Spotting Wildlife in Yellowstone: Where to Rent Binoculars or a Scope

Wolf standing on rock with snow surrounding

If you plan on visiting Yellowstone any time soon, you may want to spot some breathtaking wildlife as you hike the trails of the park. You don’t want to miss out on the beauty, so make sure to rent binoculars or a scope so you will be able to spot the wildlife from miles away!

So where is the best place to rent a pair of binoculars or a scope?

The best place to rent binoculars or a scope near Yellowstone is Optic Yellowstone in Gardiner, MT, or the Silver Gate Lodging General Store in Cooke City, Montana.

But there are other places you can rent binoculars, and there’s more to know about spotting wildlife in Yellowstone, so keep reading!

Don't miss these places to see wildlife in Yellowstone!

Do I Need Binoculars in Yellowstone?

Most people visiting Yellowstone are there to see wildlife since it’s one of the best places in the Lower 48 states for wildlife viewing.

If seeing wildlife is important to you, binoculars will dramatically enhance your experience.

Not sure which Yellowstone entrance is right for you?

Download our Free Quick and Easy Guide to Yellowstone’s entrances!

What Wildlife Can I See in Yellowstone?

Some common forms of wildlife in Yellowstone are bison, elk, coyotes, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, moose, otters, beavers, and many others.

And don’t forget about the birds! I’ve seen eagles, ravens, swans, and pelicans.

While it’s possible to see any of these animals up close (especially bison), they will often be a hundred yards or more away.

Again, I can’t emphasize this enough: binoculars will change your Yellowstone experience.

AnimalLikelihood of seeing (my unscientific opinion)Distance
Bison100%Under 25 yards is common
Elk100%, esp. if you visit MammothUnder 25 yards is common
Black Bears75%, if you know where to look (my itinerary has the secrets!)75+ yards
Grizzly Bears25%, if you know where to look (my itinerary has the secrets!) 300+ yards
Wolves75%, if you know where to look (my itinerary has the secrets!) 300+ yards
Moose10%. I’ve never seen one in Yellowstone, but they are there. But I see them 100% of the time in Grand Teton.?
Yellowstone's Lamar Valley: The American Serengeti

Should You Rent a Scope or Binoculars?

Generally, binoculars will usually suffice for bison, elk, black bears, coyotes, and birds.

Since grizzly bears and wolves don’t like hanging out by the road, they are usually quite far away. Spotting one of these animals is generally quite an event, and crowds will gather and watch them for hours, or as long as the animal is visible.

Woman looking through scope in the snow
We rented a scope from Optics Yellowstone in Gardiner, MT to spot wolves

Unless you get lucky, you’ll usually want a scope to see a grizzly bear or a wolf. Plan on taking a chair and some coffee and hanging out for quite a while.

If you’re an average visitor and you don’t want to spend hours just waiting for something to show up, go with the more mobile binoculars.

Places to Rent Binoculars in Yellowstone

LocationAddressNumberPricesDistance from Park Rental Length
Silver Gate Lodging General Store109 US Hwy 212 W, 111 US-212, Cooke City, MT 59081406-838-2371Regular Binoculars ~$10/day2 minutes 24 hours
Explore Rentals 32 Dollar Dr. Belgrade, MT 59714406-922-0179Vortex Diamondback 10×42 Binoculars ~$6.00/day
Vortex Viper HD 10×42 Binoculars ~$10.00/day
About 2 hours 24 hours
Optic YellowstonePO Box 494
Gardiner, MT 59030
~$50/day 4 minutes 24 hours

Other Binoculars and Scopes They Offer

Man looking through binoculars

Optics Yellowstone

We used Optics Yellowstone for a scope rental. We were given a $5000 scope to view the wolves. Knowing its value freaked us out a little, as we were nervous we’d drop it or something.

Woman and man talking while holding scope

Melba is the owner and she is super friendly and helpful. She visits the park every morning so she can give you the best intel on where to find the wolves.

We highly recommend using Optics Yellowstone for a scope rental. Just make sure to book it far in advance! She also has binoculars, zoom lenses, and tripods to check out.

Silver Gate Lodging General Store

The Silver Gate General Store offers the great option of renting a Universal Distance Viewer for ~$40 a day. The viewer is for daylight and dusk which makes your scoping available at most hours. The high-quality optical system lets you see the image with intense sharpness and clear, natural color. The viewer lets you have one hand free with its grip wrap.

Outside view of General Store in Cooke City

The Silver Gate General Store is located in Cooke City, which is close to Lamar Valley and is the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone.

Explore Rentals

If you are searching for more types of scopes to take on your adventure, Explore Rentals has plenty of options available for rent.

Explore Rentals has a Leica Televeid 82 mm Spotting Scope for ~$32 a day and the Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 Spotting Scope for ~$22 a day.

These high-quality scopes are the perfect things to help you see the wildlife up close while staying at a safe distance. Explore Rentals has everything you need for your next trip to Yellowstone National Park!

Consider Buying Binoculars

You may want to consider buying your own gear, especially if you’re going to visit for multiple days or spend additional days in Grand Teton (highly recommended!) where you can also see a lot of wildlife, including moose.

Our favorite binoculars are the Vortex Diamondback 10X42 binoculars. They’re affordable, and they are a GAME-CHANGER for seeing wildlife in Yellowstone.

Man looking through binoculars at buffalo in the distance with pond and people in the background

Scopes, on the other hand, are much more expensive. You have to be a dedicated wolf-watcher to invest the money into a scope. We recommend renting a scope, but if you want to buy one, we recommend the Vortex Optics Viper HD Spotting Scope, which has great reviews and is a brand we have used and loved.

Our general rule of thumb is to buy binoculars, and rent scopes.

Staying Safe While Getting Optimal Viewing

Bison standing in fields

While you are on your next adventure in Yellowstone National Park, you are definitely going to want to see the wildlife and beautiful nature. However, the wildlife can be dangerous.

The law requires you to stay at least 25 yards away from elk and bison, and 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

Bring binoculars or scopes so you can get the optimal view of wildlife while staying at a safe distance. Visitors have told us that they regret not bringing the necessary equipment to see the animals and nature.

You will still be able to see things, but not like you would if you brought the equipment. It may seem like an unnecessary expense or like it’s just another task to add to your to-do list, but you won’t regret it. Make sure to rent the necessary equipment, and you can have the time of your life watching dangerous animals while staying completely safe. Be smart, stay safe, and have fun!


In Yellowstone National Park, there are grizzly bears, moose, wolves, elk, bison, and so many other beautiful creatures that you may want to see at a far distance. It’s important to stay safe in the national park, and binoculars and scopes can help you accomplish that.

Consider the multiple different options available to you for purchase and rent at the locations above, and greatly consider the different kinds of products available, prices, and the location of pickup when considering which one is best. Depending on how many people are in your group, you may be able to get a discount on the products you are renting or buying.

Make sure to call the stores and discuss exactly what you are looking for. The people are nice and will help you with whatever you need. Good luck on your next adventure!

What Else is There to Know?

Yellowstone is confusing because it’s huge and there are so many things to do! 

Need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do in Yellowstone? Check out our itinerary

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid the crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

But that’s not all! Our itinerary includes a free audio guide to listen to while driving with over 3-hours of stories about the park!


YELLOWSTONE TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Yellowstone National Park, check out our Yellowstone Homepage

ENTRANCES: Yellowstone has 5 entrances: The West Entrance, the East Entrance, the Northeast Entrance, the North Entrance, and the South Entrance. Learn which entrance to Yellowstone is right for you with our Free Quick and Easy Guide

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Yellowstone has to offer including Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and West Thumb and Grant’s Village

GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Learn all about where to stay and where to camp when visiting Yellowstone and things to do in Cody, Wyoming, and other areas surrounding Yellowstone

WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat including the Old West Dinner Cookout and also where to get groceries and eat picnics in Yellowstone National Park

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out if you need a reservation or bear spray and binoculars, as well as tips for driving in and flying to Yellowstone 

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Yellowstone National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Yellowstone YouTube Playlist


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