The best national park webcams can transport visitors from their computers right to the edge of the Grand Canyon, the volcanoes of Hawaii, Alaskan streams full of bears, and the gator-infested waters of the Everglades.
I had planned to make this the ultimate list of every national park webcam in existence. But then I went to view some of those webcams and realized that more than half of them simply do not work anymore. Whether it’s due to budget cuts or the sequester or lack of manpower, the national parks simply don’t make their webcams a priority, so when they go down, they typically aren’t fixed very fast.
As a result, this list is shorter than it could be. But by the same token, it’s an up-to-date collection of webcams that are functioning as of July 2013. So instead of going on a wild goose chase by clicking random links on the NPS’s official webcam list, just scroll down to see links to the webcams that are working properly. Come along on this virtual national park tour!
Yosemite (Yosemite Falls)
Check out the tallest waterfall in North America! There’s not too much to see, just the steady flow of water and some trees blowing in the wind. Don’t click the button in the lower left corner of the video stream – it’s supposed to enable full-screen view but instead stops the stream entirely.
Yosemite webcam: http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/webcams/yosemite-falls
Katmai (Brooks Falls)
Brooks Falls is where bears gather to eat salmon in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. More than 100 bears descend on this one-mile stretch of river. On a recent Saturday, I tuned in and watched no fewer than eight bears in the water waiting patiently for a fish feast. A couple snagged fish in their mouths as the video continued. For seeing live action, this webcam is one of your best bets.
Katmai webcam: http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls
Everglades (Anhinga Trail)
The Anhinga Trail is perhaps the best place to see alligators in the Everglades. The NPS smartly set up a webcam right on the trail. Unfortunately, it’s too high and doesn’t show any dry land, so good luck trying to catch a glimpse of any gators from this view.
Everglades webcam: http://www.video-monitoring.com/everglades/royalpalm/
Grand Canyon (Yavapai Point)
This one shows you the beauty of the Grand Canyon, although it presents refreshed still images rather than a constant stream. On the plus side, the webcam provides detailed info such as air temperature, visibility, winds, air pollution levels, and more.
Grand Canyon webcam: http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/webcams/parks/grcacam/grcacam.cfm#
Yellowstone (Old Faithful)
Watch the famous Old Faithful geyser blow its top every 91 minutes. Don’t expect a front row seat, because the webcam is way off in the distance. However, this cam actually appears to have a human behind it, because the view will periodically move and zoom to focus in on other geothermal activity in the area.
Yellowstone webcam: http://www.nps.gov/features/yell/live/live4.htm
I like to think I’m knowledgeable about all the national parks, but I know little about Capital Reef. It gets overshadowed by those other famous parks in Utah. But when it comes to webcams, Capital Reef has one of the best. It takes a still image every 10 minutes, but the real fun comes when you press Play and see all the images from the past hour, day, week or month (your choice) played back in time-lapse fashion.
Capital Reef webcam: http://timecam.tv/view_archive.aspx?C=56FDAFMIE35A
Hawaii Volcanoes (Mauna Loa)
The webcams in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park provide panoramic views that gives viewers a wider range of sight than most of the other NPS cams. Still, there’s not a lot going on at the summits of these volcanoes. Mauna Loa sometimes gets snow in the winter months, though, so that’s something to look forward to.
Mauna Loa webcam: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/cams/panorama.php?cam=MLcam
Kilauea webcam: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/cams/panorama.php?cam=KIcam
Like the Grand Canyon cam, this webcam does not provide streaming video but instead simply updates with new still photos every few minutes. So it’s probably not the best webcam to follow, unless you love staring endlessly at pics of green forests.
Smoky Mountains webcam: http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/webcams/parks/grsmpkcam/grsmpkcam.cfm
Do you ever watch national park webcams?