Seeing wild wolves in Yellowstone National Park is nearly impossible without a guide; amateur wolf watchers in any case need high-powered binoculars and tolerance for cold, as the best observation season is winter, when wolf fur stands out against the snow. But at Howlers Inn Bed & Breakfast & Wolf Sanctuary, just outside Bozeman, guests year-round can observe a captive-bred pack from their bedroom window, and even pet a wolf through the chain-link fence of the inn’s four-acre sanctuary. Owners Chris and Mary Martha Bahn originally opened the federally licensed shelter in 1993 for a single rescued wolf that was unable to return to the wild. Built to fund the shelter as it accommodated more animals to live as a pack, the cozy log B&B sits on 42 acres in Bridger Canyon amid boulder-strewn meadows backed by pine-covered hills. Two wolf enclosures, with a seasonal pond and creek, are currently home to five spayed or neutered timber and Alaskan tundra wolves, born in captivity, whose owners could no longer keep them. The Bahns do not breed or exhibit the animals for profit, but they're happy to discuss wolf conservation as well as the controversial issues of game farm breeding and hunting. Guests are welcome to photograph the human-habituated animals during their stay.
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On the outskirts of Bozeman, the inn is a mile and a half from a national forest with hiking trails and an hour’s drive to the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Prime fly-fishing, and cross-country and downhill skiing country lie within easy driving distance. The innkeepers can hook up guests with local fly-fishing, horseback-riding, and whitewater-rafting operators. Bozeman houses the Museum of the Rockies (loaded with dinosaur fossils). In the small downtown, Plonk wine bar has a list of 600-plus vintages. Montana Ale is the place to sample craft beer in a restored freight house, while the laid-back Garage Soup Shack and Mesquite Grill serves bison burgers and huckleberry ice cream. Altitude Art Gallery (134 E. Main St.) showcases regionally inspired or produced jewelry, pottery, photography, and painting.
Need to Know
Rooms: 4 rooms. From $125. Check-in: 4 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: Mary Martha serves a plated, sit-down breakfast that varies daily and according to guests' dietary needs. Dishes might be “egg blossoms” (eggs baked in filo dough or ham atop a bed of spinach) or cranberry French toast. Spa and gym details: A mini gym/lounge has a rowing machine, sauna, indoor hot tub, billiards and air hockey tables, and a big-screen TV. There are no spa services.
Who’s it for: Self-driving travelers and families with kids seeking an up-close wolf encounter. Our favorite rooms: The Western Room, with king log bed and oversized jet tub, overlooks the wolf enclosure with views of the Absaroka and Bridger mountains. Don't forget: Ask Chris Bahn when you can observe him feeding the pack.