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!
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.”