Close Encounters of the Wildlife Kind in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
Growing up, I was a bit of an animal fiend (okay, I still am). When asking for a puppy every Christmas and birthday did not work, I had every small animal I could sell my parents on, from gerbils to rabbits. Spending summers camping in the many Wisconsin state parks, I had a blast catching minnows off the beach, fishing, and exploring the many trails in hopes of running into a friendly deer or raccoon (spoiler alert: friendly raccoons do not exist). So, to say I was ecstatic to join our Yellowstone and Grand Tetons trip this July, a destination that always makes the top 5 list of National Parks for wildlife spotting, is an understatement.
Our adventure began with a bike ride to the Jackson Lake Lodge, which has an unobstructed view of the Teton Range and Willow Flats, an area prime for wildlife spotting. It did not take long for us to spot our first animal of the trip–a moose–while we watched the sun creep below the mountains.
Our second day of the trip began bright and early, with a day trip into Yellowstone National Park in safari-style vehicles. It became quite apparent within a half hour of our excursion that there is a valid safety reason we do not bike within the park itself. As our guide, Paul, started to explain how we likely will not see a grizzly bear due to their dwindling population within the park, we began to slow down for a traffic jam ahead. It was what they call a “bear jam”, due to there being, yes, a grizzly bear, within 40 yards of the road.
With our safari vehicle capabilities, we opened our roof hatches to get unobstructed views of the massive predator without putting ourselves in danger. It was clear we were in the bear’s territory, and that it did not feel threatened by our presence. We were each provided with a set of binoculars to get a better look at the bear, which spent about an hour digging around in the tall grass.
Throughout the day, the park continued to provide us with up-close viewings of bison, elk, and mule deer. With a spotting scope in tow, we were all able to get telescopic views of herds of bison with their babies. Paul knew exactly where the hotspots were, and the other cars gave us further hints as to where to get the money shots.
As our day within the park came to an end, we had one more amazing encounter with a black bear crossing the road (there’s a knock-knock joke in their somewhere).
Though Yellowstone National Park had the highest concentration of wildlife we saw all week, our sightings did not stop there. Throughout each day’s ride, we witnessed mule deer grazing right off the bike path in Grand Teton National Park, two bald eagles fighting over food, a fox carrying a mouthful of food, a moose and its baby on our way up the tram in Teton Village, ospreys in their massive nests, and a river otter playfully swimming parallel to our boat while whitewater rafting on the Snake River.
Absolutely go on our Yellowstone and Grand Tetons trip for the riding. It is stunningly beautiful, and relatively mild in terms of the hills (my dream). However, don’t forget about the other reason that our National Park trips are so popular–the wildlife encounters that you will remember forever.
Experience Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons