Hot Spots to See Wildlife in California

Hotspots to See Wildlife in California

Stephanie Meador

The various biomes, differing climates, and vast size of the state of California make it the perfect home for all kinds of creatures. Whether you are exploring the mountains, the desert, the beach, or the forest, keep your eyes peeled for critters big and small that are thriving in these beautiful, natural oases… the exceptional wildlife in California.

Morro Bay

Hot Spots to See Wildlife in California
Photo via Stephanie Meador

The beautiful seaside town of Morro Bay is home to many amazing creatures. Here you can drive up to beaches and outlooks and observe these beautiful animals enjoying life in their natural habitat. Gaze upon elephant seals leisurely lounging on the bay, watch otters swim around and see if you can spot some pups, venture into the tide pools to see various plants, invertebrates, and marine mammals, and take a whale watching tour to appreciate the sea’s magnificent giants.

Hot Spots to See Wildlife in California

Explorers and nature enthusiasts have enjoyed Yosemite National Park for over 120 years. Besides its breathtaking waterfalls and towering mountains, this famous park is home to over 400 wildlife forms including amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles—a portion of which are even endangered. Visit this summer and keep your eyes peeled for black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, and other fantastic wild creatures.

Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove

Hot Spots to See Wildlife in California

Unlike most six-legged creatures, butterflies are one of the universally well-received.  With their delicate wings and vibrant colors, they often bring joy to those who see them flutter by. Witness one of the nation’s largest monarch colonies at Pismo Beach. Every year thousands of these orange and black beauties fly to the beach to escape the harsh winters of the north. Knowledgeable volunteers are stationed at the park to greet visitors and offer information. The mass amounts of butterflies will form dense clusters on limbs of the Eucalyptus trees, creating a fascinating sight to see. Monarch season is late October through February, so start planning to see these magnificent butterflies!

Lake Tahoe

Hot Spots to See Wildlife in California
photo via Brian yurasits

Lake Tahoe, the largest Alpine Lake in North America, is home to a number of four-legged, two-legged, and no-legged friends. Enjoy swimming, boat rides, and bike rides while keeping an eye out for some of the fascinating and frankly, adorable critters that inhabit this popular natural area. Yes, it’s true that a portion of the lake extends into Nevada, but the area in general is an *excellent* spotting point for wildlife in California (and beyond).

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Hot Spots to See Wildlife in California
photo via Ray Hennessey

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex offers approximately 70,000 acres of wetland, grassland, and riparian habitats for a wide array of waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, waterbirds, songbirds, reptiles, and mammals. Over 300 species of birds and a variety of other animals have been reported at the refuge since its beginning in 1937. The complex is most known for the large number of waterfowl it hosts, and visitors are encouraged to report any sightings of rare, unusual, or unique animals on the refuges and in the surrounding areas.

What’s your favorite place to spot wildlife in California? What’s one animal you’ve always dreamed of seeing in the wild? What trips are you currently planning to connect more with the natural world around you? Share with us on Instagram @yourherelive

Want more guides to exploring the beautiful sights of the states? Check out the best National Parks to visit this summer.

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