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The Best Times of the Year to Spot the Most Wildlife in North America
A version of this piece first appeared on the Grand American Adventures website.
North America boasts some blockbuster wildlife, but which months are the ideal time of year to discover the best of it?
Covering some of our most action-packed wildlife trips, we give you some pointers when it comes to the months where you’ll spot the most wildlife, that will make you want to pack your binoculars and head out on an adventure in search of America’s most interesting mammals, sea life and birdlife.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is the grand dame of USA’s National Parks, reaching into three states. In the weeks of August, the grizzly and black bears start to return to lower elevations, making them easier to spot. Bison make their slow descent too, lumbering their heavy frames down the mountainsides, eating continually and covering impressive distances. Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley is a prime wildlife spotting area, where moose, antelope and elk wander the open plains.
A trip around the Yellowstone Wildlife Trails offers dedicated tracking guides to help you spot the wildlife, including the park’s elusive wolves.
Visiting California in the autumn means you can catch the last of the whale watching in Monterey, which runs from April to October. On a Yosemite and Tahoe In-Depth trip, you may spot blue, humpback, orca and minke whales frolicking in the Pacific Ocean, before venturing inland to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Yosemite National Park.
It’s home to around 90 mammal species, including black bears and coyotes on the ethereal Mist Trail and picture-perfect John Muir Trail. And in Lake Tahoe, you should expect to see more than a few cheeky chipmunks on the Mount Tallac Trail, and even the odd bear.
Alaska has its own Big Five: wolves, caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bears and moose. The 95-mile stretch of road known as Denali Park Road usually comes up trumps for all of them, especially with the help of an expert local guide. In August, most holiday crowds have dispersed before the autumn weather settles in, making it the perfect time to visit. And there’s no better way to spot the region’s diverse wildlife than on an Alaska, Wildlife & Wilderness tour.
With Salmon spawning season running from mid-July to mid-August in Alaska, look for red, pink or chum salmon leaping in the waters, and if you’re lucky catch glimpses of grizzly bears salmon fishing. Looking skywards can be a treat too – birders glimpse dozens of species in the heart of the Alaska Range. And you might spot one of Alaska’s 40,000 bald eagles circling.
The Canadian Rockies
Visiting the Canadian Rockies during the peak summer months of July and August offers mesmerising sights of the sun dancing through Canada’s iconic maple trees and bouncing off its cloudy blue glacier lakes. On our Canadian Rockies Wilderness Walk, you can expect to see elk, porcupine and bears on the trails through Banff National Park, and Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep crossing Jasper National Park.
Climbing to the foot of Angel Glacier takes you to the caribou that live on the alpine terrain. If you’re handy with a camera, these months offer terrific photo opportunities of males that haven’t shed their impressive antlers yet.
It’s not just America’s northern and western reaches that are abundant with wildlife. The east coast has its fair share too. We’d recommend taking in the incredible Appalachia & New England Walk during autumn to enjoy the famously spectacular fall foliage throughout September and October. The vibrant autumnal colours serve as a beautiful backdrop to fascinating wildlife spotting.
The mountain ranges through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts and the remarkable Appalachians have miles of trails to explore with opportunities to see moose and bears. But on Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park comes into its own for wildlife spotters. It’s a haven that’s home to a wide variety of birdlife, beavers, amphibians and reptiles.