28 Best National Parks in the USA to Visit

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Lower Falls from Artist Point, Yellowstone National Park

Are you aiming to explore the United States’ incredible landscapes? Well, do it through its national park system. Here are the best national parks in the USA.

The United States has an incredible 63 national parks; each designated park is a particular area set aside by Congress to be protected from development.

Thanks to the national park system, the best examples of this country’s natural beauty are preserved for visitors and for American flora and fauna to thrive unchecked.

These parks come in all shapes and sizes, with different climates and terrain, such as an island, a mountain range, or a desert spanning thousands of acres.

Best National Parks in America to Visit

1. Yellowstone National Park

Best National Parks in the USA

Yellowstone National Park is the nation’s first national park. Established in 1872, Yellowstone is located mainly in Wyoming but includes parts of Idaho and Montana.

It has about 2,200 lakes and a wide variety of wildlife, such as bears, wolves, bison, elk, deer, and many others. The park is one of America’s most visited national parks. An average of 3 million people visit Yellowstone National Park every year, the summers being the busiest.

Yellowstone features a range of things to see,e like the many geysers and hot springs that Yellowstone is famous for. Old Faithful Geyser is one of Yellowstone’s most popular tourist attractions – it gets its name from how often its water erupts, which can be as frequently as every 30 minutes!

Visitors can rent boats to go out on Lake Yellowstone, where many parks surround the lake. Hiking, boating, and fishing are popular activities that many people enjoy in Yellowstone. Like what you are hearing? Use our full Yellowstone National Park itinerary to plan the perfect trip.

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2. Badlands National Park

Layered Rock Formations

Badlands National Park in South Dakota protects 242,756 acres of sharp-sided buttes and pinnacles along with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. The National Park Service manages the park with the Oglala Lakota tribe.

The Badlands Wilderness is where endangered species like black-footed ferrets have been reintroduced to this designated wilderness area.

The South Unit, or Stronghold District, includes sites of 1890s Ghost Dances, a former United States Air Force bombing and gunnery range, and the famous Red Shirt Table Overlook.

The park also administers the nearby Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, one of the USA’s first quick-response ICBM nuclear missiles. Fun fact: the movies Dances with Wolves (1990) and Thunderheart (1992) were partially filmed in Badlands National Park.

In 1868, at the Second Treaty of Fort Laramie, the United States assured the Sioux that this land would be theirs forever. The treaty allowed natives to farm and mine the area, but were evicted without compensation in 1889.

The Supreme Court ruled this unlawful almost a century later, in 1980, for incredible views of rugged beauty and a perfect example of America’s complicated history.

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3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mountains Covered in Fog

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a vast mountain range that stretches across North Carolina and Tennessee, and by the number of yearly visitors, it is the most visited national park in the country.

The northeastern part of Tennessee is home to the highest mountains in eastern North America, including Clingman Dome, Mount Guyot, and Mount Le Conte. The Appalachian Trail crosses through the park on its 828-mile route from Georgia to Maine.

The Great Smoky Mountains are outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina. Along with hosting 12.5 million visitors each year, it is one of the country’s largest protected areas, with a size of 560.5 square miles. This popular park has many great Great Smoky Mountain hotels, camping, hiking trails, and mountain biking opportunities.

This park has impressive panoramas of the mountains, enchanting waterfalls, and lush green forests. This area is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations for camping, hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and more.

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4. Death Valley National Park

Dry Mountain Range

This park was named after Death Valley, a valley near the park’s eastern border that lies below sea level, although the park itself is not below sea level. The land within the park boundaries ranges from Badwater to over the Panamint Mountains.

Death Valley National Park has one of the longest histories of continuous human occupation. Archaeological studies have found evidence of the ancestors of modern Native Americans.

Death Valley includes three segments of land: Death Valley, Panamint Valley, and Eureka Valley. It straddles the California-Nevada border across from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in southern Alta California.

The park protects the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert, a diverse desert region characterized by salt flats and dunes. It is most notable for its lowest point of 90% below sea level, Badwater Basin.

This is the 5th largest in the country, and without a doubt, it’s the hottest; this region recorded a record-busting air temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celcius), making it the hottest place on Earth. It’s worth noting that Death Valley also held the previous record for the hottest place on Earth!

If you visit, it is a land of superlatives: it contains the lowest (Badwater) and highest (Borax Flat) points in North America and recorded more rainfall than anywhere else. So, it’s technically the hottest and wettest place in North America!

The Badwater is also home to the darkest place in the United States, as it was designated as a dark sky park by the International Dark-Sky Association. In addition, it is one of only a few national parks which border another country (Mexico).

Death Valley also meets with Joshua Tree National Park at the southern boundaries. Joshua Tree National Park has a similar environment except for more hiking trails and crowds.

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5. Denali National Park

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Denali National Park is unlike any other park in America. When you enter the park, your views change from a treeless desert to an arctic tundra. At 6 million acres, it is bigger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined.

The park was named after the Denali mountain (the high one), as dubbed by Alaska Natives who revere the mountain as a sacred place. This area is a preserve for many wildlife, including Dall sheep, bears, and moose. It also offers many recreational opportunities in its mountain ranges and national preserves.

Formerly opened in 1917 as McKinley National Park (the mountain was also known as Mount McKinley), the park was officially renamed in 2015 to reflect the heritage of Alaska’s native population.

Denali was also the first national park above the Arctic Circle, nicknamed “The Land of the Midnight Sun.” Denali is home to a plethora of wildlife and outdoor excursions like flightseeing tours, Denali hiking tours, hiking trails, rafting adventuresbeautiful cabins, great places to stay, and incredible rail tours.

The park is located in an area with access to larger commercial centers with a population of approximately 75,000, including Northway, Cantwell, and Healy. Like what you are hearing? Check out this list of the best things to do in Denali National Park.

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6. Indiana Dunes National Park

Toddler leaning on a Rail of a Long Stair

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a sandy lakeshore that stretches across parts of northwest Indiana and represents nearly 550 acres of the only undeveloped dune formations in the Great Lakes Region. The park is named for its location on Lake Michigan’s southern shoreline and has more than dunes, swales, bogs, ponds, streams, and savanna.

The National Lakeshore’s dunes provide the world’s largest continuous natural dune formation on land protected by the park system. The dunes themselves vary from underwater to foredune and back dunes.

As you drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline on East River Drive, you will see a range of animal habitats, including beaches, marshes, woodlands, and freshwater bogs. A range of animal species inhabits these ecosystems, including migratory birds and mammals such as white-tailed deer, coyote, fox, and beaver.

It runs through the park for approximately 18 miles on the county’s western edge and encompasses all or part of fourteen municipalities, including Chesterton, Portage, and Burns Harbor. The National Lakeshore is a popular recreational destination for hiking; there are many fantastic trails to hike, including the National Scenic Trail and the famous Dunes Trail.

See this national monument’s website for more information on visitor services & fees. The park service provides public access to National Lakeshore trails and Indiana Dunes State Park, which has horseback riding and bicycling trails.

The National Lakeshore is about 5 miles north of Chicago in northwest Indiana’s Calumet Region. The park’s northern section can be reached via exit #123 off Interstate 80. Additionally, it is accessible from exit #60 of Interstate 90 near Hammond.

The National Lakeshore’s main office is on Michigan Road in Porter, Indiana. The park’s northern half can be reached from U.S. Highway 12 (Dunes Highway). Unfortunately, national lakeshore visitors have no public transportation options; however, car rental services are available in Valparaiso, Michigan City, and downtown Chicago.

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7. Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota offers a sprawling chain of lakes unique from other parks. It also shares a border with another country, Canada, specifically the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.

Voyageurs was founded to preserve America’s northern freshwater lakes, waterways, and landscape. One of the great things about Voyageurs National Park is that it is located outside of International Falls, a charming town in northeastern Minnesota near fifteen other lakes and the Rainy River. From there, you can explore much more!

Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is a favorite destination for canoe trips and one of North America’s most popular parks. The park features visitors from across the globe, many coming for bird watching, hiking, and kayaking.

Canoeing is the most popular activity here, and there are plenty of opportunities to take a canoe or kayak tour in various parts of the park.

You don’t need to only visit in the summer; during the winter, you can participate in dog sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The park has a gathering spot where children and adults alike can learn more about the area, its history, and its native animal species.

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8. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Falls Surrounded with Nature

Cuyahoga Valley National Park preserves the rural landscape of Northeast Ohio and encompasses around 30,000 acres. This national park has the highest concentration of cultural sites.

Approximately 20,000 documented archaeological sites are throughout the national park and national historic district. The park was established in 1974 to protect the spectacular gorge of Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie shoreline features, including waterfalls, cliffs, and beaches.

The park is named for the Cuyahoga River that drains Lake Erie and then flows through Cleveland and into Lake Erie. Cuyahoga Valley is home to over 1,500 plant and animal species, including bobcats, coyotes, waterfowl, and fish.

This region offers excellent hiking – the Ohio & Erie Canal National Historic Park provides hiking along a reconstructed portion of the National Canal and offers picnic areas and camping opportunities.

Several festival events throughout the year, such as Canal Fulton Days, a fall arts & crafts show. See Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s website for more visitor services and fee information.

The park is about 45 miles south of Akron in Northeast Ohio, and the main office is 749 Darrow Road Peninsula, Ohio 44264. The park can be reached from state routes 8 or 303 via exit #9 off Interstate 77 near Boston Corners/Ravenna and has two visitor centers: Canal Visitor Center and Locks 1-5 Visitor Center.

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9. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is the USA’s 15th national park site. The park’s central feature is the Grand Canyon, an immense gorge through which flows the Colorado River. The park is located in northwestern Arizona, about 277 miles north of Phoenix.

Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919 and covered over 1.2 million acres of unincorporated area in Coconino and Mohave counties. Features of the Grand Canyon include spectacular canyons, plateaus, buttes, and multi-colored rock layers. The park is also home to more than 1,400 species of plants and animals.

The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, making it one of the most famous national parks in the world and one of the most popular vacation spots in the United States.

The South Rim includes visitor facilities, including lodging in cabins, restaurants, and coffee shops. In addition, the park is well-known for its excellent scenic drive that takes you to a few points of interest. Visit the NPS website to get a map of the Grand Canyon before your visit. Check out our full Grand Canyon itinerary to help you plan your visit.

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10. Glacier National Park

Mountain Reflecting on a River

Montana’s Glacier National Park is one of the most visited parks in America, with more than 1 million acres and 130 lakes. This vast, pristine ecosystem is the centerpiece of what has been referred to as the “Crown of the Continent Ecosystem,” a protected land encompassing 16,000 square miles (41,000 km2) and home to more than 1,400 species of plants and animals.

Until the late 1800s, the Blackfeet tribe dominated the east of this region, and the Flathead tribe was prevalent in the western areas. Both tribes still maintain a presence to this day. Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana, about 150 miles west of the Canadian border.

Glacier National Park features include mountains, lakes, and waterfalls, protecting much of the northern Rocky Mountain range. The park is named for its 150 or so glaciers, remnants of the last ice age. Sadly they are now shrinking due to global climate change, so the opportunities to see them are dwindling (unless we get our act together).

This park also features a scenic drive that takes you by several points of interest, including St. Mary Lake. The park also has visitor facilities, including lodging in cabins, campgrounds, restaurants, and coffee shops. Like what you are hearing? Plan your trip by checking out Billings, Montana.

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11. Kenai Fjords National Park

Mountain and Skyline View

Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the world (and probably one of the most beautiful places on the planet). The park is located in the southern Seward Peninsula of south-central Alaska, about 12 miles southwest of Seward, and can be reached via Exit Glacier from State Route 11. The central feature of this region is the complex of glacial fjords in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

The park is located in the Chugach Mountains region of south-central Alaska, about 180 miles southwest of Anchorage, near Seward (the site of Exit Glacier). More than 4 million visitors come to Kenai Fjords each year.

Kenai Fjords National Park offers a range of scenery and life forms. It is home to more than 1,400 species of plants and animals. This park protects a large chunk of southeastern Alaska, the glacial fjords, and glaciers in this part of the world. It’s one of the best places to visit in the U.S. for a good reason.

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12. Acadia National Park

Trees, Skyline, and River Scenery

If a challenging day hike is what you’re looking for, then you need to experience the natural beauty of Mount Desert Island, Maine, within Acadia National Park. Southwest of Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park preserves about half of this mountainous island – part of Isle au Haut and portions of 16 smaller outlying islands.

Since Acadia National Park was first established in 1916, seaside campgrounds have been developed. Many other great places along Acadia in Maine include gorgeous bed and breakfasts, lodges, and hotels.

The park is located in Maine, about 160 miles northeast of Portland and about 60 miles southwest of Bangor, and preserves nearly half of Mount Desert Island and its outlying islands, including Isle au Haut.

Acadia National Park‘s attractions include Cadillac Mountain, a dormant volcano, and the highest point on the Atlantic coast. The park also has a scenic drive that takes you by a few points of interest, including Bubble Rock, a vast boulder perched on a ledge 200 feet above the sea.

If you love lighthouses, you will also love Acadia, as its seaside lighthouses offer some of the most scenic views no matter the time of year. Also, if you’re up for a scenic day hike, the park has plenty of trails, including the Precipice Trail, the Jordan Cliffs Trail, and the South Bubble Trail.

If you desire a more challenging hike, you’ll want to check out the trails on Mount Desert Island. The most popular courses include the Cadillac Mountain Summit Trail, the Dorr Mountain Summit Trail, and the Beech Mountain Summit Trail.

Some of the most popular beaches include Sand Beach, Otter Cliff Beach, and Thunder Hole Beach, which is also an excellent place for wildlife watching. The park is home to more than 60 species of mammals and more than 200 species of birds.

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13. Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park is located in central Garland County, Arkansas. It was created by the United States Congress on April 20, 1832, for recreational purposes, primarily to preserve its natural beauty and hot spring water for bathing and medicinal purposes.

For centuries, Native American tribes (correctly) believed the water had medicinal benefits, and it became a subject of legend among them. Following federal protection in 1832, Hot Springs sprung up and was incorporated in 1851, garnering much appeal as a spa town.

It became known in the early 20th century for training Major League Baseball teams and illegal gambling during Prohibition. It also served as a getaway for the notorious gangster Al Capone.

Hot Springs National Park is one of the oldest parks, making it America’s first-ever non-official national park and our National Park Service’s unofficial birthplace. The park features a scenic drive that takes you by several points of interest, including the Old Mill and Park Headquarters.

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14. Rocky Mountain National Park

Mountain and Sky Mirroring on a Lake

Rocky Mountain National Park is a mountainous wilderness open to the public and located near Denver, Colorado. The park’s western side belongs entirely to the USA and the eastern half to Canada.

The headwaters of the Colorado River are in the Rocky Mountains, while its southwestern region has peaks that reach 14,259 feet high. Today, millions of people visit this park every year.

To further preserve the park, Rocky Mountain National Park has a 4.5 million person annual visitation limit and five visitor centers, including the Beaver Meadows Visitor Centre, a National Historic Landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin School of Architecture.

National forest lands surround the greater area to the north and east (Roosevelt National Forest), northwest (Routt National Forest), and west-south-west (Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest).

The Rocky Mountains are also home to the largest unspoiled ecosystem in Colorado, with over 700 miles of hiking trails and 40 campgrounds. Activities here include horseback riding, car tours, snowshoeing, and wildlife viewing. The best time for viewing wildlife is during the fall and spring.

Consider renting a bike from Estes Park to Nederland via Bear Lake Road, about 14 miles long. The route takes you through the forests and meadows of the East Flat Creek section. In Nederland, try their famous street known as ‘The Grade,’ a steep climb up to Ward or Blue Lakes.

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15. Yosemite National Park

Tall Falls

Yosemite National Park is an American national park in Northern California, surrounded on the southeast by Sierra National Forest and on the northwest by Stanislaus National Forest. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, and giant sequoia groves.

Also, lakes, mountains, meadows, and glaciers. 95% of the park has designated wilderness. Yosemite is one of the most significant and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, which is an ideal destination to travel to if you’re a wildlife lover.

The park has an elevation range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet and contains five major vegetation zones: Chaparral and Oak woodland, Lower Montane Forest, Upper Montane Forest, and the Subalpine Zone. Yosemite has a total area of 761,266 acres. National forest lands surround the park, and grazing permits are not required for farmers or ranchers.

The park is home to about 1,400 species of flowering plants, 250 species of birds, 59 mammal species, and 58 reptile and amphibian species that include a few threatened or endangered species, such as grizzly bears, the black-footed ferrets (the first captive breeding program was established here), the Merced flycatcher, and the Yosemite toad which is listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Also, the park is home to mountain lions, black bears, deer, California condors, golden-mantled ground squirrels, and Le Conte’s thrushes that breed here.

The park has three main entrances: Arch Rock, Big Oak Flat, and South Entrance, with roads leading to granite cliffs that reach up to 2,400 feet (732 meters). The park has two roads: Badger Pass Road and Glacier Point Road.

Many waterfalls in Yosemite, especially along Bridalveil Creek, flow toward El Portal. Glaciers shaped the landscape, creating waterfalls as U-shaped valleys and lakes.

Yosemite’s most popular attractions include Glacier Point, Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall, and Vernal Fall (the tallest in the park at 317 feet). In contrast, others include El Capitan, Sentinel Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Horsetail Falls. Yosemite is a major tourist attraction with nearly 3.7 million visitors and is considered the best national park in California.

16. Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a park in Virginia that has been classified as a national wilderness area that covers most of the Blue Ridge Mountains and part of the Virginia Piedmont. Shenandoah National Park was established on June 15, 1935, and is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi.

The Shenandoah River borders the eastern side, with the park’s one main road, Skyline Drive, running along much of its length on top from Front Royal to Waynesboro. The highest peak is Hawksbill Mountain at 4,051 feet (1,235 m). The park has a total area of 83,760 acres (334.4 km2)

This national park features forested mountainsides and deep gorge valleys, through which rivers flow, and is home to over 1500 species of flowering plants, including dogwoods, rhododendrons, azaleas, and orchids.

Key features of the park include a very diverse wildlife population, including deer and black bears, along with smaller populations of coyotes, mice, and mountain lions. More than 600 species of birds have been seen here, including a red-tailed hawk and barred owls.

Shenandoah is also where the famous white-tailed deer were reintroduced in the eastern U.S. During the spring months of April and May; the park features one of the best displays of wildflowers on Skyline Drive.

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17. Gateway Arch National Park

Big Metallic Arch and Skyline

The Gateway Arch National Park is a national monument and park in Saint Louis, Missouri, near the beginning of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The memorial commemorates three historical events significant to America’s western expansion: the Louisiana Purchase, the first civil government west of the Mississippi River, and the Dred Scott slavery lawsuit.

St. Louis’s iconic steel arch has been the centerpiece of its national park since 1965. In addition to this landmark, the park is home to other historic sites like Dred Scott Court and St. Louis’ old courthouse, where visitors can learn about Missouri statehood, the painful history of slavery, and the justice system in its early days.

The Gateway Arch was initially envisioned in 1935, and its surrounding area became a national park 30 years later when the arch was completed in 1965. Riding to the top of the arch offers unparalleled views of St. Louis.

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18. Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah near the town of Springdale. The park has many prominent features, including Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and 2,640 feet deep.

The canyon’s lowest point is 3,666 feet, and the highest peak reaches 8,726 feet. Located at the junction of three geographically diverse regions, this park features a variety of wildlife with unusual plant and animal diversity.

The park is home to 289 species of birds, 75 mammals (including 19 types of bats), 32 reptiles, and many plants. Zion is a place of outstanding natural beauty with mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, and slot canyons.

Human habitation began 8,000 years ago with groups of Native Americans, including the semi-nomadic Basketmaker Anasazi (c. 300 CE). As the Basketmakers settled in permanent communities, large groups arrived to share their knowledge and trade with them.

By 1300, the Virgin Anasazi culture (c. 500) and Parowan Fremont group had left these settlements and were replaced by new arrivals: the Parrusits and a few other Southern Paiute subtribes. In 1858, Mormons settled at the newly platted Virgin City.

Millions of years ago, this area was covered by various water bodies, such as warm shallow seas, streams, and lakes.

The region also saw vast deserts and dry near-shore environments taking shape around that time. Since then (but still millions of years ago), tectonic movement caused the region to rise 10,000 ft.

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19. Bryce Canyon National Park

Ranging Rock Formations

The Bryce National Park is located in southwestern Utah, featuring exciting rock formations called hoodoos resulting from frost weathering and stream erosion over thousands of years.

The park’s namesake, Bryce Canyon, and Rainbow Point are the most famous hoodoos. Bryce is located in Garfield County with few park services within the park boundaries.

Only two of Utah’s national parks contain a developed (and paid) campground: Arches and Bryce Canyon. Most visitors use the more developed Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park as a base for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon’s Navajo name is Tseh cho oo seltani, which means “cave house of the great splendor.” This Utah national park was established in 1928 and covered 63,000 acres (25,000 ha) in southern Utah.

The rock formations’ red, orange, and white hues provide spectacular views for park visitors. Bryce Canyon is smaller than nearby Zion National Park and sits at a higher elevation as the rim varies from 8,000 feet to 9,000 feet.

Bryce Canyon has a wide variety of wildlife, including many bird species and small animals such as rodent squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks. Other species include large mammals such as mule deer, coyotes, and mountain lions. Bryce Canyon doesn’t see as many visitors as other parks due to its remoteness and lack of amenities, but it’s still well worth the visit.

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20. Big Bend National Park

Man Canoeing on a River Between Rock Formations

Big Bend National Park is located in southwest Texas, which borders Mexico. The largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology, the park was initially named after a bend in the Rio Grande River.

This large park protects over 1,200 plant species, over 450 bird species, such as roadrunners and the raven (a common symbol for Big Bend National Park), 56 reptile species, and 75 mammal species, such as coyotes, elk, and deer. Smaller mammals include skunks, raccoons, and bats, which are common in desert areas.

This park includes breathtaking opportunities for scenic drives, tour programs led by park rangers, and stargazing. There is a rich amount of native history and culture close by, with ruins from nearly 10,000 years ago and petroglyphs over 3,500 years old.

The monument was officially declared a national park on August 10, 1944. Big Bend has been dubbed a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site of “IUCN – Category II Special Biosphere Reserve, Santa Elena” since 1988 and was reclassified on October 29, 2010, to the new UNESCO World Heritage Site status as “IUCN – Category VI.”

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21. Grand Teton National Park

Green Trees, Mountain Range, and Skyline

Grand Teton National Park is one of the most visited parks in America, and among its significant peaks is the 40-mile (64 km) long Teton Range of mountains. The name was given to it by early 19th-century French-speaking trappers who called them les Trois Tétons.

This later became shortened to Tetons, and so it remains today. A place that truly deserves the title of one of the world’s awe-inspiring natural features, the Tetons are less than 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Yellowstone National Park.

It can be accessed by driving along the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway that connects the two parks. The national park was established in 1929 and is managed by the National Park Service. Grand Teton National Park covers an area of 3,468 square miles.

The park receives over 5 million recreational visitors yearly, most during summer, and is home to different mammals, including deer, elk, moose, and bison. Other species include bears and other animals such as chipmunks, skunks, otters, and porcupines.

Unlike many public lands, Jackson Hole’s valley remained private until 1930. Conservationists led by John D. Rockefeller Jr. began purchasing land in Jackson Hole to be added to the existing park.

The Tetons have many things to offer to those interested in wildlife viewing, hiking, and rock climbing, and they also have programs such as ranger walks and talks, bird-watching tours, and wild hikes.

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22. Arches National Park

Red Rock Arch Formation

In the east of Utah, you will find Arches National Park, home to 2,000 natural sandstone arches. Famous arches in this park include the incredible Delicate Arch and its beautifully balanced river connecting two cliffs.

This park consists of 76,679 high deserts on the Colorado Plateau. The highest elevation is at Elephant Butte at 5,653 feet, and the lowest is at 4,085 feet at the park’s northeast corner.

The park is just north of Moab, Utah, on U.S. Route 191, and the closest city is Salt Lake City, about 112 miles (180 km) to the east on Interstate 80.

The park is pretty dry and receives less than 75 inches (1905 mm) of precipitation annually, mainly in the form of snow that falls in the winter and melts through spring.

The vegetation is predominantly defined by a single species of plant called cryptobiotic soil crusts, which can tolerate high winds and lack of water.

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23. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park Sign

Sequoia National Park in California protects 631 square miles of rugged, mountainous terrain, with its peaks reaching 14,351 feet above sea level.

The Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks are contiguous with one another, and they are both administered by the National Park Service. UNESCO designated the park as a biosphere in 1976.

The General’s Highway connects the Giant Forest to Kings Canyon National Park’s General Grant Grove. It is part of 202,430 acres (316 sq mi; 81,921 ha; 819 km2) of old-growth forests shared by Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

The General Sherman Tree is notable for its size, the largest tree on Earth by volume. It resides in the Giant Forest (within which resides 5 of the ten tallest trees in the world).

The park has 400 miles (640 km) of hiking trails. It includes 71 miles (114 km) of the Sierra High Route, 105 mi (169 km) of the Pacific Crest Trail, and 34 mi (55 km) of the John Muir Trail.

The park has five visitor centers, and it is the main terminus for the long-distance Muir Woods National Monument from San Francisco.

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24. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Located in Washington, Olympic National Park is a stunningly beautiful area with some of the best hiking trails in the world that should be on every traveler’s list.

Olympic National Park is huge, comprising nearly 1 million acres of forest, mountains, and coastline. The park has three distinct ecosystems: temperate rainforest, the alpine tundra, and the coastal area of the park, and we were mesmerized by the views. We also hiked through some temperate rainforests and were in awe of the giant trees.

There are a few lodging options within the park and many campgrounds. We opted to stay in a hotel just outside the garden to have easy access to the Kalaloch area and were rewarded with some incredible coastline views.

We took our R.V. to Olympic National Park for a week and were not disappointed. The scenery is incredible, the hikes are amazing, and the wildlife is phenomenal.

We saw elk, deer, eagles, ospreys, otters, seals, and whales. If you desire a unique national park with a little bit of everything, Olympic National Park is a great choice.

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25. Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is located in southeastern Utah near the town of Moab. It preserves a colorful landscape eroded into countless canyons, mesas, and buttes by the Colorado River and its tributaries. The park has five visitor centers, each with its unique focus.

The Needles district park is a mesa that overlooks the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. The white-rimmed cliffs contrast the red rocks and blue sky, making it one of the most photographed areas in Canyonlands.

There are a few easy hikes on the Island in the Sky, including Mesa Arch, which has arguably some of the most popular districts of Canyonlands National Park, and for a valid reason. This is where you will find some of the best views in the park, including Grand View Point, Green River Overlook, and Shafer Trail.

The Needles district is located in the southeast corner and is known for its red rock spires. The best time to visit Canyonlands is spring or fall when the temperatures are more relaxed. The summer months can be scorching, making it difficult to hike.

Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah and the second largest in the contiguous United States. Additionally, it is home to one of the world’s outstanding geological wonders, the Delicate Arch.

The park was established to protect this unique landscape and its many natural resources. The park is open year-round, but some areas may be inaccessible due to weather conditions.

There are plenty of things to do in Canyonlands National Park, from hiking and camping to jeep tours and river rafting. The options are endless, and it accommodates a range of preferences.

See Related: Most Beautiful & Best Vacations in the U.S.

26. Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

In southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is a beautiful and serene park that is an essential visit for adventurous souls. The park was formed when Mount Mazama erupted approximately 7,700 years ago and collapsed, forming the crater that now holds Crater Lake.

The lake is the deepest in the United States and the seventh in the world. Additionally, it is one of the most pristine lakes in the world, with clear water that reaches depths of up to 1,943 feet.

Multiple hiking trails are located at Crater Lake, including Rim Drive, a 33-mile road that circles the lake and offers fantastic views of the water and surrounding landscape.

The Cleetwood Cove Trail is a popular hike that leads down to the shores of Crater Lake, and the Wizard Island Summit Hike is a challenging hike that leads to the summit of Wizard Island, a volcanic cinder cone in the middle of the lake.

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, with a depth of 1,943 feet. This is one of the best parks to visit in the Northwest region of the United States.

27. Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

The Everglades National Park is vast and beautiful in southern Florida. The park is home to a fantastic array of wildlife, including alligators, crocodiles, manatees, and over 350 species of birds.

The Everglades National Park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is winter when the temperatures are cooler and there are fewer mosquitoes.

There are plenty of things to do in the Everglades National Park, from hiking and camping to fishing and kayaking. The options are endless, and it accommodates numerous preferences.

28. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is located in Washington state, just a few hours’ drive from Seattle. The park is home to Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in the state, and offers fantastic views of the surrounding landscape.

The park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the summer, and the park features several incredible hiking trails at Mount Rainier National Park. One is the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail that circles the mountain.

The Emmons Glacier Trail is a popular hike that leads to the summit of Mount Rainier, and the Sunrise Rim Trail offers fantastic views of the sunrise over Mount Rainier.

This is one of the top national parks for hiking and mountain exploring, given it is home to the tallest mountain in the continental United States.

If you’d like to visit Mount Rainier, the best way to get there is by car. The park has multiple entrances, but the most popular entrance is the Nisqually Entrance near Ashford.

Full Video Travel Guide to America’s National Parks

FAQ

What is the best national park in the USA?

There are countless opinions, depending on what you are looking for and what you enjoy. Some popular parks include Yellowstone, Glacier, Zion, and Bryce Canyon. These parks offer a range of activities such as hiking, camping, wildlife watching, and more.

What is the most visited national park in the United States?

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park, with over 14 million visitors annually.

What is the most popular national park?

Yellowstone National Park is the most popular national park in the United States, followed by Zion National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

What is the largest national park in the United States?

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska is the largest in the United States, followed by Denali National Park & Preserve and Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve.

What is the oldest national park?

Yellowstone National Park is the oldest in the United States, established in 1872.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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