Wolf Watching near Lamar Valley

Room Type

Wolf Watching Around Yellowstone's Lamar Valley

From 1995 until 1997, 41 gray wolves from northwest Montana and Canada were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park. Today, around 94 wolves in eight packs roam Yellowstone, making it arguably the best place in the world to watch wolves in the wild. And, Lamar Valley, just minutes from Elk Horn Lodge, is where Yellowstone wolves are most prevalent.

Where to Go

Within Yellowstone National Park, the best location to spot wolves is in and around Lamar Valley, located in the Northern Range of Yellowstone. Four of Yellowstone's eight wolf packs, the Junction Butte Pack, Rescue Creek Pack, 8 Mile Pack, and Wapiti Lake Pack are found in this area. (Note that numbers for a given pack can vary significantly. Pack sizes described below are the most current figures available.)

The Junction Butte Pack is one of Yellowstone's largest wolf packs, with around 15 wolves. You might spot these wolves in the open areas near the many paved pull outs along Route 212 . The pack has also been observed around Slough Creek and the Little America section of Yellowstone.

The Rescue Creek Pack has around a dozen wolves, and it has been spotted recently in the Lamar Valley area.

The 8 Mile Pack and Wapiti Lake Pack each have around a dozen members. Both packs have been spotted around Mammoth, near Yellowstone's North Entrance.

Another small pack, the Lamar Canyon Pack, is no longer classified as a Yellowstone National Park wolf pack. However, they are seen occasionally in the eastern section of Lamar Valley, around Round Prairie, and at the Northeast Entrance along Soda Butte Creek.

When to Go

You'll regularly find recommendations to go wolf watching in Lamar Valley during the dead of winter. This is mainly because the contrast between the wolves' dark coats and the white snow makes them relatively easy to spot. In addition, elk, deer, and bison move to lower elevations–like Lamar Valley–in search of food and water, and the wolves, of course, follow them. (About 90% of a wolf's winter diet is elk.)

Keep in mind that winter temperatures in Yellowstone are regularly well below zero, so winter wolf watching might not be as fun as you imagine. Fortunately, you do have other options.

Mating season for wolves is around February and March, and they give birth to an average of five pups in April and May. The pups will leave their dens about 10 to 14 days after birth, and stay around the den for 3 to 10 weeks. This is a great time to observe the wolves, and it's your only chance to see very young wolf pups.

During the summer months, the wolf packs will follow elk herds to higher, cooler elevations. As summer ends, the elk and wolves return to their wintering areas in the valley. Many wolf watchers look forward to the return of the packs: It gives them a chance to observe the mature versions of the pups they watched earlier in the year.

Time of day also matters when watching for wolves. Wolves are most active at dawn and at dusk. Your best bet is to be where you want to be before sunrise. Basically, be at your wolf-watching location by 5:00 a.m. in the summer or 7:00 a.m. in the winter.

Wolf Watching Tips

  • Talk to expert wolf watchers. Look for groups of folks with spotting scopes at pull outs. Most are friendly, and some will let you take a look through their scopes.
  • Optics matter. Carry a good spotting scope, binoculars, and/or powerful camera lens.
  • Get up early, or stay out late. Dawn and dusk are the best times to catch wolves out and about.
  • Look for groups of noisy ravens, magpies, or crows. They sometimes follow wolves, especially if a carcass is around.
  • Be alert. You might spot a wolf outside of the usual locations.
  • Coyotes vs. wolves. Coyotes are red, gray, and brown, with pointed noses and ears. Wolves are black or gray, with rounded ears. Also, a wolf is about twice the size of a coyote.


Want to learn more about wolf watching in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley? Here are some helpful resources. If you have additional questions, give us call.