Sunday, February 19, 2017

Roadside Pullout Ahead: Winter Wildlife Viewing in Yellowstone

          Yellowstone National Park has five entrances and 251 miles of roadways, but only one stretch of highway is plowed and open to vehicles from November until May—the 52 miles between the Montana towns of Gardiner and Cooke City.
          While traveling this road you may notice several vehicles parked in the plowed pull-out areas.  If you also see people outside in temperatures barely topping zero degrees, gazing through spotting scopes and long-lens cameras—pull over!  You're guaranteed to catch sight of amazing wildlife nearby.

Wildlife alert!  What did these people see?
Two wolves and a mountain lion on the far hillside.
We saw them too, through our spotting scope.
          Roadside pullouts are the places for photographing wildlife during the winter months in Yellowstone.  On a frigid January day Tim and I pulled into one of these parking spots near the Lamar River where we observed and photographed the following species.
          Click on any photo to enlarge.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.  Notice how well
he blends in with the rock and snow.

This coyote was on her way to feast on a dead animal carcass,
uphill to the left.

Cow Moose browsing willows on the river bank.

This pair of Barrow's Goldeneye ducks is enjoying
their swim in the Lamar River.

As we drove away from the pullout we noticed
a badger following in bison tracks near the road.

         And the reward for getting up early and braving the cold by dressing in layers of long underwear, fleece tops and pants, neck warmers, wool gloves and wind-stopper parkas?
         A stop at 'The Bistro' in Cooke City for steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

The Bistro, on left, serves bone-warming hot chocolate.

         View more photos of Yellowstone's winter wildlife by visiting this previous post:


  1. Hi Rita,

    It's fascinating to see all those tripods and telephoto lenses, but as your photos shows, well worth the time to visit in the winter. I love the coyote's fluffy winter coat!

    And, that photo of the majestic bighorn is gorgeous!! They have such agility on those rocky outcrops. It's amazing to watch them move.

    Hope you enjoyed the hot chocolate!

    1. Hi Vickie,

      Yellowstone definitely is worth a winter visit, if only to avoid the massive summer crowds.
      I agree with you about Bighorn Sheep. They are gorgeous, and also spectacularly adapted for their rocky mountain habitat.
      And, oh yes, we did enjoy the hot chocolate—so much so that we returned to The Bistro on another day for another mug!

  2. Rita, thanks for posting a link to your blog of a few years ago about wintertime in Yellowstone National Park. The photos in that posting as well as this one do a fantastic job of capturing the beauty of that Park and its wildlife during the winter months. It must be marvelous to live where you have convenient access to incredibly scenic locations such as Yellowstone.


    1. We certainly are fortunate to be within easy driving distance of so many national parks and scenic wonders.
      That being said John, you also live in a beautiful part of the country with many recreational opportunities!
      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Hi, Rita. Saw both of your Winter in Yellowstone posts. Your pictures have gotten much better :)

    And I'm sure guys who get to see Yellowstone in all its different guises are among the most fortunate on earth..

    1. Yellowstone is wondrous in every season.
      However it's the relative lack of human visitors that makes winter our favorite season. I'm sure the wildlife appreciate it too!
      Thanks for the compliments on our evolving photographic skills!

  4. Sounds like another, outstanding trip for you and Tim, Rita. I seems you can make the most of any season. I especially liked the badger.

    1. I like the badger too. They are beautiful and fascinating animals. Like most fur-bearing mammals in North America they were hunted and trapped to near-extinction, so it's always exciting to see one in the wild.

      The trip was indeed outstanding, Janet. I love traveling to winter locales, provided I bring the proper clothing!