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Ker & Downey Luxury Travel Expert Catherine Brown visits some of the national parks in the Western United States in search of the American West’s best wildlife.

For years, I have been dreaming of seeing the Western United States. The real west, full of mountains and wildlife, and cowboy culture. On my bucket list was to see wildlife – especially a buffalo at Yellowstone National Park, and I really wanted to spot a bear. I finally had the chance to go, and boy were those items checked and more.

I started out early one morning with my guide, and we headed into Yellowstone by the West entrance. My guide told me he has been coming to Yellowstone since he was six years old, spending 2-3 weeks in the park every year with his parents and later his own children, and now his grandchildren. After spending so much time in the park, he told me he ‘just goes by gut’ and gets a good feeling of where the wildlife can be found. I shared with him my hope to see a buffalo. He very kindly explained that they are not actually buffalo, but bison – and buffalo can only be found in Africa and Asia! They have been so often called buffalo that it is now completely acceptable, even if not accurate. My one wish became to see a BISON, and within less than 15 minutes, I met this guy coming down the road.

Western United States Wildlife Safari - Luxury American West Travel - Ker Downey

And then the fields opened up to this stunning vista:

Western United States Wildlife Safari - Luxury American West Travel - Ker Downey

It was incredible!

We spent an amazing day exploring the park, seeing the jaw-dropping views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic Spring and of course, Old Faithful. At one point a grizzly bear crossed our path! I was too shocked to get my camera out. Second item checked! We saw tons of coyotes, elk, and birdlife throughout the day.

Western United States Wildlife Safari - Luxury American West Travel - Ker DowneyIt was incredible!

The following day, I drove through the park myself as I headed down towards Jackson Hole. Truly, I did not see a single animal. Not one!

Though I was looking out, I was focused on the road, and it made me realize what a valuable thing it is to have a guide who can bring you around to see the highlights and who is especially keen at spotting the wildlife.

I arrived in Jackson Hole and the following morning, I met my guide before sunrise. We headed out along the Moose-Wilson road just as the sun was coming up on the Tetons making them gleam in orange and purple. It was the most amazing scene – and then we spotted a mama black bear and her cubs.

Western United States Wildlife Safari - Luxury American West Travel - Ker Downey

We got to watch them for a good ten minutes as the mother lead her babies up the hill. I learned so much about bears that morning from my guide, who had spent years learning and researching them and toting a fantastic collection of articles about the favorite resident bears in the area. I later met up with my cousin for dinner who said that she had only seen a bear once, after living in Jackson Hole for nine years, so it was certainly a treat to see the mama bear and her cubs.

We continued on to Mormon Row to take a picture of the famous barn, and there we spotted antelope that can run up to 60mph. On the way back out, a moose was crossing the road right in front of us.

Western United States Wildlife Safari - Luxury American West Travel - Ker Downey Western United States Wildlife Safari - Luxury American West Travel - Ker Downey

My time in the parks was the most amazing experience – on top of the incredible scenery in every direction – I was so grateful to both of my guides for not just showing me but teaching me about the wildlife, their habitats, and life cycles. I am so excited to go back with my family and show them, too.

Contact Catherine for help planning your luxury journey to the Western United States and its national parks.

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