The United States has vast wilderness areas, and a variety of wildlife that can be found throughout them. From bears to bison and alligators to orcas, there is much wildlife to be explored on land and in the water. From National Parks to wildlife preserves and protected lands, here’s a look at 5 of the best wildlife destinations in the US!
5. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is considered one of the world’s greatest treasures for its unique geological features and abundance of wildlife. It was the first National Park established in the United States in 1872 and has become one of the most visited ever since.
Yellowstone is home to hundreds of animal species. Some of its most notable include bears, bison, wolves, moose, bobcats, coyotes, cougars, elk, deer, and bats. Some types of wildlife can often be spotted no matter where you are in the park.
The park spans over 2 million acres across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and has many prime wildlife viewing areas. From the meadows where bears forage and wolf cubs play to the valleys where large herds of bison and elk can be seen on the move. Hiking in the mountains will also put you close to tons of birds, deer, small mammals, and sometimes even bears and big cats. A visit to Yellowstone National Park is a bucket list item for many wildlife enthusiasts!
4. The Florida Everglades
The Florida Everglades is a wild place like no other. Full of unique wildlife like the snowy egret, Florida panther, and its most notorious resident–the alligator! These wetlands are home to hundreds of species of animals, some incredibly rare, like the American crocodile, which does not exist anywhere else in the US.
The Florida Everglades span over 1.5 million acres throughout the state’s southern peninsula. It’s the largest subtropical wilderness space in the US. Due to its rich biodiversity, the Everglades is a recognized International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site.
There are several places to see wildlife in the Florida Everglades, including Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Whether on the trail or in a boat, there are endless opportunities to spot birds, deer, alligators, manatees, otters, and, if you’re lucky–a panther or crocodile!
3. Katmai National Park & Preserve
A sanctuary for grizzly bears, Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska has the highest concentration of grizzlies found anywhere in the US! While these magnificent creatures should only be admired from afar (very far!), Katmai offers many opportunities to see grizzlies in the wild with over 22,000 resident bears in the park.
Katmai’s Brooks Camp is one of the park’s most popular bear-watching destinations. Here, visitors can safely view bears from an observation platform while they fish from the falls. As winter approaches, the number of bears increases. Every October, Katmai National Park hosts “Fat Bear Week”, an annual televised event that highlights the plight of the bears to eat all they can in preparation for winter. Once winter arrives, the bears go into hibernation and are no longer seen around the park.
In addition to Katmai’s famous bears, the park is also home to various other wildlife, including wolves, caribou, moose, and fox. The waters off Katmai National Park are home to humpback whales and orcas, which can sometimes be observed on boat tours.
2. Rocky Mountain National Wildlife Refuge
The Rocky Mountain National Wildlife Refuge is a 15,000-acre wildlife preserve outside Denver, Colorado. Not to be confused with the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park (also a great wildlife destination), this refuge is home to a variety of native Rocky Mountain animals.
The refuge was established in 2004 to allow local wildlife populations to thrive without the threat of hunting or habitat destruction. The lands have since flourished and become an important ecosystem and top wildlife destination.
Wildlife throughout the refuge includes bison, deer, elk, coyotes, prairie dogs, eagles, and other birds. The sanctuary has over 20 miles of hiking trails that offer endless opportunities to spot wildlife, and its famous 11-mile wildlife drive. Rocky Mountain National Wildlife Refuge is a popular destination for hikers, wildlife enthusiasts, and nature photographers.
1. San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands sit just off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and are home to an abundance of incredible wildlife. The most famous wildlife resident of these islands is the majestic orca. Orcas inhabit the waters off the San Juan Islands year-round. Other whales, including humpback whales, grey whales, and minke whales, make their appearance seasonally.
The San Juan Islands are one of the world’s most popular whale watching destinations. Visitors come from all over to take whale watching boat tours and even kayak the waters for an up-close view of the whales.
In addition to the whales that make these islands famous, dolphins, sea lions, and seals also inhabit the waters. On land, visitors have a chance to spot deer, fox, eagles, and sometimes even a black bear. Bears don’t typically live on the islands but will occasionally swim there in search of a mate.