Pacific gray whales swim multiple marathons along the West Coast twice a year, covering 10,000 to 12,000 miles round trip. Monarch butterflies flap their orange-and-black wings from northern regions in North America to Mexico, defying their typically short life spans to complete the journey. Sandhill cranes can fly daily distances equal to the drive from Washington to New York — honking included. Elk navigate rough, mountainous terrain for valleys with a more accessible buffet. And tarantulas set their hairy legs in motion, crossing patches of desert and roads in the name of love.
Animal migrations are the most epic form of travel. The birds, bugs and mammals traverse large swaths of land or water (and sometimes both) and face life-threatening obstacles, all in the name of species survival. Unlike humans, they can’t cancel their trips or rebook for next year. Though the times and routes may vary due to weather, environmental factors and other variables, the animals will hit the road, moving between their summer and winter grounds.
Since you can’t catch a ride on a whale flipper or a butterfly wing, consider your second-best option: observing the migrating masses at certain points along the route or during their pit stops. Or, if you have a migratory nature, combine both.
This article shows you where you can see the creatures as well as attend festivals and special events that cheer on the visitors as they fly, paddle, trek or crawl their way to the finish line.