Best National Park Wildlife Experience: Bear Viewing at Brooks Camp

Old Fall River Road Trip is runner up

America's national parks not only showcase some of the country's most beautiful scenery, they protect vital habitats for an incredible diversity of wildlife. 10Best editors and the National Park Foundation teamed up to find the best wildlife experiences – both concession tours and ranger-led programs – within the National Park Service system. We asked USA TODAY 10Best readers vote for their favorite experiences from a pool of 20 nominees, and after four weeks of voting, the results are in.

  • Sensational Salamanders
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the "salamander capital of the world" with 30 species in five families. The Sensational Salamanders program, put on by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, leads visitors into the park in search of these colorful animals. How many can you find?
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Glacier Bay Tour Boat
    Glacier Bay National Park

    A journey aboard the Glacier Bay Tour Boat in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park brings visitors up close to the park's iconic tidewater glaciers, with the chance to spot stellar sea lions, whales, coastal bears, seals, eagles and a variety of rare birds along the way.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Shark Valley Tram Tours
    Everglades National Park

    Beginning at the Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park, Shark Valley Tram Tours take park goers on a 15-mile guided tour of Tram Road, where alligators, herons, egrets, deer, turtles and snail kites are regularly spotted. An observation tower at the halfway point offers further viewing opportunities.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Big Sky Circle Tour
    Glacier National Park

    Montana's Glacier National Park is home to a wealth of species, including 71 species of mammals. The Big Sky Circle Tour takes visitors on an 8-hour guided exploration of the park, with wildlife viewing opportunities at Goat Lick Overlook, Logan Pass and St. Mary Valley. Since someone else is doing the driving, visitor eyes are free to spot wildlife.
    Photo courtesy of David Restivo, NPS

  • Wilderness Canoe Tours
    Congaree National Park

    South Carolina's Congaree National Park is home to the last remaining large section of old-growth bottomland forest in the U.S. Guided Canoe Tours, led by a park ranger, give visitors an opportunity to spot white-tailed deer, otters, beavers and other wildlife that call this unique habitat home.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Tundra Wilderness Tour
    Denali National Park

    Denali National Park is one of the most accessible places in Alaska to view wildlife. Denali Park Village operates naturalist-narrated Tundra Wilderness Tours to the Toklat River or beyond to observe and photograph wildlife, including Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo/Kent Miller

  • Frenchman Bay Cruise
    Acadia National Park

    On select afternoons throughout the summer, a park ranger from Acadia National Park comes aboard a schooner for a tour of Frenchman Bay in search of wildlife and history. In addition to learning about local history, visitors have the chance to spot bald eagles, porpoises and seals.
    Photo courtesy of NPS / Kristi Rugg

  • Wake Up to Wildlife
    Yellowstone National Park

    The wildlife at Yellowstone National Park is as diverse as the park's geological features, and the Lamar Valley is one of the best viewing areas. The Wake Up to Wildlife tour, operated by Yellowstone National Park Lodges, gives visitors an excellent chance to spot park residents, including buffalo, elk, grizzly bears, wolves, black bears, antelope, otters, osprey, bald eagles and coyotes.
    Photo courtesy of Neal Herbert / NPS Photo

  • Old Fall River Road Trip
    Rocky Mountain National Park

    It's often easy to spot wildlife along Rocky Mountain National Park's two main roads, Old Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road. Park visitors can let the Rocky Mountain Conservancy do the driving on a Old Fall River Road Trip, which travels up the former and back down the latter, with plenty of chances to spot and look for park fauna.
    Photo courtesy of Lydia Schrandt

  • Bear Viewing at Brooks Camp
    Katmai National Park

    Located at the mouth of the Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Brooks Camp is one of the best brown bear viewing areas in the world. Some 2,200 brown bears live within the park, and many of them congregate in the Brooks River to feed on sockeye salmon. A protected viewing platform keeps both bears and visitors safe, and rangers are often on hand to discuss the bears and answer questions.
    Photo courtesy of NPS/M. Fitz

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The top 10 winners in the category Best National Park Wildlife Experience are as follows:

  1. Bear Viewing at Brooks Camp - Katmai National Park
  2. Old Fall River Road Trip - Rocky Mountain National Park
  3. Wake Up to Wildlife - Yellowstone National Park
  4. Frenchman Bay Cruise - Acadia National Park
  5. Tundra Wilderness Tour - Denali National Park
  6. Wilderness Canoe Tours - Congaree National Park
  7. Big Sky Circle Tour - Glacier National Park
  8. Shark Valley Tram Tours - Everglades National Park
  9. Glacier Bay Tour Boat - Glacier Bay National Park
  10. Sensational Salamanders - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts David French (National Park Foundation) and Audrey Peterman were chosen based on their knowledge of the national park system.

Additional nominees in this category included the Bat Flight at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Heart of the Swamp Canoe Trip at Big Cypress National Preserve, Island Wildlife Cruise at Channel Islands National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise, Science on the Shore at Olympic National Park, Science Saturdays at North Cascades National Park, Sunday Morning Coffee Walks at Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, Teton Science Schools Wildlife Expedition at Grand Teton National Park, Synergy in the Desert: The Sonoran Habitat at Saguaro National Park and Turtle Talks on the Beach at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.

Congratulations to all our winning national park wildlife programs! Looking for a perfect national park experience for your next vacation? Visit FindYourPark.com to get ideas for exploring our more than 400 national parks.

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David French

David French

Audrey Peterman

Audrey Peterman

10Best Editors

10Best Editors