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Larissa Runkle | 09.13.2017

The allure of spotting wildlife is among the top reasons to visit the outdoors. Your first view of a creature you’ve never seen before is at once an inspiring and magical experience, and one that stays with you. While the less-traveled hiker might assume wild animals and exotic birds are around every corner, the regular trailblazers know what a rarity these occurrences actually are.

As their natural habitats shrink, so does the wildlife population. You can hike forests where grizzlies used to roam freely, though they have now been hunted to the point of endangerment and have had their territories shifted further north. You can wander trails that see only a fraction of the deer and elk they used to. The sad fact is that our wild areas are always becoming less wild. Which is why taking a moment to appreciate them as they are today is so vital to our understanding of the natural world.

All over the country stewards of the land have fought to create national parks, refuges, and other protected areas to prevent the extinction of species and the exploitation of natural resources. Because of generations of hard work and preservation, there still exist a fair number of places you can go to step out into the wild and see landscapes as they were meant to be and have been for thousands of years.

The Northwest and Northeast in particular contain an abundance of wildlife, and parks devoted to their protection. Along the West Coast you can see families of sea lions and otters, while elk, grizzlies, and black bears roam the landscape further north. Inland, Yellowstone National Park remains a pillar of the North American ecosystem, providing wide open spaces for bison and bears to roam. On the East Coast, deer, bear, fox, and wild cats still inhabit many of the wooded areas, and protected marshlands and bird sanctuaries exist to protect rare species of birds and insects. Here are a few places to guide your wildlife adventures. Remember to follow park guidelines on safe food storage and educate yourself on safe behavior and proximity to these animals before visiting. It's often humans that put animals and their habitats in danger, and reading up in advance can go a long way toward keeping these amazing places wild. 


William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge
Fern Ridge Wildlife Area, East Coyote Unit
Delta Ponds
Fern Ridge Wildlife Area, Fisher Butte Unit
Sea Lion Caves
Fern Ridge Wildlife Area, Royal Amazon Unit
Summer Lake
Jackson-Frazier Wetland
Fern Ridge Wildlife Area, Applegate Unit


Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Sol Duc River Salmon Cascades
Bottle Beach State Park
Birch Bay State Park
John's River State Wildlife Area
Reed Island State Park Campsite


Ellwood Butterfly Grove
Prairie Creek Roosevelt Elk
Elephant Seal Overlook
Morro Bay Sea Otter Viewing
Geoffroy Drive Wildlife Viewing
Elkhorn Slough
Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary


Lamar Valley
West Yellowstone
Teton Crest Trail
Moose-Teton Road Ponds
Mount Washburn Via Chittenden Road

The Northeast

Alice Bemis Thompson Wildlife Sanctuary
Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Acadia National Park
Thundering Brook Falls
Woodford State Park
Wilgus State Park
Mount Carrigain Via Signal Ridg


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