In a state where the backcountry habitats range from low lying wetlands and thick fir forests, to alpine ridges and sprawling verdant valleys, it’s perhaps not surprising that even the highways are regarded as great wildlife-viewing spots. Wyoming is, after all, the land of the great Yellowstone National Park; the gateway to the wilds of the classic American West, and home to some of the country’s most revered natural gems.
So, without further ado, here’s Hopper’s pick of the top five wildlife spotting places in the state. But be warned, because those who come here expecting tame exhibitions of captive animals or well-managed wildlife sanctuaries can think again. This is a world of rugged terrain and raw nature, where grizzly bears splash in the creeks and seething elk herds tumble over the prairie.
The grand and chiselled peaks of Wyoming’s Teton Range loom over this wildlife refuge, located just a short drive out of Jackson and close to the state border with Idaho. True to its name, the 25,000-acre park is dedicated to preserving one of the largest wild herds of elk on the planet, boasting numbers in excess of 7,500 during the high winter months. During the summer, the elk return to higher grounds elsewhere in the Yellowstone region, leaving the land to a kaleidoscope of birds, mammals and other curious mountain fauna.
Winding its way through the northern fringes of Wyoming’s Yellowstone Park, this much loved and popular trail follows the meandering path of Slough Creek. It passes through verdant meadows, wide vistas of mid-mountain grasslands and dense pockets of fir forest, offering up opportunities to spot wild buffalo, bison herds and roaming bears along the way. Hiking the trail will take a full day, while guests looking for a more immersive experience can spend the night in one of the backcountry campsites or trail lodges nearby.
A 36-mile stretch of the winding Green River cuts its way through this off-the-beaten-track wildlife refuge in Sweetwater County, bringing water to the riparian fields of cottonwood and prairie. From the wetlands nearer to the river, to the drier uplands on the park’s outer fringes, the site is teeming with life; home to proud bald eagles and a curious array of freshwater trout and amphibian species. On-site guests enjoy a comprehensive visitor’s center, complete with interactive exhibitions and designated wildlife viewing areas.
There are few areas in all of Wyoming more endowed with wildlife than this wondrous National Park. Home to a patchwork of Alpine slopes, riparian wetlands, meandering river basins and deep forests, it is little surprise that animals ooze from it every crevice, while the soaring, snow-tipped peaks and vast open valleys speak pure drama from the get go. Those who make the journey can expect to see deer and elk, marauding wolves and wandering moose, not to mention the occasional grizzly roaming through the wilds.
America’s first national park still stands tall as one of the nation’s premier outdoors destinations and a veritable must for any wildlife-seeker making their way through the Western United States. Today it’s famed for the proliferation of wild animals and verdant flora that cluster on its volcanic slopes, all leading up to the great life-spouting summit of the Yellowstone Caldera. Home to a cocktail of such unique geographical and biological conditions, Yellowstone is said to support more megafauna than anywhere else in the country, with great numbers of bears, elk, wolves, moose and bison to name but a few.