• National Parks

Best National Parks for Wildlife Spotting

You don't need to go on safari to see wild creatures up close—just head to one of these U.S. national parks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN and NC

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Most famous for its 1,500 resident black bears, this 522,400-acre park is also one of the few refuges for elk and white-tailed deer east of the Mississippi River. Plenty of smaller animals, though, are also worth looking for here—like the park's 30 varieties of salamander. In June, hundreds of thousands of synchronous fireflies—the only species in North America to synchronize its flashing patterns—put on a mind-boggling display.

Viewing Tip: While 95 percent of the park is forested, Cades Cove offers rare unobstructed views. The Cataloochee area is the best place to spot elk, which were reintroduced in 2001.

Best National Parks for Wildlife Spotting

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN and NC

Most famous for its 1,500 resident black bears, this 522,400-acre park is also one of the few refuges for elk and white-tailed deer east of the Mississippi River. Plenty of smaller animals, though, are also worth looking for here—like the park's 30 varieties of salamander. In June, hundreds of thousands of synchronous fireflies—the only species in North America to synchronize its flashing patterns—put on a mind-boggling display.

Viewing Tip: While 95 percent of the park is forested, Cades Cove offers rare unobstructed views. The Cataloochee area is the best place to spot elk, which were reintroduced in 2001.

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