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National Parks Special
2007: Wildlife
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The Insider's
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Discover the most mind-bending natural phenomena, plentiful wildlife, and sybaritic pleasures in the national parks.
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The Best of the National Parks: Wildlife Viewing
Fifty easy-to-execute plans that put you in the wild heart of America's national parks, whether you love hiking, paddling, climbing, wildlife viewing, or sublime lodges.   By Robert Earle Howells   Illustration by Jesse Lefkowitz

Illustration: Moose

National Parks 2007:

Best Hikes  |  Best Paddling  |  Best Wildlife  |  Best Treks  

Best Drives  |  Best Climbs  |  Best Lodges  |  See All National Parks

Best Trip: Rafting the Grand Canyon

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Hayden and Lamar Valleys
Some parks may be more biologically diverse than Yellowstone—if you like looking at bugs. But if you want animals, big animals, as in raise-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck megafauna, the nation's first national park cannot be topped. Grizzlies, black bears, elk, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and lynx all roam Yellowstone's 3,600 square miles (9,324 square kilometers). Add to that list the park's success stories: reintroduced wolves and a bison population that has bounced back dramatically from the brink of extinction. Hayden Valley, in the park's heart, is the wildlife-viewing nexus, particularly along the Yellowstone River between

Yellowstone Lake and Canyon Village. Your strategy should be simple: Pull over anywhere off Grand Loop Road and stage a stakeout early in the morning or at dusk. You never know what might wander out of the woods. For wolves, ground zero is Lamar Valley in the northern part of the park, site of their reintroduction. To find them, ask rangers where the action is (generally off the road between Tower Junction and Yellowstone's northeast entrance) or go with an expert. Catching a fleeting glimpse of a wolf, scoping a big griz, or spying a rutting elk is not only a thrill, it's an uplifting experience. In some places at least, wild America is still alive and well.

Inside Word: To see creatures in utterly remote wilderness, set out for the Thorofare, a valley in the park's southeast. It's best reached on a six-day horsepacking expedition ($2,400; 

The Yellowstone Association offers weekend field seminars ($80 and up; that focus on wolves and other animals. For more information, visit

Everglades National Park, Florida

Old Ingraham Highway
A quiet world away from heavily visited parts of the park, this gated 11-mile (18-kilometer) dirt road enters a fecund realm of gators, great blue herons, and white ibis, and offers the park's best hope for a glimpse of the rare and elusive Florida panther. The raised trail is closed to cars, but open to hikers and bikers, and starts off at Long Pine Key Road.

Vitals: For maps, visit         

Katmai National Park, Alaska
Brooks River and Brooks Falls
Just perch on a platform above the river's edge and enjoy the show: grizzlies by the dozens feasting on salmon by the thousands. In July watch the nation's densest concentration of bears nab reds leaping up the falls; in September the fish are spawned out and even easier pickings.

For camping, reservations are strongly recommended ($8 a night; 877
444 6777). For more deluxe accommodations, the Brooks Lodge ($1,145 for two nights, local airfare included; offers rooms in an old fishing camp overlooking the Brooks River. For maps, visit

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Greenstone Ridge Trail
The symbiosis of wolves and moose on Lake Superior's Isle Royale has been studied for decades, and nowhere is the interplay more prevalent than along the Greenstone Ridge Trail. Moose lumber through deep woods and feed in bogs. In the shadows wolves lie in wait. You probably won't spy the stealthy canines, but you'll see their tracks and hear haunting howls at night.

For information, visit             

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Wind Canyon
Prairies, badlands, wild horses—Teddy would be proud that of all the great Western parks, his namesake is the most classically Old West. Drive the 36-mile (58-kilometer) loop of the South Unit and you're guaranteed sightings of prairie dogs, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. Also be sure to walk to the overlook at Wind Canyon, binocs in hand, for a strong chance of seeing elk, bison, and wild horses grazing on the hillsides and in the draws.

For maps, go to

National Parks 2007:

Best Hikes  |  Best Paddling  |  Best Wildlife  |  Best Treks  

Best Drives  |  Best Climbs  |  Best Lodges  |  See All National Parks

Best Trip: Rafting the Grand Canyon

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