10 Best National Parks for Wildlife Spotting in North America

Posted on 11/13/2023

From the grandeur of Yellowstone’s bison to the breathtaking scenery of Banff’s elk, these are the best national parks for wildlife spotting. Whether you’re seeking the awe-inspiring majesty of grizzly bears or the elusive charm of desert bighorn sheep, we’ve listed when and where to spot these creatures at some of North America’s best reserves for spotting wildlife.
 

Bison and gray wolves at Yellowstone National Park

The iconic Yellowstone National Park hosts both the powerful bison and elusive gray wolf. To spot bison, visit during spring when they gather in large herds across the park’s meadows including in the Hayden Valley. Late fall is the optimal time for gray wolf sightings, especially in the Lamar Valley.
Best time for spotting: Spring for bison and late fall for wolves.


Elk and grizzly bears at Banff National Park
Banff National Park is a paradise for wildlife in Canada. Summer is the ideal season to spot elk, and you’ll often encounter them in the Bow Valley Parkway area. For grizzly bears, late spring and early summer are prime viewing times, particularly around Lake Louise.
Best time for spotting: Summer for elk and late spring/early summer for bears.


Black bears at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Some 1,900 black bears call Great Smoky Mountains National Park home. Straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, this park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and spring and early summer are prime times to spot the black bears as they forage for food. The Cades Cove area offers excellent opportunities for black bear sightings in the Great Smoky Mountains, with its lush meadows and dense woodlands providing the perfect backdrop. 
Best time for spotting: Spring and early summer for bears.


Desert bighorn sheep at Zion National Park
In the heart of Utah’s red rock country, Zion is a captivating wildlife destination. Among its charismatic inhabitants are desert bighorn sheep, which are often seen scaling the rugged cliffs and canyons – a tactic they use to escape predators like mountain lions. Additionally, the park is a haven for California condors year-round. Embark on the Canyon Overlook Trail for the bighorn sheep and explore the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway for the awe-inspiring California condors.
Best time for spotting: Spring for sheep and year-round for condors.


Bald eagles and harbor seals at Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, a gem on the rugged coast of Maine, ranks high among the best national parks for wildlife enthusiasts keen on spotting wildlife. Bald eagles gracefully soar overhead, which you’ll spy regardless of the season, especially in the Jordan Pond area. As for harbor seals, you’ll find these chilled out creatures sunbathing in the rocky coastal areas, especially in late spring and early summer.
Best time for spotting: Year-round for eagles and late spring/early summer for seals.


Joshua Tree National Park’s endangered trees
In Southern California’s high desert, Joshua Tree is a famous desert landscape renowned for its iconic and endangered Joshua Trees. These distinctive, spiky trees thrive amidst a surreal terrain of otherworldly rock formations. Here you’ll spot desert wildlife, including desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and numerous bird species. The cooler months and early mornings are best for animal spotting.
Best time for spotting: Cooler months and early mornings.


Brown bears at Katmai National Park and Preserve

Nestled in Alaska’s pristine wilderness, Katmai National Park is undeniably one of the best national parks for wildlife enthusiasts seeking unparalleled opportunities for spotting wildlife. Its claim to fame? The awe-inspiring brown bears – also known as grizzly bears! The prime time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit is during the summer months when the salmon runs are in full swing. It’s during these periods that these colossal bears gather along the Brooks River to feast on delicious salmon. To see the bears of Brooks Falls, visit the observation platform for a safe and unforgettable wildlife encounter.
Best time for spotting: Summer, specifically July and September during the salmon runs.


Moose in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton is Wyoming’s natural treasure and is renowned for its flourishing moose population. These massive creatures can be spotted year-round, but summer is best when the lush meadows and wetlands provide the perfect backdrop for sightings. Keep your camera ready when exploring the Moose-Wilson Road, as it’s a favored haunt for these creatures.
Best time for spotting: Summer but also year-round.


That’s our round-up of the best national parks for wildlife. From the bears of Brook Falls to the Bald Eagles at Arcadia, leave us a comment with which park you’re most excited to go spotting wildlife in…
 

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