The vastness and diversity of the United States’s landscape mean that you have many choices of destinations to see wildlife. Whether you want to take a family vacation to a national park to see some animals in their natural habitat or go on a road trip through the mountains or the swamp, we have you covered with our list of where to go. Remember when heading to destinations with dangerous wild animals that you should not go within 100 yards of them, and also never feed any animals you might encounter. Lastly, don’t forget to pack your camera and binoculars before you hit the road!
1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
We’re starting off with one of the most well-known and most-visited national parks in the United States – for good reason. There are so many mammals and other creatures who call the park home that it’s impossible to list all of them here. Some of the most notable animals you might see are grizzly bears, wolves, elk, moose, bison (aka, buffalo), foxes, otters, and badgers.
2. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Colorado
As the name suggests, this refuge was established to protect wildlife, and therefore there’s a lot to be seen here. You can see bison, coyotes, and black-footed ferrets, as well as 2 kinds of deer, snapping turtles and frogs, and tons of birds. The best part is the refuge is only about a 30-minute drive from downtown Denver.
3. Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
Alaska is a paradise for the outdoors and animal sightings, and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is no exception. It’s located on Kodiak Island off the southern coast of Alaska and was established in 1941 to protect the native Kodiak brown bears. You can see these bears as well as bald eagles, the red fox, tundra vole, reindeer, and mountain goats. You can also see a variety of birds like puffins and gulls. To visit you can take a ferry from Homer.
4. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
If you drive about 1 hour and 30 minutes northwest of Denver, you will find this park that plays host to tons of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and more. Among the creatures to look out for are bighorn sheep, black bears, elk, mountain lions, moose, and boreal toads.
5. Point Reyes National Seashore, California
When you visit this area of Northern California along the Pacific Ocean, you will see tons of wildlife including birds, marine mammals like northern elephant seals and gray whales, and even beavers and black bears. You can get to the seashore in just under an hour driving north from San Francisco.
6. The Everglades, Florida
For something a little different, head south to see some reptiles, amphibians, birds and more in Everglades National Park. Many people come here to see the alligators and crocodiles, but the many lizards, snakes, and birds are also a draw. Dolphins, pilot whales, panthers, pigs, and many other mammals also call the park home! The Everglades is easily accessible from several cities in southern Florida and is less than an hour from Miami.
7. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
A drive on this 469-mile-long parkway, which is part of the U.S. National Parks Service, is both a great road trip idea and a way to see wildlife. While you’re driving or out hiking you can spot black bears, wild turkeys, elk, peregrine falcons, flying squirrels, and more. The north entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway is about a 3-hour drive from Washington, D.C.
8. Glacier National Park, Montana
Drive to the northwestern corner of Montana and you will be rewarded with this gorgeous park and all of the animals that live within it. Fish, birds, amphibians, mammals, and even a few reptiles make the park their home. Elk, lynx, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and pikas are all here for you to spot.
9. North Cascades National Park, Washington
You can see gorgeous Alpine scenery and an array of animals just 3 hours from Seattle. Deer and pikas are abundant, while you might also see a rare grizzly bear, cougar, gray wolf, wolverine, bald eagle, or osprey.
10. Custer State Park, South Dakota
The main reason people come to this park in the Black Hills of western South Dakota is to see the herd of buffalo. You can drive on the Wildlife Loop Road to see them, along with deer, mountain goats, coyotes, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and more. And if you want a sure sighting of the park’s main attraction, check out the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup, held yearly on the last Friday in September.
11. San Juan Islands, Washington
Sitting in the water northwest of Seattle next to Canada’s Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands are a great day trip destination from Seattle to see marine life. There are several options of boat trips where you can try your hand at spotting whales, porpoises, and harbor seals as well as birds.
12. Virginia Range, Nevada
This mountain range in far western Nevada near Reno is home to a unique herd of about 2,000 wild horses. Just remember if you encounter them that it’s illegal to feed them, and it’s also best to treat them like you would other wild animals and not get too close. If you are traveling on Interstate 80, the Virginia Range can be found just south of it east of Reno.