The Cutest Animal In Every National Park: Acadia to Guadalupe Mountains

Next month I have a quick story running on Backpacker‘s website: THE TOP TEN CUTEST ANIMALS IN OUR NATIONAL PARKS.

This is a dangerous task. If I screw the list up the internet will basically destroy me, so I decided to first choose the cutest animal in every national park using the following rules:

1.) Smaller is cuter.

2.) Fatter is cuter.

3.) Fluffier is cuter.

4.) The animal must be native.

5.) NO SNAKES. Snakes are not cute.

6.) In the end, the list is completely arbitrary.

The final list is possibly mankind’s greatest achievement: this is my Pieta, my Sistine Chapel, my In Search of Lost Time. It is simply too important not to share. Since I don’t want to spoil the final TOP 10 list, I’ve marked those that made final selection as REDACTED. You’ll have just have to read the article when it comes out (which I’ll link to HERE and on the Lesser Places homepage).


Acadia: REDACTED


American Samoa: Humpback Whale

 Photo Credit: NOAA

You wish you were big enough to give a humpback whale a hug.


Arches: Desert Cottontail

Photo Credit: Andrew Kuhn/NPS

Would you have really been upset if this entire list had just been rabbits?


Badlands: Black Tailed Prairie Dog

Photo Credit: Brocken Inaglory

There is no love purer than prairie dog love.


Big Bend: Javelina

Photo Credit: Ed Ouimette

Sure, Javelinas do attack people and pets occasionally, but their babies look cute all of the time.


Biscayne: REDACTED


Black Canyon of the Gunnison: Mule Deer

Photo Credit: USFWS

This mule deer might be caught out in the cold, but it melted my heart.


Bryce Canyon: REDACTED


Canyonlands: REDACTED


Capitol Reef: Striped Skunk

Photo Credit: Alison Wardman

Maybe skunks really just need more hugs.


Carlsbad Caverns: Ornate box turtle

Photo Credit: Patrick Feller

The name might be a little pretentious, but that’s not really the turtle’s fault, is it?


Channel Islands: Island Fox

Photo Credit: NPS

These little guys are are critical to the local ecosystem. More importantly: they love posing for over the shoulder pictures.


Congaree: Eastern Screech Owl

Photo Credit: NPS

The name doesn’t do it any favors, but one thing is true: this big ball of fluff is freaking cute.


Crater Lake: Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Photo Credit: Eborutta

“DON’T YOU DARE QUESTION MY CUTENESS.”


Cuyahoga Valley: American Beaver

Photo Credit: Stevehdc, flickr

Though once extirpated throughout the park, American beavers are making an amazing comeback throughout the Cuyahoga Valley. That’s lucky for us, because now we can spend all day staring at their fat little faces.


Death Valley: REDACTED


Denali: Caribou

Photo Credit: Jacob W. Frank/NPS

Yes, caribou are big and intimidating; however, they cuddle all winter to stay warm. What could be cuter than that?


Dry Tortugas: Masked Booby

Photo Credit: Drew Avery

There are few things sadder in the world than knowing this masked booby will grow up to be less fluffy.


Everglades: American Alligator

Photo Credit: USGS
Photo Credit: USGS

This little guy wants to eat your heart out.


Gates of the Arctic: Arctic Ground Squirrel

Photo Credit: NPS
Photo Credit: NPS

No wonder arctic ground squirrels can hibernate all winter—just looking at them makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.


Glacier: Mountain Goat

Photo Credit: USFWS

Goats? Cute. Goats with beards? Impossibly cute.


Glacier Bay: Harbor Seal

Photo Credit: Andreas Trepte

“My smile is cuter than your smile.”


Grand Canyon: California Condor

Photo Credit: USFWS

Is it possible to be so ugly that you are actually cute?


Grand Teton: Short-Tailed Weasel

Photo Credit: Ken Law

Its hard to forgive the short-tailed weasel for eating another star of this list, REDACTED, but then you look at that face and all is forgiven.


Great Basin: Pygmy Rabbit

Photo Credit: BLM

Do tiny rabbits eat tiny plants?


Great Sand Dunes: Ord’s Kangaroo Rat

Photo Credit: NPS

Do kangaroo rats fill their cheeks with seeds so they can eat later or so they can look cute now? No one knows.


Great Smokey Mountains: Black Bear

Photo Credit: USFWS

“Do you need a hug? You look like you need a hug.”


Guadalupe Mountains: Gray Fox

Photo Credit: James Marvin Phelps

If you don’t find the gray fox cute you are probably a terrible person.


CHECK CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO: Haleakalā to Mount Rainer

4 thoughts on “The Cutest Animal In Every National Park: Acadia to Guadalupe Mountains

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