My wife and I will be visiting Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in mid-September, and we're eagerly anticipating the wildlife viewing opportunities that these three National Parks offer. We're most looking forward to viewing moose, bears, wolves, elk, and mountain goats. We've planned the Yellowstone portion of our itinerary in such a way that we'll be traversing the Lamar and Hayden Valleys during both dawn and dusk. We have plans to camp at Pebble Creek and Norris, and will be spending a few nights in Jackson Hole as well. To give you some background, we live in the countryside of southwest MI and are accustomed to seeing wildlife such as white-tail deer, turkey, raccoons, opossums, and woodchucks. We also enjoy recreational bird watching when we have the time. We don't currently own a spotting scope, but do have several sets of binoculars.
I'd like to know whether an average pair of binoculars would return a satisfactory wildlife viewing experience in the front country of Yellowstone and GTNP. If consensus is that they will not and that a scope is required, what specs would be considered optimal? Our price range is going to be quite low, likely in the $50-60 range. I've read that scopes can be rented locally at a rate of approximately $30/day, but at that price I'd rather just buy our own cheap scope, assuming binoculars won't cut it.
We don't want to soak a bunch of money into a really nice scope, since our opportunities to use one after the trip would be fairly limited. Any money we do throw into a scope would be coming from our vacation budget, and would entail a few less meals at local restaurants and such while on our trip. I'd rather not make that trade-off unless it's absolutely essential to a good wildlife viewing experience.