There is something, absolutely, magical about the best national parks in the USA. The mountain air, the fresh smell of the trees, the never-ending massive landscape laid out in front of you. The heart swells and the skin tingles, most likely because you know you’re about to see something bigger than you can imagine.
What’s exciting is that some of the most visited national parks are right here, in our backyard.
Famously called ‘America’s best idea’ by historian and novelist Wallace Stegner, there are over 59 national parks in the United States. If you’d like to get a taste of what these parks have to offer, check out our list below of the Best National Parks in the US.
Best National Parks for Sightseeing: Glacier National Park
Very few destinations are as untouched and pristine as the Glacier National Park. Titled as the Crown of the Continent, Glacier releases water into the Pacific Ocean, Hudson’s Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The beautiful landscape of towering snow-capped pinnacles surrounding the glasslike turquoise lake makes for the perfect setting for ample activities for friends, families, and adventure seekers alike. Dense forests border the mountains offering an array of sightings of grizzly bears, bobcats, Canadian lynx, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose, elk, mule deer, skunk, white-tailed deer, bobcat, coyote, and cougar.
One of the best ways to explore the park is driving through The Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50 mile paved two-lane highway that divides the park east and west. It extends along the width of Glacier National Park, crossing the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass.
It traverses through almost every type of terrain in the park, from massive glacial lakes and cedar forests in the lower forest valleys to windswept alpine tundra atop the pass. Scenic viewpoints and pullouts dot the road, giving motorists the opportunity to stop, gaze, and photograph. The road is well worth traveling in either direction, as the view from one side of the road is much different than from the other.
2. One of the Best National Parks in the World: Yosemite National Park
Well deserving of the Unesco World Heritage title, Yosemite National Park in Sierra, Nevada is an awe-inspiring head-turner of America’s National Parks.
The unrivaled splendor of the waterfall-striped granite walls fortressing the gorgeous emerald-green forest valley and the giant sequoias aiming high, justify the whopping 4 million annual visitors.
Discover, hike, bike, camp, rock climb, horseback ride, attend mind-blowing festivals, or just escape the normal here, activities are ample for all ages, interests, and seasons.
Among the first things you see upon entry is the astounding El Capitan rock face, the largest piece of granite in the world. The park is home to more than 20 waterfalls, most notably the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls and 2,140-foot Snow Creek Falls.
3. Best National Parks for Hot Springs: Yellowstone National Park
Home to 60% of the world’s geysers, copious with colorful hot springs and bubbling mud pools, the Yellowstone National Park needs no introduction.
The technicolor springs erupt in towering explosions of water and steam at regular intervals creating a jaw-dropping effect on its 4 million annual visitors.
By far one of the most popular of the best national parks in the USA!
4. Best National Parks for History: Grand Canyon National Park
Arguably the most well-known national park has at least 6 million annual visitors.
No matter what you see, read, or hear nothing truly prepares you for the immense mile-deep canyon that stretches 227 miles along northern Arizona.
The Canyon’s bulk, the beauty of the light and shadow, and its history deserves all the superlatives.
The Grand Canyon along with its intricate network of canyons exposes rocks from the Precambrian time – the earliest part of Earth’s history.
While this is every adventure junkie’s playground, the canyon offers ample views for those who prefer a slower pace.
While the park sees visitors throughout the year, our experts recommend that March to May and September to November are the most pleasant times to visit.
5. Acadia National Park
Located on the coast of Maine, the Acadia National Park is a stunning jewel, featuring mountains, woodlands, lakes, and ocean shoreline.
As the only park in all of New England, it instantly wins hearts with its amazing coastal beauty and exhilarating outdoor activities.
For the more laidback traveler, natural phenomena like Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff astonish; the fields by scenic Jordan Pond provide the perfect place to spread an afternoon picnic and enjoy the simple pleasures of Maine.
Every morning in the predawn darkness, throngs of people gather on the Cadillac Mountain, a part of Mount Desert Island along the Atlantic seaboard, as they peer expectantly to the east. Keep your eyes peeled for red and gray squirrels, chipmunks, snowshoe hares, white-tailed deer, moose, beavers, porcupines, minks, muskrats, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, black bears, peregrine falcon, golden and bald eagles, and various owls and hawks as this park is plush with wildlife in the land, air, and water. Excavations in the historic Indian sites have revealed remains of many extinct mammals as well.
We recommend that the best way to take a quick tour of the national park is by riding along the Park Loop Road.
Schoodic Point isn’t as easily accessible as some of the park’s other major attractions, but that’s precisely why recent travelers found this area so special. It’s stunning because it has a fascinating landscape comprising rocky granite shoreline containing many volcanic dikes.
6. Channel Islands
The Channel Islands of California are an archipelago of eight islands (Five of which comprise the national park) located in the Pacific Ocean just 11 miles off the southern California coast.
The hour-long boat ride from Ventura and Oxnard is really pleasant.
This national park is off-the-beaten-path as it is misconstrued to be difficult to access.
The largest assemblage of blue whales in the world convenes here every summer.
The islands harbor 145 species of plants and animal found nowhere else in the world, earning them the nickname ‘California’s Galapagos.’
7. Best National Parks for Adventurers: Denali National Park
Denali National Park located in Alaska, centered around the highest peak, Denali, of North America, is isolated with an ‘other worldly’ charm.
Accessible by just one road, mostly unpaved, a 92-mile strip that opens up to dramatic views of the subarctic wilderness. Cars are not allowed beyond Mile 15 and tourist commute using the shuttle bus.
This National Park offers the best chance to view wildlife more than any other national park. Massive snow-capped peaks of the Alaskan range keep you occupied as you drive past the ribbon road.
Here, you can spot a grizzly bear, moose, caribou, or even wolves, all from the comfort of the bus.
8. Best National Parks in the USA for Photographers: Zion National Park
This is Utah’s most dramatic park with cliffs of tan colored Navajo sandstone that rise above the Virgin River.
The park has an amazing topography that allows for desert, riparian, woodland and coniferous forest all in one area.
Our favorite view is beyond Angels Landing after a 1400ft ascent. There are several delicate features like the weeping rocks, tiny alcoves, hanging gardens and meadows of tableland wildflowers.
A relic of the archaic and protohistoric times, the national park has been featured in multiple films including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
9. Best National Parks in the USA: Isle of Royale
Those looking for peace and quiet, look no further!
Located in the Lake Superior, The Isle of Royale National Park meets the US-Canada border offering unparalleled solitude and adventure for backpackers, boaters, kayakers, hikers, canoeists, and scuba divers.
This National Park is completely free of roads, and subsequently cars! It gets fewer visitors in a year than Yellowstone National Park gets in a day, which makes it an absolutely perfect choice for those looking for venture off-the-beaten-path. The island has amazing campgrounds, inland lakes, and 165 miles of hiking trails.
The island was the center of the copper boom in the states in the mid-1840s as it held the first modern copper mines.
10. Top National Parks in the USA: The Great Smoky Mountains
The famed Appalachian trails; the sweeping, cinematic views from Clingman Dome, the steadfastly preserved foliage should put this National Park on top of any bucket list you might have.
Offering diverse views that range from spruce forest to carpets of sunny meadows with daisies and Queen Anne’s lace to stretches of coffee-brown rivers.
Plumes of natural vapor from the vegetation cover the range which lends the name ‘Smoky’ to this gorgeous site.
While one can never tire of the beauty, those looking for more can dive into the ample adventurous activities that the park offers.
Unfortunately, the park draws over 10 million annual visitors making it very crowded during the peak season. Make sure to check with our experts for unique recommendations and tips to avoid the crowds.
For more information feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for trips to these amazing destinations.