Updated on March 27, 2024

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild Co-Host Peter Gros knows there’s nothing quite like the great outdoors to recharge and encounter the wonders of wildlife. When he’s not busy filming new episodes, Peter enjoys hiking and camping across the United States. Discover some of Peter’s favorite places and get inspired to plan your next outdoor excursion.


Best hikes to see wildlife

A black bear in a yellow field in Yosemite National Park. There is a thick line of evergreen trees and cliffs behind the field. The sky is grey and cloudy.

Yosemite National Park, California

Venture on one of Yosemite’s many trails where you may see deer, red-tailed hawks, vultures and turkeys. If you decide to camp in Yosemite, you may encounter skunks, racoons or bears.

If you’re extremely lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep — Yosemite’s conservation success story. This species was once abundant in the national park, but within 25 years of the park’s opening, the sheep were completely gone. Reintroduction of these bighorn sheep started in 1978 and grew thanks to the outcry of California citizens in the late 1990s when only around 100 sheep remained. Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep were then listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state approved a recovery plan. Today, 600 bighorn sheep live in the park. For a best chance at seeing the sheep, use your binoculars to look carefully in the cliffs — these sheep are known to blend in with their surroundings!

Vernal Fall Trail

One of Peter’s favorite things to do in Yosemite is hike the Vernal Fall Trail. It meanders through the woods, following the Merced River, bringing you to one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls.

“Get an early start in the cool of the morning and be sure to bring a slicker!” Peter said. “During the last 30 minutes of the climb, you’ll be covered in mist. But it’s well worth it. Once you reach the top of the falls, you’ll be treated to amazing views this hike is known for.”


Green trees growing in the middle of an orange canyon. This was taken in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

You’re likely to visit Bryce Canyon to see the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos, giant pillars of pinkish rock formed by the erosion of water, wind, rain, snow and gravity.

“It’s certainly one of nature’s wonders and one of the most unique places in the world,” Peter said.

But did you know Bryce Canyon is also home to many species of wildlife? Bryce has Utah prairie dogs, Uinta chipmunks, ravens, golden eagles, lizards and more. You may even see the fastest land animal in North America — the pronghorn. This mammal can run close to 60 miles per hour! They’re closely related to antelopes and are known for their shorn horns on the top of their heads.

Navajo Loop Trail

“Bryce has many hiking trails in the canyon floor, but my favorite is the Navajo Loop Trail,” Peter said. “It’s about a 5.5-mile hike, and you get to see so much of the canyon from this ridge. When I last hiked Navajo Loop Trail, there was a fresh dusting of snow highlighting its spectacular view as it contrasted the canyon colors.”


Snow capped mountains and green and yellowing trees reflecting off a lake.

White River National Forest, Colorado

In Colorado, venture to White River National Forest to see a broad diversity of wildlife, including mountain lions, elk, moose and black bears. Smaller animals include bobcats, lynx, snowshoe hare and rosy finches.

Maroon Bells

“Just 10 miles from Aspen, Colorado, is Maroon Bells, one of the most beautiful lake hikes in White River National Park,” Peter said. “This glacial valley lake is surrounded by 14,000-foot mountain peaks. The Maroon Creek Trail is about 3.5 miles and passes through alpine meadows of wildlife flowers, aspen forests and rocky slopes. The reflection of the mountain peaks on the lake is a stunning sight. And there’s always the possibility you may see wildlife in this pristine natural setting, such as mule deer, red fox, bighorn sheep or porcupine.”


Orange and pink cliffs at Zion National Park with pink clouds lingering at the top.

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park offers a wide range of scenic views and wildlife with 68 species of mammals alone. Look on the canyon floor for mule deer and rock squirrels. If you camp in Zion, you may see some night dwellers, such as the gray fox or ringtail cat. While hiking the famous Angel’s Landing trail, Peter even saw his first wild California condor!

Though Peter says you’re unlikely to see one, desert tortoises also reside in Zion. If you do happen to see a tortoise, like any wild animal, never pick it up. It defends itself by excreting moisture it desperately needs to survive. Learn about this incredible animal in the Protecting the Wild episode, “Desert-Dwelling Tortoises.”

Emerald Pools

Venture to one, or all three of the Emerald Pools trails to be rewarded with a waterfall, as well as wildlife viewing.

“The most common wildlife to see are mule deer, but you’ll see squirrels, lizards and might be lucky and see a mountain lion there,” Peter said. “In the evening, you may see bats there!”


A river running at the base of a green canyon. This was taken at Black Canyon National Park.

Black Canyon National Water Trail, Arizona and Nevada

Visit Black Canyon National Water Trail near the Hoover Dam for a spectacular wildlife and nature experience. Birders, rejoice! There are 150 species of birds in this area, from bald eagles to herons and numerous small birds. You’re likely to see desert bighorn sheep, as well as a variety of reptiles.

Canoeing Black Canyon

Though you can hike around Black Canyon National Water Trail, the best way to see it is by renting a canoe or kayak. Peter suggests visiting in October or November for cooler temperatures — in the summer, expect temperatures from 100 to 105.

“It’s a great trip, but takes good planning,” Peter said. “You want to have all your food and be completely independent with first aid kits, water and preparation for a desert climate.”


How to safely camp among animals

So, you’re ready to venture to one of Peter’s favorite spots — great! But are you prepared? Check to ensure you have the proper gear to hike and/or camp.

A pro tip from Peter — bring a change of clothes to keep your campsite safe. Why? If you cook food in the same set of clothes you sleep in, bears may pay you a visit. Instead, change into a clean set of clothes and place your cooking clothes in a bear box provided by the national park.

“Bears have become habituated to people,” Peter said. “They associate people with food. You can’t leave any food out and really need to clean your area.” This even includes keeping your toothpaste in a bear box and out of your tent.

For extra storage, look into hard, plastic containers to help bear-proof your camping site.


Looking more expert advice from Peter? Check out these ways to have a safe summer vacation and tips for experiencing nature. Plus, learn how to enjoy wildlife in the winter.

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