Wildlife Hotspot: Pilgrim Creek
Once a month, we’ll feature a wildlife hotspot. We want to aid you with getting ‘the shot’ in order to help rekindle your love for nature, to enable you to become inspired by wildlife and to equip you to become an advocate for a wilder world at home.
This month’s focus:
Grand Teton National Park’s Pilgrim Creek Road:
Yellowstone National Park gets most of the love from us and from tourists visiting the wilds of northwest Wyoming.
The reality is that its relatively lesser known cousin to the south, Grand Teton National Park, is as spectacular and, in some ways, even better for wildlife photography.
There are caveats. Yellowstone is a far bigger wilderness and if you strike out in one location, its easier to pivot to a new one. In Grand Teton, you’re limited to fewer areas and fewer animals to focus on.
But when the going is good, it can’t be beat.
Of the many wildlife hotspots in Grand Teton, our favourite is Pilgrim Creek Road.
Jill will tell you the road is rough and I’ll tell you she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Our small city vehicle has no problem navigating the 4 kilometres that take you east into Teton National Forest, where the road terminates.
The backdrop – like so many locations in the national park – is the Teton range and in the late spring the small ‘valley’ explodes with colour from the plentiful wildflowers. All in all, it’s a wonderful road for landscape photographers, but even better for animal lovers.
When you first turn onto the road, on the right you’ll find a small pond – shrouded in trees and sandwiched between the creek and the highway.
Look carefully (or, if you see dozens of cars parked, just ask someone): this has been the most consistent location we know of for big bull moose in the summer, in the Rockies.
It’s not a certainty you’ll find the two bull moose that call the pond home, but your odds are good.
Like anywhere, early in the morning and late in the evening are the best times for wildlife viewing, but that is especially the case for this road.
Travel it slowly and spend time at the turn around at its terminus: famous grizzly bear 399 calls this area home.
We’ve been fortunate to document the Grand Dame of Grand Teton numerous time through two sets of cubs along this road and with the backdrop of the mountains, you can’t go wrong even with the ‘animal in the landscape‘ shot.
Other grizzly bears like Bruno and Blondie (they have mostly eluded us, but most other have been lucky to document their romance) also are frequently found in the area.
Amongst the most peaceful getaways within the getaway, Pilgrim Creek Road also offers opportunities to photograph coyotes, foxes, marmots, bird life and the omni-present elk that wander this part of the park.
If you visit Yellowstone, be sure to carve out significant time in Grand Teton, especially in the spring. And while there are other, more specialized hotspots within the park (that we’ll focus on in upcoming months), Pilgrim Creek offers the best all round, accessible and consistent wildlife hotspot in Grand Teton.
Pilgrim Creek Road
Accessibility: Teton Park Road/Hwy 89 (south from Colter Bay, north from Jackson Lake Lodge)
Photographic Focus: Grizzly Bears and Moose, along with other animals such as fox, elk and marmots
Best Time: 5-8am; 6-10pm
Best Season: Spring (mid-May to mid-June)
– The road is gravel and narrow, so beware of which direction the animal is moving in order to anticipate the best photo and not be stuck in a jam.
– The lighting is usually very good, but the subjects usually require a decent telephoto lens in the 300-600mm range.
– Drive slowly and be sure to stop at various points along the road to wait quietly for an animal sighting, especially at the turnaround in the Teton Wilderness.
– We find mornings – before sunrise – to be the best.
– Always carry bear spray if outside your vehicle.
Tags: 399, bears, grand teton, grizzly bears, jackson, moose, national parks, nature, photography, pilgrim creek, simon, simon jackson, wildlife hotspot, yellowstone