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American Wilderness: Top 23 Parks and Forests for Unforgettable Wildlife Encounters in May

wilderness in may USA

Get ready to embrace the beauty of America’s diverse wildlife as spring flourishes throughout the country. 

With countless national parks, state parks, and national forests at your fingertips, it can be challenging to decide where to start.  

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top 23 destinations to experience unforgettable wildlife encounters this May. 

From the lush rainforests of the Pacific Northwest to the arid deserts of the Southwest, there’s a destination for every nature enthusiast.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the best parks and forests to witness the awe-inspiring wildlife within their borders. 

We’ll explore the unique ecosystems, uncover hidden gems, and provide insider tips to help you make the most of your visit. 

So, grab your binoculars, lace up your hiking boots, and prepare to be amazed by the abundance of flora and fauna that awaits you in these remarkable destinations.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

Yellowstone National Park is a haven for wildlife lovers, boasting an impressive array of species, including bison, elk, grizzly bears, and gray wolves.

Yellowstone National Park wilderness in may USA

May is an ideal time to visit, as the park’s inhabitants emerge from their winter slumber and the newborn animals take their first steps.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Lamar Valley: Observe wolves, bison, and pronghorn in this wildlife-rich area.

Hayden Valley: Spot bears, bison, and coyotes against the backdrop of a picturesque landscape.

Old Faithful: Enjoy the famous geyser and look for trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and ospreys near the Firehole River.

Quick Tips

Attend ranger-led programs for expert wildlife insights.

Practice safe wildlife viewing by maintaining a respectful distance.

Also Read: 7  UNFORGETTABLE VIATOR TOURS IN YELLOWSTONE FOR AN EPIC SPRING ADVENTURE!

Yosemite National Park (California)

Yosemite National Park is renowned for its towering granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and diverse wildlife.

Yosemite National Park wilderness in may USA

May is the perfect time to witness the park’s inhabitants, such as mountain Lion, black bears, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and various bird species, against a backdrop of blooming wildflowers.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Yosemite Valley: Look for mountain lion, black bears, mule deer, and a variety of birds, including Steller’s jays and American dippers.

Glacier Point: Enjoy breathtaking views and spot peregrine falcons soaring above the cliffs.

Mariposa Grove: Admire the giant sequoias and keep an eye out for the elusive Pacific fisher.

Quick Tips

Take advantage of the park’s free shuttle service to reduce traffic congestion and minimize your impact on wildlife.

Keep your distance from animals, especially bears, and never feed them.

Also Read

8 FAVORITE YOSEMITE HIKES & BACKPACKING ADVENTURES WITH VIATOR TOURS!

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: 40 TOP GUIDED TOURS TO EXPLORE THIS MAJESTIC PARK!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee, North Carolina)

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a biodiversity hotspot, offering visitors the chance to encounter black bears, white-tailed deer, and over 200 bird species.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park wilderness in may USA

May is an excellent time for wildlife viewing, with the arrival of migratory birds and the emergence of synchronous fireflies.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Cades Cove: Observe white-tailed deer, black bears, and wild turkeys in this picturesque valley.

Clingmans Dome: Look for high-elevation species like northern saw-whet owls and red crossbills.

Elkmont: Experience the mesmerizing display of synchronous fireflies, which typically occurs in late May or early June.

Quick Tips

Reserve a spot on a guided wildlife tour for a more immersive experience.

Use red-filtered flashlights when viewing fireflies to minimize disturbance.

Read More

30 TOP THINGS TO DO IN GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK: 6 TRAILS ON AN EXCITING GUIDED TOUR!

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

Grand Teton National Park is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream, boasting an impressive array of large mammals such as moose, bison, elk, and pronghorn.

Grand Teton National Park wilderness in may USA

May is a fantastic time to visit, as the park’s snow-covered peaks provide a stunning backdrop for wildlife sightings.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Moose-Wilson Road: Catch a glimpse of moose browsing in the willows along this scenic drive.

Willow Flats: Observe elk, bison, and pronghorn in this lush, marshy area.

Oxbow Bend: Spot beavers, river otters, and bald eagles near the Snake River.

Quick Tips

Join a guided wildlife tour to maximize your chances of spotting the park’s inhabitants.

Avoid approaching animals too closely, as mothers with newborns can be particularly protective.

Read More: EXPLORING GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK: 6 STARTING POINTS (A 2023 GUIDE)

Denali National Park (Alaska)

Denali National Park is home to North America’s tallest peak, as well as a diverse array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep.

Denali National Park wilderness in may USA

Visiting in May allows you to enjoy the park before the peak summer season, increasing your chances of intimate wildlife encounters.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Denali Park Road: Take a shuttle bus along this iconic route for opportunities to see grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep.

Savage River: Look for golden eagles, gyrfalcons, and other birds of prey in this rugged landscape.

Wonder Lake: Enjoy the reflection of Denali in the water and search for moose, beavers, and trumpeter swans.

Quick Tips

Book a guided bus tour for a more in-depth wildlife experience.

Bring binoculars or a spotting scope for better viewing opportunities without disturbing the animals.

Read More: 10 INCREDIBLE NATIONAL PARKS TO SEE MALE BLACK BEARS EMERGE FROM HIBERNATION!

Everglades National Park (Florida)

Everglades National Park is a vast, subtropical wilderness teeming with unique wildlife, such as the American alligator, Florida panther, and West Indian manatee.

Everglades National Park Florida in may USA

May is an ideal time to visit, as the park transitions from the dry to wet season, and wading birds congregate in large numbers.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Anhinga Trail: Observe alligators, wading birds, and turtles along this easily accessible boardwalk trail.

Shark Valley: Bike or take a tram tour to see alligators, herons, and egrets in their natural habitat.

Flamingo: Search for manatees, crocodiles, and roseate spoonbills near the marina.

Quick Tips

Take a guided airboat tour for a thrilling wildlife adventure.

Use insect repellent and wear long sleeves to protect against mosquitoes.

Olympic National Park (Washington)

Olympic National Park boasts diverse ecosystems, from lush rainforests to rugged coastlines, supporting a variety of wildlife such as Roosevelt elk, black bears, and harbor seals.

Olympic National Park in may USA

May is a great time to visit, as the park’s flora comes to life and migratory birds arrive.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Hoh Rainforest: Wander through the moss-draped forest and look for Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, and Pacific tree frogs.

Hurricane Ridge: Spot Olympic marmots, black bears, and mountain goats amid stunning mountain vistas.

Rialto Beach: Search for harbor seals, sea otters, and various seabirds along the rocky coastline.

Quick Tips

Check tide tables when planning coastal excursions to avoid being stranded by high tides.

Respect wildlife by maintaining a safe distance and adhering to Leave No Trace principles.

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Rocky Mountain National Park is a high-elevation paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, offering the chance to spot elk, bighorn sheep, moose, and over 270 bird species.

Rocky Mountain National Park in may USA

May is an ideal time for wildlife viewing, as the park’s inhabitants are active and the weather is mild.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Trail Ridge Road: Drive this scenic route to see elk, bighorn sheep, and marmots amid breathtaking mountain views.

Moraine Park: Observe elk grazing in this expansive meadow during early mornings and late afternoons.

Kawuneeche Valley: Look for moose browsing along the Colorado River and in willow thickets.

Quick Tips

Join a ranger-led program or guided tour for expert wildlife insights.

Be prepared for unpredictable weather by dressing in layers and carrying rain gear.

Acadia National Park (Maine)

Acadia National Park offers a stunning blend of rocky coastlines, dense forests, and diverse wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, harbor seals, and peregrine falcons.

Acadia National Park in may USA

May is a fantastic time to visit, as the park’s wildflowers bloom and migratory birds arrive.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Jordan Pond: Search for beavers, white-tailed deer, and various bird species along the picturesque shoreline.

Thunder Hole: Spot harbor seals and porpoises near this dramatic coastal feature.

Precipice Trail: Witness the nesting sites of peregrine falcons on the towering cliffs (Note: The trail may be closed during nesting season).

Quick Tips

Visit the park’s birding hotspots, like Sieur de Monts Spring and Schoodic Peninsula.

Drive the Park Loop Road for scenic views and wildlife spotting opportunities.

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Big Bend National Park’s rugged landscape is home to diverse wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, and over 450 bird species.

Big Bend National Park in may USA

May is a prime time for birdwatching, as migratory species pass through the park.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Chisos Basin: Look for black bears, mountain lions, and white-tailed deer in this mountainous area.

Rio Grande Village: Spot javelinas, roadrunners, and a variety of bird species near the river.

Santa Elena Canyon: Observe cliff swallows nesting in the canyon walls and search for river otters in the Rio Grande.

Quick Tips

Join a guided birdwatching tour to maximize your chances of spotting unique species.

Carry plenty of water and sun protection, as temperatures can soar during May.

Custer State Park (South Dakota)

Custer State Park is known for its impressive herds of bison, as well as other wildlife like pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.

Custer State Park in may USA

May is a fantastic time to visit, as newborn animals make their debut and the park’s flora comes to life.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Wildlife Loop Road: Drive this scenic route for encounters with bison, pronghorn, and prairie dogs.

Sylvan Lake: Look for white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, and a variety of bird species around this picturesque lake.

Grace Coolidge Walk-In Fishing Area: Observe beavers, muskrats, and waterfowl along the creek.

Quick Tips

Attend a ranger-led program to learn more about the park’s wildlife and ecosystems.

Stay in your vehicle when viewing bison, as they can be unpredictable and dangerous.

Myakka River State Park (Florida)

Myakka River State Park’s diverse habitats, including wetlands, prairies, and hammocks, support an array of wildlife such as alligators, roseate spoonbills, and Florida scrub-jays.

Myakka River State Park in may USA

May is an excellent time to visit, as wading birds congregate and the park’s flora is vibrant.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Canopy Walkway: Get a bird’s-eye view of the park and search for Florida scrub-jays, red-shouldered hawks, and songbirds.

Myakka River: Take a guided boat tour or rent a canoe to spot alligators, turtles, and a variety of wading birds.

Deep Hole: Hike to this sinkhole to observe large gatherings of alligators during the dry season.

Quick Tips

Use insect repellent and wear long sleeves to protect against mosquitoes.

Attend a ranger-led program for expert insights on the park’s wildlife and ecosystems.

Red Rock State Park (Arizona)

Red Rock State Park’s stunning red sandstone formations provide a dramatic backdrop for wildlife encounters, including mule deer, javelinas, and various bird species.

Red Rock State Park in may USA

May is a great time to visit, as temperatures are moderate and the park’s flora is in full bloom.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Oak Creek: Look for mule deer, javelinas, and river otters along the creek’s banks.

Eagle’s Nest Loop Trail: Spot various bird species, including red-tailed hawks and canyon wrens, while enjoying panoramic views.

Kisva Trail: Search for lizards, snakes, and tarantulas amid the park’s unique vegetation.

Quick Tips

Join a guided nature walk to learn more about the park’s flora and fauna.

Carry plenty of water and sun protection, as the desert sun can be intense.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (California)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve boasts a stunning coastline teeming with marine life, such as sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in may USA

May is an excellent time to visit, as migratory birds pass through and the reserve’s wildflowers bloom.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Sea Lion Point: Observe sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters frolicking in the water.

Cypress Grove Trail: Look for nesting cormorants, pelicans, and various songbirds amid the Monterey cypress trees.

Whaler’s Cove: Explore tide pools to discover colorful sea stars, anemones, and urchins.

Quick Tips

Participate in a docent-led walk for expert insights on the reserve’s wildlife.

Bring binoculars for better wildlife viewing without disturbing the animals.

Brazos Bend State Park (Texas)

Brazos Bend State Park’s diverse ecosystems, including wetlands and bottomland forests, are home to a wide array of wildlife such as alligators, white-tailed deer, and over 300 bird species.

Brazos Bend State Park Texas in may USA

May is an ideal time to visit, as migratory birds arrive and the park’s vegetation flourishes.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

40-Acre Lake: Stroll along the boardwalk to spot alligators, turtles, and various wading birds.

Elm Lake: Observe nesting herons, egrets, and roseate spoonbills in the park’s rookery.

Creekfield Lake: Search for white-tailed deer, raccoons, and armadillos near the water’s edge.

Quick Tips

Attend a ranger-led program to learn more about the park’s wildlife and ecosystems.

Use insect repellent and wear long sleeves to protect against mosquitoes.

Pisgah National Forest (North Carolina)

Pisgah National Forest’s lush landscape supports a variety of wildlife, including black bears, white-tailed deer, and a myriad of bird species.

Pisgah National Forest North Carolina in may USA

May is an excellent time to visit, as the forest’s rhododendrons and azaleas bloom and migratory birds arrive.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters:

Looking Glass Rock: Hike to this iconic formation and look for peregrine falcons nesting on the cliffs.

Pink Beds Loop Trail: Spot salamanders, frogs, and various bird species along this scenic trail.

Black Balsam Knob: Observe high-elevation species like red crossbills and golden-crowned kinglets amid stunning panoramic views.

Quick Tips

Join a guided nature walk or birdwatching tour for expert insights on the forest’s wildlife.

Practice responsible wildlife viewing by maintaining a respectful distance and following Leave No Trace principles.

Tongass National Forest (Alaska)

Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States, boasts a diverse array of wildlife such as bald eagles, brown bears, and Sitka black-tailed deer.

Tongass National Forest in may USA

May is an excellent time to visit, as the forest awakens from its winter slumber and humpback whales begin to arrive.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters

Anan Wildlife Observatory: Observe brown bears and bald eagles fishing for salmon in this unique setting.

Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area: Witness brown bears in their natural habitat (permits required).

Steep Creek Salmon Observatory: Look for spawning salmon, black bears, and bald eagles along the creek.

Quick Tips

Book a guided wildlife tour for expert insights and increased wildlife viewing opportunities.

Maintain a safe distance from wildlife and follow bear safety guidelines to ensure a positive experience for both you and the animals.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park (California)

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the world’s largest remaining old-growth redwood forest, provides a stunning environment for wildlife encounters.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park in may USA

May is a great time to visit, as temperatures are mild and the park’s flora is in full bloom.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters

Avenue of the Giants: Drive this scenic route and look for black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, and various bird species.

Founders Grove: Wander through the towering redwoods and search for banana slugs, woodpeckers, and marbled murrelets.

Eel River: Spot river otters, beavers, and various waterfowl along the riverbanks.

Quick Tips

Join a guided nature walk to learn more about the park’s unique ecosystem and its inhabitants.

Practice responsible wildlife viewing by maintaining a respectful distance and adhering to Leave No Trace principles.

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge (Texas)

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, situated along the shores of Lake Texoma, is a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge in may USA

May is an ideal time to visit, as migratory birds pass through and the refuge’s wildflowers are in bloom.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters

Goode Day Use Area: Observe waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds along the lakeshore.

Meadow Pond: Look for white-tailed deer, raccoons, and various bird species around this secluded pond.

Wildlife Drive: Drive this scenic route for encounters with wild turkeys, coyotes, and a variety of bird species.

Quick Tips

Attend a ranger-led bird walk or wildlife tour for expert insights on the refuge’s inhabitants.

Bring binoculars and a field guide for better bird identification and viewing opportunities.

Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland, Virginia)

Assateague Island National Seashore is famous for its wild horses, which roam the island’s beaches, dunes, and marshes.

Assateague Island National Seashore in may USA

May is an excellent time to visit, as the weather is mild and the island’s migratory birds arrive.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters

Life of the Dunes Trail: Observe wild horses, Sika deer, and a variety of bird species along this sandy trail.

Tingles Island: Look for waterfowl, shorebirds, and nesting ospreys in the marshy areas.

Assateague Lighthouse: Spot various bird species, including herons, egrets, and red-winged blackbirds, near this historic landmark.

Quick Tips

Join a guided horse-viewing tour or birdwatching program for expert insights and increased wildlife viewing opportunities.

Maintain a safe distance from the wild horses and follow park guidelines to ensure a positive experience for both you and the animals.

Channel Islands National Park (California)

Channel Islands National Park consists of five islands, each with its own unique ecosystem and wildlife, such as island foxes, sea lions, and various bird species.

Channel Islands National Park in may USA

May is a great time to visit, as the park’s wildflowers are in bloom and migratory birds pass through.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters

Anacapa Island: Observe western gulls, brown pelicans, and various seabirds nesting on the island’s cliffs.

Santa Cruz Island: Look for endemic island foxes, scrub-jays, and various bird species in the island’s diverse habitats.

Santa Rosa Island: Spot elephant seals, sea lions, and harbor seals lounging on the island’s beaches.

Quick Tips

Book a guided wildlife tour or ranger-led program for expert insights on the park’s unique ecosystems and inhabitants.

Bring binoculars and a field guide for better wildlife viewing and identification opportunities.

Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

Congaree National Park, home to the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States, supports diverse wildlife such as white-tailed deer, river otters, and various bird species.

Congaree National Park South Carolina in may USA

May is an excellent time to visit, as the park’s flora is vibrant and migratory birds arrive.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters

Boardwalk Loop Trail: Observe white-tailed deer, barred owls, and various songbirds in the park’s diverse habitats.

Cedar Creek: Canoe or kayak along the creek to spot river otters, turtles, and a variety of wading birds.

Bates Old River: Look for woodpeckers, herons, and egrets in this secluded section of the park.

Quick Tips

Join a guided nature walk or birdwatching program for expert insights on the park’s wildlife and ecosystems.

Use insect repellent and wear long sleeves to protect against mosquitoes.

Read More: CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK: CLOSE TO HOME YET UNDERRATED (THINGS TO DO INCLUDED)

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Shenandoah National Park’s picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains are home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, white-tailed deer, and over 200 bird species. 

Shenandoah National Park in may USA

May is a fantastic time to visit, as the park’s wildflowers bloom and migratory birds arrive.

Key Spots and Wildlife Encounters

Skyline Drive: Drive this scenic route to spot black bears, white-tailed deer, and a variety of bird species.

Big Meadows: Observe black bears, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys grazing in this expansive meadow.

Limberlost Trail: Look for woodpeckers, warblers, and various songbirds along this accessible trail.

Quick tips

Attend a ranger-led program or guided wildlife tour for expert insights on the park’s inhabitants.

Practice responsible wildlife viewing by maintaining a respectful distance and adhering to Leave No Trace principles.

Conclusion

By now, you should be inspired to embark on your next wildlife adventure! The United States boasts an incredible variety of parks and forests, each offering unique opportunities for animal encounters and outdoor experiences. 

Whether you’re a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or a casual observer, this list of 20 destinations should provide plenty of inspiration for your May travels. 

So, pack your bags, gather your gear, and prepare to create lifelong memories as you immerse yourself in the beauty of America’s wild side.

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