When is a great time to spot wildlife? Wild animals can be found in ecosystems like deserts, forests, rain forests, plains or grasslands. Often wildlife is hidden and difficult to spot. Here you will find the right time and areas where the chance for a wildlife sighting is much higher.
The Grey-headed flying foxes (also called fruit bats) stay in the Yarra Bend Park year around as a permanent colony. The Colony numbers fluctuate with the seasons, and there are usually more flying-foxes in summer and fewer in winter. In summer the colony can grow up to 30.000 to 50.000 bats.
Time of the day
During daytime, they roost upside down in the trees nearby the water. They are vulnerable to overheating; therefore, they choose this area because of the higher humidity and the colder air. Also, they need to drink water on hot days, so they stay close to a water source such as the Yarra River.
Close to the Bellbird Picnic Area, you can find a viewing platform. The bat colony walking trail and interpretive signage provides details about the flying‐foxes. You can observe them from different stops along the Bat Colony Trail. Although some of them are very close to the path, you should either take a binocular or a good zoom camera with you. The young flying-foxes often roost high up in the trees; the elder uses the shadow of the trees at lower places.
Flying-foxes are nocturnal and at sunset, they will fly-out to consume nectar, fruit, and pollen from a wide range of plant species. Typically they start flying out together if it becomes dark, which provides you with dramatic scenery. Preferably a day with blue sky during daytime and nice sundown will allow the perfect experience. You may have to wait sometime after sunset before they start to fly out and taking photos will become more difficult due to low light.
Where animal sightings happen, depends on habitat preferences, weather and seasonal cycles of movement. Still, it's often a matter of luck but you can increase your chances by following our monthly guide. Which animal can be seen in which months:
April - Early June
Most animals can be spotted in or near the valleys. It's the time for baby bison, baby moose, baby bear, baby elk and many more. Also a good time to spot wolves and grizzly bears. Grizzly sightings occur mostly at night, dawn and dusk. A great grizzly bear spot in spring are the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Gray wolves are often seen in Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley.
Mid-June - August
Many animals leave the valleys and head for higher areas in June/July. However, bison are still there, starting to rut in early August. Warm, great weather but also peak tourist months.
September - October
Animals return to the valleys. Elk rut throughout September. The fascinating rut can be witnessed up-close in Mammoth Hot Springs, near the northern entrance. Together with amazing fall colors it’s one of the best time to view or photograph almost every animal including elk, moose, bighorn as well as wolves and grizzly. Less crowded than in summer.
November - March
Winter, a magical time and least crowded. Most animals are in or near the valleys. Some can be spotted near the steaming geyser basins. Winter is the best time to view wolves. You can also observe bison, elk, bighorn and others. Another great time for photographers, since animals are easier to spot against the snow. Grizzly bears can't be spotted, since they hibernate in winter until mid-March.
Time of Day
The best time of day for wildlife viewing is either dawn or dusk. In general dawn is even superior: Be at the valleys from sunrise till 9 AM. It's also less crowded. However, dusk is also great, particularly for elk viewing in Sept.
Addo is a year-round destination. Best game viewing months are June to September. It is the drier season and elephants gather in numbers around the waterholes. During September and October, many animals give birth to their young ones. This causes an increase in predator activity and a higher chance of spotting.
From September onwards migratory birds arrive from the north like the European stork.
More information about birds in Addo.
It is hot in summer from November to February and cold in winter from June to August. Night temperature can be near freezing. Rain can always occur with two peaks in February/March and October/November. If it is rainy in summer game is not any longer hiding at midday. It is a semi-arid region with little rainfall in total. Best months are April/May and September with mild temperature, and it is mostly dry.
It is a popular destination for tourists and residents. Peak season during summer, especially Christmas holiday and Eastern. Also busier during European summer holidays.
Denali is open year-round. However, main activities and tours are being offered in summer only. Shuttle busses will get you into the wilderness from May 20 until mid-September. Find helpful weather details at: Denali Park Weather Monthly averages here: Climate Denali National Park (switch from C to F at the top right. Keep in mind that the temperatures vary depending on the elevation and the part of the park). Check the Denali Webcam at Wonder Lake and read on for more details about a summer, winter, spring or fall visit:
Mid-May - late May (spring): May is the driest month and the weather starts to get warmer. Average high: 52°F (11°C). Most tours and the shuttle bus service start around mid-May. However, some snow has still to melt. As a result, the deeper parts of the park are often not fully accessible. Rates are low and there are no crowds.
June (late spring, summer): June is also a very dry month and temperatures climb. Average high: 66°F (19°). Flowers are in bloom and you get the most hours of daylight (Sunrise-Sunset Denali). After the first week of June, the park is usually fully accessible. Early June until mid-June is a great time before it starts to get crowded with tourists coming from cruise ships and everywhere else. Drawback: Mosquitoes are an issue from June until end of July.
July (summer): July is the warmest months with temperatures climbing to 70°F (21°C) and still a lot of daylight (18-19 hours). There is slightly more precipitation than in June, but no need to worry about long periods of rain. July is the peak month in terms of visitation. Again, small drawback: Mosquitoes are still an issue.
August (late summer): It's still pleasant. However, temperatures already start to drop slightly but it's still a great month temperature wise. Average high: 62°F (17°C). Also, there are slightly fewer daylight hours in August (16-17 hours). August has the highest average precipitation of all months. However, nothing to worry about. You need to bring rain gear regardless of the month. In terms of visitors, it's still very crowded.
Early September - mid-September (early autumn): As temperatures drop it will be cooler in September and there is also less daylight (11-14 hours). Average high: 50°F (10°C). However, it's still a great month to visit as the temperature is still pleasant and all services are being offered until mid-September. After Labor Day Weekend (beginning of September) the crowds dissipate as well. You'll enjoy a much more peaceful park.
Mid-September - mid-October (autumn) and April - early May (spring): Most services are shut down, restaurants, hotels, and shops are closed from mid-September to mid-May. However, shoulder season can be quite rewarding as you can experience the 'real' Alaska. In the fall temperatures can still be pleasant or already freezing cold in October. Always check the weather forecast. In fall and spring, you need to rent a car as the shuttle service is not available. More helpful details about visiting in shoulder season: Fall and Spring Visit
Late-October - March (winter): It gets freezing cold and it's time for Winter Activities. Including skiing, winter biking and snowshoeing. Temperatures are ranging from -40 degrees Fahrenheit and colder, to high 20s on warm days.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
The summer months experience the highest visitation. Below the visitor stats chart, you can find our tips in order to enjoy a more peaceful visit at Denali National Park.
Shoulder Weeks (late spring/early fall):
To avoid the most crowds at the popular spots (entrance areas, bus tours, visitor centers, famous spots) during peak season, still use the shuttle bus service and enjoy mostly pleasant weather: Visit during either in the very short late spring or early fall season: End of May until mid-June or early September (after Labor Day) until mid-September.
Popular Tours in Shoulder Weeks:
The very popular day tours which do not include hiking like the Tundra Wilderness Tour or the Kantishna Experience Tour are usually fully booked during peak months. During shoulder weeks (see above) there is a good chance that a tour bus is less than half full. That means you can spread out. The tours usually run from mid-May until mid-September (Kantishna from early June until mid-September). Read below for more info on bus tours.
Own Activities / Trail Hiking:
You can avoid crowds in peak season by planning your own activities. And even if you only drive to Savage River (by free bus shuttle or with your own car) for the short hike and to spend time there, you'll avoid tourist groups by starting early. Check the list of trails: Denali Trail Details. Always start early, and you'll avoid the crowds. If you take a shuttle bus: Make an online reservation and book the earliest departure.
Even in the summer, it's quite easy to get away from every group of tourists and spend time in solitude: Book a transit shuttle bus early in the morning departing from the WAC (Wilderness Access Center). Gett off the bus wherever you like and start hiking or walking. Regardless of your fitness level or age! If you feel intimidated, you can stay close to the park road the whole time and still experience stunning wilderness and wildlife. Get back on the bus to WAC whenever you like for free. Find more details about easy off-trail hikes (even short 1-2 hours hikes/walks) below in the hiking and shuttle text section.
The entrance area is always filled with thousands of people in the summer. The same applies to the hotels very close to the entrance (Princes Lodges, Bluffs Hotels, …). The easiest way to avoid those heavily crowded areas is to take advantage of the more quiet lodging alternatives in Healy (17 Minute Drive - Google Maps). You'd need a rental car (UBER is also available now), but the hotels there are also less expensive. Check the best prices and book well ahead: Healy - Recommended Hotels
Wildlife / Flora / Northern Lights
The best time of day to spot wildlife is in the morning or late afternoon/evening. Being on a bus long enough increases your chances. Best season is during the warmer summer months. There is not much wildlife in the winter due to hibernation. Denali also has a rich and amazing flora. Wildflowers begin to bloom in early June till late July. Since the Denali region is almost free light pollution, it's an excellent area to see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). The sky must be dark enough and clear. It's possible to see the Aurora here between mid-August and early-May. However, the highest chance to spot Northern Lights is in March/April and September/October.
Winter is a great season to visit this place but if you aren't bothered by a few hours of afternoon rains then August-September is also a great time to go as there will be less tourists at this time of the year.
Jigokudani (means Hell Valley in Japanese) Monkey Park is open all year round, but they are particularly photogenic when the area is covered in snow. The snow also hides a lot of the man-made pipes and other structures.
The Park is open daily from 8:30 to 17:00 (April to October) and in Winter 9:00 to 16:00 (November to March). Entrance fee is 800 yen ( 6 €) for adults and 400 yen for children in 2017. You can purchase an annual pass or if you are in a large group (more than 20) a group ticket.
You can expect crowds all year around, and it can become very busy. Most people gather at the upper man-made pool where you can find the monkeys (Japanese Macaque) playing in hot water. To make the upper pool more attractive to the monkeys, the park wardens sometimes throw food into it. There are fewer people at the lower pool but also fewer monkeys. You pass it anyway; therefore, you should spend some time there as well.
Tips for Photographers
You can photograph the most natural looking pictures from the staircase at the upper pool, but it is challenging to take pictures without any other visitor on it. At the lower pool, the angle is different, but there is no higher position for an excellent shot.