Top Wildlife Viewing Destinations on your Drive North to Alaska
There’s nothing like a road trip to inspire a sense of freedom and adventure… especially when you can look out the window or take a detour into a park to watch wild animals roaming the landscape right in front of you. And there’s no open road quite like the Alaska Highway, offering thousands of miles packed with pristine landscapes, unique wildlife, outdoor adventures, small towns, Indigenous cultures, and rich history that can’t be found anywhere else.
Choose an Alaska Highway driving route (the Inside Passage, Rockies, or Gold Rush routes) through western Canada and Alaska for a chance to see all kinds of wildlife - from moose to bears to whales to bison and sheep and more.
“The grizzly bear in our culture symbolizes power, and especially authority,” said Chief Mike Willie of British Columbia's Vancouver Island on the Inside Passage route, as he describes his people’s connection with the land and the animals. British Columbia is home to whales, bighorn sheep, bears, bison, caribou, marmots, and more. For tips on where to see different species, check out this guide.
Where to find them:
- Start a road trip in Victoria if you’re looking for some of the best whale watching opportunities. Whale sightings are common from spring to fall, and as a bonus you’ll usually see other marine life while on tour — sea lions, harbor seals, dolphins, and more.
- If you’re spending time around Banff, don’t miss a side trip to Radium Hot Springs to see bighorn sheep (be sure to visit the hot springs themselves too!). About 150 of these horned mammals live here and can usually be spotted in spring and summer. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, elk, bald eagles, turkey, and more.
- Bears and marmots abound in the Whistler area. Book a 4x4 tour or a photo safari in the summer and fall to seek them out. You might just spot them from the Peak 2 Peak Gondola as well.
- Let local photographer Ryan Dickie take you on a virtual tour of the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, known as the “Serengeti of North America,” along the Rocky Mountain route. Here’s how he describes wildlife viewing along the highway: “It brings you back to a sense of awareness where you’re not concerned with anything else outside of exactly what you’re doing and what you’re seeing at that moment.”
Find even more wildlife viewing opportunities in British Columbia here.
Drive the Alaska Highway through the Yukon and you may see moose, Dall sheep, wood bison, grizzly bear, and many more animals. This guide offers the area’s top three wildlife viewing tips. There are countless opportunities to explore along the way, but these wildlife hot spots near Whitehorse, Dawson City, and more are easy to factor into a road trip.
- Just south of Whitehorse is an island in the Yukon River named Bert Law Park. Head here to see beaver, mule deer, and a variety of birds.
- The Yukon Wildlife Preserve is also close to the city and offers a home to injured or orphaned animals in need of rehabilitation. Take the chance to visit and learn about all kinds of wildlife up close — elk, moose, Arctic fox, wood bison, and more.
- If you’re determined to see mountain goats, head north from Whitehorse to White Mountain. The one-hour journey is easy, but spotting these animals isn’t.
- Tombstone Territorial Park, traditional Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in territory, is outside of Dawson City and offers frequent wildlife sightings as well as First Nations cultural opportunities.
- To say animals thrive in Kluane National Park and Preserve, part of the world’s largest internationally protected area, is an understatement. Whether you stick to the highway or take a flightseeing tour over the region, you may spot caribou, wolves, wolverines, red fox, and other types of mammals. Plus, more than 150 species of birds have been recorded in Kluane!
This guide offers the area’s top three wildlife viewing tips.
Hundreds of species can be found in Alberta’s five national parks, hundreds of provincial parks and recreation areas, wildlands, and migratory bird sanctuaries. Some popular mammals to keep an eye out for are moose, grizzly and black bears, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, lynx, coyotes, wolves, and wolverines.
“Encounters with wildlife are the kind of experiences that etch themselves permanently in your memories,” says ecologist Alyssa Friesen, writing about the various wildlife viewing opportunities in Banff National Park, along the Rockies Route.
- Nearby, take the Lake Louise Gondola for sweeping views of the park, but also be on the lookout for bears and other area wildlife. A free wildlife interpretive center offers daily presentations and guided walks, too.
- Jasper National Park, on the same route, is an extraordinary place to see wildlife, with sheep, elk, and more - often grazing right alongside the road. Evening wildlife tours are recommended for optimal viewing.
- Closer to Edmonton, Elk Island National Park is an important refuge for bison and elk. Here, visitors can learn about how the bison was brought back from near extinction and tour a handling facility. The park is also a dark sky preserve if you can plan to stay into the evening for star gazing opportunities.
Learn more about Alberta’s parks and wildlife viewing destinations here.
Famous for its massive grizzly bears, humpback whales, and iconic bald eagles, Alaska’s wide-open spaces are the perfect place for spotting all kinds of wildlife. You may encounter them just by driving down the road (bald eagles often perch on the highway light posts) and definitely by cruising through the ocean aboard the state ferry.
- Seek out the “big five” in Denali National Park and Preserve (grizzly bear, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, and wolves). Most visitors take a bus tour into the park to spot these mammals.
- From Homer, take bear viewing tours into Lake Clark and Katmai national parks during the summer. By fall, Katmai’s “fat” bears are making national headlines as they prep for hibernation.
- Valdez lies on the coast of Prince William Sound and is a gateway for day cruise tours that head out in search of whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters, and more.
If you opt to take the Alaska Marine Highway System as part of the Inside Passage route, you’re in for a treat (but book early!). Humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters, and other marine animals are abundant in these waters, and you’ll never want to get off the ferry.
Seek out more wildlife viewing experience in Alaska here.