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11 Jaw-Dropping U.S. National Parks for Wildlife Enthusiasts

If watching and snapping epic shots of wildlife is your thing, you’ve hit the jackpot with U.S. national parks. These parks are gold mines for capturing majestic creatures in their natural habitats.

From the bison herds of Yellowstone to the moose of Isle Royale, wildlife watching is our favorite pastime. And for those of you unsure where to start, fear not – we’ve got the inside scoop on the best parks for your next wildlife safari.

Trust us, after reading this, your next adventure is going to be more legendary than your last Netflix binge.

1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

2 bison stand in green grass in yellowstone NP
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

Ah, Yellowstone – where the bison casually stroll like they own the place (which, let’s face it, they kind of do). Besides our fuzzy friends, you might spot grizzly bears doing their best lumberjack impersonations and wolves giving you that mysterious “just out of a fairytale” vibe.

Yellowstone is the only location in the U.S. where bison have continuously existed since prehistoric times. So, yep, it’s basically Jurassic Park but fluffier.

2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

a black bear cub in the woods of great smoky mountains NP
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

No need to pack your invisibility cloak when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains – the black bears and white-tailed deer are easy to spot, even without it. This park is home to more than 1,500 black bears, so your chances of seeing one are pretty high.

And let’s not forget the synchronized fireflies that light up the summer nights. Who needs fireworks when you’ve got nature’s own light show on display?

3. Katmai National Park, Alaska

brown bears at brooks falls in katmai NP
© Depositphotos

Katmai is where brown bears take center stage, and they’re not shy about it! Get ready to witness the ultimate fishing showdown at Brooks Falls, as these hefty behemoths catch salmon mid-air like it’s their day job—because it is. With over 2,200 bears roaming the park, it’s basically Bearpalooza.

Fun fact: Katmai was established to protect the aftermath of the 1912 Novarupta eruption—the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.

4. Everglades National Park, Florida

a close up of an alligator in the everglades NP with sun shining on its eye
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

Welcome to the Everglades, where your neighbors are literal dinosaurs—okay, just alligators, but close enough in our book. Did you know the Everglades is the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles coexist?

This subtropical wilderness is also a paradise for bird watchers; look out for the roseate spoonbill, which is basically the flamingo’s pinker cousin.

5. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

a large male moose peeks through the bushes and foliage
© Depositphotos

Isle Royale is an introvert’s paradise – fewer people, more moose. And the island boasts a fascinating predator-prey dynamic between wolves and moose. Think National Geographic but without the subscription fee.

Isle Royale, due to its remote location,  is also one of the least visited national parks. So, your epic moose snaps won’t be photobombed by a million tourists. Now, that’s what we call a photo op!

6. Glacier National Park, Montana

a close up of the head and bust of a bighorn sheep
© Depositphotos

Glacier National Park – where the mountains are aggressively photogenic, and the wildlife steals the spotlight. Keep your lens ready for majestic bighorn sheep striking dramatic poses on cliff edges and the ever-elusive wolverines.

Glacier is one of the few places in the U.S. where you still might see grizzly bears roaming, so stay sharp and make sure your bear spray is within reach (seriously, though, keep it handy!).

7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

a close up of a pronghorn at grand teton NP
© Depositphotos

Grand Teton has some of the oldest rocks in the national park system, clocking in at around 2.7 billion years old. And it is where the antelope really do play, and by antelope, we mean pronghorns—the fastest land animals in North America.

Keep an eye out for moose meandering through the willow flats and bald eagles aimlessly soaring overhead like they own the sky. Basically, this park is ancient and really awesome.

8. Big Bend National Park, Texas

a javelina in the green grass with flies floating about
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

In Big Bend, you’re in for a wild ride—minus the actual rollercoasters. It’s the haunt of javelinas, which are basically mini wild pigs with a serious attitude. You might also catch a glimpse of the roadrunner (yes, the one from the cartoons), but don’t expect “meep meep” sound effects.

And here’s a cool fact: Big Bend is home to more than 450 bird species, higher than almost every other U.S. national park. Birdwatchers, rejoice!

9. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

a bull elk standing in a brown grassy field in front of a treeline
© Depositphotos

Get ready for some high-altitude wildlife drama in the Rocky Mountains. The park boasts more than 280 bird species, so get your binoculars ready to spot some feathery friends. And just imagine spotting majestic elk bugling like they’re auditioning for a nature documentary and bighorn sheep playing king of the hill.

Also, don’t be surprised if you see a pika, the cute little furball that’s weirdly good at rock climbing.

10. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

a bald eagle soaring under a blue sky
© Depositphotos

Glacier Bay is where you’ll find humpback whales doing their best impersonation of synchronized swimmers while sea otters float around like they’re on vacation. And this place boasts over 3 million acres of protected wilderness—aren’t you impressed?!

Besides whales and otters, watch out for bald eagles giving you the side-eye from above. And the glaciers here are actually advancing in some areas, unlike most glaciers on the planet.

11. U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, St John

a turtle swimming in the water with fish and coral
© Depositphotos

You’d think paradise couldn’t get better—wrong. Here, you can spot the endangered hawksbill turtles doing their best ninja impressions in crystal-clear waters. Plus, the park’s stunning trails lead you through lush forests where little hermit crabs scuttle about like busy commuters.

The park also protects 7,000 acres of ocean waters and coral reefs—so you basically get to swim with half of the Finding Nemo cast.

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