Top Ten National Parks for Wildlife Viewing

Channel Islands National Park, California
By Nicole Daro

Best for: Sea lions, seals, gray whales, and humpback whales.

Isolated off the coast of California, the Channel Islands are a habitat quite unique from the mainland. The windswept islands are a remarkable sight: steep cliffs tower above rocky beaches and pounding surf. Lush grasses and wildflowers carpet the interior of the islands. Both above and below the water's surface, you'll see amazing and playful marine mammals, including sea lions, seals, and whales. On shore you can explore tidepools, home to fascinating undersea creatures like sea anemones and sea urchins. Further inland, you'll see animals like the island fox, who have adapted to the islands' unique environment.

Every year, gray, humpback, and blue whales pass by the Channel Islands on their way from the Arctic to their breeding grounds in Baja. Experienced kayakers can paddle among the whales and camp at remote campgrounds on each of the islands. For the less amphibious among us, the park offers whale-watching trips in peak season.

Whatever you do, don't miss the hike to Bennet Beach, on San Miguel. This is probably the only place in the world where you can see as many as 50,000 seals and sea lions all at once.


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