Yellowstone National Park is full of wildlife that can be spotted by the roadside throughout the park. (In fact, on our very first day in the park, there was a huge traffic delay because a bison decided to walk in the middle of the road blocking all traffic!). But if you’d like to see herds of bison and other wildlife in their natural habitat, you have to make a trip to the Lamar Valley.
Lamar Valley is a 2 hour drive from West Yellowstone in the north east end of the park. It’s far, but the 4 hour round trip drive is totally worth it and part of the Yellowstone experience. The drive is quite scenic as it passes through vast lush green valleys. The frequent wildlife sightings will give you plenty of opportunities for those sought after wildlife pictures with scenic backdrops. Make sure to carry a pair of binoculars though as you will want to see these animals up close from a distance. We forgot to bring ours and regretted it.
We spent an entire day in Lamar Valley doing the 7 mile round trip Lamar Valley Trail to Cache Creek. The hike is relatively flat with not much elevation gain and its possible to do the round trip in under 3 hours, although 4 hours will give you enough time to relax at Cache Creek and have a picnic before heading back.
If you’re short on time, you can also simply drive around Lamar Valley and head back. Take a detour on the drive back and drive through Hayden Valley to top off the wildlife viewing experience. Hayden Valley is the other popular spot to view wildlife in Yellowstone.
Watch the video of our day trip to Lamar Valley:
Did You Know?
Before the year 1800 they were over 60 million bison across the great plains. But due to over hunting, the buffalo dwindled in numbers until the year 1900, when it is estimated that there were only 300 individuals left in the wild.
The Yellowstone Park bison herd at one time was the last free-ranging bison herd in the US, numbering a mere 23 individual buffalo. They have now grown to a herd of over 2,000 individual members, and are one of Yellowstone’s most common and famous fauna attractions.
While visiting Lamar Valley, and other parts of Yellowstone for that matter, bear in mind that you have to be very careful with bison. They look like cows and their huge size and lumbering motions give the appearance of being slow and docile.
But more people have been hurt in Yellowstone by buffalo than any other wildlife present in the park. Some bison have been clocked at running 40 miles an hour in some instances, so make sure that you appreciate these magnificent creatures from a safe and healthy distance.
Its quite likely that you will spot bison very close to the trail in Lamar Valley. If you do, stop and take a detour to avoid getting too close them. For the most part they will mind their own business, but you never know!
Lamar Valley in Pictures
Share your Experience
If you have been to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, let us know about your experience in the comments below. We would love to hear from you! If you are planning on visiting Yellowstone, check out our day by day itinerary of our trip.