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Wild America: Best Wildlife Viewing Destinations In The U.S.

Updated: Feb 10


The United States is a vast and diverse country with a rich variety of wildlife. From coast to coast, nature enthusiasts can explore an array of breathtaking landscapes and encounter incredible animal species. If you're a wildlife lover, here are the top 10 wildlife viewing areas in the United States that should be on your bucket list.



Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming:


Yellowstone National Park, located primarily in the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, is world-famous for its diverse and abundant wildlife. From iconic megafauna like grizzly bears and bison to elusive wolves and a vast array of bird species, Yellowstone offers unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities. Here's a guide to some of the best wildlife viewing spots and strategies in the park:


1. Lamar Valley:

  • Often dubbed the "Serengeti of North America," Lamar Valley in the park's northeastern corner is a prime location for wildlife viewing.

  • This area is famous for its wolf packs, bison herds, elk, pronghorn, and a variety of bird species.

  • Dawn and dusk are ideal times to spot wildlife here.

2. Hayden Valley:

  • Located along the Yellowstone River, Hayden Valley is another hotspot for wildlife viewing.

  • Bison, grizzly bears, wolves, and a range of birdlife frequent this area.

  • Pullouts along the Grand Loop Road provide excellent vantage points.

3. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone:

  • This area is known for its stunning geological features, but it's also home to a variety of wildlife.

  • Look for bighorn sheep and ospreys, which nest along the canyon walls.

4. Old Faithful Area:

  • While famous for its geothermal features, the Old Faithful area is also frequented by bison, elk, and sometimes grizzly bears.

  • Bison often graze near the thermal features, creating unique photo opportunities.

5. Geyser Basins:

  • The park's geyser basins are not only fascinating geologically but also attract birdlife, including waterfowl.

  • Keep an eye out for ospreys and bald eagles fishing in the park's rivers and lakes.

6. Yellowstone Lake:

  • The shores of Yellowstone Lake are home to various bird species, including bald eagles and ospreys.

  • Otters and waterfowl can also be spotted near the lake's open water areas.

7. Pelican Valley:

  • Pelican Valley is named for its American white pelicans, which gather here during the summer.

  • Bison and other wildlife are also commonly seen in this area.

8. Beartooth Highway (Outside the Park):

  • While not within the park boundaries, the Beartooth Highway offers breathtaking views and opportunities to see mountain goats and bighorn sheep.


Yellowstone National Park's diverse ecosystems and unique geothermal features create a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Whether you're captivated by the sight of a grizzly bear foraging for berries, the haunting howls of a wolf pack, or the serene beauty of waterfowl on a lake, Yellowstone promises an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience in the heart of the American wilderness.





Everglades National Park, Florida:


Everglades National Park, located in southern Florida, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. It's renowned for its vast wetland ecosystem and incredible biodiversity, making it a prime destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Here's a guide to the exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities in Everglades National Park:


1. Anhinga Trail:

  • The Anhinga Trail, located near the park's entrance, is one of the most popular wildlife viewing spots. The boardwalk takes you through a freshwater marsh, providing close encounters with alligators, wading birds, and turtles.

  • Look for anhingas, herons, egrets, and, of course, alligators basking in the sun.

2. Shark Valley:

  • Shark Valley is a unique area in the northern part of the park. You can explore it by tram, bicycle, or on foot.

  • This area is known for its abundant birdlife, alligators, and turtles. Keep an eye out for raptors like red-shouldered hawks and crested caracaras.

3. Flamingo:

  • Flamingo, at the southern tip of the park, offers diverse wildlife viewing opportunities. You can explore Florida Bay by kayak or take boat tours to spot dolphins, manatees, and shorebirds.

  • American crocodiles, wading birds, and raccoons are commonly seen in this area.

4. Everglades Eco Pond:

  • Located near the Royal Palm Visitor Center, the Eco Pond is a small body of water that attracts a variety of bird species.

  • You may spot roseate spoonbills, white ibises, anhingas, and alligators here.

5. Mangrove Wilderness Trails:

  • The park's mangrove forests are critical habitats for wildlife. Paddling or boating through these areas offers opportunities to see manatees, dolphins, and a range of bird species.

  • The Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail and Hell's Bay Canoe Trail are popular options for exploring the mangroves.

6. Night Wildlife Viewing:

  • Many animals in the Everglades are nocturnal, making night wildlife viewing a unique experience. You may encounter owls, bats, and alligators with their eyes glowing in the dark.

  • Join a ranger-led night program or take a guided night tour for a chance to see these creatures.

7. Wildlife Safety:

  • Always maintain a safe distance from wildlife, especially alligators and crocodiles. Feeding or approaching them is dangerous and against park regulations.

  • Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for close-up views, and follow park regulations for your safety and the protection of the animals.

Everglades National Park offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to witness the intricate web of life in a wetland ecosystem. Whether you're intrigued by the peculiar adaptations of wildlife to the marshy environment or the dazzling display of colorful birds, the Everglades promises a wildlife viewing experience that's both educational and awe-inspiring.



Denali National Park, Alaska:


Denali National Park in Alaska is renowned for its pristine wilderness and abundant wildlife. From the majestic grizzly bears to the elusive wolves and migratory birds, the park offers a remarkable array of wildlife viewing opportunities. Here's a guide to some of the best spots and strategies for observing wildlife in Denali:


1. Denali Park Road:

  • The main artery for wildlife viewing in Denali is the Denali Park Road. This 92-mile road offers access to various habitats and ecosystems, making it a prime location for wildlife encounters.

  • Take one of the park's shuttle buses along the road for the best chances of seeing wildlife. The buses are designed for wildlife viewing, with large windows and knowledgeable drivers.

2. Savage River Area:

  • The Savage River area, located near the park entrance, is an excellent place to start your wildlife adventure. Moose and Dall's sheep are often spotted here.

  • Take the Savage River Shuttle for easy access to this area.

3. Eielson Visitor Center:

  • The Eielson Visitor Center, at Mile 66 on the Denali Park Road, is a popular stop for wildlife enthusiasts. It offers stunning panoramic views of the park and is known for frequent grizzly bear sightings.

  • The Eielson Shuttle provides transportation to this location.

4. Teklanika River:

  • The Teklanika River area is another hotspot for wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, and caribou. It's also a great place for birdwatching.

  • Consider taking a shuttle to Teklanika River for a wildlife-focused visit.

5. Polychrome Pass:

  • Polychrome Pass is a dramatic landscape with vibrant geological features, and it's also a favored location for Dall's sheep.

  • Keep an eye on the cliffs and steep slopes for these white-furred creatures.

6. Wonder Lake:

  • Wonder Lake, at the end of the road, offers breathtaking reflections of Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) and a chance to see moose and waterfowl.

  • It's a serene spot for wildlife photography.

7. Early Mornings and Late Evenings:

  • Wildlife is often more active during the cooler hours of early morning and late evening. Consider taking shuttle buses during these times for the best chances of spotting animals.

8. Binoculars and Cameras:

  • Bring binoculars or a telephoto lens for close-up views of wildlife. A good camera with a zoom lens is essential for capturing memorable moments.

9. Wildlife Safety:

  • Maintain a safe distance from wildlife, especially large mammals like bears and moose. Use viewing scopes and binoculars to get closer views.

  • Follow park guidelines and recommendations for wildlife safety.

10. Ranger Programs: - Join ranger-led programs and guided tours for expert insights into Denali's wildlife and natural history.


Denali National Park offers a wilderness safari like no other, where you can immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Alaska while observing a diverse range of wildlife in their natural habitat. Whether you're on the lookout for the "Big Five" (grizzly bears, wolves, moose, Dall's sheep, and caribou) or simply enjoying the serenity of this pristine wilderness, Denali promises a wildlife viewing experience you'll never forget.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park,

Tennessee/North Carolina:


Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, is renowned for its incredible biodiversity, including a wide variety of wildlife species. Whether you're an avid birder, a bear enthusiast, or simply eager to observe the park's diverse fauna, here's a guide to some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the Great Smoky Mountains:


1. Cades Cove:

  • Cades Cove is one of the most popular spots for wildlife viewing in the park. The wide, open valley provides excellent visibility, making it easier to spot animals.

  • White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and black bears are frequently seen here. Early mornings and late afternoons tend to be the best times for wildlife viewing.

2. Clingmans Dome:

  • Clingmans Dome offers sweeping panoramic views and is a great place to look for birds, including the spruce-fir specialist, the dark-eyed junco.

  • Keep an eye on the open areas for the chance to spot black bears foraging.

3. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail:

  • This one-way loop road near Gatlinburg offers opportunities to see both wildlife and beautiful landscapes.

  • Look for white-tailed deer, black bears, and a variety of bird species.

4. Cataloochee Valley:

  • Located in the park's eastern section, Cataloochee Valley is known for its elk herd. Elk were reintroduced to the park in 2001, and viewing these magnificent animals has become a popular activity.

  • Elk are most active during the fall rutting season.

5. Newfound Gap Road:

  • This scenic drive often yields bear sightings, especially during the fall when bears are foraging for acorns.

  • Birdwatchers can also spot warblers and other species along this route.

6. Wildlife Safety:

  • Maintain a safe distance from wildlife, especially black bears. Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for close-up views, and never feed or approach animals.

  • Respect park regulations and guidelines for wildlife safety.

7. Timing and Patience:

  • Wildlife viewing often requires patience. Early mornings and late afternoons are generally the best times to observe animals when they are more active.

8. Ranger Programs:

  • Consider joining ranger-led programs or guided wildlife tours for a richer understanding of the park's wildlife and natural history.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park's rich tapestry of habitats, from lush forests to high mountain peaks, supports an incredible variety of wildlife. Whether you're on the lookout for charismatic megafauna or smaller, more elusive creatures, the park's diverse ecosystems offer a treasure trove of opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming:


Grand Teton National Park, located in northwestern Wyoming, is renowned for its dramatic mountain landscapes and abundant wildlife. The park's diverse ecosystems, ranging from alpine meadows to pristine lakes, provide a haven for a wide variety of species. Whether you're a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or a casual observer, here's a guide to some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Grand Teton National Park:


1. Moose-Wilson Road:

  • Moose-Wilson Road is a hotspot for moose sightings, particularly in the early morning and evening hours. These large, solitary animals are often seen browsing in the willow thickets.

  • Keep your distance and use binoculars or a telephoto lens to capture these iconic creatures.

2. Oxbow Bend:

  • Oxbow Bend, located along the Snake River, offers stunning views of the Teton Range and is a great place for birdwatching and wildlife photography.

  • Look for bald eagles, ospreys, beavers, and sometimes bears along the riverbanks.

3. Signal Mountain:

  • Signal Mountain is known for its panoramic vistas and is a good location for birdwatching, including raptors like peregrine falcons.

  • Grizzly bears and black bears are occasionally spotted in the area as well.

4. Antelope Flats and Mormon Row:

  • The open plains of Antelope Flats and the historic barns of Mormon Row provide an ideal backdrop for observing pronghorn antelope, bison, and elk.

  • Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times for wildlife viewing here.

5. Willow Flats and Jackson Lake:

  • Willow Flats, near Jackson Lake Lodge, is a haven for birdwatchers. You may spot trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, and various waterfowl.

  • Be on the lookout for moose and other wildlife along the shores of Jackson Lake.

Grand Teton National Park's stunning scenery and diverse habitats provide ample opportunities to observe and appreciate the rich array of wildlife that calls this place home. Whether you're searching for majestic moose, awe-inspiring bison, or the thrill of spotting a bald eagle soaring against the backdrop of the towering Teton Range, the park offers an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience in the heart of the American West.



Isle Royale National Park, Michigan:


Isle Royale National Park, located in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, is a remote and pristine wilderness that offers unique opportunities for wildlife viewing. The park is known for its rugged landscapes, pristine lakes, and isolation, making it a haven for a variety of wildlife species. Whether you're an avid naturalist or a curious observer, here's a guide to some of the best wildlife viewing areas on Isle Royale:


1. Isle Royale's Iconic Wolves and Moose:

  • One of the most famous wildlife stories in the park is the predator-prey relationship between wolves and moose. Wolves were introduced to the island in the late 1940s, and this predator-prey dynamic has been the subject of extensive research.

  • Explore remote areas, such as Daisy Farm and the Tobin Harbor Trail, to increase your chances of encountering these iconic animals.

2. Birdwatching Hotspots:

  • Isle Royale is a birdwatcher's paradise, with over 260 bird species recorded in the park.

  • Visit prime birdwatching locations like Tobin Harbor, the Greenstone Ridge Trail, and the Feldtmann Lake Trail for opportunities to spot raptors, loons, warblers, and migratory birds.

3. Lakeshores and Moose Habitats:

  • Moose are abundant on the island, and they are often seen near lakeshores and along hiking trails.

  • Explore the lakeshores of Chippewa Harbor and Lake Ritchie, as well as hiking trails like the Minong Ridge Trail, for moose sightings.

4. Otters and Beavers Along Waterways:

  • Isle Royale's many inland lakes and waterways are home to otters and beavers, which are often seen swimming in the clear waters.

  • Canoeing or kayaking along the inland lakes, such as Siskiwit Lake and Lake Desor, offers a chance to observe these aquatic mammals.

5. Forested Areas for Small Mammals:

  • The island's forests are inhabited by smaller mammals such as red foxes, pine martens, and red squirrels. Keep an eye out for these creatures while exploring forested areas along the trails.

Isle Royale National Park's isolation and pristine wilderness provide a unique opportunity to experience nature in its purest form. Whether you're captivated by the island's wolves and moose, the melodies of its songbirds, or the aquatic antics of otters and beavers, Isle Royale promises an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience in a remote and unspoiled corner of the United States.



Olympic National Park, Washington:


Olympic National Park, located in the state of Washington, is a diverse and ecologically rich wilderness that offers exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities. With its varied ecosystems, from rugged coastlines to temperate rainforests and alpine meadows, the park is home to a wide array of wildlife species. Whether you're an avid naturalist or a casual observer, here's a guide to some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Olympic National Park:


1. Hoh Rainforest:

  • The Hoh Rainforest, one of the wettest places in the United States, is a hotspot for wildlife. Explore the Hall of Mosses and the Hoh River Trail to encounter Roosevelt elk, black bears, and a variety of bird species.

2. Hurricane Ridge:

  • The Hurricane Ridge area, accessible by car, offers stunning alpine landscapes and the chance to see marmots, black-tailed deer, and Olympic marmots.

  • Birdwatchers may spot raptors like Northern goshawks and golden eagles.

3. Coastal Wilderness:

  • Olympic's rugged coastline is home to marine life such as sea otters, seals, and tide pool creatures.

  • Keep an eye on the sea stacks and cliffs for seabirds like puffins, oystercatchers, and common murres.

4. Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Valley:

  • Lake Crescent and the Sol Duc Valley are excellent places for birdwatching, with opportunities to see waterfowl and bald eagles.

  • Black bears, mule deer, and other wildlife are also frequently seen in these areas.

5. Quinault Rainforest:

  • The Quinault Rainforest offers a chance to spot black bears, Roosevelt elk, and raccoons.

  • Bird enthusiasts can look for bald eagles and great horned owls.

Olympic National Park's diverse ecosystems and unique landscapes provide an incredible backdrop for observing and appreciating the rich variety of wildlife that inhabits the region. Whether you're captivated by the sight of a majestic Roosevelt elk, the foraging behavior of black bears, or the tranquility of sea otters floating in coastal waters, Olympic promises an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.


Custer State Park, South Dakota:


Custer State Park, located in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, is a wildlife enthusiast's paradise. Known for its stunning landscapes and diverse ecosystems, the park offers a wealth of opportunities to observe North American wildlife in their natural habitats. Whether you're a seasoned wildlife photographer or a family looking for a memorable adventure, here's a guide to some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Custer State Park:


1. Wildlife Loop Road:

  • Wildlife Loop Road is a must-visit area for wildlife enthusiasts. This scenic 18-mile drive winds through prime habitat for bison, pronghorn, deer, bighorn sheep, and wild turkeys.

  • Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times for wildlife viewing along this route.

2. Bison Herds:

  • Custer State Park is famous for its sizable bison herds. These majestic creatures are often seen grazing in the meadows and can be safely observed from your vehicle.

  • Remember to keep a safe distance, as bison are large and unpredictable.

3. Begging Burros:

  • The park is also home to a population of friendly burros that may approach vehicles in search of handouts. While feeding them is discouraged, it's an opportunity for up-close encounters and photographs.

4. Pronghorn and Bighorn Sheep:

  • Look for pronghorn antelope in the open grasslands and bighorn sheep in the rocky terrain.

  • The Needles Highway and Sylvan Lake areas are known for bighorn sheep sightings.

5. Elk and Deer:

  • Elk are often spotted in the park, particularly in the fall during the rutting season. The Buffalo Gap and Iron Mountain roads are good places to look for them.

  • White-tailed deer and mule deer are also commonly seen throughout the park.

6. Birdwatching:

  • Custer State Park is home to numerous bird species. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys, and a variety of songbirds.

  • The park's lakes and streams are great places for waterfowl sightings.

Custer State Park offers a captivating blend of wildlife and stunning landscapes, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Whether you're fascinated by the sight of a massive bison bull, the grace of pronghorn antelope, or the regal presence of a bighorn sheep against the backdrop of granite spires, Custer State Park promises an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience in the heart of the Black Hills.





Monterey Bay, California:


Monterey Bay, located on the central coast of California, is a renowned hotspot for marine and coastal wildlife. This stunning region offers incredible opportunities to observe a diverse range of species in their natural habitats. Whether you're a marine biologist, a birdwatcher, or a nature enthusiast, here's a guide to some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Monterey Bay:


1. Whale Watching:

  • Monterey Bay is famous for its year-round whale watching. Humpback whales, gray whales, blue whales, and orcas are often spotted off the coast.

  • Take a whale-watching boat tour from Monterey or Moss Landing to get up close to these magnificent creatures.

2. Sea Otters:

  • Monterey Bay is home to a thriving population of sea otters. You can often see these playful marine mammals floating on their backs while cracking open shellfish with rocks.

  • Head to Elkhorn Slough or Moss Landing to observe sea otters in their natural habitat.

3. Birdwatching:

  • The bay's diverse ecosystems attract a wide variety of bird species. Look for brown pelicans, cormorants, gulls, and terns soaring above the water.

  • The Elkhorn Slough and the Monterey Peninsula Coastal Recreation Trail are excellent locations for birdwatching.

4. Marine Life:

  • Monterey Bay's kelp forests and tide pools are home to an incredible array of marine life, including colorful fish, octopuses, and sea stars.

  • Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium or take a guided tide pool tour to explore these underwater wonders.

5. Sea Lions and Seals:

  • Sea lions and harbor seals can be seen basking on rocky outcrops and coastal docks.

  • Take a kayak tour or a harbor cruise to observe these marine mammals from a safe distance.

Monterey Bay's breathtaking coastal scenery and rich marine environments provide an exceptional backdrop for observing and appreciating the remarkable diversity of wildlife that inhabits this region. Whether you're thrilled by the sight of a breaching whale, the antics of playful sea otters, or the serenity of coastal birds in flight, Monterey Bay offers an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience on the California coast.



Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota:


Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located in North Dakota, is a pristine and wild expanse of prairie and badlands that provides unique opportunities for wildlife viewing. Named after the 26th President of the United States, who was a staunch conservationist, this park is a testament to the importance of preserving natural landscapes and the creatures that call them home. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast or simply curious about the American prairie ecosystem, here's a guide to some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Theodore Roosevelt National Park:


1. Bison Herds:

  • One of the iconic symbols of the American West, bison, can be seen grazing throughout the park. These massive herbivores are often spotted in large groups.

  • Observe bison from a safe distance and use binoculars or telephoto lenses for close-up views.

2. Elk:

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to a healthy population of elk. Look for these majestic animals in the park's valleys and grasslands.

  • Early mornings and evenings are ideal times for elk viewing.

3. Prairie Dogs:

  • The park's prairie dog towns are bustling with activity. You can observe these social rodents as they go about their daily lives, barking and foraging.

  • Look for prairie dog towns near the park's roads and trails.

4. Wild Horses:

  • The park is also home to a population of feral horses, often referred to as "wild horses." These animals can sometimes be seen in remote areas.

  • Keep a respectful distance and use binoculars for a closer look.

5. Birdwatching:

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a birdwatcher's paradise, with over 186 bird species recorded in the park.

  • Look for golden eagles, turkey vultures, western meadowlarks, and the ferruginous hawk.

6. Little Missouri River:

  • The park's waterways, including the Little Missouri River, offer opportunities to see waterfowl, beavers, and river otters.

  • Canoeing or kayaking along the river provides a unique perspective on these aquatic creatures.


Conclusion:

From the iconic Yellowstone National Park to the coastal beauty of Monterey Bay, the United States offers a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities. These top 10 wildlife viewing areas provide a chance to witness diverse ecosystems and encounter magnificent animals in their natural habitats. Whether you're an avid birder, a wildlife photographer, or simply someone who appreciates the wonders of nature, these destinations are sure to leave a lasting impression. Plan your next adventure and get ready to explore the incredible wildlife of the United States.

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