America’s Natural Treasures: 14 Best National Parks To Explore
The United States is home to an incredible variety of breathtaking national parks, each offering unique landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor experiences. With over 60 national parks (plus lakeshores, seashores, and more) and over 52 million acres, the US National Parks is good for any outdoor lover, whether you’re a seasoned hiker, nature enthusiast, or simply someone looking to explore the great outdoors.
We’ve compiled a list of the best national parks in the USA based on factors such as accessibility, visitor facilities, and scenic beauty. These must-visit destinations are the epitome of America’s natural splendor.
So grab your hiking boots, load up on sunscreen, and join more than 300 million visitors each year as we embark on a journey through the best national parks in the United States.
Best National Parks for Wildlife Watching
1. Yellowstone National Park
U.S. News named Yellowstone National Park one of the best places for wildlife watching in the U.S. It is America’s first national park and home to the largest concentrations of mammals in the lower 48 states. When visiting Yellowstone, you can expect to see a variety of species. Popular animals in Yellowstone include bison, elk, Grizzly bears, Gray wolves, Bald eagles, and Trumpeter swans.
Apart from these majestic animals, the park also offers striking natural scenery, including geysers, hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
2. Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is another fantastic destination for wildlife watching. As the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, it is home to a plethora of unique and diverse species not found anywhere else. Visitors can expect to encounter American alligators, Florida panthers, West Indian manatees, and over 350 species of birds, including Roseate spoonbills.
The park also boasts extensive mangrove forests and freshwater sloughs, offering ideal habitat conditions for these fascinating species.
3. Denali National Park
The Smithsonian Magazine declared Denali National Park in Alaska a stunning wilderness destination for wildlife spotting, including it on its list of “Top 10 Best National Parks for Wildlife Spotting in 2016.”
With six million acres of untamed landscape, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to observe various animals in their natural habitat. Visitors can expect to come across grizzly and black bears, Dall sheep, caribou, moose, Gray wolves, and Golden eagles.
As you enjoy the breathtaking scenery, including North America’s tallest peak, Mount Denali, you might even spot the elusive Denali wolves or witness the annual caribou migration.
Tips for Wildlife Viewing
Remember that there are rules to obey when observing animals in the wild; national parks aren’t zoos. Generally speaking, you should maintain a distance of 100 yards or more from wolves and bears and 25 yards or more from other large creatures.
Do not feed the animals.
Use telephoto lenses, binoculars, or spotting scopes and ask park rangers where to find the finest views to get a glimpse. Schedule your park excursions for dawn, dusk, and after dark for the best chance of seeing active animals.
Best National Parks for Stunning Landscapes
US National Parks are home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. From the towering peaks of Yosemite to the sweeping vistas of the Grand Canyon, these parks offer visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty and grandeur of America’s wilderness.
Whether you’re a hiker, a photographer, or simply a lover of the great outdoors, you’ll enjoy these incredible parks.
4. Grand Canyon National Park
One of the most visually stunning national parks in the USA is the Grand Canyon National Park. The canyon’s breathtaking depth and vibrant colors never cease to amaze us. Two of our favorite hiking trails – the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails – provide ample opportunities to marvel at the landscape.
For an even greater experience, travel down the Colorado River on a guided rafting trip or get a bird’s-eye view of the majestic canyon on a helicopter tour.
5. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is another iconic destination known for its striking granite cliffs, waterfalls, and lush forests. Two of our favorite spots in Yosemite include:
- El Capitan: A spectacular granite monolith popular among rock climbers
- Half Dome: This iconic rock formation offers awe-inspiring views and challenging hiking trails
6. Zion National Park
Zion National Park showcases the unique beauty of Utah with its red canyons, sandstone cliffs, and diverse terrain. Lace up your boots and take a hike to witness some of the stunning scenery for yourself.
One of the most popular hikes is The Narrows. It is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, surrounded by towering sandstone walls. Another challenging yet exhilarating hike that offers fantastic views of the park is Angels Landing.
7. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Located on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a hidden gem displaying colorful sandstone cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and a scenic shoreline.
To experience the best views, we recommend exploring the park’s stunning features from the water on a boat tour or hiking the numerous trails that wind through forests, cliffs, and beaches.
Fun Fact: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Michigan!
Best National Parks for Outdoor Activities
US National Parks offer a wide variety of outdoor activities for visitors of all ages and interests. From hiking and camping to fishing and rock climbing, the great outdoors awaits.
Whether you’re looking to explore the backcountry or simply relax in nature, these parks offer endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. So grab your gear and get ready to experience the national parks like never before!
8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
In our opinion, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best destinations for outdoor activities. Nestled between North Carolina and Tennessee, this park is known for its rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes.
Visitors can enjoy over 800 miles of hiking trails, including the famous Appalachian Trail. Some other popular activities include wildlife watching, fishing, and horseback riding, making this park perfect for nature enthusiasts.
9. Rocky Mountain National Park
Our next pick is the Rocky Mountain National Park, located in Colorado. This park boasts breathtaking scenery, with lofty mountain peaks and trails that lead to alpine lakes and waterfalls.
Visitors can embark on both short and long hikes, suiting various fitness levels. The park transforms into a snowy wonderland ideal for snowshoeing and skiing during the winter months. Wildlife sightings are common, making it even more enticing to outdoor enthusiasts.
10. Arches National Park
If you’re interested in geological marvels, don’t miss Arches National Park in Utah. With over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular destination for outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and biking along scenic trails.
One of the park’s highlights is the Delicate Arch, a unique formation that has become an iconic symbol of this national park.
11. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Finally, our list would be incomplete without mentioning Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. This hidden gem boasts miles of sandy beaches, towering sand dunes, and lush forests.
Outdoor activities at this park include hiking, swimming, and dune climbing, with some of the most stunning views of Lake Michigan. Additionally, visitors can explore the historic maritime villages and lighthouses that dot the shoreline.
Best National Parks for Family Vacations
With a wide range of activities and attractions, US National Parks are the perfect destination for a family vacation. From hiking and camping to ranger-led programs and wildlife watching, these parks offer an educational and memorable experience for all ages.
12. Acadia National Park
At Acadia National Park in Maine, you can explore diverse landscapes, from rocky coastlines to lush forests. Families can enjoy various activities such as hiking, biking, and wildlife watching. The park offers easy-to-moderate trails that are suitable for all ages.
Don’t forget to take the Park Loop Road. It’s a beautiful scenic drive that showcases the park’s beauty, perfect for a family road trip. Check out the park’s seasonal ranger-led programs for an educational experience during your visit.
13. Glacier National Park
In Montana, Glacier National Park offers families breathtaking views of glaciers, alpine meadows, and abundant wildlife. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a must-drive for anyone visiting the park, providing access to various hiking trails and lookout points.
Enjoy a family picnic by the shores of Lake McDonald or take a boat tour on one of the park’s pristine lakes. Glacier National Park is great for travelers who want to immerse themselves in nature and marvel at stunning landscapes.
14. Joshua Tree National Park
Located in Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is a unique desert oasis perfect for family vacations. The park is home to the iconic Joshua trees, fascinating rock formations, and diverse wildlife. You can explore various hiking trails suitable for all ages, from short nature walks to longer hikes.
Visitors can also participate in the park’s ranger-led programs and engage in stargazing, thanks to the park’s dark skies. Joshua Tree National Park’s unique and varied activities make it an unforgettable experience for the whole family.
Plan a Visit to The Best National Parks in The USA
We’ve explored some of the best national parks in the USA, each offering its own unique experiences and breathtaking landscapes. From the diverse ecosystems of Olympic National Park in Washington to the iconic geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park, these parks showcase the awe-inspiring beauty of our country’s natural heritage.
It’s no wonder that millions of people flock to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park annually, as it spans across North Carolina and Tennessee, offering fantastic recreational opportunities and a chance to explore diverse ecosystems. Meanwhile, in the vast wilderness of Alaska’s national parks, like Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias, we can marvel at the majestic glaciers, towering mountains, and thriving wildlife.
Ultimately, our journey through these national parks has reminded us of the importance of preserving these natural wonders for future generations to enjoy. As we continue to explore the vast array of national park gems, we encourage everyone to experience these amazing destinations and do their part in supporting the National Park Service’s conservation efforts.
So, let’s pack our bags, grab our hiking boots, and set forth on the next great adventure in the unparalleled beauty of America’s best national parks!
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Where indicated, some images courtesy of Depositphotos.com.