolf watching, and had hoped to possibly go into the Lamar Valley, although I'm a bit worried about the presence of the wolves there, given the recent hunting . :( However, we were kind of hoping to fly into Bozeman or West Yellowstone but not knowing the logistics, I'm not sure which is better for our destination. We would need to rent a car, and as I mentioned, make the most of probably a 4-day trip. Since we'd be coming all the way to Yellowstone, I'm not sure I could get away with not seeing the geysers (even though it's not really a huge interest for me) so I'd like to know how far away that is. Basically, if there is a very simple online guide that would be a good place to start, that might at least give me an idea if this is even possible to do in such a short window of time. Thanks in advance!

Atlanta, Georgia
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1. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

Yes you can fly into Bozeman and West Yellowstone. West Yellowstone only has service in the summer months. If you want to be near the Lamar Valley then try for lodging in Canyon. With 4 days possibly try for one night at OF and the others in Canyon.

Check out the national park service website and the top questions at the right. Book lodging in the park only thru Xanterra.

Pam (DObby) who posts here is great at detailed daily trip plans.

Good luck!!

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2. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

Although I have seen lots of wolves in Lamar, Hayden valley also is a good wolf sighting location, right near Canyon. Look for wolfers with scopes at place called grizzly overlook.

Unfortunately Roosevelt Lodge near Lamar is not open late May, early June.

I just saw some cabin availability at Canyon the end of May, beginning of June which, if I were you, I would grab! You can always change later if need be. Canyon opens May 31.

There are 3 lodges at Old Faithful that are open earlier than Canyon in May, so you could start for a night there if need be.

Have fun planning!

Edited: 10:16 am, February 18, 2013
Houston, Texas
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3. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

Not to mention you could also fly into Cody, Jackson, Idaho Falls, Salt Lake City and Billings. Billings would be good to add in the Beartooth highway. Though the Beartooth may not be open by the time you come.

When you compare flights. Compare schedule, cost and rental car expense. The rental car costs can vary considerably.

Consider staying in Cooke City-Silver Gate at the NE entrance to Yellowstone and and the opposite end of Lamar/Soda Butte valley.

The Hayden valley is similarly good for wildlife spotting.

Yellowstone webpage

http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

N. Idaho
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4. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

I would definitely go for Bozeman over West Yellowstone airport because it is bigger/more flights. West Yellowstone also is less convenient to Lamar. Would your 4 days include your flight arrival and flight departure days? So 2 days in Yellowstone?

Pam

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5. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

Jen,

I am one of the Yellowstone "wolfers" you may have heard of.

We visit the park every year normally for two weeks sometime between mid-May and mid-June for the sole purpose of studying and photographing the wolves of Lamar Valley and on the northern range. I can tell you what works for us, and you can certainly modify it any way that you see fit. Hopefully your trip will include four days "on the ground" in YNP...........

We fly into Bozeman, rent a vehicle, and drive roughly 3 hours directly over to the Silver Gate/ Cooke City area of Montana. Since it is only a 20 minute drive out to Lamar from there, that is where we base for our entire stay.

Now, right up front, I do have to tell you that, although it works well for those of us who primarily spend our days in Lamar and on the northern range, due to the remote location and the driving required, Cooke City is NOT recommended as the ideal place to stay when visiting the entire park. For instance, it is nearly 100 miles from Cooke City down to Old Faithful.

However if watching wolves, and most of Yellowstone's wildlife, is your primary objective, you can not stay any closer to Lamar than the Silver Gate/Cooke City area. The nearest in-park facility is at Roosevelt, but that never opens prior to Memorial Day weekend. Depending on the severity of the winter in the park, it could open even later than that.

Wolves can also be seen down in Hayden Valley, and really anyplace else in the park for that matter. The two main locations for viewing wolves are Lamar and Hayden Valleys. That is due to the open rolling plains that allow for easier spotting and observations than the more heavily wooded southern and western sections of the park. Hayden Valley can be easily reached in a 10 minute drive from the Canyon area, and that is actually the most centrally located of all the in-park lodging facilities.

The wolf populations in YNP are in a constant state of flux. Packs expand their territories, old packs dissolve, and new packs form all the time. The recent removal of the gray wolf from the endangered spieces list, accompanied with the new hunting regulations, have indeed had an impact on those that remain. My time as a wolfer goes back to the "glory days" with the famous Druid Peak pack controlling the eastern end of Lamar Valley, and the Slough Creek pack dominating the western end. Sadly, both of those packs no longer exist. There have been interim packs in the valley, but with nowhere near the numbers of the Druids or the Sloughs. Unfortunately last spring was not a great time for observing wolves in Lamar Valley. We can only hope that those that have managed to hang on will have a good pup survival rate, and that this spring will show a turn-around.

Green Valley...
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6. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

You'll want to read...

Wildlife Viewing and Photography, contributions by several TAs: http://tinyurl.com/7dt5xe2

With four days, you'll have plenty of time to tour the park and its many sights. It's hard to stand still 10 hours/day looking for the wolves.

The "wolfers", like Hawkeye, are readily visible in the two valleys, especially at dawn/dusk, and at places like Pebble Creek. Ask the rangers where they have been seeing wolves. Once you see the "wolfers", inquire about when and where to join them. They'll know where the recent "kills" are and more.

Be happily aware, wildlife of many types/species is everywhere.

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7. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

Original poster here...

Thanks SO very much to everyone who have replied. Just this thread is a great beginning for me to determine whether or not we can do this trip this year or if we'll have to wait. We are in Los Angeles so I think the most important thing to decide is where we would fly into, since our time would probably be limited; four days on the ground, max. That's kind of why I was hoping to avoid the 3 hour drive from Bozeman. Of course, I want to stay closest to where we would be most likely to spot wolves, since that seems to best be done at the break of day, and we won't want to be having to drive much of a distance. I love that there are so many resources for exactly what I want in a trip, with like-minded individuals. So thanks once again for this great start to my research. Now we just have to see if we can make it happen, and when.

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8. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

Jen, if you want to stay closest to wolf-watching at the break of day, then I would choose Silver Gate or Cooke City for part of your stay & then Canyon.

If you flew into Billings, it's an hour to Red Lodge, then a world-class scenic 2 hour drive over the Beartooth pass to Cooke CIty of Silver Gate.

Have fun planning!

Green Valley...
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9. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

I caution that "convenience" is in the eye of the beholder. :)

Cody is well worth a visit and Scott's help would be a boon.

I support Hawkeye's advice re: lodging in proximity to the two valleys, given the dusk/dawn viewing opportunities and the need to minimize driving in the dark.

We often say, take the distance in miles and multiply by 2 to get an idea of trip duration between points. So, looking at the totality of the drive, not the components, it could take 3 hours from Cody to Canyon Village, at the north end of Hayden Valley. One way.

To the OP, this is definitely a "must see":

Buffalo Bill Historical Center A fascinating and world class complex (with cafeteria); plan on at least three hours. For all ages. http://www.bbhc.org/home/

Edited: 10:54 am, February 20, 2013
N. Idaho
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10. Re: Yellowstone Visit for first-timer: wolf watching

In regard to the Cody suggestion, things to consider are that with your time frame of late May/early June, Dunraven Pass, north of Canyon is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend. In some years it has not opened til in to June due to snow depth. With sequestration threats, it is unknown how that might impact road openings.

It is an hour or a little less from Cody to the East Gate. Then from the East gate to Tower Roosevelt Jct it is 62 miles. Most of us find that to calculate the time it will take to travel within Yellowstone, we normally double the miles to get the time. (15 miles = 30 minutes) You would still need to travel another half an hour or so to get to the middle of Lamar Valley.

Altho we often suggest a visit to Cody, with a very short time frame you may want to focus on your wolf watching.

Pam