As a professional guide in Grand Teton National Park for nearly a decade now, one of the most frequent animals I’m asked to see is a moose. The odds of seeing them however, particularly during summer months, can vary wildly depending on weather, seasons, and of course, time of day. This guide will help you make sure you maximize your chances of seeing these majestic animals in their natural habitat of Grand Teton National Park.
Best Seasons for Moose
Moose habits change throughout the seasons. While they’re very easy to find in the winter months, summer months can have people questioning whether or not they’re really even in the region. The reason for this is because moose are happier in colder and frigid weather. This means that during summer months, moose are often hiding in the shade throughout the day, and staying very close to cold streams and rivers.
Summer months are the hardest to find moose for that reason. It requires scouring shade in harsh lighting for dark patches in discrete places if you’re looking for them during the day. Fortunately early mornings and late evenings provide a bit more luck since the temperature is cooler.
This all changes of course as the fall season takes hold. With the changing leaves and cooler temperatures also comes mating season for moose. This keeps them much more mobile and active later into the day and has many of the bulls on the move in search of a potential mate.
Once their mating season has winded down, the weather has cooled off significantly, allowing them the freedom to wander as they please without using much energy. This is why it’s so much easier to find them in winter than summer.
This continues into the spring before the temperatures get too warm, where they can be seen wandering in the open and taking advantage of new vegetation that melting snow reveals.
Best Locations for Moose
Moose can be spotted virtually anywhere in Grand Teton National Park, but there are some sites in particular that tend to yield better results than others, and after years of exploring and guiding throughout the park, here’s a list of places that I’ve found to be the most reliable.
Gros Ventre River
One of the more reliable locations is along the Gros Ventre River, taking the road east from the roundabout along Highway 89. The road parallels the river for several miles where moose are frequently spotted, conveniently even at some pullouts. In summer you’ll need sharp eyes or hope that someone’s already done the work for you, in which case there will be some cars already pulled over. Anywhere from early to late winter, they’re easy to spot not only around the river and even the road, but up in the open flats of Antelope Flats and around Blacktail Butte.
Another very reliable spot is virtually anywhere along the Moose-Wilson Road. This not only includes inside Grand Teton National Park, but even all the way down to the junction with Highway 22. However, inside the park, the road follows a series of beaver ponds along the north end where moose like to frequent. Keep in mind though that the road is very narrow and winding with few places to pull out, so be conscious that not everyone driving the road is wanting to stop.
Along the southern end of the road and still inside the park, a small stream runs along the road where the occasional moose is also spotted, but the beaver ponds tend to yield better results.
This seems like it would be obvious, but once the sun’s up and the temperatures are warming up for the day in the summer months, this area will appear void of moose. If you’re driving through early in the morning though, you can frequently find a moose somewhere around the junction or down toward the Snake River.
North of the moose junction is a discrete turnout that drops visitors down along the Snake River to picturesque beaver ponds reflecting the Teton Mountains. It’s along these ponds that moose tend to frequent and can often be seen in the early or later hours of the day. It makes for a fantastic setting if it pays off, but don’t be surprised if you go down there and come away empty handed. While it is a reliable spot, there’s also a lot of trees for them to hide in and they have no obligation to be visible.
Willow Flats Overlook
The Willow Flats Overlook sits above a sprawling and wild landscape forested by willow bushes. It’s a perfect environment for moose since it’s covered in small streams that beavers use to their advantage, thereby helping out moose to give them a more conducive home. At the same time though, there’s that many more places for them to hide, so while there’s plenty down there, they also have to pop out at specific points to potentially be seen. It happens pretty frequently though so be sure to give it a check!
Moose in Yellowstone National Park
Many people expect to see plenty of moose in Yellowstone National Park, however they’re often disappointed to not see a single moose after spending many days looking. The reason for this is because the ’88 fires essentially destroyed their habitat, starving the moose out of the landscape. This led them to vacate the area. On top of that, moose tend not to wander very far and they have relatively small migration routes. As a result, they still haven’t yet moved back in. Moose tend to find an area they like and stick to it, so don’t expect to see too many, or even any moose in Yellowstone.
In the hundreds of trips I’ve made to Yellowstone guiding and looking for moose, I’ve only seen them a handful of times, and the only reliable spot I’ve found has been at the far east end of the Lamar Valley.
Moose are one of those tricky animals that are either there or not, and sometimes you can do everything right and still not see one. The more you try though, the more your odds will go up. Along with this list of locations and understanding their habits through the seasons should help your odds go up as well.
Interested in hiring me to help you find a moose? Check out my Grand Teton National Park private photography workshops and we can spend the entire time making sure we have some great opportunities with moose!