For most of the year, the only way to reach Yellowstone’s iconic Roosevelt Arch and the North Entrance of the park in Gardiner, Montana is to drive south on Highway 89, through the appropriately named Paradise Valley. Skirting the Yellowstone River for the 53 miles between Livingston, Montana and Gardiner, Montana, Highway 89 is extra bonus when heading to Yellowstone National Park. For the majority of those miles, the road cuts through Paradise Valley, giving seemingly endless views of majestic mountains. Wildlife is prevalent, with sightings of deer, eagles and even elk commonplace. The drive through Paradise Valley is always amazing, which is why it is the location of this week’s Find the Animal challenge.

About the Picture

It was a low snowpack in the region on an early January day in 2022. I was heading down to the park for my weekly trip and decided to take my time driving through the valley. Some days, I rush down to the park to spend as much time as I can within the boundaries of Yellowstone. Other days, it takes me hours to get through the valley, as I stop at numerous locations and take in the grandeur of the region. This was one of those days when I was taking my time.

I pulled off on Old Yellowstone Road as it heads toward Tom Miner, with the mission of stopping at the viewpoint above Point of Rocks boat launch on the Yellowstone River. This is one of my favorite views in the valley, as walking to the top of the rocks gives a sweeping view of the river, valley and mountains. There is also usually some wildlife around. Pulling off of Highway 89, I spotted a golden eagle flying overhead. I stopped at the wide area near the intersection, got out and started taking a few pictures. As the eagle flew east, my eyes dropped lower, taking in the slightly blocked view of Emigrant Peak. Below that, the lightly dusted cliffs stood out in the morning light.

Then I noticed movement.

A lot of movement.

Scattered about in the field, just below the scree, was an elk herd. A quick estimate put the number of elk visible at around 60.

I angled my lens down and snapped a few pictures.

This is what I captured.

As always, click on the image to see it larger.

An elk herd in Paradise Valley, Montana, with Emigrant Peak rising in the distance.

Seeing an elk herd in the distance is always a highlight and an experience that never gets old. Cars zipped back and forth and I started to wonder if any of them were visitors to the park, hoping to see wildlife once they entered the boundary of Yellowstone. I wondered if they had been scanning for wildlife on their trip down the valley. I wondered if they had seen the eagles atop trees a few miles back, or noticed these elk a little ways from the pavement.

Sights like this are ones I enjoy highlighting, as you never know where you may see wildlife while in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. So often, we are stuck in thinking that the park boundaries hold all of the amazing sights, when there are incredible moments all around.

I hope this picture was a fun one to spot the elk on and helps you all remember to always look for wildlife when driving.

You never know what you may see.

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