In my opinion, spring is one of the most exciting and dynamic times of year in Yellowstone National Park. As the park begins to green and the days grow longer, I take every chance to get out and witness the changing landscapes.

Here are a few of my favorite springtime experiences in Yellowstone.

Birdwatching at Floating Island Lake

One of my regular stops in Yellowstone is Floating Island Lake, a roadside pond near Tower Falls. This is one of the first places you’ll be able to spot yellow-headed blackbirds. It’s also a great place to observe colorful ruddy ducks performing their mating ritual. Make sure to observe from the nearby parking lot, as nesting birds can be very sensitive this time of year.

Observing the Spring Snowmelt Transform the Lamar River

In mid to late May, the rivers on the northern range become swollen as snowmelt pours out of the mountains. I personally love visiting Lamar Canyon and the confluence of the Lamar and Soda Butte rivers during this time of year, and enjoy seeing how high the water gets. It’s easy to marvel at the sheer power of these rivers in the spring.

Seeing Bison Calves in Little America

In the heart of Yellowstone’s northern range, there is an area called Little America. While you can spot bison calves all over the park after late April, this area is a popular hang-out — bison are easy to observe and the little “red dogs” seemingly litter the landscape. I like to hang out there, too, for this very reason. Often, I will set up camp chairs along the side of the road and watch the peaceful cows graze while the calves kick up their heels.

Leaving the Car Behind

This is my favorite activity for any time of year. One of the best ways to enjoy all that Yellowstone offers is to get out of your car and venture away from the road. Walk five minutes, 10 minutes, or a few hours from your car. Then sit … and watch. You’ll be surprised by what will appear when you quiet your body and mind. This is how I spotted both a badger and a wolf on a recent backcountry hike. You don’t have to be in the backcountry though — a completely different Yellowstone experience awaits if you just take a few steps away from the road.

Hiking Beaver Ponds Trail

Beaver Ponds Trail is a five-mile loop near Mammoth Hot Springs. It’s one of my favorites to hike in the spring because of the varied terrain and the opportunities to see wildlife along the way. The trail passes through forest and meadow, and past several ponds full of waterfowl. I almost always spot a blue grouse, and — if I’m lucky — a black bear or two. Elk, deer, and colorful spring wildflowers are common as well. As always, I hike with bear spray and keep my distance from any animals, watching through binoculars and using a telephoto lens instead.

No matter what time of year you visit, there’s always something new to experience. See you out there!