Summer is a great time to watch wildlife in national parks. Here is a short list of what you might find. Check with your nearest park for information about wildlife watching opportunities.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Firefly Event

Photo from

Synchronous Fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

*Check dates for the 2017 firefly event on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website. Check with the park for parking passes and other information about the event.* The synchronous fireflies are the only species of firefly in the United States whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns. The males fly and flash while the females stay stationary and respond with flashes of their own. Peak season for fireflies is late May to mid-June.

A mother brown bear walks with three cubs
Mother bear and cubs

NPS Photo

Bears in Katmai National Park, Alaska

Summer is the best time of year to see bears in Katmai National Park. The famous brown bears of Brooks River are usually out fishing. As many as 25 bears have been seen fishing at Brooks Falls at the same time! July is typically the best month to catch the bears at Brooks Falls and Lake Clark, but they can be found there from July-September. The Bear Cam is LIVE! See bears from Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park.

A Masked Booby soars in the skies above Hospital Key in Dry Tortugas National Park
Masked Booby soars above Hospital Key

NPS Photo / Judd Patterson

Birds in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Catch a glimpse of brown or black noddies, frigatebirds, and sooty terns that make their homes along the beaches of Bush Key from late January through early July in Dry Tortugas National Park. Although Bush Key is closed seasonally to visitors, birders with binoculars or spotting scopes can watch the nesting activity from Fort Jefferson on nearby Garden Key.

Bull Tule Elk
Bull Tule Elk

NPS Photo / Tim Bernot

Tule Elk in Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Late summer is an exciting time of year on Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore. From August-October keep your eye out for the tule elk. You may see males sparring or hear them bugling in order to impress females.

 Brazilian free-tailed bats exit Carlsbad Cavern
Brazilian free-tailed bats exit Carlsbad Cavern

NPS Photo / Nick Hristov

Bats at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Catch a bat flight program. Every summer, thousands of visitors gather in Carlsbad Caverns National Park to watch hundreds of thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats fly out of their caves in their nightly search for food.

Sea turtle hatchling
Green sea turtle hatchling

NPS Photo

Sea Turtles at Padre Islands National Seashore, Texas

Want to see a newly hatched sea turtle crawl to the shore? April to September is sea turtle nesting season at Padre Island National Seashore. The park has detailed information about nesting season and how to see a hatchling release on their website.

Two humpbacks leap out of the water
Two humpbackwhales leap out of the water

NPS Photo

Humpback Whales at Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, Alaska

Hungry humpbacks come home to Glacier Bay in the Summer. Having spent the winter fasting in Hawaii waters, these animals can be seen feasting on schools of fish. Humpbacks get their names from the shape they take when arching their backs before a dive. Keep an eye out, you might catch the flick of a tail!

Shark on coral reef
Nurse shark glides through a coral reef

Photo courtesy of A. Bourque

Coral Reefs at Biscayne National Park, Florida

Want to spend your summer by the sea? Go snorkeling and check out the coral reefs at Biscayne National Park. Waters are typically calmer and clearer during the summer months, making it easier for you to watch the hustle and bustle under the sea

Last updated: June 27, 2017


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