Fall Hit List: Bully Mammoth

Up close and personal with Yellowstone’s elk rut. 

Few sounds are as singular as a bugling bull elk.

To the hunter, it sounds like opportunity. To the skier, it foretells of powder days to come. And for the wildlife watcher, it’s an invitation to one of nature’s most intense spectacles. Few places offer a better vantage point from which to witness the action than the Mammoth area in Yellowstone, and that’s why we’re including a visit on our Fall Hit List.

Who: Anyone with a pulse interested in getting up close and personal with 700 pounds of screaming testosterone. Even if you’ve heard the bugle and seen the rut, Mammoth is a unique venue because the beasts are right there. Nowhere is more intimate.

Mammoth, Elk, Rut, Yellowstone, Gardiner

What: Wildlife watching that is unrivaled anywhere. The Park has a long list of natural phenomena worth witnessing, but this is among the most impressive. Plus, the show is visible from your car, so you can save your energy for hiking and fishing.

From Mammoth, there are miles of trail within spitting distance, and just outside the Park near Gardiner, there’s even more to do. Fish the Yellowstone, hike any number of Forest Service trails, or grab a bite and some brews in town.

Gardiner, Mammoth, Elk, Rut, Yellowstone

When: The rut is on, so the window to observe it is only getting narrower. Now that the tourist crowds have mostly dissipated, take this weekend or next and head down Paradise Valley for the show.

Where: The main attraction is the elk herd that lives right in Mammoth. The bulls stomp around the employee quarters and visitor centers as if they own the place. Commit your act of voyeurism there before bunking up in Gardiner. Shoulder-season deals are so good in the gateway town that you’ll want to stay for a week.

Mammoth, Elk, Rut, Yellowstone, Gardiner

Why: Because seeing wildlife act as they have for millennia is a rare opportunity we shouldn’t take for granted. In these parts, we’re lucky to share the woods with critters big and small, toothy and timid. When they put on a show, it’s worth paying attention.