Webcams provide us with windows on the world. They allow armchair travelers to follow activity outside a Dublin pub, monitor traffic on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, and check on what’s happening at the International Space Station. Webcams also provide windows on nature, some of the best of which comes by way of cameras stationed in our national parks.
Below are ten of our favorite sites for viewing activities and scenery in our national parks (click on the park's name to go to their webcam sites). Most provide access to several webcams that cover a range of impressive views throughout a park. For example, eight webcams in Glacier National Park offer views from both the east and west sides of the park. A streaming webcam in Yellowstone allows viewers to follow Old Faithful’s eruptions in real time. A cam on the Statue of Liberty torch focuses on the picturesque New York skyline.
Webcam junkies will be familiar with the occasional electrical or mechanical problems that can result in downtime, sometimes for extended periods. Repairing the cameras is not always a high priority on a park’s maintenance list. In addition, cameras in remote locations or locations with particularly severe winters may occasionally be taken out of service.
Views from many of the Western parks vary depending upon the season. Rugged summer mountain peaks become majestic snow-covered mountains during the heart of winter. Snow and ice may occasionally adhere to the camera lens and obscure views during winter months. Still, viewing a location like Mount Rainier’s Paradise area in February can be awesome on a clear day.
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon
The site offers three webcams, the best of which shows a section of Crater Lake that includes Wizard Island. Another cam provides a view of the park’s Annie Springs Entrance off Hwy 62.
During winter the webcam focused toward the Steel Visitor Center is likely to display the building buried in snow. This isn’t surprising because this national park annually averages over 44 feet of snow that remains visible much of the year. Portions of Rim Road that circles beautiful Crater Lake may close in October and not open until late June. A link near the bottom of the page provides access to additional webcams of Rim Village and Crater Lake.
Glacier National Park in Montana
This Internet site provides access to eight webcams scattered throughout one of our favorite national parks. We regularly check the webcams at Apgar Village and park headquarters on Glacier’s west side, especially during winter when the snow piles up. At Apgar you can watch a Park Service ranger raise and lower the American flag each day. An occasional snowman may appear near headquarters when conditions are right. The cams at Lake McDonald, Two Medicine, and Apgar Lookout provide spectacular views during good weather.
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
The Tetons are considered by many travelers to be the most picturesque mountain range in the lower 48 states. This site offers three webcams, one with views of the Teton Range from West Gros Ventre Butte. A second cam provides a view of Climbers Ranch, a lodging facility for mountain climbers near Jenny Lake. The third webcam offers a view from Lost Creek Ranch on the east side of the park. The Tetons are especially beautiful at sunrise on a clear morning.
Lassen Volcanic National Park in California
This scenic and uncrowded northern California park has been one of our favorite stops since our first visit in the early 1970s. Even many Californians don’t seem to know much about Lassen which is fine by us. The site offers three webcams in different areas of the park. The view of Lassen Peak from the Manzanita Lake area is particularly spectacular. Lassen last erupted in 1915. Another cam offers a good view to the north from the visitor center.
The amount of winter snowfall in this park is amazing.
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington
The Mount Rainier site provides access to six webcams in the Paradise area and one in the Longmire area where park headquarters is located. During summer, a webcam provides views of the Sunrise area. Paradise offers spectacular views of picturesque Mount Rainier during summer and some amazing views during the winter when 70 to 90 feet of snow can cover most of historic Paradise Inn.
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
This busy Colorado park offers four webcams, including one that provides a view of the park’s best-known feature, 14,259-foot high Longs Peak. A seasonal cam at the Alpine Visitor Center offers views of Fall River Canyon and the Mummy Mountains. Another webcam on the park’s west side provides a view of the Never Summer Range where the Colorado River begins.
Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York Harbor
Access to five interactive webcams (zoom in and out) at the Statue of Liberty requires a one-time log in. Four of the webcams are located in the Statue’s torch, with one offering a view inside the torch, an area closed to the general public. Another focuses downward toward the ground where visitors may be walking. One webcam is aimed across the harbor to show the New York City skyline, an amazingly beautiful scene on a clear night. A panoramic harbor view is available on another cam. The fifth cam, located in Brooklyn, provides a full view of the Statue of Liberty and frequently shows boats chugging by or airplanes flying over.
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
The Yellowstone site opens windows on the world's first national park and includes a live-streaming webcam of Old Faithful Geyser, along with other steaming geysers in the background. An eruption of another geyser or the appearance of bison will likely cause the webcam to change direction and focus for a better view. Two additional webcams in the Old Faithful area include one that provides a view of Upper Geyser Basin. The site also includes webcams at Mammoth Hot Springs near the park’s northern entrance and in the Mount Washburn area.
Yosemite National Park in California
Yosemite has one of the best national park webcam sites with seven webcams providing views of this popular park. The majority of webcams are focused on features in the valley, such as Upper Yosemite Falls. Half Dome can be seen in three webcams: viewed from the valley floor‘s east side; from an elevation of 8,000 feet with the surrounding mountains; and with El Capitan in the foreground. The scenes are especially beautiful when scenery glistens in the afternoon sun. Additional webcams are on Turtleback Dome looking to the west of the valley and near the Merced River at Happy Isles. The park’s concessionaire operates a webcam that offers a good view of the Badger Pass Ski Area.
Zion National Park in Utah
The main webcam showcases spectacular Towers of the Virgin northwest of the park’s visitor center near the town of Springdale. The view is particularly outstanding during the morning when a giant shadow slides slowly down the eastern facing sandstone cliffs. First-time visitors to Zion are typically amazed by the park’s outstanding beauty that compares favorably to Yosemite Valley, but without the crowds. Several additional national park sites offer interesting webcam views. A webcam positioned at Yavapai Point offers an excellent view of the Grand Canyon. This is best viewed during the morning or late afternoon when shadows highlight the rugged canyon walls.
Alaska’s Denali National Park has a webcam focused on the railroad depot and another providing a view of the area in which the visitor center is located. At Glacier Bay National Park, on clear days you can glimpse the Fairweather Range. A webcam at Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky Visitor Center provides a panoramic view of the La Sal Mountain peaks.
As more and more national parks add webcams, you can take virtual vacations, but we hope the views will encourage you to show up in the parks in person.