Yellowstone in Winter: Let Sleeping Grizzlies Lie

I’ve never come upon a grizzly bear while hiking in the backcountry, and that’s just fine with me.    I’ve backpacked  a time or two in grizzly country, but never in Yellowstone or Glacier.  I just know that I’d be wide-eyed all night, bear spray at the ready, waiting for…well…you know: Night of the Grizzlies.    I do hike in grizzly country, but I’m definitely on my guard the whole time.     And, even though I’m not a huge fan of winter, one of its perks is that the bears are sleeping.   Usually.

Go to sleep, giant grizzly!

Last December we arrived back at our car after a long ski in Yellowstone, and turned around to find this fellow on the hill above us.  For cripe’s sake.   Now, I know that bears don’t really sleep all winter, and that they sometimes get up and wander around (or take a long time to actually start to hibernate)  but I was just counting on the odds of actually meeting one being in my favor.  And I guess they were, since we didn’t run into him on the trail.  And I’ve got to say, he really wasn’t particularly interested in us – he just kept on his way, without a glance in our direction.  And he was one good looking bear.

We just returned from a bear-less weekend in Yellowstone, and it was beautiful.  I think the pictures tell the story best:

Heading out along Blacktail Creek

Struggling to get out of the creekbed

A bull elk along the way

And a slightly older elk

A cozy fox


Moonrise over Round Prairie

About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Camping, Hiking, Montana, Nature, Photography, Travel, Yellowstone and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

135 Responses to Yellowstone in Winter: Let Sleeping Grizzlies Lie

  1. ailsapm says:

    Oh my, it would be rather scary to meet a big old grizzly, but how exciting too. Your trip to Yellowstone looks wonderful, I’ve always wanted to go – such spectacular wildlife – and your photos make me want to drop everything and go right now. Those coyotes are fabulous! xx

  2. ailsapm says:

    Oh, I forgot to ask – what part of Yellowstone did you visit?

    • westerner54 says:

      In the winter we go to Mammoth, through the north entrance. The road through the Lamar Valley is open all winter, so it’s a great spot to watch wildlife. Thanks for the comments!

  3. When I visited Yellowstone in 1995 there was a visitor notice that said if you come across a grizzly, don’t run, don’t provoke it just back away slowly and try to make yourself look as big as possible. Good advice but impossible to follow I would guess!

  4. i love all the wildlife. meeting a bear… that would be a test of my character under stress, for sure.

  5. “…and a slightly older elk”

    That made me laugh out loud!

    Stunning pix — looks like an incredible hike. We just got our first major snow of the season in the Sierra Nevadas, so I can hardly wait to make some tracks!

  6. natasiarose says:

    The fox looks like my yorkie!

    Eek. I would let those sleeping bears lie. Let them lie far, far away from me! Great pics!

  7. A Cameo Life says:

    I love Yellowstone!!!

  8. Dounia says:

    Breathtaking photos. I’ve never been to Yellowstone, but it’s high up on my places to visit; your photos just re-confirmed how much I would love to go sometime! Thanks for sharing and congrats on being freshly pressed!

  9. Ohmygoodness what cute animals and a beautiful scenery to cross country ski around!! I’m jealous of this voyage, thanks for sharing the photos!!

  10. joygirl says:

    I laughed when I read that you didn’t know bears didn’t necessarily hibernate all winter. I’ve just moved onto my perfect forested patch on top of my perfect mountain and didn’t realize before now that they’re NOT NOCTURNAL. This city girl has a lot to learn!

  11. So cool that you got a picture of that awake and active Grizzly. Lots like he/she had stomped a pretty good path in the snow.

  12. Jayati says:

    the moonrise looks amazing !!!

  13. DaveC says:

    Nice photos. That’s a pretty healthy Grizz.

    In MT our winters been so stickin warm and un-snowy that lots of bears have yet to den up. Not sure what they’re eating here in Glacier that makes it worth their while (that Yellowstone one will probably be stealing kills from wolves until the snow gets deeper).

    • westerner54 says:

      Thanks, DaveC. Actually, the bear incident was in December 2010, when Yellowstone was buried in snow, but you’re right, there is always plenty of wolf kills for a big bear like that to snack on!

  14. Rae says:

    Still need to make my way to Yellowstone one of these days. Sigh.

  15. The Hook says:

    Incredible pics – especially #5!
    Fantastic title!

  16. Carlie Chew says:

    Wow, great pictures and it looks like a blast!

  17. Gail says:

    Beautiful pictures…. really enjoyed seeing them. I visited Yellowstone back in 2001. Had the privilege of seeing a mama grizzly with two cubs on the side of the road. Couldn’t believe how close people were getting with their cameras though! YIKES!! Thought I would witness a mauling for sure… thank goodness I didn’t!

  18. megacolby says:

    Reblogged this on Colby is Mega and commented:
    I love winter and Yellowstone National Park!

  19. megacolby says:

    Reblogged this on Colby is Mega and commented:
    I love winter and Yellowstone National Park! This post was beautifully written and I loved the photos! I couldn’t help myself from re blogging this post! Enjoy

  20. Matt Lawson says:

    Wow these pictures are great. Thanks for posting.

  21. Hahaha!! “Go to sleep, giant grizzly.”

    This is a wonderful post! Witty writing mixed with gorgeous photos. Lovely! 🙂

  22. julia says:

    Slightly Older Elk. Love your pictures

  23. unodos73 says:

    Wow, the animals are adorable. Even so are the bears from a distance. 🙂

  24. cooperstown says:

    Great pictures! I love Yellowstone. Perhaps a fact to keep you content on your hike? There has never been a documented grizzy bear attack on a hiking group of 3 or more.

    Bears smell us humans and are turned off.

    I have my tips here, as I try to hang with the rangers and professionals when I can:
    I can’t wait to go back!

  25. Anita Mac says:

    Wow – that is so amazing! I could only imagine how much my heart would be racing running into him! When I cycled across Canada, I was desperate to see a moose. I was all alone in Northern Ontario when I saw a brown mass on the side of the road. Disappointed that it appeared to be a dead moose, I kept on pedalling (did I mention it was slightly uphill too!!!) Anyway, got close to the moose and I guess I made some noise – next thing you know – a bear stands up! Needless to say, there are no pictures – heart practically jumping from my chest – I was pedalling as hard as I could to get out of there! Guess the bear didn’t care much for spandex – he took off in the other direction!
    Great photos – looks like a great outing!

  26. westerner54 says:

    Love the moose tale! And love your blog as well. You are a true adventurer – not a “semi” one like me. Thanks for the nice comment.

  27. char says:

    Wow! That looked so fun! I love Yellowstone, but have never been there in the winter. That bear would have scared me to death though. Thanks for posting. This is great.

  28. J Libby says:

    Not bad a t’all.

  29. wartica says:

    These are some great shots; it’s amazing what you can find out there in the world around us. There are so many amazing things – on this planet – we just have to open up to it. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

  30. I LIVE HERE! and yes, I can tell you that walking out the door of your home and meeting up with one of our local bears, moose or mountain lions is an interesting way to wake up…quickly. HA HA! Great photos, thanks for sharing!

  31. Very nice photos. I saw a grizzly once in Glacier…. scared the cr… out of me.

  32. ldsiebs says:

    I have been to Yellowstone twice, but never in the winter. These pictures are beautiful! We have just started backpacking as a family (our youngest is 9). Thank you for sharing. This gives us something to work toward!

  33. photomatte says:

    Great photos and story of Yellowstone in winter! It’s been over 10 years since I was there in winter (I was part of the Buffalo Field Campaign, stopping the bison from leaving the park so they wouldn’t be shot by the Montana Department of Livestock!), and I remember vividly how beautiful it is. And so cold….!!

  34. Jean says:

    Wow, great to see that many different animals in 1 ski trip! It’s never happened to us…and I’m so glad never to even think of encountering a bear. We have encountered bear twice on different trips …in the summer.

    Your blog shares some of the same animals as my blog’s recent posts since we’ve been to the Canadian Rockies several times. I don’t have a bear photo just story…

  35. ***The LensMaster says:

    Yellowstone Park is one of my dream destinations…looking forward to reading more great outdoor adventures here!!! (^_^)

  36. Huffygirl says:

    Wonderful photos. Love the furry fox. Congrats on being FP’d.

  37. thenotwriter says:

    How exciting to see all that beautiful wildlife! Its nice to know there are still some corners left on this increasingly over populated planet where they can live.

  38. vnewman says:

    My husband and I took a trip there in late Feb three years ago and there was a grizzly awake, out and about in the Old Faithful area. We too were a little surprised, but not so much that the bear was awake, but rather that not one staff member warned us. We found out later the bear had been seen for three days in the area! Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time and can’t wait to go back.

  39. Deano says:

    Fantastic photos and what an adventure! I was there this past summer and didn’t even see a Grizzly then, just a black bear and wolves!

  40. BB_Baker says:

    Beautiful pictures!

  41. barcncpt44 says:

    Yellowstone is always beautiful. I would love to visit during the winter. Great photos.

  42. joymanifest says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Gorgeous pictures!! What a beautiful experience it must be to be out there…!

  43. Why don’t those silly bears sleep? Amazing photos!

  44. beautiful and fantastic photos!

    i love it

  45. iza.f says:

    Oh, my dream is to one day go to Yellowstone… So many animals in their natural environment, it’s so great 🙂 You’re very lucky! 😀 I invite you to my blog to see how winter looks in the Polish mountains. Not as beautiful as in Yellowstone, but also delightfully 🙂 Greetings from Poland! 🙂

  46. Chaks says:

    wow, great pictures you got. the moonrise picture is too good.


  47. Blogbiscuit says:

    Beautiful pictures, it looks so peaceful and tranquil, great shots 🙂 what does bear spray do? I am curious? obviously us englanders dont need it

    • westerner54 says:

      Thanks for the nice comment. Bear spray is just pressurized pepper spray that you can carry when you hike. The idea is that you spray it at the bear if he’s attacking and they run away. You hope so, anyway. I think it does work pretty well, though!

  48. It’s my dream to go to yellowstone, but i don’t know if i would like to find myself face to face with a big grizzly. here, in the french alps, there are no grizzly.

  49. jmdonline says:

    Beautiful! Will it be that nice in 2050?

  50. Excellent pictures and thanks for sharing!

  51. Great pictures and great post, thanks for sharing!

  52. Great photos! I’ve spent a lot of time hiking in Kentucky, where I grew up. I’ve seen any bears, but I’ve nearly stepped on plenty of snakes.


    • westerner54 says:

      Yeah, well, snakes…

      Enjoyed looking at your blog – my husband and I taught English in Xian for a semester way back in 1990. Can especially relate to “What, there are still stars?” I remember a guide telling a tour group that Xian was one of the ten best polluted cities in the world.

      • Thanks, I appreciate it. I was in Xi’an last May, and the pollution is still really bad. I live in Beijing, and it’s a big problem here too. I have a lot of respiratory problems that I didn’t have before I moved here.

        Sorry about the typo in my first post. Meant to say, “I’ve never seen any bears … .”

  53. Blic says:

    Beautiful scenery, beautiful photos. Excellent post!

  54. Looks like an amazing trip! I really need to travel more in the US.

  55. belladaze says:

    I met my 1st grizzlies in Kantishna Alaska (90 miles interior Denali Park) during a late snow that had closed the road. Heart stopping! I am filled with joy and wonder every time I look at my close-up photo of that momma bear and her cub. Yellowstone in winter is still on the bucket list. Thanks for sharing. ( you can see my bear memory at )

  56. belladaze says:

    Reblogged this on Belladaze.

  57. Fergiemoto says:

    You’ve captured some great photos here!

  58. Nationwide says:

    Oh my gosh wonderful pictures. We are so jealous. We went to Yellowstone last year in September and it was amazing, but we can’t wait to go back during the winter and see it as you have! Beautiful!

  59. The NC Museum of Natural Sciences just got back from a wonderful trip with 10 NC educators to Yellowstone. We didn’t see any grizzlies, but got to feel hydrothermal rumblings under a hot spring and saw a wolf walk through Upper Geyser Basin near Old Faithful, and later along the road as we traveled north! Check out our blog at:

    • westerner54 says:

      Wow, very cool. Enjoyed checking out your blog. We heard the Canyon pack howling on one of the nights we were in Mammoth, and when I looked out the window one of the wolves was standing in the road. Didn’t mention them in this post, but the watching the wolves is just fascinating. Thanks for the comment.

  60. WOW, what a fantastic adventure. Looks stunning and being so close to nature is magical. You lucky thing. I’d love to visit Yellowstone when my girls are a little older.

  61. thefrenchchick says:

    Nice post. We took our kids all over Yellowstone last June and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. We saw several grizzlies-all from a safe distance (sometimes the camera’s zoom lens couldn’t get more than a brown lump-binoculars worked fine though).

  62. Beautiful photos – Thanks for sharing! Congrats on being FP.

  63. Rai says:

    AHH so pretty! I used to live in Alaska, and in the winter they patrol the national park by DOG TEAM.

  64. Charissa says:

    Love your stuff and am passing along the Versatile Blogger Award to you at…just to steer more viewers your way.

  65. avicenna2020 says:

    I had never been in the wild but that makes think about Jack Lang’ stories, that I’ve much loved.”The call of the wild” for instance. The most amazing book I ever read was written by Cary Paulsen “Brian’s winter”. And now you are showing us beautiful landscapes and some wild animals. Thanks for this nice post.

  66. DCM says:

    Great post! I’ve run into grizzlies a couple of time in Glacier. I’m always amazed at how close some tourists get to take the perfect photo!

  67. Dave says:

    That’s cool. Last time I passed through Yellowstone was about tens years ago while moving to Alaska. It was a pretty cool place but it was the summer and tourists were all over the place. It would be cool to get out there in the winter when no one is around. Thanks for sharing.


  68. Kaya says:

    These are absolutely outstanding pictures!!!1 I wish I would be in this place.

  69. gaycarboys says:

    Good lord there seem to be a lot of very very big animals there. I’m not to fussed on the bears asleep thing. How do I know the bear I come across won’t be an insomniac? Great shots.

  70. CheyenneCharlie says:

    Reblogged this on cheyennecharlie.

  71. karcherry says:

    I love Yellowstone… However my luck with grizzlies was quite different — on four different hikes in the summer of 2005 we saw them. Once, one even blocked the path back to our car. It wasn’t the best introduction to hiking to my four year old son, but it did teach us all caution, respect, and above all the importance of the willingness to hike long distances out of your way to get back to your car.

  72. Pingback: Into Grizzly Country: Half Moon Park in the Scapegoat Wilderness | Off the Beaten Path: Hikes, Backpacks, and Travels

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