Top Ten Wildlife Viewing and Photography Locations in the Intermountain West

Updated on February 10, 2018
Outside Influence profile image

Bot Bahlmann is a wildlife photographer and the executive director of an outdoor education non-profit called Explore the Outdoors.

How Can You Pick a Favorite?

There are so many great wildlife viewing venues picking my top ten has been a real challenge. I took into account the variety and abundance of wildlife, particularly big game, proximity to my home in central Utah, the inherent beauty of the area, and the availability of good camping facilities.

With these considerations in mind, here is my top ten list.

All photos shown were taken by me and the videos filmed by my son Michael.

1. Yellowstone/Grand Teton

Because of the distance from my home I combine these two National Parks and always visit both when I make the trip. These two parks are without doubt the best locations to see large numbers of a wide variety of animals at close range.

Bison

The most abundant and visible animal at Yellowstone is the bison. These big shaggy beasts can be seen, often within feet of the main roadways, anywhere in the central and northern park of the park. The best place to see them is the Hayden Valley.

The rut, or breeding season is an exciting time to see the bison. Running from July through September, the rut will find massive bull (male) bison competing for the attention of the cows (females). There will be a lot of posturing and bellowing with an occasional short but intense fight. Remember that bison are big, strong, fast and dangerous. Never get closer than 50 yards or if they are closer to the road than that, keep your vehicle between you and the bison.

Another great time to be in the park is between March and June when the calves are born. Respect the maternal instincts of the cows and never get close to the baby bison.

Rutting Bison Filmed by My Son Michael

Elk

The rocky mountain elk is probably the second most visible animal at Yellowstone. If the bison is the symbol of the American west, The elk holds the honor of being the symbol of the American wilderness.

The regal bull elk with his impressive antlers is an awe inspiring sight and the eery bugle of a rutting bull can send shivers down your spine.

The best places to see elk are the Hayden Valley and northward into the Mammoth area. Again, the rut, between late August and mid September, is an exciting time to see the fights between the magnificent bulls.

Grizzly

Getting up close and personal with a grizzly is both dangerous and challenging. In order to avoid confrontations between these big bears and park visitors, park officials will often temporarily close areas where grizzlies have been recently seen.

Still the opportunity is there and can happen at any time. On our last trip to Yellowstone my son and I drove from our campsite near Yellowstone lake to the north east corner of the park in the Lamar Valley looking for bear and wolves. When we got back to our camp we discovered that we were three minutes too late to see a grizzly sow and two cubs walk through the campground no more than 30 yards from our trailer.

Park rules recommend that visitors get no closer than 100 yards to bears or wolves.

This Young Grizzly Feeds on a Carcass on the Shore of the Yellowstone River

Wolves

Like the grizzly, wolves can bee seen at any time and in any part of the park. The most visible pack is most likely to be seen in the Lamar Valley. Morning and evening are the best times to see wolves and if they are visible from the road there will usually be a lot of cars pulled over and spotting scopes set up.

The spring months are a good time to see both bears and wolves. The abundance of young elk and bison makes it easier for them to find food and they will congregate around the herds looking for an easy meal.

Moose

Moose can be harder to find in Yellowstone, but this is where Grand Teton shines. The best place to see these homely critters is aptly named Moose Junction. The bridge over the Snake River provides a wonderful viewing platform to watch moose feeding on willow leaves.

Other Critters You're Likely to See in Yellowstone/Grand Teton Parks

Lucky visitors might also see mule deer, black bear, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and coyotes.

2. Antelope Island State Park

Located in the Great Salt Lake across the causeway west of Syracuse, Utah this island is home to a captive variety of wildlife. As with Yellowstone, the main attraction is the herd of about 700 bison that make the island their home.

Other wildlife that are commonly seen include pronghorns coyotes and some huge mule deer bucks.

Animals can often be seen from the roads and are easily photographed during all times of the year. The island is often plagued by tiny biting gnats called no-see-ums by many park visitors in the late spring and early summer. To avoid the gnats plan your visit before May or after June.

3. Custer State Park, South Dakota

This is a long drive from Utah, but the abundance of wildlife, the opportunity for me to see some critters I'd never seen before and the plethora if other fun sights to see put this park among my favorites.

You can expect to see bison, pronghorn and whitetail deer.

4. The Book Cliffs

Located in central Utah near the Colorado border the Book Cliffs are home to good populations of mule deer, elk, black bear and a recently introduced herd of bison. Extensive oil and gas exploration in the area provides good road access and shows that wildlife can coexist with energy exploration.

My favorite time to visit the Books is in mid November during the mule deer rut when it's common to see hundreds of deer in a day.

You can also expect to see wild turkeys, coyotes and, if you're lucky, some horned toads.

Book Cliff Bucks

5. Arches/Canyonlands National Parks

Both of these parks are located in southeastern Utah. They are home to some of the most magnificent rock formations in the world as well as desert bighorn sheep. one of my favorite photos was taken in Canyonlands. We were looking for bighorns and came across a coyote that actually got a little too close for comfort.

6. Henry Mountains

The Henry Mountains are an isolated range of rugged mountains north of Lake Powell in south central Utah. These mountains are known the world over for producing some of the biggest mule deer bucks. They are also home to a free ranging bison herd.

The Henrys are deceptively big and you can't appreciate how wild they are until you've had the opportunity to visit and enjoy this mountain range.

Henry Mountain Bucks

7. Sunnyside Canyon (East of Sunnyside, Utah)

This is a unique area to view Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. A group of about 25 bighorn rams spend a good part of the summer in the rocky hillsides at the mouth of the canyon, just minutes away from the small town of Sunnyside.

These rams can be seen most mornings and evenings just off the roadway. The rams will usually remain in the area until early fall when they move south in search of ewes in preparation for the breeding season.

8. Paunsaugunt Plateau

Just the name of this plateau is fun enough to say that it's worth visiting. Located between Bryce Canyon National Park and heading south toward Kanab, Utah this is another area famous for monster mule deer.

We like to visit the north park of the Paunsaugunt in late August when the bucks' antlers are still in velvet. In November we hit the southern end looking for rutting bucks.

There are also pronghorns in the area and some pristine camping spots.

9. Willard Peak

Located between the towns of Willard and Mantua in northern Utah, these forbidding cliffs are home to one of the herds of mountain goats that make Utah their home. A dirt road from Mantua takes you to an incredible overlook where you can see all the way to Nevada. At the overlook is a trailhead that takes you south toward Ben Lomond Peak.

The canyon heads along this trail are the rocky home of the goats. Last time we went to Willard Peak we saw a nice bull moose on the way in, as well as several blue grouse.

10. Parker Mountain

This high desert plateau is located south of Loa, Utah. Home to one of the most prolific pronghorn herds in the nation, this is a fun area to camp and watch wildlife. Herds of these speedy goats are scattered across the plateau. During the winter months the Utah DIvision of Wildlife will use helicopters and wild horse traps to catch pronghorns to be transplanted to other habitat across the intermountain west.

This is a good place to see pronghorns, coyotes, deer and sage grouse.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 

      2 years ago from Indonesia

      I wish I could visit those beautiful places and take photos on my own there. Thanks for the information.

    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 

      4 years ago from Utah

      I recently moved to Utah so you better believe I'm going to take advantage of the information on this hub!! Great hub and voted up!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow, fun and entertaining. Thank you. ^

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, skyaboveus.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://skyaboveus.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)