Budget Travel

Best Spots to See Wildlife in the U.S.

The Yellowstone National Park area, including parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, is the only place in the continental United States where American bison have continually lived since prehistoric times. Female bison give birth to one calf every year, usually in April or May, so visit Yellowstone in the spring if you want baby photos.

Admire them from a distance, and if they approach your car, slow down, roll up the windows, and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime show.

Especially in late summer, when the berries are ripe, and especially from a distance (trust us, bears get less cute the closer you are to them), the sight of a grizzly in the wild is an unforgettable memory to take home from Yellowstone.

We hope you never get this close to a great white shark! But the alpha predators have been putting on quite a show off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this summer, including a young shark that was beached and then towed back into the water by brave locals. Your best chance for seeing great whites safely in the wild is to take a seal cruise from Orleans to Chatham, where you’ll see a seal colony, salt marshes, beautiful dunes, and maybe sharks hunting for dinner among the seals.

That's a great white shark swimming just under the surface beside a boat off Cape Cod. Researchers track the big fish and tag them to help learn more about their migratory patterns and feeding habits.

Cape Cod's lovely Chatham Lighthouse is one of the many charms that attract visitors each summer.

Nothing says “wilderness” quite like the cry of a wolf, and wilderness is what you get when you visit Isle Royale National Park off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior, where one of America’s biggest populations of grey wolves is thriving.

Isle Royale is accessible by ferry from Copper Harbor, Michigan, and you should set aside at least a day or two to explore the island’s rocky cliffs and deep green forests on ranger-led hikes where you may be lucky enough to spot a wolf.

Sure, you come to Seattle for culture, great coffee, and seafood. But beautiful Puget Sound can deliver stunning encounters with breathtakingly massive black-and-white orcas.

Book a Puget Sound whale watch or get out on the water in a kayak to see incredible orcas (also known, inaccurately, as “killer whales”) up close.

In Denali National Park, Alaska, golden eagles outnumber bald eagles by 70 percent.

Golden eagles, which are migratory, can best be seen in Denali National Park mid-March through September, before they head south for the winter.

The northern elephant seal is one of four types of pinnipeds (or "fin-footed" mammals) commonly found in Southern California's Channel Islands National Park.

The five isolated islands that make up the Channel Islands National Park are home to one of the largest gatherings of marine mammals on the planet, with over 50,000 northern elephant seals alone breeding here each year.

Named for Theodore Roosevelt, father of the American national parks system, the Roosevelt elk is the largest of the North American elk subspecies and a popular sight on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

President Theodore Roosevelt had a direct hand in creating the Mt. Olympus National Monument in 1909 to protect the elk living on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

The coyote thrives in both urban and wilderness areas, especially the peak-filled Rocky Mountain National Park, an hour north of Boulder, Colorado.

Smart, resourceful, and adaptable, the coyote has historically been the target of farmers and ranchers who view them as a threat to livestock.

Weighing in at up to 300 pounds, the mountain goat navigates the rocky terrain of Glacier National Park thanks to hooves that are embedded with excellent traction pads and sharp, slip-preventing dewclaws. The park's visitor center at Logan Pass (along the Continental Divide) is the best place to get close (but not too close) to these uniquely beautiful creatures.

With six mountains over 10,000 feet high, Glacier National Park is a perfect habitat for the shaggy, white mountain goat.

The subtropical wetlands that make up Florida's Everglades National Park are the only environment in the world where alligators (above) and crocodiles live together in harmony.

The alligator (above) has a broader snout than the crocodile.

The rare pronghorn, at home in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, is commonly known as the "pronghorn antelope," although it doesn't technically qualify as one.

Labeled endangered in the 1920s, the pronghorn can reach speeds of up to 60 mph, making it the fastest land mammal in North America.

The highly social prairie dog, found in Badlands National Park, South Dakota, lives in underground colonies, or "towns," that can include as many as 26 family members.

In Texas's Big Bend National Park, the mountain lion is the lord of the manor, a top predator that feasts on deer, javelinas, and other herbivores.

With its striking gold-scale-flecked black body, white chin, bright yellow iris, and blue face, the French angelfish stands out in a crowd in Virgin Islands National Park.

Native to the western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean, the French angelfish usually hangs out around shallow reefs.

Smaller and more tolerant of humans than their grizzly cousins, black bears are the official symbol of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which includes parts of North Carolina and Tennessee.

It's estimated that about 1,500 bears currently live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park; that comes out to about two bears per square mile.

Bison! Wolves! Great white sharks! When it comes to walking on the wild side, our nation is home to a big, beautiful array of mammals, birds, and reptiles from Alaska to Florida. All you need to do is book your trip and pack your camera.

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