The Montana Grizzly Encounter is a popular stop for many people on their way into Yellowstone National Park, or for those driving through Montana on I-90.
The Montana Grizzly Encounter is a bear rescue facility where you can see grizzly bears up close. If you’ve never seen a grizzly bear, this is a great way to see one in an affordable way that doesn’t even take too much time.
Cheryl and I visited the Montana Grizzly Encounter on our 2022 trip to Bozeman, Montana. This is one of several “bear parks” we’ve visited.
In this article, I’ll cover our experience in more detail and compare it with the other bear parks. So if you’re considering visiting the Montana Grizzly Encounter, keep on reading!
About the Montana Grizzly Encounter
The facility was opened in 2004 as a rescue facility for grizzly bears who might otherwise be euthanized or perish in the wild.
Grizzly bears need to be rescued for different reasons. Some get too comfortable around humans and will be euthanized unless a rescuer can be found.
Some bears, like the triplets at Bearizona in Williams, Arizona, lose their mother somehow while they are cubs. Without her, they will die, unless a rescue facility adopts them.
The first bear at the Montana Grizzly Encounter was Brutus, who was born in an unethical breeding program (per NBC Montana).
The facility can support up to five bears. When we visited, they had 4 bears. Bears are rotated into the viewing facility one at a time.
The Montana Grizzly Encounter is easily accessible as it is located right off I-90 between Bozeman and Livingston, Montana. It is right next to the freeway exit/entrance.
It’s about 15 minutes away from Bozeman, Montana.
As of 2022, prices are as follows:
- Adults: $10
- Seniors (65+): 9
- Children (4-12): $8
- Infants (Under 4): free
The ticket is good for two days. We liked this because we got to see Bella the first day and returned on our way back through the area to see Max the second day.
The facilities are very basic here. The parking lot is a small gravel lot. The restrooms are portables.
To enter and exit the facility you must walk through a small gift shop where you’ll have the option to buy some bear-related merchandise.
Once you’re in the facility, what you see is what you get. There is one area to view the bear currently on display.
There is a small snack stand, picnic tables to eat, and a small play area for the kids.
There is no museum and only a few small interpretive signs.
Despite the basic facilities and general lack of interpretation, we really enjoyed this bear park for two main reasons:
The viewing area is really close to the bears.
The bears were incredibly active!
We just stood there, watching Bella play with a big log and swim in the water. This was probably the closest I’ve ever seen a grizzly bear, and the most playful bear I’ve seen.
An employee gave a small informational presentation while we were standing there watching Bella. He told us it probably costs $2000 per day to feed each bear. They receive food and money donations to keep them going.
We packed food in the car, so we brought it into the enclosure and had our own little picnic while we watched Bella play.
Our kids played on a small train near the picnic tables.
That was about it! It’s a very simple but enjoyable bear park.
Other “bear parks”
If you’re in the area, there are other bear park options, but they are a few hours away on the west side of Yellowstone. We’ve also been to one in Arizona near the Grand Canyon.
Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
Located in West Yellowstone, the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is a very professional facility with probably much more funding than the Montana Grizzly Encounter.
They bring multiple bears out for viewing, but the drawback is you’re not very close.
They also have other animals, such as wolves, otters, eagles, and other birds.
Located near Rexburg, Idaho, Yellowstone Bear World is a family favorite for us. This is geared a little more to the kids (though Cheryl and I enjoy it as well).
It’s a drive-through park. You’ll drive in your vehicle through an area where bears roam. There are a few grizzlies and many black bears. The black bears often come right up to our vehicle — a real treat for kids (and us).
They also have a petting zoo, some kiddie rides, a moose, an albino elk (rare!), and wolves. You can pay extra to let the kids bottle-feed the bear cubs.
This is an incredible family experience — we highly recommend it!
Bearizona is located in Williams, Arizona, near the Grand Canyon.
This is the most impressive bear park we’ve been to.
The drive-through facility is larger and nicer than Bear World. Their zoo is beautifully done and is highlighted by three grizzlies who were rescued as cubs. The park built a massive enclosure just to house these three cubs.
Other things to do nearby
The Montana Grizzly Encounter is located between Bozeman and Yellowstone.
This area is very pretty and has a lot of things to do such as hikes, river-rafting, fishing, and museums, just to name a few.
For a complete overview of the things to do in this region, see Bozeman to Yellowstone: Best routes and things to do.
While the Montana Grizzly Encounter is much more basic than the other parks, it was one of the more memorable grizzly bear experiences I’ve had. To see these massive and beautiful creatures toss logs around like it was nothing was quite a sight.
This is also much less expensive than the other parks.
Even in Yellowstone, famous for being “the bear park,” seeing a grizzly is rare. And when you do see one it’s often far away.
We think the Montana Grizzly Encounter is a great value and a memorable experience.