The national parks are wonder worlds full of history, enrichment, serenity, and exploration. Today, there’s a total of 61 National Parks in the United States — each vastly unique, capturing nature in its most divine essence. From majestic waterfalls to rocky steep mountains and inland trees, the national parks are beautiful places to visit.
And with an ample amount of parks to choose from, you may wonder where to begin! Helping you on your journey to explore our most cherished wild places, we’ve narrowed down the top 10 national parks to explore. Comprised of the hidden gems, scenic views, and trailblazing activities everyone can enjoy, take a look and see why more than 300 million people visit the national parks every year.
A world of its own, the Arches National Park is a fascinating red-rock expedition with thousands of striking landforms, sandstone arches, plus a variety of trails to explore. Located just 5 miles northwest of Moab, Utah, the park runs 26 miles and is perfect for hikers, from beginners to advanced. Popular trails include the Double Arch, Balanced Rock, and for more challenging climbs, the Delicate Arch and Fiery Furnace.
And perhaps the most magical part of Arches National Park? Take a look at the sky during nighttime. Colorado is home to one of the darkest skies in the United States, showcasing front and center the breathtaking Milky Way.
For an awe-inspiring experience like no other, the Rocky Mountain National Park is an incredible scenery with over 265,000 acres and rising approximately 12,183 feet in the sky. Although the Rocky Mountain is not the largest nor most visited park, it still manages to encapsulate its own charm and is the perfect start to your national park voyage.
What gravitates visitors to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains is its alluring and spectacular mountain views. Take the notable Trail Ridge Road, a 300-mile hiking trail rising to 12,000 feet and overseeing wildflowers, forestry, and the enchanting alpine lakes. After exploring, visit the delightful city of Estes Park where you can enjoy activities such as boating, biking, fishing, rafting, park activities, and more.
Even if you aren’t familiar with national parks, the Grand Canyon is easily the most recognizable. Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park is famously known throughout the world for its expansive, red-rock, immense views.
Besides its red-rock exterior, the park also features the most enthralling activities. Take the Grand-Canyon-via-Las-Vegas tour, zip line 3,200 feet across the canyon, and bask in the beautiful view on the Skywalk observation deck. These are just a few of the exciting features the Grand Canyon has to offer! Of course, there’s always your typical national park activities such as hiking, raft trips, and art exhibits.
Located southwest of Utah, the Zion National Park is a stunning landscape that bends and twists into lush greenery, alluring waterfalls, and red rock monolith. Take on one of its invigorating hiking trails such as the Angels Landing or Emerald Pools. For downtime, the national park provides charming lodging selections like the Zion Ponderosa or Zion Mountain Ranch.
If looking to add even more excitement to your travels, Las Vegas is just 166-miles away and Salt Lake City is 308 miles from Zion National Park. Backpacking, bicycling, camping, climbing, canoeing, horseback riding, expenditure tours — the activities are endless.
Wyoming’s very own Grand Teton National Park possesses a rich scenery of hidden waterfalls and notable beauties like the Jenny and Jackson lakes that reflect the frosted mountains.
Home to a variety of wildlife animals including black bears, moose, antelopes, bison, and grizzlies, this national park is nature at its finest. Other amazing sites to see are historical attractions such as the Menors Ferry, Mormon Row, and the beautiful Snake River, perfect for rafting and kayaking. Best yet, the Grand Teton is just a few miles north and adjoined to the Yellowstone National Park, which means visitors can save $10 on a combined admission if you wish to venture both parks.
With more than 47,000 acres of breathtaking views, Acadia National Park is easily one of the most visited parks in the United States. Approximately 2.5 million visitors journey to explore this stunning collision of mountains, conifers, inland trees, and shimmering ponds around every corner. The park contains 158 miles of hiking trails and historic carriage roads and best of all, there’s plenty to do here!
Located in Maine, the national park is surrounded by a variety of attractions, from the bayside town of Bar Harbor to the small seaside resort Winter Harbor located in the Schoodic Peninsula. Activities include horseback riding, hiking, biking, rock climbing, and more.
The Glacier National Park is an icy beauty with over 1 million acres of rich wildlife. Containing remnants of glaciers from the ice age, the national park resides on the border of Canada and the United States.
The park is a popular go-to for hikers, given that it features a wide variety of diverse trails. From beginner trails like the Trail of the Cedars to a more challenging climb like the Grinnell Glacier, there are many trails for both experienced and inexperienced hikers! The park is also home to over 700 lakes, numerous waterfalls, a plethora of wonderful wildlife, alpine meadows, and glorious mountains.
A notable attraction includes the Going-to-the-Sun Road – a National Historic Landmark that features amazing views and popular hiking trails.
Yosemite National Park is a breathtaking experience located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Perfect for beginners to advanced hikers, the astonishing valley is 1,200 square miles and is known for its chilling waterfalls, vast wilderness, striking rock structures, and excellent hiking trails.
Tour the prominent landmarks El Capitan and Half Dome and enjoy the abundant trails Yosemite has to offer. Between your climbing and touring, visit the Yosemite Village where you can find shops, restaurants, and lodging selections. Other fun activities include tours, arts and culture exhibits, fishing, spas, and exciting camping opportunities.
Yellowstone is a massive 2.2 million-acre national park with nearly 3,500 square miles of extraordinary wildlife atop a volcanic hot spot and joined to the Grand Teton National Park.
What’s great about Yellowstone is that there’s no need to worry about overpopulated crowds. With the park expanding from the northwest corner of Wyoming into the end of Idaho and Montana, there plenty of room to explore! From alpine rivers and winding canyons to the plush forestry and waterfalls, this national park is an unforgettable experience. Notable attractions include the Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone Lake. The national park is also home to hundreds of animal species such as elk, bison, antelope, and bears.
Millions of tourists visit Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park to witness two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. Truly an amazing sight to see, this ominous national park is the most popular attraction in Hawaii.
Explore the continually erupting Kīlauea Volcano and take a look at the steaming sulfur banks that mark the volcanic activity. Other popular attractions include the famous Chain of Craters road and the Kealakomo Overlook, which offers the vast scenery of the Pacific Ocean and the ancient village of Kealakomo. And after a long day of adventure, visitors can stay at the small Volcano Village, located in the midst of a tropical rainforest.