Travel Tip: See the Bison at Yellowstone

I love to travel, and this is one for your bucket list. One of those “things to see before you die” adventures. Everyone should go to Yellowstone National Park at least once in their lifetime. And while you’re there, say hello to one of their most impressive residents, the American Bison. They are magnificent. And the beautiful thing about seeing them in Yellowstone is that you not only see them in a completely natural habitat, you see them up close. I mean really up close. Once in a lifetime up close. And when you do, you’ll fall head-over-heels in love with bison. Furry, mangy coats and all. These beasts are awe-inspiring.

See that gray bar in the bottom left corner? That’s the frame of our car window. This guy was in the middle of the road and close enough to touch. We would never do that (without wetting our pants), but that’s how close he was. Oh, and for the city slickers – never fear! You can still enjoy encounter traffic issues. Sometimes it’s due to the number of tourists in the park, but sometimes it’s due to a more specific type of traffic issue – a bison jam. And no, I’m not kidding.

And as if that wasn’t enough, those park rangers go ahead and throw in some spectacular scenery. Just for your viewing pleasure. They’re friendly like that.

NanaBread’s Yellowstone travel tips:
1. To beat the crowds, go in mid-May. As a bonus, it’s “baby” season in Yellowstone, and you’ll get to see all the new additions to the park.
2. We preferred the north and south entrances, but it doesn’t really matter how you get there. The important thing is to get there.
3. When you go, try to stay for at least a week and plan to spend each day driving a different section of this enormous national treasure. You should see it all.
4. For stunning mountains, stay near the south entrance and Jackson, Wyoming. For incredible vistas and bountiful wildlife, stay near the north or northeast entrance to the park. For shopping, museums and tourist attractions, stay near the west entrance of the park.
5. Pack your camera, your zoom lenses, and a spotting scope (if you have one) every time you venture out into the park.
6. Pack a picnic and a cooler of drinks each day; you never know when the perfect spot for a picnic may arise and it can be hours before you get to the next store or restaurant. That goes for gas stations, too.
7. Take advantage of the ranger talks, visitor centers, and locals for information on weather, animal sightings, photography gems, etc. Information is invaluable in a place this large.
8. Pack layers of clothing and rain gear; temperatures can drop and rise with elevation and storms. Always be prepared.
9. Invest in a good book or fold-out guide on the animals and plants you may encounter in the park; it helps enhance your experience, especially when traveling with children.
10. Take your time. Relax. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery and the clean air, and take a million photos. Once you’re gone, you’ll miss this magical place, and you’ll want to remember it forever.



Filed under Travel Tales

19 responses to “Travel Tip: See the Bison at Yellowstone

  1. I was at Yellowstone when I was fifteen and it was one of my top vacations! We didn’t get as close as you did to the bison, but we did see a huge herd in the distance and even far away they made me nervous! :) (Scenes from Dances With Wolves were running through my head). Looking at your pictures in the midst of a chilly winter really gives me spring fever. I love your tips and when L. is old enough to ride in the car without whining, I want to take a road trip out there again! We also hit the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore but it was on the way to Yellowstone for us! :)

    • Yeah, I blame the weather for spring fever, as well. I’ve been searching for our next vacation for a few days. Yellowstone in late May and early June is perfect. Everything is blooming, it’s baby animal season, and the weather is gorgeous. We saw black bear, a grizzly bear (also up close, which was terrifying and thrilling), moose, elk, marmots, big horn sheep, a great snowy owl, etc. The only animal we had on our list that we failed to find were the wolves, but they are known to be elusive. If you like wide open spaces, wild animals and knock-out scenery, this is the place. I hope you’ll get to take B & L some day. It’s definitely a vacation they’ll never forget.

  2. These pictures are amazing!! I really want to to go to Yellowstone so bad. It is definitely on my bucket list. I love your blog!! I’m your newest follower :)

    • Thanks, Brandie. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. It was a great trip, and it’s so vast and wild and lovely there. I hope you make it. And thanks for reading the blog, too. I always appreciate new readers and I love getting feedback. I’ve been enjoying yours, too. Your eclair cake is on my list of must haves. It sounds fantastic. I may have to make it for our annual girls only weekend in March. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for stopping by!

  3. Claudia

    Wow! Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to describe it. We visited Shenandoah National Park once, but did it Japanese style for lack of time, and our visit took no more than an hour (it was near sunset and when I saw the park still hosts bears, boy, was I back into that car in a flash (hey, I’m from Holland, the worst animal I could encounter out here is my neighbor’s slightly mental cat, so don’t be too hard on me)). Anyway, just thought I’d say thank you for the beautiful pictures and tell you that Yellowstone has made it to my – already quite substantial – bucket list. I’m considering early retirement :-)

    • That’s awesome, Claudia! I’m so glad I inspired you to add it to your travel list. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed in a trip to Yellowstone. The park has everything – breathtaking mountains, lush valleys, rivers galore, waterfalls, wildlife, thermal features, historic lodges, and on and on. It’s so vast and spectacular. I love that your biggest wilflife threat is your neighbors crazy cat. I’m guessing the grizzly bear encounter we had would have definitely made an impression on you, then! Wish I’d had my wits about me to get it on video or get better photos. By the time I “unfroze”, the bear was turning to walk away into the bushes. I have a spetacular shot of a grizzly butt walking into the weeds. At least you can still see the hump on his shoulders to prove it was a grizzly. That was a real thrill.

  4. Amazing photos! I have always wanted to go to Yellowstone. It’s top on your “as soon as the Baby is old enough” road trip list. We have to go out west first. We just have to. My Hubby has never seen the painted dessert or the Grand Canyon, so I figure we will do a big circuit. With 4 kids. I might be nuts!

    • Hahaha…I don’t know why, but your comment made me think of the old Steve Martin movie, The Jerk. “That’s all I need….this RV, and a bottle of Xanax and that road map…yep, that’s all I need.”

  5. Woah! That is insane. Are they aggressive at all? I would have to touch one, but I want to know if it’s going to slash its horn into my car door or if it will nuzzle my hand.
    I dream about going to Yellowstone. Incredible.

    • Sorry, Mads…petting the wild animals is not allowed. Yes, they can be aggressive. That’s why they warn you not to get too close. People do get hurt. In our case, the bison were everywhere, including the middle of the road. When we encountered them, we stopped and waited for them to move. We sat in two separate bison jams for at least 40 minutes each. They like to take their time and go wherever they want. If you’re still and quiet, they’ll walk right past your car. The guy we passed up close was very stubborn but also tolerant. We were driving slowly through the area when he walked onto the road parallel to our car. We stopped and waited about 20 minutes, but he still stayed by our car. Eventually, we started rolling at about 2mph and he started walking with us. We wondered if he might head-butt our rental car, but he didn’t. He was awesome, but we were very lucky. And yes, I wanted to lean out the car window and pet him, but I’m a rule follower and I love and respect them too much to alter their wild status. Was it awesome? You betcha!

  6. Oh my gosh, your photos are breathtaking!! My husband and I do want to travel more . . . we’re just always in a pinch for vacation days (I don’t get many) and end up ‘distributing’ them between family and friends. Some day, though . . .

    • I think it’s harder to travel when you’re younger, and I’m not being sarcastic (rare, I know). When you’re younger, your job is your primary focus. Then if you have children, they take all your attention and money. It’s not until your a little older, a little wiser, a little less driven and a little more financially stable that the world of travel really opens up to you. In our case, we took one amazing trip every few years until My Baby was in college. Then we started going a little more frequently, even if it was just weekends away somewhere fun. Now that she’s grown, married and has a house and family of her own, we have the time and money to travel more. It’s our favorite hobby, and we are commited to going to new places we’ve never been and marking some of the big ones off our “bucket list.” And because I was a baby when we married, we still have the energy to enjoy it all. That really helps!

  7. NanaBread – Thrilled about your post. We have been camper searching for the perfect summer getaways with our little girls. Spring, Yellowstone, Bison + Family = one serious memory. I hope our girls will be like Kandiland above—remembering the trip fondly! If we can’t get the truck and trailer this’s a definite for 2012! Thank you for all the tips–I’ll be sure to heed them all. – skye

    • Skye, I’m so excited my story helped inspire you to take your girls to Yellowstone! It’s a magical place, and a vacation the entire family is sure to remember forever. If you have any questions or need advice, feel free to ask. And I hope you’ll share stories and photos after the trip!

  8. Hi Nana,

    Just stumbled upon your site and coincidentally, we’re planning a trip to Yellowstone this summer. We’ll fly out from PA and rent an RV. We did that 2 years ago when we went to NM and AZ and had a great time. We went to the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert. Wonderful Memories!

    Thanks for the post and I’ll be stopping in again!

    • Donna,
      I’m so glad you found me! I’m so excited you found my blog before your trip. Hope the Yellowstone tips help. I also wish I could stow away in your RV and go with you! The Complete Package and I are talking about a Grand Canyon, Zion & Bryce trip someday soon. If you have any advice, or places you loved, please feel free to pass them along. And I’m enjoying looking through your blog. My mother is a quilter and gardener, so I have a special place in my heart for people who share those passions. Please visit again. I love making new friends and always appreciate new readers.

  9. margaret

    Hi, thanks for the pictures and hints as to where to view what. We are heading up in August so i know the view/animals will be very different.

    • Hi, Margaret! I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos and hints. I hope they helped. You’re going to have a fabulous time in Yellowstone. It’s unlike any place on earth. Best wishes for a safe trip! -jeanne

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