10 Best National Parks for Wildlife Lovers to Explore ASAP

wildlife in national parks

Coming face to face with wildlife literally never gets old.

Small or large, you can’t help but stare in awe at the creatures and critters around you. It’s one of the greatest parts about venturing off the beaten path!

So don’t just hope you’ll glimpse some jaw-dropping species on your next adventure. Plan your whole trip around it!

The Crazy-Impressive Wildlife in National Parks Around The US

Every national park has a completely unique ecosystem that allows all sorts of species to thrive. It takes a delicate balance to keep everything in check, and it’s nothing short of breathtaking.

The US is vast and many of the towering mountains (*ahem* Rockies, looking at you) have naturally split the country up in a few important ways that have allowed these ecosystems to evolve into its own magical little world.

From spotting grizzly bears feasting in Denali to catching bighorn sheep bleating in the Rockies, there’s never a dull moment as you explore national parks for wildlife.

It’s kinda what we base all of our Explorer Chick trips around. (Check out all of our Wildlife Encounter trips around the world for some serious inspiration!)

But these national parks have some jaw-dropping wildlife right in our own backyard. Like, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL and slightly terrifying exhilarating.

In this post, we share all of our favorite places to spot wildlife and quietly squeal on the inside.

The ✨ Top ✨ National Parks With Animals

America’s national parks are SO rich with absolutely stunning animals. You don’t have to go far! There’s incredible wildlife throughout the entire country.

So let’s get to daydreaming about your next wilderness adventure with these best national parks for animal lovers in the US.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana

wildlife in yellowstone national park

You don’t even need to leave your car to clock some impressive wildlife sightings in Yellowstone. They’re THAT abundant in America’s first national park. That’s right, she’s the OG! And Yellowstone National Park remains one of the best places for watching wildlife.

With the most mammals anywhere in the contiguous United States, you’re all but guaranteed to spot residents like grizzly bears, wolves, moose, elk, and bison in the Lamar Valley or bighorn sheep on Mount Washburn. If you’re lucky (stay positive! and safe!), maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the park’s elusive mountain lions or wolverines.

And we can’t forget our avian friends. Bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and sandhill cranes are just a few of the 330 bird species soaring around. Plus, Grand Teton National Park is just a quick trip away, so you should def check both off your list.

yellowstone cta

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

elk in grand teton

Think of Grand Teton National Park as the smaller sibling of Yellowstone. And it’s located mere miles away! Together, these two parks cover most of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

Grand Teton covers many habitats, but sagebrush flats, meadows, forests, and waterways attract some of the park’s most inspiring folk. It’s easier to spot larger mammals in the sagebrush steppe, so watch for pronghorn antelope, wandering black bears, and grazing bison and elk herds.

Near freshwater or marshy areas, stay on the lookout for adorable river otters, beavers, and muskrats. It’s not just aquatic species around here, though! Maybe you’ll spot a hungry osprey, bald eagle, pelican, or great blue heron grabbing a snack from the river. If you’re extra lucky, a moose sighting may be on the menu!

Denali National Park, Alaska

moose in alaska

Six million acres of park? Six frickin’ MILLION acres?! That’s right! Denali National Park is a tundra playground for nature lovers.

Wildlife viewing bus tours are one of the best ways to eye the park’s creatures and critters in their natural habitats. Your odds of glimpsing spectacular sights are pretty darn high. Over 80% of explorers see caribou, Dall sheep, and black or brown bears!

The farther you venture into the wilderness, the more likely you are to lay your eyes on the rarer Alaskan fauna. We’re talking lynx, wolverines, marmots, moose, red foxes, and porcupines! Keep your eyes on the sky, too. Migratory birds travel from six (!) continents to arrive at this Alaskan Adventureland. Watch for northern hawk owls, peregrine falcons, and bald and golden eagles!

But don’t let Denali National Park take up all of the glory. Explorer Chick Guide Jeannie says that Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is where it’s at. How you define “it” is subjective 😏

“I love Wrangell St Elias National Park in Alaska for bears, moose, ptarmigan, bison, eagles, trumpet swans, porcupine, and sexy mountain men! The last one is really my favorite!”

Explorer Chick Guide Jeannie

Come see what Alaska is all about paired with a few SHE-nanigans on an upcoming Explorer Chick trip.

join us for an adventure tour in alaska

Everglades National Park, Florida

wildlife in everglades national park

It’s no secret that the Everglades is an absolute haven for all sorts of animal friends. Nine diverse habitats make up the stunning ecosystem that is this nature preserve. You’ll find everything from coastal mangroves to fire-dependent pinelands here, plus alllll sorts of wetlands.

Grab your binoculars—and animal-lover friends! It’s wildlife watching galore here. Did you know that Everglades National Park is the only place in the WORLD where alligators and crocodiles live together? These are just two of over 50 reptiles that live in the park. We’re talking turtles, snakes, and beyond, y’all!

Wading birds are abundant in the park, but the Everglades also homes tons of threatened species. But thanks to conservation efforts, populations of endangered animals, like West Indian manatees and Florida panthers, are slowly growing.

Nina from the Explorer Chick Facebook group agrees that the Everglades are worth a visit if you want to spot some wildlife…. from very far away.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee

black bear in the smokies

Planning your next trip? Hit up one of the best national parks for wildlife viewing in all of the states! It’s the Great Smoky Mountains, baby! This bad boy tops the charts for America’s most visited national parks—and for a good reason.

Black bears, white tailed deer, and wild turkeys are iconic residents, but it’s amphibians that run the show here. The national park is nicknamed the world’s “Salamander Capital,” with an impressive 30 different species.

If you’re super lucky during your stay, you might spot an elusive bobcat or some of the national park’s endangered birds like the belted kingfisher, Canada warbler, or red-headed woodpecker.

cta - smokies

Olympic National Park, Washington

orcas spotted on womens kayaking trip in the san juans

Let’s take it to the shoreline, ladies! After kayaking the San Juan Islands, you’ve gotta stay in the Pacific Northwest to explore Olympic National Park. Get ready for marine life galore!

Off in the waters, the cutest li’l sea otters crack open shellfish while sea lions bark as they sunbathe on sandy beaches. But there’s NOTHING like seeing gray whales breach right in front of you.

And the land life is just as good. Temperate rain forests, paired with the coastal and mountainous landscapes, make a dreamy home for all sorts of critters. Head to the woods to catch Roosevelt elk, mink, porcupines, mountain beavers, and black-tailed deer alongside hundreds of others, including endemic Olympic marmots, snow moles, and torrent salamanders!

cta - san juans

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park wildlife

It’s all about survival up in the Great Plains. Wicked cold winters and hot, intense summers attract only the hardiest creatures. You’ll score some epic wildlife watching moments in Badlands National Park, yet it’s coupled with a critical history.

Bison are one of the most spectacular animals you’ll see here, but just a couple of centuries ago, they were on the verge of extinction. With around 30 million bison, a sacred animal in Lakotan culture and life, these mammals thrived here. After settlers arrived and began severely overhunting the herds, their population dwindled to ~325 individuals.

Today, Badlands hosts about 1,200 bison. As you glimpse these magnificent animals around the park, remember how crucial it is to protect and respect the wildlife around us.

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Truly a remote destination, Isle Royale in Michigan is one of the country’s least visited national parks. No highway traffic here! The island’s only accessible by boat or seaplane.

Surrounded by Lake Superior, this place is legit isolated. And you know that makes it so good for viewing wildlife. So grab a bunch of gal pals and hit the wilderness for camping, backpacking, and hiking galore.

About your overnight hosts: you’ll share the space with native wild animals like gray wolves, moose, red foxes, and bald eagles. It’s a rugged destination but one of the best national parks for wildlife—and for making unforgettable memories.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

It wouldn’t be a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park without a few mule deer spottings, but it’s the other incredible fauna that makes this place truly special. Black bears, mountain lions, marmots, and hundreds of bird species? Ummm, yes, please!

Plan your visit during the rutting season to catch a fascinating spectacle of nature. Male animals like moose, Bighorn sheep, and deer fight to prove their dominance, hoping to win over potential mates.

But one species steals the spotlight. The sights and sounds of rutting elk showing off their antlers and bugling mating calls are so iconic that autumn has been nicknamed “Elktober” in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park, Texas

If there’s one word to describe Big Bend, it’s vast. Never-ending desert landscapes, skies for miles, and a massive range of animals that call this national park home.

Hot desert heat means you and the girls might have to sacrifice some sleep to see the well-adapted wildlife. At night, the terrain fills with nocturnal ringtails, kit foxes, and scorpions. Badgers, coyotes, and jackrabbits make their way out in the cooler morning weather. By day, it’s lizard time.

But it’s not all arid here! A desert oasis or woodland draws some other Texan residents. It’s a lovely refuge for javelinas, bears, white tailed deer, and raccoons and a prime place to spot the park’s abundant bird population.

Ready to Explore US National Parks?

Enough fantasizing about glimpsing national parks’ wildlife—let’s catch it IRL! Join Explorer Chick as we hike, camp, and climb through some of the most incredible landscapes the country has to offer with some of the most incredible ladies you’ll ever meet. So grab your backpack, and let’s go!

Meet the Writer

megan wray writer

Megan Wray

Megan Wray is a queer, mixed-race Japanese-Canadian freelance writer based on Treaty 1 Territory. Passionate about pleasure, identity, and anti-oppression, Megan’s fuelled by meaningful chats about topics that aren’t “appropriate” for dinner table conversation. When she’s not writing, you can find Megan cooking vegan food, singing to live music, and trying to understand astrology.

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