Article Overview: Lamar Valley (Yellowstone National Park)
Known as America’s Serengeti, Lamar Valley is a world class wildlife viewing destination located in Yellowstone National Park. In the Lamar Valley you’ll find bison, elk, pronghorn, grizzly bears, moose and the valley’s most iconic animal, wolves.
Seeing a wolf in the Lamar Valley is on many a national park fan’s bucket list (it was on mine for a long time until my first sighting a few years ago).
While these animals are not always easy to spot there are certain locations and techniques to know about that will definitely improve your odds of seeing one.
In this brief article I’ll go over all the highlights you should see and know about in the Lamar Valley including:
- Where to spot wolves in the Lamar Valley
- A map of the Lamar Valley
- Best practices for touring the Lamar Valley
- Wildlife in Lamar Valley
- Best hikes in the Lamar Valley
- and more
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
The Lamar Valley: Table of Contents
The Lamar Valley: Table of Contents
- About Our Travels to the Lamar Valley
- Things to Know Before You Visit the Lamar Valley
- The Lamar Valley
- Lamar Valley Yellowstone Map
- Basic Information About the Lamar Valley
- Wolves in the Lamar Valley
- Visiting the Lamar Valley
- 5 Best Things to Do in Lamar Valley Yellowstone
- Where to Stay in the Lamar Valley
- Interactive Map of the Lamar Valley
About Our Travels to the Lamar Valley
Though More Than Just Parks has yet to make a film on Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, I have visited the area many times over the years.
You’ll hear a lot about crowds at Yellowstone, and it’s true, this park can get very crowded, but I find that the Lamar Valley is far less crowded.
Seeing wolves roam the Lamar Valley in search of prey, grizzly bears lumbering out of the forest, bison roaming their ancestral lands, and the incredible birds that frequent here is truly awe-inspiring.
I always enjoy visiting Yellowstone as there seems to be something to see around every corner of the park and crowds fade away after a few hundred yards down any given trail.
Things to Know Before You Visit the Lamar Valley
Yellowstone Entrance Fees
Entrance Fees are $30 per vehicle OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months we suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be purchased at any national park) and gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.
Cell Service at Yellowstone
Cell Service is hit or miss throughout the park. The visitors centers have service along with the lodges and areas around main roads. As you get further away from developed amenities the service tends to dissipate.
Best Yellowstone Guide Book
I recommend this guidebook which can help you plan on the fly once you’ve embarked on your road trip.
Best Yellowstone Map
The best one for Yellowstone is without a doubt this map by National Geographic.
Getting to Yellowstone National Park typically involves planning a great American roadtrip (we have a whole guide on that here). However, if you want to get straight there your best bet is flying directly into Jackson Hole Airport (JAC). A close runner up airport is Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) in Montana. It pays to check which is cheaper both for flights and rental cars.
Stay on the Trail
Stay on marked trails! Seriously, in this park leaving designated trails can result in death due to the abundance of geothermal features in the area. Often what might appear like solid ground is not and can give way resulting in tragedy.
Crowds at Yellowstone National Park
Be prepared for crowds. Unless you’re visiting in the winter, be prepared for some serious crowds. Yellowstone is an iconic global travel destination and there’s no avoiding what comes with that.
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park is in the fall. With the hectic and cramped summer season over and kids back in school visitation to the park tapers off and access becomes much easier. The fall also provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities and fall foliage.
Where to Stay in Yellowstone
Planning a trip to Yellowstone and haven’t found the right spot to stay? We’ve compiled a complete guide on the best places to stay in Yellowstone here.
The Lamar Valley
Lamar Valley Yellowstone Map
Map of the Lamar Valley
I created this handy Lamar Valley Yellowstone Map for first time visitors to get a lay of the land. In light grey I’ve highlighted all of the best places to spot wildlife. Highlighted in yellow is the most likely region in the Lamar Valley to spot wolves (more on that below).
I’ve included some of the most popular hikes on this map along with landmarks, picnic areas, and campgrounds. You’ll also see some smaller place names in grey. These represent popularized, unofficial place names for spotting wildlife.
I’m often asked where Dorothy’s Knoll is, or Little America, etc because they don’t show up on the official Yellowstone National Park map. So I’ve included a few of the most popular ones here.
Have any questions about this map? Drop me a comment in the box at the bottom of this article!
Basic Information About the Lamar Valley
Where is the Lamar Valley?
The Lamar Valley is located in the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park and generally refers to the section of the park starting near Tower Roosevelt Junction and ending at the Northeastern Entrance.
What is the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone Known For?
Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley is known for it’s world class wildlife viewing opportunities, especially wolves. The Lamar Valley is probably the best place in the world to see wolves in the wild.
What is the Best Time to Visit the Lamar Valley?
The best time to visit the Lamar Valley is around dawn and at dusk if you are coming for the wildlife. Dawn is the absolute best time as there will be fewer people out and about.
What Wildlife is in the Lamar Valley, Yellowstone?
The most famous wildlife in the Lamar Valley is elk, pronghorn, coyotes, wolves, grizzly bear, moose, badgers, bighorn sheep, marmots, black bear, and deer. But there is much more wildlife in the valley to see than just that!
Wolves in the Lamar Valley
Tips for Spotting Wolves in the Lamar Valley
If you’re looking for wolves in the Lamar Valley there are a few best case practices that will improve your odds. I can’t guarantee you’ll see any on your trip (it took me many trips to Yellowstone to spot my first wolf) but I can guarantee to improve your odds.
This one is somewhat obvious but driving slowly greatly increases your odds of spotting wildlife, wolves included. Be courteous and use the pullouts if folks are trying to get around you but odds are you won’t be the only one cruising slowly.
Look for people with big lenses & scopes
If you see folks with heavy duty scopes, expensive looking long camera lenses, and nice binoculars, odds are they know what they’re doing.
Don’t crowd them but most of these folks will be happy to share if they’ve sighted any wildlife in the Lamar Valley recently.
Befriend and Follow the Wolf Watchers
There is a group of enthusiasts that live for watching wolves in the Lamar Valley referred to as Wolf Watchers. Wolf watchers also refers to just about anyone who looks like they know what they’re doing when it comes to spotting wolves here.
These folks are generally very nice and do not mind someone asking them for tips. Sometimes they’ll even let you look at the wolves through their fancy scopes.
Listen for magpies & ravens screeching
Often time magpies and ravens will make a lot of noise around wolves that are on a kill. Listen closely and try to detect their screeching calls. If there make a big commotion then follow the sound (carefully) and see what you find.
Bring a scope or binoculars
More often then not wolves will be hard to spot in the Lamar Valley without boosting your sight via binoculars or a scope. Even if you can see them in the distance it really enhances the experience to be able to make them out in detail.
Try, try again
If you are unsuccessful at spotting wolves in the Lamar Valley your first time don’t give up. The movement of wolves are unpredictable. They might be gone one day and back the next.
Do NOT Approach Wildlife
Please remember when visiting the Lamar Valley that the animals here are wild and potentially dangerous. Do not under any circumstances approach any wildlife. The national park service rule of thumb is keep at least 25 yards between you and any animal.
Best Places to Spot Wolves in Lamar Valley
First the bad news. There is no one spot that the wolves always hang out in for Yellowstone visitors. Wolves can travel 30 miles in a day and their range can be over 1,000 miles if prey is hard to come by.
Now the good news. There are a couple of hot spots for seeing wolves if they happen to be around in the Lamar Valley while you’re there.
The best area in the Lamar Valley to see wolves is a 12 mile stretch between the Little America area highlighted on the map near the Specimen Ridge Trailhead all the way to the Lamar River Trail 3K1.
I would say the two best single places to see wolves in the Lamar Valley are the Slough Creek area near Dave’s Hill and the Little America plains. I have personally spotted wolves in both of these locations.
Visiting the Lamar Valley
What Do You Need to Bring to Lamar Valley?
Before my second trip to Lamar Valley I purchased this spotting scope which was a total game change for me.
Binoculars are really handy in general for visiting the national parks but especially so in in Lamar Valley. The major difference between binoculars and a spotting scope is that binoculars are handy on the fly whereas the spotting scope requires time to set up.
These are the binoculars I’ve been using for the past few years and highly recommend.
I’m a Sony guy through and through. While they’ve released some newer versions, I still swear by this camera model based on price & resolution. My images are regularly licensed by all of the big names in the industry and this camera does the trick.
For photographing wildlife I recommend this telephoto lens.
Should I Do a Wildlife Tour in the Lamar Valley?
If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it to do a wildlife tour in Lamar Valley Yellowstone, it really depends on the kind of person you are. Personally I’m more of a do it yourself sort of person so I prefer driving my own car.
Some folks love the camaraderie and expertise that comes with a wildlife tour. The wildlife tours in the valley go to the same spots as any visitor can go.
Their key selling point is knowing when to go and having the equipment to enhance the experience (scopes, binoculars, etc).
Best Wildlife Tours of the Lamar Valley
Lamar Valley vs Hayden Valley
If you’re in Yellowstone I highly recommend visiting the Hayden Valley as well. Lamar Valley is more remote than Hayden which makes it less visited (yay if you’re looking to avoid massive crowds).
Hayden Valley is really popular and centrally located much closer to Grand Prismatic and Old Faithful. If you’re going just for wildlife then I recommend the Lamar Valley.
If it’s your first time to Yellowstone you have to choose between the two then go with Hayden Valley and save Lamar Valley for next time!
Is the Lamar Valley open in winter?
Yes, the Lamar Valley is open in winter and happens to be one of the most popular spots to visit in all of Yellowstone National Park during the snowy season.
NE Entrance Road (the main road in the valley) remains open in winter and connects with Grand Loop Road (heading north). Turning south from NE Entrance Road is not possible in the winter as the park closes the road there.
Wolves are quite active in winter time in the Lamar Valley as are bison and elk so there are plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities here. Some of the most iconic images of Yellowstone come from the valley in the winter time.
5 Best Things to Do in Lamar Valley Yellowstone
1. See the wolves
The most popular activity in the Lamar Valley is wolf watching. This is one of the only places in the world where you can see wolves in the wild. Take your time and soak in this rarest of opportunities.
Try Slough Creek & Little America for two of the best places to see wolves.
2. See other wildlife in the Lamar Valley
Wolves aren’t the only animals in the Lamar Valley. The Lamar Valley is teeming with incredible wildlife.
Here you can spot grizzly bears (try Soda Butte Creek), pronghorn antelope (near Soda Butte), moose (Warm Creek Picnic Area), bison (along the Lamar River), and elk (near the confluence).
3. Fossil forest on Specimen Ridge
Any time I hear petrified wood my ears perk up. There’s just something about wood so old it turns to stone that gets me. The Lamar Valley has some prime petrified tree specimens in the fossil forest on Specimen Ridge.
4. Hike the Lamar River Trail 3K1
If you can only hike one trail in the Lamar Valley then make it the Lamar River Trail 3K1. The trailhead is located right at the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek placing it in prime wildlife territory.
Be sure to pack your bear spray as grizzlies are in this area. Along the way you’ll see bison, pronghorn, and potentially a whole host of other animals.
While the entire trail is some 30 miles long, I recommend just popping on for a few miles to enjoy some solitude and the natural splendor.
5. Go camping
One of the best ways to connect with nature is by pitching a tent in the great outdoors. There are few better places to do it than Yellowstone National Park.
My personal favorite campground in the Lamar Valley is Slough Creek but Pebble Creek is great too.
Unfortunately, both of these campgrounds are currently closed due to the historic flooding that happened in 2022.
Where to Stay in the Lamar Valley
Hotels Near the Lamar Valley
There are no hotels that operate inside the Lamar Valley. The closest and only nearby hotel inside of the park is the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins which open seasonally (spring through early fall).
Nearby Cooke City is your next best option which has some hotels that are open year round.
I’ve listed the best lodging options below:
- Roosevelt Lodge Cabins – 25 minutes away (in the park)
- Silver Gate Lodge – 20 minutes away (Cooke City)
- Canyon Lodge Cabins – 1 hour away (in the park)
Camping in the Lamar Valley
There are 2 campgrounds located within the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park and one that’s nearby.
Both of the campgrounds located in the valley sustained heavy damage during the historic 2022 flooding event and are currently closed indefinitely.
- Slough Creek Campground (currently closed due to 2022 flooding)
- Pebble Creek Campground (currently closed due to 2022 flooding)
- Tower Fall Campground (just outside the valley)
Interactive Map of the Lamar Valley
Download Printable Map of Lamar Valley
Download this: Printable Lamar Valley Map Yellowstone
Pin This Article
Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park (or any national park)
Permit Systems and Reservations
Check to see if the national park you’re visiting has a permit or reservation system in place before visiting. As parks become increasingly crowded more has to be done to safeguard them which means controlling the hundreds of millions of people who visit these places each year.
Popular national parks with reservation systems of some kind include Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Arches, Acadia, Denali, and more.
Want Less Crowds? Try a National Forest!
Try visiting a national forest while you’re on your trip to avoid the crowds. There are 155 national forests in America, many of which are equally as beautiful as the national parks they neighbor and only see a fraction of the visitors.
For example, try the Flathead National Forest next to Glacier National Park, the Bridger-Teton next to Grand Teton, and the Dixie which borders nearly all of the Utah National Parks.
Practice Safety, Seriously
National parks are amazing but wild places so it is essential to practice basic safety while visiting them. Every year people die while vacationing in national parks. This is easily avoided by:
- Sticking to trails
- Checking the weather before going out on a hike
- Maintaining a safe distance between wildlife which means at least 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from predators
- Avoid ledges with steep drop offs
Helpful Articles Related to Things to Do at Yellowstone National Park
Things to Do Yellowstone: 15 Best Things to Do Yellowstone National Park
The Lamar Valley: Lamar Valley: A Trip to Yellowstone’s Best Wildlife Viewing Spot
Where to Stay in Yellowstone: Where to Stay in Yellowstone – Best Hotels + Helpful Guide
Yellowstone Facts: 10 Amazing Yellowstone National Park Facts
Best Airports Near Yellowstone: The Best Airports Near Yellowstone National Park
The Wyoming National Parks: 10 Epic Wyoming National Parks: The Complete Guide (+ Photos)
Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone: Driving Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone National Park Road Trip
Grand Teton Hikes: 18 Epic Grand Teton National Park Hikes (Photos + Guide)
Grand Teton Guide: Grand Teton National Park Ultimate Guide
Grand Teton Maps: The Best Maps for Grand Teton National Park