The best places to see wildlife in spots like Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park, and Grand Teton National Park, show off an array of creatures that’ll help you reconnect with the outdoors.
National parks make it especially easy to see wildlife via established trails and known grazing grounds.
In this post, we’ll walk through some of the best places to see wildlife like bears, moose, and wolves at iconic national parks.
Best Place To See Wildlife In Yellowstone
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 🙂
Best Place To See Bears In Yellowstone
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.
Best Place To See Wolves In Yellowstone
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.
Best Place To See Moose In Yellowstone
Best Place To See Wildlife In Yosemite National Park
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.
For proactive wildlife seeking, head into the meadows like Mariposa Grove and Tuolumne where you’ll often see creatures grazing about.
Top tip: Make camp at Bass Lake at Yosemite RV Resort. The spot is mere minutes from Yosemite and even offers upscale tents and cabins if you happen to be traveling without an RV.
Best Place To See Bears In Yosemite
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.
Best Place To See Wildlife In Grand Tetons National Park
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:
- Oxbow Bend
- Moose Wilson Road
- National Elk Refuge for elk, bison, coyotes, bald eagles, and bighorn sheep
- Kelly Loop and Antelope Flats
Best Place To See Bears In The Tetons
Head up to Signal Mountain or stroll along Jenny Lake for a good chance of spotting a black bear roaming around.
Best Place To See Wolves In The Tetons
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.
Best Place To See Moose In The Tetons
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.
Best Place To See Wildlife In Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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.
Best Place To See Bears In The Smokies
There are four main spots known to be the best places to see bears in Smoky Mountains National Park:
Best Place To See Elk In The Smokies
Roll into the Cataloochee Valley and post up for a while to stand a chance of seeing the herds.
Best Place To See Wildlife In Everglades National Park
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.
Best Place To See Bears In The Everglades
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.
Best Places To See Wildlife In Rocky Mountain National Park
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.
Best Place To See Moose In Rocky Mountain National Park
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.
Best Place To See Bighorn Sheep In Rocky Mountain National Park
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.
Best Place To See Wildlife In Glacier National Park
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.
Best Place To See Bears In Glacier
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.
Best Place To See Mountain Goats In Glacier
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.
BONUS Place To See Wildlife: Eastern Egg Rock, Maine
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.
Interacting with wildlife
Wildlife encounters can be exciting and educational, but they don’t come without risks. To safely interact with wildlife:
- Keep your distance
- Don’t disturb the animals
- Stay aware of your surroundings
- Don’t feed the animals
DOs and DON’Ts of wildlife watching
DO: Keep your distance
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.
DO NOT: Disturb
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.
DO: Stay aware
Be aware of your surroundings, keeping a close eye on the animals’ behavior.
Signs of animal distress could be:
- loud calls
- sudden movements
- tail flicking
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.
DO NOT: Feed the animals
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.
Watch for wildlife
Whether it’s large mammals, endangered species, or birds of prey you’re looking for, the United States has them all, and more. From coast to coast, there’s hardly a location where you can’t pull out your binoculars and enjoy seeing wildlife. So, get out your map, gas up your vehicle, grab your camera, and hit the road!
Don’t have a rig of your own? Rent an RV on Outdoorsy, and get ready for a wildlife-viewing road trip of a lifetime.