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Wake Up to Wildlife vs. Evening Wildlife Tours

Houston, Texas
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Wake Up to Wildlife vs. Evening Wildlife Tours

(Apology up front for the novel) --- It's been nearly 13 years since our last trip to YNP and I'm trying to use past experiences to guide some of my choices for our upcoming trip this August. We aren't too big on tours, but last trip, we did a picture perfect photography tour and got some really nice photos that we had enlarged, matted and framed. I know our guide last time had a lot of little tidbits of info that made it a much more interesting and educational experience, so I think at least one may be beneficial. We're staying at Canyon this time, so driving to OFI or Lake in the pre-dawn hours for a photography tour isn't something I want to do. We'll also have our kids with us this time around (ages 9 and 11), and while they're used to me being in picture mode, I think they'd appreciate something that focuses more on wildlife.

That being said, I'm torn between the morning wake up tour and the evening one. The evening one is a bit cheaper, so that is appealing. Still, I know early morning tends to be a good time for wildlife spotting. Our tour 13 years ago was out of Mammoth and our guide's first focus was getting the hot springs in that sweet light just as the sun is rising, so that tour really gave me no perspective on morning vs evening for wildlife. While we got an early start most days last trip, I don't recall many days being crack of dawn early either...i.e. so it's not helping with my decision. We're also well aware that there are no guarantees. The kids even experienced this first hand a couple of years ago when we went whale watching for a few hours and saw no whales. So, we're already in that "appreciate whatever you do see...even if it's just the general beauty of nature" frame of mind.

So, any thoughts on if the morning tour is worth the extra $75? There are lighting benefits at both times of day and I don't need it to be a photography tour to take pics, so I will probably get some nice photos either way. Or would you skip both? Also wondering how far out we should book (hoping it's not too late!)? Last time, we booked the day before, but it was also later in the season, so that probably helped.

6 replies to this topic
N. Idaho
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for Yellowstone National Park
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1. Re: Wake Up to Wildlife vs. Evening Wildlife Tours

Well, you could do the evening tour then armed with knowledge from the guide, head out early, early on your own the next day or day after.

My thought...and I am not a wildlife biologist...is that if it is warm in August when you are there, you may see fewer critters with big furry coats in the afternoon. The temps will start dropping as the sun sets but it may not be real cool until dark when you are heading back to your lodging. It will be cold at night (may be down below freezing even in August) and my thought is that there would be a better chance of them being out and around in the early AM when it's cold.

You also need to know I am an *early bird* so early AM always appeals more to me!

Pam

Edited: 10 May 2018, 05:27
Houston, Texas
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2. Re: Wake Up to Wildlife vs. Evening Wildlife Tours

That's an excellent idea about doing the evening tour and then using what we've learned for an early morning excursion of our own.

You also brought up two points that I wasn't really considering (but should have).

1. We live Central time zone, so we'll be getting an hour by traveling to Mountain time. We're normally up early for school and work, so an early morning outing wouldn't be too hard for us. I'm up by 5:45am most days (early for some, not so early for others), and it's much easier to wake up when it's for vacation!

2. My brain keeps focusing on how much cooler it "may" be for us, but I failed to consider hot/cool to us and hot/cool to the indigenous wildlife are two entirely different things. Case in point, we're already seeing high temps in the low 90s here, while there are still roads up there being cleared of snow.

Thanks!

Spery, Iowa
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3. Re: Wake Up to Wildlife vs. Evening Wildlife Tours

I have never done tours, but I will say that driving through Hayden Valley, when we are there late August, is often fogged over in the morning, which makes for some cool photos if the wildlife can't be seen. Also, with an evening tour, the driver worries about the roads as it gets darker, in the morning, it just gets lighter for your own driving.

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Hayden Valley
Hayden Valley
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Yellowstone National Park, WY
N. Idaho
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4. Re: Wake Up to Wildlife vs. Evening Wildlife Tours

As far as the weather - I'd bring glove liners and warm hats for everyone as well as jackets. They will need long pants as well. You'll likely not need the outerwear during the day BUT you should have it in the car at all times. If a thunderstorm blows thru the temps can drop from 80 to 50 in 30 minutes. That may feel really cold to you and the kids.

Good point from thbergs about fog in Hayden in the AMs.

Pam

jackson, miss
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5. Re: Wake Up to Wildlife vs. Evening Wildlife Tours

I would call the tour operator and tell when you are coming and what your interests are and ask them what their recommendations are for what your group is looking for. For wildlife in August, my best guess is that morning will be better than late afternoon, but I do not know, and the tour guides are literally paid to know that. I go in May, and mid September which will have different weather than August. In general, though, animals are more active and more visible when it is cooler, so morning would be better than evening until dusk (which is not great for photography or driving). If you don't want to call, I would go with the morning tour and then hang around Hayden (which is close to your Hotel in the evening. You should see both the bison rut and if you are lucky the Canyon pack in Hayden.

Houston, Texas
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6. Re: Wake Up to Wildlife vs. Evening Wildlife Tours

Thanks! Yeah...we experienced a major temp drop last time we were there. We had highs in the low 80s for the first half of our trip...then thunderstorms went through...we saw snow and significantly cooler temps for the rest of our visit.

Nice advice on the fog too. I love playing around with fog pictures.

We were there during elk rut last time, which was an interesting experience...so it would be neat to compare it to seeing bison rut.

Thanks for all of the advice!

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