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First impressions of Yellowstone National Park as a wildlife photographer.

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

I grew up absorbing all the information I could from wildlife documentaries and books. Most of them were about the great wonders in Africa, from Serengeti ecosystem to Kruger National Park to Madagascar. The reason why Yellowstone National Park was on the top of my list to visit was probably because I saw it as an equal to those great wonders I was fascinated with from such a young age.

But the more I was growing up the more I learned about other pure nature sanctuaries across the globe. Yellowstone National Park is definitely part of them.

So in early May 2019, my girlfriend and I and our dog Nick decided to spend 6 days in Yellowstone National Park.



If you decide to go to Yellowstone at this time of the year, don’t expect all the park, or the roads, to be open. In fact, a good portion of the park was still closed (see the official website for your dates). You have to keep in mind that the park is surrounded by mountains and therefore you are already in high elevation environment, around 8,000 feet. It means, snow on the side of the road and freezing nights.

During our 5 nights in this early season at Yellowstone National Park, no campground with showers were open. We had to take shower in the bathroom using a wet towel. This is maybe why we were the only car on site! Better if you have a travel trailer or an RV with a shower inside.

But the good thing about all of this is that there was barely anybody in the park, especially in early morning because most people were coming from Bozeman MT, through I-89, outside of the park.

Since Yellowstone is such a popular national park, wildlife is pretty used to humans, even if you are on foot. This situation makes it very tempting to get closer and closer to the wildlife to get ‘the shot’; but keep in mind that ‘taking the shot is a privilege, not a right’.

Furthermore, you have some serious stuff living up there, black bears, grizzlies, etc…and they are not shy…so keep your distance, be reasonable and let them live their life.


Now it’s time for my advice concerning Yellowstone:

Assuming you are into wildlife viewing/photography, I would recommend you to spend as much time as possible in Lamar Valley, where there is an amazing amount of bisons and pronghorns. The last day we were there in May, all the bison calves were born in the valley, which I have to admit was super cute!

If you are looking for some elks it would be more around Mammoth Lodge, whereas big horn sheep and deers might be seen between Lamar and Mammoth. This area might also be a good one to find some black bears. Another hint would be to stop by Pebble Creek, ask nicely if you can use a someones scope (unless you have your own equipment) and try to observe the famous Yellowstone wolves!

In general, May is a really good month to visit Yellowstone, fewer tourists and awesome scenery covered with snow, the perfect combo!



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