The Best Places To See Wildlife In The U.S.
Premier wildlife-watching destinations such as Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park, and Grand Teton National Park, present a captivating display of creatures that offer a chance to rekindle your connection with the natural world.
National parks streamline wildlife observation through well-defined trails and recognized feeding areas, making it a straightforward endeavor.
Within this article, we will guide you through prime locations within renowned national parks where you can catch glimpses of awe-inspiring animals like bears, moose, and wolves.
Yosemite is home to over 400 species, so you’re bound to see wildlife here. Many of these animals can be easily seen along the web of hiking trails that criss-cross the park.
Top tip: Make camp at Outdoorsy Yosemite. The spot is mere minutes from Yosemite and even offers a few rustic cabins if you happen to be traveling without an RV.
Bear sightings at Yosemite are somewhat less common than at other parks. Head to the apple orchard at the base of Yosemite Falls and hang out for a chance of a sighting. The meadows around Happy Isles are also a known zone for sightings.
Yellowstone National Park is often referred to as the Serengeti of the United States. Depending on the time of year, you have a chance to see bison, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, antelope, moose, elk, bobcats, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, lynx, and red foxes, among dozens of other species. The Lamar Valley is perhaps the most spectacular spot for wildlife viewing because it’s a secluded and vast section that draws in wildlife from all over the park.
Pro tip: When you roll out of the Lamar Valley, take Highway 212 into Montana over the Beartooth Pass. You can thank us later 🙂
Black bears can often be seen along the main roads in the park. Simply look for stopped traffic and the chances are good you’ll see wildlife like bears and bison.
If Grizzlys are your jam, be sure you’re bear-aware and use a high-power spotting scope in open meadows just after sunrise and just before sunset. Grizzly bears are regularly observed in Lamar Valley, Gardiners Hole, Antelope Creek meadows, Dunraven Pass, and the Hayden Valley.
The Lamar Valley takes the cake again. This remote area in the Northeast corner of the park is the best place to see wolves in Yellowstone because it is remote and is the known stomping ground for several local wolfpacks.
There are three true entrances to Grand Tetons National Park: from the east, south, and southwest. But because this park joins with Yellowstone, you can also enter from the north, as you leave Yellowstone traveling south.
The best places to see wildlife in Grand Tetons are:
Head up to Signal Mountain or stroll along Jenny Lake for a good chance of spotting a black bear roaming around.
Wolves recently migrated from Yellowstone into The Tetons. Their numbers are still relatively low, so they can be hard to spot. However, wolves are known to frequent the Willow Flats area of the park, offering you the best chance of a sighting.
The Tetons are regarded as one of the best places to see moose in the U.S. Look for them at Willow Flats, Christian Pond (near Willow Flats), and around Oxbow Bend.
Florida’s Everglades make up the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. The park encompasses 1.5 million acres, and the main entrance is in Homestead. In the Everglades, you’ll discover a variety of Florida wildlife, from alligators and American crocodiles to black bears, bottlenose dolphins, manatees, and dozens of shorebirds and waterfowl. The endangered Florida panther also resides in the park, but chances of catching a glimpse of this secretive predator are slim.
Believe it or not, this subtropical park is home to many Florida Black Bears. Head to the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk for the chance of a sighting.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Tennessee and North Carolina. Its namesake mountains provide elevation variances and unique habitat for many animals. The icon of the park is the black bear, but you might encounter other species like white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, Peregrine falcons, and elk. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is densely forested, so for the best wildlife viewing, seek out open areas such as Cataloochee and Cades Cove.
There are four main spots known to be the best places to see bears in Smoky Mountains National Park:
Roll into the Cataloochee Valley and post up for a while to stand a chance of seeing the herds.
This park straddles 415 square miles of Colorado mountains, so it’s little wonder there’s wildlife to see here. In this park you’ll find moose, bears, elk, bighorn sheep, bobcats, mountain lions, deer, coyotes, marmots, pikas, and numerous birds.
Check out the Alpine tundra along Trail Ridge Road for a good chance of spotting some elk herds.
The word on the street is that the Kawuneeche Valley is the place to see if you want to catch a moose migration. Our sources also tell us that the Colorado River near Timber Creek Campground on the west side of the park has several known moose sightings.
These creatures can be hard to spot, but they’re known to roam near lakes tucked into mountainous cliffs. Grab a set of binoculars and head to a spot like Horseshoe Park where there’s literally a watering hole called Sheep Lake.
Glacier NP gets its name from the ancient glaciers that carved its beautiful peaks over thousands of years. Some of the glaciers — like Grinnell Glacier — exist to this day and can be admired via the many trails in the park.
It’s hard to nail down the best place to see wildlife in Glacier. Logan Pass, Many Glacier, and Saint Mary Lake’s North Shore are a few of the spots where folks are known to catch views of bears, bighorn sheep, and more.
Black bear sightings can truly happen anywhere in the park. If grizzlies are what you’re after, be sure you’re bear-aware and head to Many Glacier. Ask the rangers up there about the right times and places to give yourself a very good chance of seeing a grizzly.
Coming in at the most straightforward entry on our list, Goat Lick Overlook is an exposed riverbank where mountain goats come to lick the mineral-laden cliffs.
While it may not be a national park, we found out about this and figured it was too cool not to list as one of the best places to see wildlife in the U.S.
Eastern Egg Rock is a tiny island about six miles off Pemaquid Point on the southern coast of Maine. This is where puffins were first reintroduced in Maine as part of ‘Project Puffin’ in 1973. The best time to view the puffins is in June and July, and unless you charter a boat, you’ll need to take a puffin cruise out to the island. While traveling to and from the island, you’ll likely also see bald eagles and seals.
Though it may be tempting to get a closer look or better photograph, it is best just to let the animals be. Distance is especially important when it comes to a mom and her young. Even the friendliest creature can turn aggressive to protect their babies.
Never call out to an animal, even just in an attempt to get their attention for the perfect photograph. An innocent call may be seen as threatening to them. Getting the perfect photo takes patience.
Be aware of your surroundings, keeping a close eye on the animals’ behavior.
Signs of animal distress could be:
If you’re in a group, try to stay close together, so as not to block an animal’s escape route, should they wish to move. In general, giving the animal more room will also help them remain more relaxed.
Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to feeding wildlife. Keep your food tucked away nicely to avoid tempting the animal. They may become aggressive if food is involved. Not to mention, human food is not a part of their all-natural diet.
Be it majestic creatures, rare and threatened species, or the majestic raptors you seek, the United States boasts a rich variety of wildlife that surpasses expectations. From one side of the nation to the other, scarcely a spot exists where you can’t simply bring out your binoculars and revel in the splendor of observing nature’s wonders. So, unfurl your map, fill up your tank, secure your camera, and embark on a journey along the open road!
Lacking a personal set of wheels? Consider renting an RV through Outdoorsy, and prepare yourself for an unparalleled road adventure, tailor-made for wildlife enthusiasts.