A slow hiker's guide to

Yellowstone National Park

buffalo calf Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Young buffalo calf sitting beside mother. This buffalo calf is no more then a week old. Photo taken during buffalo calving season Yellowstone National Park.

May is calving season for buffalo. Luckily interior connecting roads open earlier in Yellowstone National Park then they do in Glacier National Park. YouTube animation of buffalo calf shown above.

crane nesting

Sandhill cranes will soon be nesting in Yellowstone National Park. Sandhill cranes are one of the oldest species of birds in the world.

elk velvet Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Yellowstone National Park is famous for it's elk herds. Bull elk are in their velvet stage in Yellowstone National Park during the spring. Elk rut occurs late September and early October in Yellowstone National Park. During elk rut park campsites are at a premium as the larger campsites close after Labor Day.

buffalo calf Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Young buffalo calf on the road in Yellowstone National Park. Wildlife on the roads in Yellowstone is a given. Long lines of stopped cars in the middle of the road is also a given in Yellowstone National Park. Until the park ranger arrives to move the cars off the road.


Coyote near Roosevelt area in Yellowstone National Park. Coyote are now facing fierce competition for territory from wolves in Yellowstone National Park.


Buffalo on the road in Yellowstone National Park. Stopped cars in the middle of the road are also a given in Yellowstone National Park. Within Yellowstone National Park viewing buffalo and elk is basically a certainty.

buffalo calf running Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Young buffalo calf running at sundown. I now have a separate buffalo photo page, so at some point all of the buffalo photos except for one will be gone from this page.

Fall in Yellowstone

buffalo Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Solitary Buffalos tend to stick the the same general area year after year in Yellowstone National Park.

bull elk mammoth springs Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Yellowstone National Park is justifiably famous for its wildlife. This photo was taken in the fall of 2002 with my first true digital SLR camera. It was after photographing this elk that I ordered a quick release for my tripod.

wolf waiting for the kill Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

This photo was taken between Mammoth and Tower Falls in Yellowstone National Park. The elk had an injured leg so the wolf pack played a waiting game. The elk after several hours wandered out of sight over the hill. So I went hiking on the Beaver Lake Trail out of Mammoth. The wolf if you look closely is collared. The rest of the wolf pack was resting nearby in the shade. The next day when I returned there was a coyote feasting on the elk carcass. Discovered that the elk and the wolf pack returned to this little lake around 4 am to finish their business.

coyote defending wolf kill from magpie Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

YouTube coyote eating wolf killed elk carcass. I didn't get back to this area until late the next day. By then there wasn't much left of the elk carcass.

sandhill crane Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Sandhill crane

Yellowstone National Park has an abundance of wildlife, both furry and feathered.

black bear cub on log Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Black bear cub after sundown in the Tower Falls area in Yellowstone National Park.

For me over 90% of wildlife photos occur within a half hour before or after sunrise or sunset.
Before digital cameras a lot of these photographs would only be memories and not actual pictures.
With my current camera some of these images work on the web but not as prints.
I've done more camping in Yellowstone National Park, than anywhere else in the world.
Luckily for me there is a good coffee shop in Gardner, Montana.
My first coffee and food for the day is usually not before 10 am.

Undine Falls, Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Undine Falls which is located just off the road between Mammoth and Tower Falls in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone National Park is worth visiting just to see the waterfalls. The wildlife in Yellowstone National Park would be enough of a draw to bring me down south, but Yellowstone is not just wildlife. It is also waterfalls and colorful sulfurous pools and geysers and stunning and varied landscape. Yellowstone, if you let it, makes time travel possible. I camp usually for two weeks when I'm at Yellowstone National Park. If you want to find a campsite in Yellowstone then be prepared to look for a campsite before 10 am. There are a lot of visitors to Yellowstone but it doesn't take a lot of effort to get away from the crowds in the fall, most visitors stick to within a few hundred feet of the roads. Unlike in Glacier National Park, the wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is generally habituated to human contact. (this does NOT mean the wildlife is TAME) Yellowstone National Park closes campgrounds by the calendar not by how busy the campground is when they close it. Norris Campground in the fall is a perfect example, it is full up to the very day that the park closes it.

bull elk outside my tent at Norris, Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

I prefer to start the fall camping season at Norris Campground in Yellowstone National Park, the bull elk shown above was photographed next to my tent. When you're camping in Yellowstone you have to think about where to pitch your tent. Pay attention to trails, don't mistake game trails for human trails like I've done at Norris. Two years earlier I had been camping at Norris Campground and returned to my campsite to take a short break. The camper next to my tent site was laughing, seems I missed a buffalo that had traveled in between our two tents. Luckily the buffalo didn't become tangled in tent ropes.

Just as it is difficult to visit Glacier National Park and not see a mountain goat, it's next to impossible to visit Yellowstone National Park and not see a bull elk. (whether the bull elk has a rack is dependent on time of year)

buffalo sunrise, Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Sunrises in the sulfurous mists of Yellowstone National Park, particularly when a small herd of buffalo is thrown into the mix are special moments. For me Yellowstone National Park is the land before time.

buffalo, Yellowstone National Park ©Shawn Coggins

Buffalo are a fact of life in Yellowstone National Park. Buffalo need a buffer zone that is not entered unless your trying out to be a matador. Visitors are gored nearly every year in Yellowstone National Park by buffalo.

Glacier National Park is much more friendly to hikers, visit my hiking site at www.glacierhikers.com.

I got lucky this winter and had a clear day in Glacier National Park for the last total lunar eclipse of the decade.

lunar eclipse glacier  National Park ©Shawn Coggins
coyote tail down

Coyotes are smaller then wolves and generally run with their tail down.
Unlike a wolf which holds it's tail out straight. Altough the tail position is nice in theory don't rely on it to identify a wolf from a coyote. I've watched several videos done by a wolf researcher in which none of the wolfs ran with their tail out straight.

logo bighorn Yellowstone Park © Shawn Coggins