No matter which destination you choose, you'll find picturesque landscapes and activities suitable for all ages and interests from deep canyons and vast deserts to crystal exotic bays and dazzling glaciers, North America’s National Parks feature world’s most scenic natural beauties. With so many parks scattered throughout the U.S., finding the locale that's best for your next adventure can seem daunting.
It’s no wonder Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in all of the U.S. Stretching from Tennessee to North Carolina, the park encompasses part of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains and the famed Appalachian Trail, and boasts one of the largest blocks of deciduous, old growth, temperate forests in the country. Travelers to the park can enjoy 850 miles of trails and unpaved roads winding through mountain peaks ranging from 876 to 6,643-feet high, with many dramatic overlooks for spectacular views.
An obvious frontrunner, the Grand Canyon is a must-see geological wonder. The breathtakingly massive canyon carved over millions of years by the forces of the Colorado River has been included in list of 7 Natural Wonders of the World for its incredible natural beauty – the only U.S. location to be listed. Offering a hiking experience like no other, visitors can opt to venture down into the crater or check out the views along its North and South Rims. Few places measure up to the sheer grandeur of the Grand Canyon, and Lipan Point is one of the finest spots in the world to catch an unforgettable sunset.
First popularized by the infamous naturalist John Muir, Yosemite National Park is the third-most visited park in the U.S. This central California wonder is home to Yosemite Valley, where massive granite rock formations tower thousands of feet over the Merced River and giant sequoia groves attract hikers, photographers, and families. Some of the most well-known and stunning rock formations include El Capitan, Half Dome, the Royal Arches, the Three Brothers and Cathedral Rocks.
America’s first-ever national park spans Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, and is about the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. With over 3,000 square miles of lakes, canyons, rivers, and mountain ranges, the park is home to abundant wildlife, including free ranging herds of Bison, grizzly bears, moose, elk, wolves, and mountain lions. The park is also known for its natural geothermal features, including the famed geyser Old Faithful, the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest active super volcano, and one of the world’s largest petrified forests.
Located in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, Olympic National Park embodies the spirit and splendor of the Pacific Northwest. With scenic Pacific coastlines, glaciated mountains, and temperate rainforests, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is perfect for hiking, camping, and backpacking. The breadth of the terrain offers a bit of something for everyone – tide pools and scenic beaches for the water lover, mountain passes and alpine trails for the explorer, and lush rainforests for the tropical lover.
Rocky Mountain National Park in the north-central region of Colorado encompasses 60 gorgeous mountains over 12,000 ft. and numerous alpine wildflower meadows and pristine lakes and streams. The Continental Divide splits the park, giving the east and west sides their own unique character. The drier east side boasts rocky peaks and parched terrain, while the wetter west side is home to deep, lush forests dominated by Ponderosa Pine trees. Scenic roads include the famous Trail Ridge Road, Fall River road, and Bear Lake Road.
The country’s third-largest national park boasts a tropical wilderness which attracts over 1 million visitors a year. Located in Southern Florida, Everglades National Park is an International Biosphere Reserve made up of an intricate and fragile tropical ecosystem made up of freshwater sloughs, tropical hardwood hammocks, and Cyprus and mangrove forests along coastal lowlands. The subtropical climate is excellent for kayaking or canoeing the many mangrove swamps and freshwater marshes, and the park is teeming with wildlife.
Zion National Park in Utah is home to abundant reddish and tan colored canyons lining the winding Virgin River, creating an otherworldly feel. Follow the river through The Narrows, a 2,000 foot stretch of progressively narrowing canyon leading to Wall Street, the point when the canyon narrows to just 30 ft. wide, for an experience and view like no other. Zion Canyon, a prominent feature of the park, runs 15 miles long and nearly half a mile at its deepest, and offers incredible views of the stunning rock formations. Zion, which means “place of refuge” in Hebrew, is befitting of the majestic scenery and geological wonders throughout the park.
Located on tropical Hawaii’s Big Island, Volcanoes National Park is an UNESCO World heritage site that boasts active volcanoes, Hawaiian culture, and biological diversity. Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, runs 50 miles long and 14 miles wide, while Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive subaerial volcano, is 70 miles long and 30 miles wide. The desert-like landscape is speckled with fountains and rivers of molten lava, and hiking trails will take you through rainforests, sulphur banks and black lava fields with natural lava tube formations. The Hawaiians believe that Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and of course, volcanoes, resides in the volcanoes, and the molten lava is her tears.
An east coast gem, Acadia National Park is located in the rugged Atlantic coast of Maine, encompassing much of Mount Desert Island and many smaller islands. Offering beautiful ocean shoreline, large shorelines, and fir and spruce forests dotted with small lakes, the park is perfect for easy hiking, biking, and scenic natural views. The 1,530 ft. Cadillac Mountain offers gorgeous views of the first sunrise to hit the U.S., as well as awesome views of the Atlantic Ocean. Drive the 27-mile Park Loop Road to take it all in, and maybe spot some of the moose, foxes, bears, or bobcats that call the park home.