Top Ten National Parks for Wildlife Viewing

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
By Nicole Daro

Best for: Humpback whales, sea lions, black bears, moose.

The saltwater bay that is the centerpiece of magnificent Glacier Bay National Park is chock-full of sea life. The lower bay serves as a summer feeding ground for humpbacks on their way from the warmer waters around Hawaii (summer in Alaska, winter in Hawaii—I think they're on to something here). Visitors can watch these massive, acrobatic mammals heaving themselves out of the water.

With no roads or trails, kayaks and motorboats are the primary means of transport within the park. Paddle into the bay and you'll soon be in the company of massive humpbacks and other whales, along with playful sea lions and seals. Sure, you could take a whale-watching cruise aboard a several-hundred-foot-long vessel, but you won't experience the magnitude of these creatures until you're paddling among them.

Kayaks, originally designed for hunting, are also the best possible vessels for watching animals along the shores of the bay and the inland rivers. Paddling inland waterways like the Alsek River and its major tributary, the Tatshenshini River, brings you close to the shores where bears (mostly black bears, but also glacier bears, brown, and grizzly bears), mountain goats, Dall sheep, and moose hang out.

Hikes along the rivers in the park are also fruitful for wildlife viewing. The Bartlett River Trail, in particular, is a great option.


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