I’ve written extensively about the national parks in the United States before, especially about Acadia National Park and Shenandoah National Park. I haven’t, however, specifically touched upon the top 5 American national parks for wildlife watching. And it’s about time, don’t you agree?
In all their variety, the national parks in the USA are home to countless species of plants and animals. From giant sequoias and iconic Joshua trees to grizzly bears, alligators, bald eagles and buffalo, you’ll find them all in the United States’ majestic national parks. The sheer variety of fauna living in those parks is mind-boggling.
Top 5 American National Parks for Wildlife Watching
5. Everglades National Park, Florida
While most other national parks in the United States were established to preserve a natural landscape, Everglades National Park was founded in order to protect an ecosystem—an important distinction. Encompassing 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares), this is America’s most expansive subtropical wilderness area. Here, saltwater, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems meet, creating one of the world’s most unique areas.
In Everglades National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’re likely to spot crocodiles and alligators—it’s the only place in the world where those two reptiles live together. Other often-seen animals include greater flamingoes, herons, storks and ibises. The park’s also home to the shy and very rare Florida panther and manatees.
4. Glacier National Park, Montana
When it comes to majestic landscapes, few places in the USA compare to Glacier National Park. And it’s not only the rugged mountain landscapes that make this park attractive. This is also one of the top 5 American national parks for wildlife watching.
Glacier-cut valleys and wind-blasted peaks characterize this magnificent park. There are about 200 shimmering mountain lakes while pristine forests cover mountain slopes. This all offers a perfect habitat for a variety of wildlife. Glacier National Park is home to one of the largest grizzly bear populations in the continental United States. You can also see lynx, mountain lions, gray wolves, moose and deer.
3. Denali National Park, Alaska
A truly vast national park, Denali National Park covers no less than 6 million acres (2,428,000 hectares). Its centerpiece is Denali, previously called Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in all of North America. The park’s landscapes are made up of large tracts of tundra, rugged mountain ranges, wide valleys, meandering rivers and expansive meadows.
If you want to see high-profile Arctic wildlife in the United States, this is the place to go to. The window for visiting is short, though. Summers are short, but bustling with life. Animals often spotted in Denali National Park are grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves and Dall sheep. Other frequently seen fauna includes coyotes, porcupines, wolverines and foxes. Birdlife is abundant as well, particularly between late-spring and early-fall. Then, you can spot bald eagles, peregrine falcons and even hummingbirds feeding in the wildflower-covered valleys.
2. Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park is one of the best of the top 5 American national parks for wildlife watching for one big reason: it’s where three completely different ecosystems meet. Located along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, this park features wild mountain ranges, rugged coasts and dense rainforests.
This is where you have the chance to spot both iconic wildlife and creatures unique in the world. Olympic National Park is home to the Olympic marmot, the Olympic torrent salamander and the Olympic snow mole, all of which can’t be seen in the wild anywhere else on earth. Larger animals calling the park home include everything from bears, cougars and deer to sea lions, seals, dolphins and whales.
1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Sometimes referred to as the “Serengeti of America”, Yellowstone National Park covers a vast area of 2.2 million acres (890,000 hectares). This sprawling landscape is home to hundreds of different animal species, including some 67 mammals.
The most high-profile mammals often spotted in Yellowstone are buffalo and grizzly bears, but there are also black bears, wolves, elk, bald eagles, coyotes and wolverine. In this phenomenal park, you’ll find basically all iconic American animals. If you’re into wildlife photography or simply appreciate nature at its very best, this should be your primary focus when visiting the United States.
Have you ever been to any of these great top 5 American national parks for wildlife watching? We’d absolutely love to hear about your experiences below!