Hayden Valley

Yellowstone’s Best-Known Wildlife Habitat – Naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts love Yellowstone Park’s Hayden Valley. This lush green valley is best known as a flourishing wildlife habitat teeming with grizzly and black bears; herds of bison, elk, deer, and moose; and coyote, fox, and wolves.

Wildlife viewing is best at dawn and dusk, and the vista is spectacular with the Yellowstone River winding its way through the valley. Morning light is delightful for picture taking; as the dew evaporates off the cool earth below, it produces a morning mist that is absolutely ethereal, so be sure to bring a camera and several pairs of binoculars.

Extraordinary Views – The Valley’s LeHardy Rapids are a wonderful area for an outdoor picnic lunch. Here you’ll see a great mix of water animals like beavers and otters, jumping cutthroat trout (especially when spawning), and birds like the American Dipper, Harlequin Duck, and Common Merganser. Lucky visitors may even be treated to river crossings by individual or herds of bison, moose, or bear!

Visitors can enjoy Hayden Valley’s beauty by car or trail. It takes two days to drive around the figure-eight path in Yellowstone Park, and hikers should add a few more days to their schedule to fully appreciate the wildlife of the area. Many guests enjoy staying in the cabins near Hayden Valley, enabling them to make easy early morning and late night visits, thereby avoiding crowds of tourists who typically arrive later. Drivers should take note, bison are especially fond of the valley and often cause traffic jams by walking on and alongside of the road!

Visitors who are looking for an extraordinary view are encouraged to drive to Hayden Valley at about 7PM. It’s at this time of the night when the parking lot is not very full, and you can enjoy a quiet, relaxing walk to the top of the hill where you may very well see a spectacular sunset and a large amount wildlife.

Geysers and Trails – Like other areas at Yellowstone, Hayden Valley also has geothermal geysers and hot springs including Mud Volcano, Mud Geyser, Sulphur Caldron, and Black Dragon Caldron. Though they are scattered around the valley and are not as impressive as those of the large geyser basins, the Hayden Valley geysers were the first to be discovered and described by the early explorers as they travelled from Yellowstone Lake up to the Yellowstone River.

Hayden Valley is approximately seven miles long, and seven miles wide. The Hayden Valley Trail and the Mary Mountain Trail are the in the valley trails that are accessible for hikers. All the rivers, creeks and ponds in the valley are closed to fishing, and off-trail hiking is prohibited in order to protect this exquisite wildlife habitat.

If you would like a guided tour to see the Hayden Valley we recommend to consider the “4-Day Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Wildlife Adventure.”