Lamar Valley, Yellowstone: Your Guide to Everything We Saw (Wildlife, Rivers, Lakes and Peaks)

lamar valley

The world’s best wildlife sanctuary awaits you as you head out on the Lamar Valley loop. The Lamar Valley extends from Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance, offering a front row seat for grizzlies, wolves, and bison in all their glory. This is the best place to see all of the park’s great big animals, so be sure to get your cameras ready!

Yellowstone has a lot of things to offer. The park is huge and there are dozens of activities that you can do while you are there.

One thing I would recommend is spending time at Lamar Valley. This is one of the most popular locations in the park because it has a lot of wildlife and there is a good chance you will see wolves, bison and bears.

We spent a week in Yellowstone and Lamar was undoubtedly the highlight this time. Here are 13 things we think You Should Know before you go!

One of 2 Places to See Wildlife in Yellowstone

Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley are the 2 best places in Yellowstone to See Wildlife

Lamar Valley is located near the center of the park, between Mammoth Hot Springs and Canyon Village. It is home to one of the largest herds of bison in Yellowstone National Park.

lamar valley 2
Lamar Valley

The valley also supports a large deer population and other wildlife such as wolves and grizzly bears. This area is popular with wildlife photographers because it has an excellent vantage point for taking pictures of the wildlife below.

The Hayden Valley lies at the northern end of Yellowstone Lake, south of Mammoth Hot Springs. In this area you can see dozens of bison grazing on grasses along with elk and deer.

hayden valley
Hayden Valley

You might also spot moose along river banks or beavers building lodges in tree tops along rivers flowing into Yellowstone Lake.

Valley of the Lamar River

Lamar Valley is the Valley of the Lamar River, located in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA. It is a section of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that includes parts of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and adjacent public and private lands. T

lamar river

he valley runs roughly east to west for about 25 miles (40 km) along the Lamar River from its headwaters at Fairy Falls Lake to its confluence with the Yellowstone River near Tower Junction.

The Valley has a relatively flat floor measuring 10 by 15 miles (16 by 24 km) surrounded by steep mountain walls rising up to 9,000 feet (2,700 m), with Mount Sheridan at 8,367 feet (2,556 m).

The lowlands are covered with grasses and sagebrush; the surrounding mountainsides are covered with forests dominated by lodgepole pine and spruce-fir stands.

The Lamar Valley was first explored in 1878 by Charles W. Cook who named it after General Francis Adams “Frank” Bradley Lamar while accompanying William Henry Jackson’s expedition into the area.

Lamar Valley Loop Drive

Lamar Valley is an easy drive through. I would suggest stopping at the Lamar Ranger Station and getting a map. You can also get information about wildlife sightings and ranger talks there.

Lamar Valley is an easy drive through loop. The road is paved and well maintained. There are sections of dirt road that require a high clearance vehicle but they are small and easily passable.

lamar valley bison

The best time of year to visit Lamar Valley is late spring – early fall when the grizzlies are out foraging for food and not hibernating yet. During this time it’s possible to see wolf packs, bison, elk, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife that call Lamar Valley home.

The valley has plenty of open space and grassland where herds of bison, elk and pronghorn can graze undisturbed by human visitors. The lack of trees makes it easy to keep an eye on the animals, who have no choice but to cross the road when they need to move between grazing grounds.

lamar valley elk

On my visit in July, I saw bison, pronghorn antelope and a mule deer buck grazing peacefully on the grassy hillsides. A large herd of elk were also visible from our car window as we waited for traffic coming from both directions to clear so we could make our way through Lamar Valley.

After driving through Lamar Valley, we made our way back toward Yellowstone Lake via Grand Loop Road. The drive took us past many thermal features like mud pots, geysers and hot springs — some active and others dormant — which were covered with colorful algae known as biofilm (also known as bacterial mats).

Soda Butte

Soda Butte is a great place to see wildlife and enjoy the scenery. The view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking and you can see all of Yellowstone National Park

Soda Butte

We saw a lot of wildlife while we were there. We saw several deer, elk, bison and many birds. There was also an eagle that flew right by us!

The hike itself is fairly easy and fairly short. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the top of the mountain. The trail starts at Soda Butte Creek Campground which is just off of Highway 191, west of West Yellowstone. The trailhead starts at the back end of the campground next to some picnic tables and fire rings. It’s marked very well with signs so it’s hard to miss

The trail itself is wide enough for one person but if there are more than 2 people hiking together then it might get crowded as there isn’t much room between each person. The trail follows along Soda Butte Creek for most of its length but there are some sections where it cuts away from the creek bed, usually when it goes over rocky areas or through trees; these sections aren’t very long though so it doesn’t take long before you’re back on top of or near Soda Butte Creek again

Lamar Valley is Surrounded by Mountains

Lamar Valley is the largest valley in Yellowstone National Park. It is home to some of the park’s most popular attractions, including Mount Washburn, Pelican Creek and several other large mountains. The valley itself is surrounded by mountains on all sides, including Mount Washburn to the north and the Absaroka Range to the east.

Absaroka Range

The Lamar River flows through the valley from north to south before it empties into Yellowstone Lake. The Lamar River is a tributary of the Gardner River, which then flows into the Snake River.

The Lamar River has cut through rock over thousands of years, creating steep cliffs and waterfalls that can be seen along its banks. These features give Lamar Valley its unique beauty and have attracted thousands of visitors over time.

Mt Washburn

Mt Washburn, located in Yellowstone National Park, is a massive peak that towers over the Lamar Valley. This mountain was named after George Bird Grinnell, a well known naturalist who was instrumental in the creation of Yellowstone National Park.

Mt Washburn

The mountain itself is made up of two peaks. North Washburn Peak is the higher one at 12,013 feet above sea level and South Washburn Peak is 11,716 feet above sea level. Both peaks consist of a plethora of glaciers and ice fields which have been around for thousands of years. The last major eruption from Mount Washburn occurred approximately 800 years ago and produced an ash cloud which forced many Native American tribes to flee their homes.

Mt Washburn is part of the Teton Mountain Range that runs along the western edge of Grand Teton National Park and extends into Yellowstone National Park.

Bison Peak

This 5,923-foot peak is located at the north end of Lamar Valley and is named for its abundance of bison. In fact, there are estimated to be more than 1,000 bison in this area. The summit offers great views of the valley below and provides a great resting spot for hikers climbing up from Gardiner or Cooke City.

The Thunderer

The Thunderer Mountain consists of a series of mesas that were created by erosion from ice age glaciers. The steep slopes on the east side are formed from basaltic lava flows that erupted during an eruption about 2 million years ago.

The Thunderer

It is located at the north end of Lamar Valley, and towers over the valley floor at an elevation of 9,903 feet (3,034 m).

It is a great place to go for a hike or ride your bike. You can see bison, wolves, and grizzly bears from this place. You will also find yourself surrounded by beautiful views of the mountains and valleys of Yellowstone National Park.

Specimen Ridge

Specimen Ridge is a mountain ridge in the south-central part of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The ridge has two summits, East and West Specimen Peaks, which are seen above the Lamar Valley. The ridge is an example of a horst, formed by faulting which uplifted blocks of sedimentary rock while they were still soft enough to fold without breaking. The tops of the ridges have been eroded away by glaciers leaving a sharp edge called a pediment.

Specimen Ridge

The most spectacular feature of the Specimen Ridge is its fossilized trees. The trees are believed to be over 2 million years old and were preserved when volcanic ash from an eruption nearby fell on top of them. Rocks erupted from nearby volcanoes covered them with layers of ash that protected them from erosion until recently when erosion exposed some of these trees once again.

We went as far as Trout Lake

Trout Lake is located in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. The lake is named after the cutthroat trout that live there. The cutthroat trout are native to Yellowstone and were reintroduced to Trout Lake by park rangers after the lake was drained.

The trailhead for this hike is located on the east side of Highway 191 in Lamar Valley, just north of Gardiner, Montana. The parking area is about 1/4 mile north of the intersection of Highway 191 and Gallatin Road (which leads to Cooke City). From the parking lot, walk south on the road for about 200 yards until you reach another road that goes west (this is Gallatin Road).

Specimen Ridge 1

Follow this road west until you reach an intersection with a sign that says “Trout Lake Trailhead.” Turn right onto this road and follow it through some private property until you come to another sign marking the start of the trail.

The trail heads northwest from here into the Lamar Valley backcountry. It follows along a ridge line for several miles before dropping down into a valley where it crosses several creeks before reaching Trout Lake itself at about 7 miles from the trailhead.


This area is so popular because it’s where you have the most chance of seeing wildlife. The Lamar valley loop is a 13 mile route that offers plenty to see, as this is where some of the most famous Yellowstone animals reside. The road has pull offs with views of everything from bison to grizzlies.

Yellowstone is a constantly evolving artistic representation that paints a picture of the park’s history. At the same time, it continues to look to the future to improve the park and its offerings. It is truly one of the most iconic national parks around and has been delighting visitors since 1872 with its unique scenery, wildlife, geothermal features, and rich natural history.

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