Best National Parks in America
by Daniel | Last Updated February 15th, 2020
The United States National Park System is made up of 418 national park sites, which are found over more than 84 million acres. While it would be great to explore all these miles of National Parks, that’s not always possible for most people.
If you want to visit some national parks, but don’t know which ones to visit, then you’re in luck. Here you can find the best National Parks to visit. You can also use the top-rated travel apps to help you plan the perfect trip.
1. Gateway Arch National Park – Missouri
In the past, this national park was known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It represents the modernization of the St. Louis area, which blends the natural elements of the city and the natural surroundings.
The Gateway Arch Museum provides a record of the region’s history related to the Westward expansion and slavery. The actual arch has defined the skyline of St. Louis for over 50 years, and you can now even take a tram to the very top.
2. Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
Each year, this national park attracts over 4 million visitors, but unless you plan to spend all your time visiting Old Faithful, you aren’t going to see too many of them. While visiting this area, make sure you spend a few days exploring Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone Lake, which are some of the best-rated attractions.
However, don’t forget, there are lesser-known, but just as amazing spots to visit, too. Some of the places you may want to put on your must-see list include Dogshead Loop, the untamed wildlife found near the Lewis River Channel, and the West Thumb Geyser Basin.
3. Yosemite National Park - California
With intimidating slabs of granite towering more than 3,000 feet over Yosemite valley floor, along with epic waterfalls and flowing rivers, not to mention the giant Sequoia trees and Alpine trekking experiences, Yosemite is a national park that offers something for everyone.
This park, found in the northern part of central California, has been a source of inspiration for many years. It’s one of the most popular parks in the United States with hundreds of miles of maintained trails, along with amazing Yosemite wilderness. You can spend months at this national park and never see everything it has to offer.
The large walls of granite (mentioned above) are caused by a millennium of glaciation and erosion. The true grandeur of this park is difficult to put into words, but it’s magnificent and something everyone should experience.
4. Shenandoah National Park
There’s a former park ranger from this National Park that has the world record for the most times being struck by lightning. According to the record, he has been hit seven times. While that’s not an actual reflection on the park itself, it’s pretty interesting!
In this national park, you can see some amazing waterfall hikes, along with the Skyline Drive, which is a 105-mile stretch of road that winds its way through the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is about as good as it gets when it comes to scenic drives.
From this national park, you can hike through parts of the Appalachian Trail, and there are several shorter, much less tiring routes to try. If you are looking for great scenery, without the workout, check out South River Falls or Rose River.
5. Sequoia National Park – California
This national park, as the name implies, is best known for its huge Sequoia trees, which are the largest trees in the entire world. In addition to the massive trees, this park is also full of rugged peaks, canyons, amazing hiking trails, and plenty of wildlife. The cave systems are something awe-inspiring, with the Crystal Cave features being the pinnacle of the wonder of nature.
The best time to visit this national park is during the spring or fall. Some of the specific highlights of this park include the largest tree in the world – General Sherman, Buckrock Lookout, Moro Rock, the drive-through tree, and The Giant Forest.
6. Capitol Reef National Park – Utah
Not too much attention is given to Capitol Reef. After all, it’s competing with four other national parks in Utah. However, the one attention-grabbing feature of this park is Waterpocket Fold, which is a 100-mile-long wrinkle in the Earth’s crust.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a geology nerd to enjoy all that this park has to offer. An overlooked but fun feature of this park is the orchards which you can visit and harvest fruit. You can also hike up to Cassidy Arch, which is one of the national park’s most popular features, and then rappel down.
If you have time, hike up to the Temple of the Moon and the Temple of the Sun, or lie on your back to for some stargazing. The International Dark Sky Association has designated this as a “Gold Tier” Dark Sky Park, which means amazing views with minimal light pollution.
7. Joshua Tree National Park – California
The more well-known name of Joshua trees is Yucca trees. This is a fascinating species, and there is plenty to see in Joshua Tree National Park. This park is considered a gem in the desert area of Southern California.
It’s one of the few places in all of Southern California where you can find yourself in true desolation wilderness, far away from the sights and sounds of the city. This National Park is found between the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, full of enormous granite boulders, hidden oasis, rugged mountains, desert-dwelling creatures, abandoned mine shafts, and cactus.
If you love outdoor activities, such as rock climbing or mountain biking, this national park is the perfect place to visit. For those who travel here during the winter months, remember, it does snow here.
8. Mount Rainier National Park - Washington
Capped off by glaciers, Mount Rainier National Park is an iconic backdrop to the well-known Seattle skyline. The highest peak is at 14,410 feet, making hiking an extremely popular activity in this national park. In fact, many hikers training to tackle Mt. Everest start here.
If you have plans to trek to the peak, make sure you have the right gear with you. There are multiple travel accessories that can make your adventure more comfortable, be sure to pack appropriately.
However, you don’t have to do something so involved as trekking across lava fields to enjoy this national wonder. During the summer months, you can enjoy beautiful waterfalls and spectacular wildflowers. You can even see all the amazing scenery without leaving your vehicle when you drive up to Sunrise Point, which is at a 6,400-foot elevation.
9. Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona
Everyone has heard of the Grand Canyon, and no list of the best U.S. National Parks would be complete without it. The Grand Canyon is an area that’s millions of years old, being visited by the earliest people to inhabit the region.
In fact, there’s evidence of the presence of Native Americans throughout the park, which spans for more than 277 miles. The best experience to have when visiting is the descent to the floor. Throughout the park, you can also find miles of hiking trails, beautiful visuals, and impressive desert landscapes.
There are two separate entrances to the Grand Canyon National Park, the south rim and the north rim. These are located hours apart because you have to drive around the canyon. The South Rim is a more popular entrance, mainly because the North Rim is at a higher elevation and often impossible to reach during the winter months.
10. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tennessee and North Carolina
The visitor numbers to this National Park are considered somewhat inflated due to several factors. One is its proximity to several sizable cities, and bigger attractions, such as Dollywood. It’s also free to visit, unlike some of the other national parks on this list.
Many people drive through the national park as they are traveling to another destination. However, that’s not the Great Smoky Mountains’ fault and absolutely no reflection of what it offers.
During your visit, trek up to Clingman’s Dome observation tower, where you can get an amazing, panoramic view of the entire mountain range. There are also multiple swimming holes (where you can actually swim) throughout the park, and you can even pick your own blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and an array of lesser-known berries while you are hiking.
The Best National Parks in the USA: What’s on Your List?
If you have been thinking about visiting one of the best National Parks in the US, then make sure the ones listed here are on your list. Each of these parks offers amazing experiences such as hiking and camping that you and your family will never forget.
Make sure you have the right backpack to take along. I have reviewed the best national parks to make your decision easy.
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My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.