When staying in Gardiner, MT, you’re in the perfect place to view the state’s multitudes of wildlife. In fact, black bears, mountain lions, and moose are seen seasonally around all parts of Paradise Valley. It is home to a large year-round Canada goose population, and several pairs of bald eagles can be found along the nearby Yellowstone River. Clearly, you won’t have to travel far to see some serious wildlife.
When venturing out to see animals in the wild, be prepared and always consider the safety of yourself and the animals. Bring binoculars so that you can view from a distance, and always carry bear spray. Remember that these areas are animal habitat, so respect it by following Leave No Trace guidelines and don’t offer food to the animals. Wildlife viewing should be a safe, enjoyable experience for all species!
Here are some of the best places to view wildlife near Gardiner.
If you’re looking for a semi-captive audience, you’ll find the Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area, a place that’s not too far away and has lots to see. Here, watchers can enjoy 3,770 acres; all preserved to maintain the quality and quantity of vegetation on a historic elk winter range. This area provides a critical winter range for up to 2,000 of the migratory Northern Yellowstone elk herd. This sprawling reserve offers some of the best year-round bird watching and wildlife photography opportunities around. From Dailey Lake, watchers can catch glimpses of mule deer and elk, while eagles, hawks, loons, and swans. There are also excellent hiking, fishing, and horseback riding opportunities if you’re looking to get out and about while you watch for wildlife.
Paradise Valley has many areas to explore for wildlife viewing. It’s home to a resident population of 3,000-4,000+ elk, the majority on the west side of the valley in the Gallatin Range. Grizzly bears also exist in this area, with prime grizzly habitat from Six-Mile Creek to Mill Creek and from Tom Miner Basin to Big Creek. Small numbers of rare wolverines and lynx can be found in the mountains on each side of the valley, and moose can also be seen in small numbers. Several wolf packs use Paradise Valley to move back and forth between Yellowstone National Park and Montana. Check out our blog on hiking in Paradise Valley for opportunities to explore these mountain ranges on foot and see some wildlife.
This location is further away than the others on this list, but you’re likely to get the most bang for your buck here (elk pun intended). Inside of Yellowstone National Park, perhaps nothing offers a wildlife viewing opportunity quite like the Lamar Valley. Visitors aren’t limited to a specific type of game that’s making their way through. Thanks to the river valley being bookended by two separate mountain ranges, onlookers can expect to see anything from elk herds, to bison, grizzlies, wolf packs, and a variety of bird species. The road through is open all year round by car and best enjoyed at dusk or dawn, when the wildlife is most active.
Gardiner Basin, which encompasses Gardiner and the area north of it, offers outstanding and unique opportunities to view large numbers of elk, bison, mule deer, antelope, and bighorn sheep. Driving along US Hwy 89, you may even see bighorn sheep grazing or relaxing near the road, especially through Yankee Jim Canyon. Bighorn sheep can often be observed during the fall breeding season (November-December) from the road at the base of Cinnabar Mountain, across the river from Corwin Springs. This area also supports a healthy grizzly bear population, with grizzlies observed most frequently in Beattie Gulch, Sphinx Creek, and Eagle Creek.
If you’re looking for a guided experience, or a sanctuary where you’re guaranteed to see some wildlife in a more controlled environment, check out some of these options: