Updated on February 16, 2024

Though you may be tempted to cozy up by the fire and stay inside, winter is a great time to get outdoors and see wildlife. With fewer leaves on trees and smaller crowds in parks, it can be easier to see wildlife in its natural habitat.

Discover the favorite winter wildlife spots of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild Co-Hosts Peter Gros and Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant. Plus, learn how to safely explore wild places.


Favorite winter places to view wildlife


A sky-view of a cliff on the Point Reyes shoreline.

Point Reyes National Seashore | Credit: NPS Photo / Anela Ramos Kopshever


Point Reyes National Seashore

One of Peter’s favorite memories is visiting Point Reyes in California with his family. There, they would hike on bluffs overlooking beaches below that were filled with elephant seals. From December to March, these seals breed on the Point Reyes beaches.

“Go to the bluffs and take your binoculars and see these incredible animals that are now returning to the Point Reyes area,” he said. Perhaps a story for a future Wild Kingdom episode? Stay tuned!


Eastern Montana

While Dr. Rae has spent many winters studying bear behaviors and hibernation, the season has also brought her to view some iconic American animals. While working in eastern Montana one winter, she enjoyed seeing bison, wolves and elk.

“This region has all these animals that are out and about in all four seasons, but there’s just something so majestic about seeing them in the snow,” Dr. Rae said.


Yellowstone National Park

Another great place to see bison? Yellowstone. These large mammals are especially easy to see in the snow, along with cougars and elk. But perhaps the best part of Yellowstone in the winter? How peaceful it is.

“The sheer grandeur in the trees and the silence in the winter is incredible,” Peter said. “It’s one of the nicest times of the year to experience the park.”

Check out Peter’s top picks for U.S. national parks.

A wide landscape shot of Joshua Tree National Park including mountains and Joshua trees.

Credit: Joshua Tree National Park


Joshua Tree

Not a fan of snow but still want to see winter wildlife? Head further south to a place like Joshua Tree National Park in California. Enjoy temperatures in the 60s and 70s during this time of year, a respite from the hot summers in this desert.

At Joshua Tree’s Barker Dam, visitors may see wildlife like bighorn sheep and birds. But there’s plenty of wildlife in the park — 46 reptile species, 250 bird species, 57 mammal species and the famous Mojave desert tortoise — all of which are experts of adapting to changing temperatures.

“With temperatures being well over 100 degrees in the summer and sometimes below freezing, you think it’s uninhabitable,” Peter said. “This is a real study of how wildlife adapts to changing climates and extreme temperatures.”


Florida Everglades

If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Everglades, Peter says winter is the best season.

“People tend to think of it like there’s still a bug-infested swamp land, when in fact it’s a legendary river of grass and one of the wonders of the world,” Peter said. “It’s actually been designated as a World Heritage Site, which means it will always be a world biosphere reserve because of its international importance.”

Visitors can view alligators, American crocodiles, herons and manatees. Watch “Sea Creatures of the Florida Coast,” to see manatees in action.


Arctic regions

For true winter enthusiasts, what better place to see wildlife than to head to the Arctic? It’s a place on Dr. Rae’s list to see perhaps the most iconic winter animals of them all — caribou and reindeer.

“Reindeer are just so magical,” Dr. Rae said. “They’re a part of our culture when we think of the holidays and think about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. I think it’s so awesome that reindeer are real and out there!”


A Shot of Beautiful Sunset Reflections in a Calm Vern Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Northern Minnesota

Vern Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness


Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Another true winter destination is Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota.

“Believe it or not, you can still go there in the winter!” Peter said. “It’s severe there — serious snow camping. You definitely want to double wall your tent.”

If you’re for the challenge, you may be lucky and see wonderful wildlife, such as wolves, moose and deer. Plus, you’ll avoid the dreadful mosquito population that plagues the summer months!


A young girl and her younger brother standing on a trail in the snow. They are wearing winter gear and admiring the snowfall happening around them.

Hiking and camping in the winter

While visiting these wild places, consider taking a hike — literally!

“Make sure you have all the appropriate gear,” Peter said. “I say maybe a two-mile hike is a good start.”

Opt for wicking layers instead of cotton when packing. This will help you stay warm when you perspire, as cotton tends to freeze, leaving you cold instead of comfortable.

Stick to the park’s trails or roads. You’ll find it’s much easier to walk on these packed surfaces than it is to hike through knee-deep snow. But make sure you’re always aware of your surroundings, as wildlife often use roads to transverse during the winter. Peter suggests keeping 100 yards away from any wildlife. See these tips on how to keep your distance.

If you do decide to camp, check the weather forecast. Use a double-sided tent, and place a mat on the floor with your winter sleeping bag on top.

“You’ll hear the wind going through the pine trees at night and the river running not far from your tent. It’s one of the most sound sleeps you’ll ever have,” Peter said of winter camping at Yellowstone.

For more must-have gear for exploring wild places, check out what to pack for your outdoor excursion.

Enjoying nature doesn’t have to be limited to warm weather. Take the time this winter to get outside and see wildlife. There are plenty of ways to discover nature in your community.

Need more inspiration? See Peter’s top places to hike in the U.S. and his tips to experience nature. Plus, check out five ways to get outdoors.

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