US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

The US National Parks showcase nature’s awe-inspiring majesty. Jutting mountains, glaciers, geysers, rainforests, swamps, deserts, arches, canyons, volcanoes and more!

Visit any of the 59 US National Parks to explore the stories of America’s people and places, and learn about the natural resources in the parks.

National Park vacations offer a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, camping and stargazing.

Which is the best National Park to visit? The answer to that question depends on so many factors that it’s difficult to give a definitive answer. Instead, we’ve asked fellow travel bloggers and photographers to help us create a list of their favorite 25 US National Parks.

(The following list is in alphabetical order.)

READ: Yes, the National Park Pass is Worth It!
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US NATIONAL PARK LIST: 25 PARKS TO VISIT

Acadia National Park

Woman rock climbing at Acadia National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit    Woman pushing rock along Bubble Rock Trail at Acadia National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Acadia National Park in Maine is one of those locations where you can do a slew of activities like hike, camp, whale watch, rock climb, bike, sit at the beach, kayak, and more.

If you like to hike, there are many trails to choose from. The scary and challenging Precipice Trail is for experts, while Bubble Rock Trail is an easy hike up to a glacial anomaly. Or in other words, a huge boulder teetering on an edge that was left by a glacier thousands of years ago.

If you’re interested in a unique hiking challenge, get up early to hike in the darkness and reach the top of Cadillac Mountain to see the sunrise. If you’re not up to this, no worries, you can always drive up to the top.

During the few days that I was there, I enjoyed camping and waking up to the sound of birds chirping. There was a memorable day that ended with a purple sunset. And I won’t forget finally mustering up the courage to rock climb at the edge of Otter Cliffs as the ocean splashed behind me.

Lake shore at Acadia National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Make sure you walk around the streets of Bar Harbor and eat some lobster. I can’t wait until I venture out on another road trip to Acadia and maybe then I’ll have enough time to kayak to one of the surrounding islands. It’s definitely a park you’ll want to continue re-exploring once you finally pay a visit!

Read more Things to Do in Acadia National Park HERE.

Victoria from A Traveling Translator | Intagram

*Acadia Photos © A Traveling Translator


Arches National Park

Turret Arch through the North Window at Arches National Park, Utah - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Arches National Park is a wonderland of eroded sandstone fins, towers, hoodoos, balanced rocks, and, of course, arches. The park is a few miles northwest of Moab, Utah.

Visitors of all ages and abilities can see and explore Arches National Park. The Scenic Drive winds through the unique landscape offering epic views. You can take wonderful photos of Arches National Park from your car window, the turnouts or parking lots. But to get amazing photos of the park, it’s best to walk around and get close to the arches, balancing rocks and fins.

Hike any of the trails that wind among the towering stone structures and arches. The Devil’s Garden Trail boasts the largest concentration of significant arches in the world. Most casual tourists hike the first part of the trail to Landscape Arch, considered the longest arch in the world. The rest of the trail requires scrambling up and over long, narrow sections of slickrock with steep drop-offs.

Delicate Arch with snow-capped mountains in the distance at Arches National Park, Utah - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Iconic Delicate Arch is usually at the top of the list when visiting Arches National Park. The impressive free-standing arch is a famous geologic wonder. This arch cannot be viewed from the main road and requires a bit of walking to see if from a distance.

We are lucky to live only a few hours from this park so we can visit at least once each year to photograph and explore Arches!

Dave and Jamie from Photo Jeepers | Facebook

*Arches Photos © Photo Jeepers

READ: Things to Do and Photograph at Arches National Park

 

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

If you ever find yourself in southwest South Dakota, in the mood for a unique geological landscape and some terrific wildlife encounters, book it to the Badlands, baby!

In the three days we took to visit Badlands National Park, we saw some of the most incredible layered rock formations and encountered local wildlife – often and up close! – every single day. Think bison, bighorn sheep, mule deer and prairie dogs… a lot of them!

The opportunity to view these animals, and the unique landscape they live in, is available to visitors of all abilities – you can choose from several easy-access (yet breathtaking) overlooks to beginner-level hikes to strenuous climbs.

Big horned sheep along a ridge at Badlands National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

My number one piece of advice for visiting would be this: go in the off-season! We went in April when South Dakota is still pretty chilly and even a little snowy, but during our three-day journey, we saw two other cars.  Two! It was like we had the park – in all its wildlife-filled glory – all to ourselves!

Mary Beth from MBsees | Instagram

*Badlands Photos © MBsees

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Bryce Canyon National Park

Thor's Hammer at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

When you first see the hoodoo-filled amphitheater at Bryce Canyon National Park, you are in complete awe. There is nothing like it anywhere!

There are many things to do Bryce Canyon, BUT we recommend you begin your visit with the Scenic Drive viewpoints then visit the Amphitheater Viewpoints. Start at Rainbow Point at the southern end of the road. When you begin at Rainbow Point, all overlook stops will be on your right so you avoid left turns on a busy and winding road. Use the park brochure to navigate your way along the Scenic Drive, which is 18 miles one way. Allow 1 to 2 hours to stop at all the viewpoints.

Colorful hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

There are many viewpoints along the amphitheater canyon rim, and each one offers a different angle and epic view. Our favorite locations to photograph the hoodoos below the rim are Sunset Point and Inspiration Point. At sunrise there is an early morning glow on the red rocks that makes the hoodoos comes to life.

You MUST see the hoodoos up close by hiking along the Navajo-Queen’s Garden Trail – or at least part way down the canyon from Sunset Point. The view from the trails is so amazing compared to seeing them from above.

Dave and Jamie from Photo Jeepers | Facebook

*Bryce Canyon Photos © Photo Jeepers

READ: Things to See and Photograph at Bryce Canyon National Park

 

Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch at sunrise at Canyonlands National Park, Utah - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Canyonlands National Park is one of three districts comprising the largest National Park in Utah. The diverse landscape includes towering sandstone cliffs, deep canyons, winding rivers, and stunning vistas.

The Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands is about 30 miles outside of Moab, Utah so it’s the easiest way to see the park. It sits atop a massive 1500 foot mesa. The viewpoints provide epic views of up to 100 miles. Other activities include hiking, biking, offroad driving and backcountry exploring and camping.

Canyonlands Needles is about 40 miles south of Moab then another 35 miles to the west. This remote part of the park features extensive hiking trails, amazing geology, and relatively few people. We enjoy walking the short trails to granaries, hiking around and through the needles rock formations and driving along the four-wheel-drive roads that overlook the Colorado River.

Needles District Canyonlands National Park, Utah - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

The Maze District is remote with difficult roads and trails to get there, and you must be prepared for self-sufficiency and the proper equipment or gear for self-rescue.

We love to explore and photograph Canyonlands National Park, both the Island in the Sky and Needles Districts.

Dave and Jamie from Photo Jeepers | Instagram

*Canyonlands Photos © Photo Jeepers

READ: Things to Do at Canyonlands National Park

 

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore rainbow - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

When people think of National Parks in the United States, the beach usually isn’t the first place that comes to mind! But at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, visitors can enjoy salt in their hair and sand in their toes while exploring the park’s beautiful scenery, rich history, and family-friendly outdoor activities.

Stretching 70 miles along North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the first seashore set aside by the National Park Service for preservation and recreation.

Because we love historic landmarks, our favorite thing to do is visit the Seashore’s three lighthouses. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in North America, built to guide sailors along the coast’s dangerous waters nicknamed the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore lighthouse - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Bodie Island Lighthouse, the northernmost lighthouse in the park, is located inland near marshes and fields. We love stopping by Bodie Island while staying in Nags Head to enjoy the sunset and birdwatch. If you’re unafraid of heights, you can climb Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island lighthouses and enjoy the views.

Another small lighthouse is located in the quaint town of Ocracoke. In addition to lighthouses, the Seashore is full of outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, and stargazing.

Kathrine and Pam from Everywhere Forward | Instagram

*Cape Hatteras Photos © Everywhere Forward


Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Rock at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park is in the south-central desert of Utah. The park encompasses an oasis of colorful sandstone cliffs, impressive domes, and soaring monoliths. Capitol Dome is a white sandstone formation that resembles the U.S. Capitol building. The park was partly named for this landmark.

There are a variety of hiking trails in Capitol Reef. One of the more popular trails leads to Hickman Bridge to see a 133-foot natural bridge with canyon views in all directions.

A fun activity is harvest peaches, apricots and apples in the Fruita Orchards. Anyone is welcome to visit open areas to sample and harvest fruit for a small fee. Spend time in the picnic area with some treats from the Gifford Homestead and you might see the many deer that frequent the area.

Sunrise with golden clouds at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Our favorite thing to do at Capitol Reef is watch the sunrise and sunset while photographing the beauty of the park.

Dave and Jamie from Photo Jeepers | Instagram

*Capitol Reef Photos © Photo Jeepers

READ:  Best Hikes at Capitol Reef National Park

 

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Crater Lake is the only national park in Oregon, but it sure is a beautiful one.

Crater Lake National Park is the deepest lake in the United States. There are no streams that feed the lake, only the precipitation and evaporation maintains the water level, which is why the lake is so blue.

The summer months are full of lots of fishing, hiking and swimming. Crater Lake has 90 miles of hiking trails inside the park, all ranging from easy to strenuous. If you don’t feel like hiking, you’ll get a great view just by driving around the rim.  

Crater Lake National Park winter - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

During the winter, visitors can snowshoe, sled, and ski throughout the park. While Crater Lake is covered in snow 8 months out the year, the park is always gorgeous to visit.

Tarah and Tip from Fit Two Travel | Instagram

*Crater Lake summer photo © Fit Two Travel – winter photo © Pixabay

EXTEND YOUR STAY and hike to the Tamolitch Blue Pool, just 2 hours from Crater Lake.

 

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Death Valley National Park began as a borax mining boon-town in the 1880’s and was owned by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. In the 1920’s, the company performed a rare act of corporate generosity and they lobbied the federal government to give the area protected status. They were successful and the area became a national monument in 1993 and a full national park in 1994.

Described as the hottest, driest and lowest, this park is characterized by extremes. The Badwater Basin is so low that it sits below sea level and then the landscape shoots up to the 11,000 foot Telegraph peak.

The temperatures are also extreme, going from lows of 40 degrees in January to highs of 116 degrees in July. Mother Nature is unforgiving in Death Valley. But then, that’s what makes it so worth visiting.

The primary activities in Death Valley center around exploring its stark landscapes and scoping out ghost towns. For ghost towns, you should be sure to visit Rhyolite ghost town in the eastern reaches of the park to get a lesson on the boom and bust of the mining era.

Death Valley National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

For landscape, visit both Mesquite Dunes and Zabriskie Point before dawn and you will be rewarded with gold landscapes and moody shadow. You can find kooky topography at Ubehebe Crater and Artist’s Drive. Each of those four areas offer a range of hiking options.

Get tips to photograph Death Valley HERE.

Carol from Wayfaring Views | Facebook  

*Death Valley photos © Wayfaring Views

PHOTO SPOT: Artist’s Drive in Death Valley National Park


Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Glacier National Park is a mountain and hiking lover’s paradise! I visited it for the first time last year and was completely in awe. There are so many hikes you can go on, both long and short, so don’t be worried if hiking’s not for you – there’s still plenty you can enjoy!

First, Going to the Sun Road is a must! It’s the major road that traverses the park from East to West, and is open when all the snow has melted off it, usually end of June till end of September.

What’s so amazing about this road is it winds its way up into the mountains on the cliff side, with incredible views no matter where you look! There are also plenty of pull offs to stop and take in the scenery. If driving on it isn’t your thing, you can also take the free park shuttle during the summer season, or a guided tour on one of the Red Jammer buses.

Glacier National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

For those that do love hiking, I’d have to say the Highline Trail is top on my list. It starts out on a narrow path, following the Garden Wall – the huge mountain side with the road below you and towering peaks above. Grinnell Glacier Trail is another longer hike in the Many Glacier Region which is well worth it for the views!

If you’re not big into hiking but want to experience a smaller taste, Hidden Lake Trail up at Logan’s Pass is a must! It’s about 2.6 miles round trip on a well cared for boardwalk. If you’re lucky you’ll even catch some wildlife like Big Horn Sheep, or Mountain Goats. Also keep your eyes peeled in the fields for hairy marmots and other little furry creatures!

Maura from Camera and a Canvas | Instagram

*Glacier Photos © Camera and a Canvas

 

Grand Canyon National Park

Woman silhouette at the edge of the Grand Canyon - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Visiting the Grand Canyon National Park was a dream! You can easily spend weeks there, in fact the park admission costs $30 per car and is good for 7 days. However if you only have a weekend or even a day for that matter, you definitely can still experience the grand-ness of the Grand Canyon.

Regardless of how long you have to spend, there are a few things you must do. First, is to watch the sunset at Desert View; I don’t think there is a sunset like it anywhere in the world.

Second, is to hike. Whether you walk along the top of the rim or hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon, some sort of hiking is a necessity to truly appreciate the canyon!  My favorite hike was the Bright Angel Trail – there are multiple switch back points where you can turn around at different mile markers if you don’t want to hike all the way down.

View of Grand Canyon - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

And lastly, I recommend spending at least one night inside the national park at Grand Canyon Village. There are multiple lodging and camping options to choose from and there is no better way to wake up than opening your eyes and seeing the stunning canyon views.

Read more about a Grand Canyon Road Trip HERE.

Rachael from Bee Anything But Boring | Facebook

*Grand Canyon Photos © Bee Anything But Boring


Grand Teton National Park

Woman looking at Jenny Lake at Grand Teton National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Grand Teton National Park is located in the beautiful state of Wyoming in the United States. The park is best known for “the Tetons” which has got be one of the most picturesque mountain ranges in the United States and of course its pristine lakes. I absolutely recommend hiking in the park but more than anything canoeing or kayaking is a must!

I took a two-hour canoe ride around Jackson Lake. You can find canoe rentals right at Colter Bay. Depending on how long you’d like to be out there the staff will give you the best route. Pack a lunch and dock at one of the bays. If you’re feeling brave, take a dip in the cold water.

Woman in a canoe on Jackson Lake at Grand Teton National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

And if you fancy hiking there are miles of trails around Jenny Lake which offer amazing views of Jenny Lake and The Tetons. If you have the time do the Jenny Lake Loop which is 7.6 miles round trip and takes about 4-5 hours depending on your speed. Don’t have time for a hike? Just drive up to the Jenny Lake viewpoint. It’s one of my favorite views in the park.

I also recommend just enjoying the views so definitely drive to the viewpoints and admire Mother Nature. The Tetons are massive and such a stunning mountain range that can be viewed from all over the park so as you’re driving don’t forget to pull over occasionally to take in the view!

Read more about a Wyoming Road Trip HERE.

Jeanine from Le Wild Explorer | Instagram

*Grand Teton Photos © Le Wild Explorer

READ: Best Places to Photograph Grand Teton National Park

 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Waterfall at Great Smoky Mountains National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is possibly the most underrated national park in the United States. The park straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee border, does not disappoint.

When it comes to visiting the park my favorite season to bask in the park’s beauty is during autumn when the oak treetops are a blur of warm hues.

While in the park you must venture to Cosby and Greenbrier. Both of these spots are secluded and offer fabulous nature and wildlife viewings. Both areas also boast trailheads to beautiful waterfalls.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

If you’re there for a short visit, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway where you’ll be able to soak in the beautiful and misty oak tree skyline. Along the main highways there are numerous spots where you can hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Martha from Quirky Globetrotter | Instagram

*Great Smoky Mountains Photos © Quirky Globetrotter

 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

READ: Big Island Volcano Tours where Amy from Aloha With Love explains the current situation happening on the Island of Hawaii (the Big Island).

 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park lava entering ocean with steam rising - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a jewel on the big island of Hawaii. We spent just one day there and I wished we had planned to stay longer. There is so much to see!

The volcano in the park has been continuously erupting for 35 years which makes Hawaii the only state that is actually getting bigger! The volcano, Kilauea, produces enough lava every single day to cover a road that is 20 miles long. You can see the steam venting from the Halemaumau Crater during your visit.

Hike a lava tube. Much like a straw that liquid passes through, a lava tube is created when the outer part (like the straw) hardens and allows the inner portion (like the soda) continue to pass through. What is left is a straw shaped tube you can hike in. Walking through the Thurston Lava Tube is a short, easy hike which was discovered in 1913.

Lava tube at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Explore a lot of the park by driving the Crater Rim Drive. This 10.6 mille drive allows you to take in all the main attractions like the Thurston Lava Tube, Halemaumau Crater, Jagger Museum, and Kilauea Iki Crater overlook.

Get outside and explore this really unique national park!

Read more about visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with kids HERE.

Natalie at The Educational Tourist | Facebook

*Hawaii Volcanoes Photos – Lava and Steam © National Park Service – Lava Tube © The Educational Tourist

READ: Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii

 

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

I’ve been to lots of National Parks in the US, but one of my favorites is by far Joshua Tree National Park in California. Honestly, when I went I didn’t really know what to expect. It hasn’t got quite the same rugged feel as say the Grand Canyon or the impressive beauty of Glacier or Yosemite – but what it does have is uniqueness and incredible colors.

The most amazing part of Joshua Tree is by far Keys View – an incredible peek into Coachella Valley where you can also physically see the San Andreas Fault.

Joshua Tree National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Another reason why Joshua Tree is awesome is the fact it’s small and can be done entirely in one or two days, complete with hikes and stopping at all of the major sites. As someone who works full time with limited vacation days, this is the perfect, manageable national park.

Hannah at Universal Jetsetters | Instagram

*Joshua Tree Photos © Universal Jetsetters

 

Mammoth Cave National Park

Inside Mammoth Cave National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is an amazing experience that you won’t find anywhere else. The park has many things to do on the surface such as hiking, bike riding, horseback riding, river fishing, canoeing and kayaking, but the real fun is underground in the caves. The cave system is more than 400 miles long making it the longest in the world.

To get into the caves you must go on a guided tour. There are about 15-20 different tours you can choose from depending on the season, all with different durations, difficulties, distances and stair amounts. There is a tour for everyone – even kids and the disabled.

In general, tours last between 1.5-2 hours and cost about $15. You’ll see spectacular domes and pits, large and small passages, and so many cool rock formations.

Inside Mammoth Cave National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

I love this park because of how different it is from other parks. It’s a unique experience that is about more than just nature. You also learn so much about different cave species, the geology of rock and how strata are formed, and our early ancestors.

You can spend a couple days at the park doing a few tours and exploring the grounds, or you can just stop in for a quick tour while driving through the state. Whatever you do, just go!

Addie at Traveling Mrs. | Instagram

*Mammoth Cave Photo of stalagmites © Traveling Mrs. – Photo of Tour © National Park Service


Mount Rushmore National Park

Mount Rushmore National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

It’s best to visit Mount Rushmore National Park during the spring when the weather is cooler and the park is not as crowded. This way, you can take in the scenic walks, amazing views, and delicious cafeteria food at Carver’s Marketplace (seriously, it’s actually really, really good) without feeling rushed or crowded.  

I recommend you visit first thing in the morning so you can start your day exploring the Presidential Trail at a leisurely pace. It’s just over half a mile long, but offers to many great photo opportunities and peaceful places of reflection that you should anticipate it taking at least 30 to 45 minutes to complete.

Entrance with flags to Mount Rushmore - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

You can also become immersed in the exhibits in the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, learning about the history of the monument, its original plan and purpose, as well as its cultural significance (National Treasure, anyone?).

Long thought to be just a stop on the way somewhere, Mount Rushmore and surroundings areas are worth a vacation of their own!  

Read more about the Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore National Park HERE.

Emily at She’s a Trip | Instagram

*Mount Rushmore Photos © She’s a Trip

 

Olympic National Park

Mountain views at Olympic National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

If you want to experience a diversity in landscape, Olympic National Park definitely will be the right choice. It’s only a short drive from Seattle, but you will feel so far away from civilization and pollution once you put a foot on the grounds of the national park.

From the high mountains to the mysterious-looking coastal area, you can really experience a lot while only having a day or two. Walk through the old mossy forest to encounter the beautiful Marymere Falls or Madison Falls. Kayak the huge, crystal clear Lake Crescent or walk from Ozette Lake along the unspoiled coast.

Foggy beach at Olympic National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

You can explore the tide pools around Kalaloch at low tide and drive up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center at night to see the milky way in its full beauty.

I believe the Olympic National Park is a great place for outdoor lovers who need a short break from the big cities. Don’t miss this wonderful gem, if you go on a road trip in Western US!

Read more about things to do at Olympic National Park HERE.

Nate at Unbridled | Facebook

*Olympic Photos © Unbridled

 

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

When you think of National Parks in the U.S., many will automatically think of famous places like Yosemite and Yellowstone, which are all amazing. Our absolute favorite though is the Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s definitely off-the-beaten-path when it comes to National Parks, but this place cannot be overlooked if you are ever in San Francisco, California.

There are hiking trails ranging from easy, short ones up to hikes more than 13 miles long. On these hikes, you can see tule elk, horses, cows, deer, wildflowers, lagoons, beaches, Coast Miwok Indian village replicas, walk on the San Andreas Fault Zone (called the earthquake trail), or on the coastline taking in the views of the Pacific Ocean and Drakes Bay.

Old ship grounded at Point Reyes National Seashore - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

If you are a photographer, Instagrammer or just enjoy gorgeous scenic places, you can’t miss the Point Reyes Shipwreck or the Point Reyes Lighthouse. There is an observation deck at the lighthouse where you can watch whales (anytime around mid-January to early May) and birds.

When you are done hiking and exploring for the day, you also can’t leave Point Reyes without eating oysters at famous oyster farms like Hog Island or Tomales Bay. You can buy fresh oysters there, shuck ‘em, and eat it raw or BBQ at one of their picnic tables. Bring some Cowgirl Creamery’s famous cheeses from Pt Reyes along with some wine to these oyster farms – it will be a perfect way to wrap up your all-day excursion in Point Reyes National Seashore!

Read more about Visiting Point Reyes with a Toddler HERE.

Emily at Henry and Andrew’s Guide | Instagram

*Point Reyes Photos © Hendry & Andrew’s Guide


Rocky Mountain National Park

Mountain lake at Rocky Mountain National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Rocky Mountain National Park, just northwest of Denver, Colorado, is all about mountain scenery. Every inch of the park is breathtaking.

There are scenic hikes available for visitors of all abilities, ranging from easy loops around a lake to strenuous climbs into the backcountry. Bear Lake and Sprague Lake on the eastern side of the park are great for young families and offer easy trail loops around sparkling mountain lakes. The hike to Dream Lake is a bit more strenuous, but brings you to one of the prettiest lakes I’ve ever seen.

If waterfalls are more your style, there are several throughout the park, including the easily accessible yet spectacular Alluvial Fan.

Waterfall at Rocky Mountain National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

One of the park’s top activities is the drive along Trail Ridge Road that links the east side to the west. It’s the highest paved road in the continental United States, and was quite an engineering marvel when it was constructed in the 1930s. Visitors can easily spend a day enjoying this scenic drive and its many overlooks.

Be sure to check its opening dates for the season as the majority of it closes for the winter and doesn’t reopen until late spring

Read more about Hiking the Dream Lake Trail HERE.

Kris at Nomad by Trade | Facebook

*Rocky Mountain Photos © Nomad by Trade

 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia tree at Kings Canyon National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Going to college in central California meant that some of California’s best national parks were practically in my backyard. My friends and I spent a lot of our weekends exploring the outdoors, in particular Kings Canyon National Park and the adjacent Sequoia National Park.

What I like about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is that there’s something for everyone. If you’re into hiking, there are plenty of trails to hike like the easy one-mile Cold Springs Nature Loop trail in Mineral King Valley, the more advanced 3 mile hike to Roaring River Falls in Cedar Grove, or the more challenging hike to Lookout Peak. They all offer stunning views of the two parks diverse ecosystems and wilderness.

Kings Canyon National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

The parks are also bordered by two National Forests, the Sequoia National Forest and Sierra National Forest which offer even more camping and hiking opportunities.

One of the main reasons to visit Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park is to see the world’s two largest trees, the General Sherman Tree, located in the Giant Forest, and the General Grant Tree, located in Grant Grove. It’s really difficult to describe these magnificent giant groves of sequoia trees, but walking through always leaves me feeling quite small (well, literally), and in awe with nature.

Christabel of Where’s Bel | Instagram

*Sequoia and Kings Canyon Photos © Universal

READ: Sequoia National Park Visitors Guide for Families

 

Shenandoah National Park

View of Shenandoah National Park - National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Shenandoah National Park is one of the most picturesque places on the USA’s east coast, and this park has something for everyone! I love visiting and taking guests to Shenandoah because it never fails to impress; from the flowing waterfalls to the lush forests, it can be a calming, relaxing spot or an active, athletic destination depending on how you want to spend your time there.

Perhaps the most well-known attraction is Skyline Drive, a 100+ mile road that winds through the mountains and features dozens of viewpoints showcasing the Piedmont and Shenandoah River valleys. Animal lovers can watch for commonly spotted creatures like white-tailed deer, but bobcats and even black bears have been seen along the road and, more often, deep in the woods.

View of Shenandoah National Park - National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

Hikers will love the more than 500 miles of trails, 100 miles of which are part of the Appalachian Trail, ranging in length and difficulty. The quintessential hike is Old Rag, a 9-mile loop that will have you ascending steep slopes before rewarding you with unparalleled views of the region from the top. Read the 10 Best Hikes in Shenandoah HERE.

If you don’t have the time or desire to try a challenging hike, Hawksbill Summit is only a two-mile walk, but you’ll still see some incredible scenery because of the altitude. If you take Skyline Drive, you’ll discover a few campgrounds and lodges, so whether you stay just long enough for an ice cream or overnight there are plenty of places to relax and appreciate Shenandoah National Park’s incredible beauty.

Stephanie at Road Unraveled | Twitter

*Shenandoah Photos © Road Unraveled

 

Yellowstone National Park

Geyser at Yellowstone National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

The best time to visit Yellowstone is in the fall. The crowds have thinned quite a bit, the animals are active and create magical sounds, and the leaves change colors.

Yellowstone National Park is known for its wildlife, but many people aren’t aware of the guidelines for viewing the animals in the park safely. Do not approach bears or wolves on foot within 100 yards (91 m) or other wildlife within 25 yards (23 m). Keep a safe distance from all wildlife.

Each year, park visitors are injured by wildlife when approaching too closely. Use roadside pullouts when viewing wildlife, and use binoculars or telephoto lenses for safe viewing and to avoid disturbing them. By being sensitive to its needs, you will see more of an animal’s natural behavior and activity.

Waterfall at Yellowstone National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

We also enjoy exploring and photographing the various waterfalls in Yellowstone. There are many roadside waterfalls that don’t require any or much hiking to see them.

The best tip we can give is to hike in Yellowstone, even if you only go a mile or so from the trailhead. It’s the best way to experience the park without the distraction of too many other people.

Dave and Jamie from Photo Jeepers | Facebook

*Yellowstone Photos © Photo Jeepers

READ: Fabulous Yellowstone Waterfalls

 

Yosemite National Park

Half Dome at Yosemite National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit 

Yosemite National Park is in California. What I love about this beautiful park is how close to home it is for me. We used to travel here often and it is such a beautiful spot.  

Yosemite Valley is world famous for its impressive waterfalls, meadows, cliffs, and unusual rock formations; accessible by car year-round. It is the perfect place to have a picnic and just take some time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

You can either hike up a short leisure walk and view some amazing waterfalls, or you can do a very tedious and time consuming hike to get the best view in all of the park to Half Dome which is a full days hike. This park is great because it is perfect for beginner hikers, advanced hiker, families, adults and seniors.

Waterfall at Yosemite National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

There isn’t much parking if you come late in the day (even noon is too late) so I suggest you leave early! Or take advantage of the other places to go in Yosemite like Wawona, Mariposa Grove and the Tioga Road.

Read more Adventures in Yosemite National Park HERE.

Nie Nie at Adventures With Nie Nie | Instagram

*Yosemite Photos © Adventures With Nie Nie

 

Zion National Park

Red rock mountains at Zion National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

After a few days in Las Vegas, my college roommate and I decided to rent a car and drive to visit the famous Zion National Park. Upon entrance, we were immediately captivated by the beautiful deep orange mountains and tall rock formations which seem envelope you as go deeper into the park. Traveling through Zion National Park feels like leaving the country it’s so different in its dry ambience and bright and rocky topography.

There are various hikes and scenic routes that range from family-friend to more arduous trails such as Angels Landing and Narrows depending on your endurance. There are also a variety of activities to choose from like canyoneering, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, biking and much more.

sunrise at overlook at Zion National Park - US National Park List: 25 Beautiful Parks to Visit

I strongly suggest that travelers spend more than a day here, as there is so much to see and do. Allocate at least a few days so that you can really get to know the beautiful park and its surroundings in the picturesque state of Utah.

Isabelle at Dominican Abroad | Instagram

*Zion Photo top image © Dominican Abroad – Zion photo sunrise canyon overlook © Photo Jeepers




MORE NATIONAL PARKS TO VISIT

If you haven’t visited any US National Parks, we suggest you read An Ode to America’s National Parks. This was the conclusion of the writer, Eli: America’s National Parks and National Park Service set the gold standard for natural attractions and monuments, and I do believe that they are more than worthy of being a top destination for American travelers.

Big Bend National Park – Read the 5 Reasons to Fall in Love with Big Bend HERE | Best Hikes in Big Bend.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Read about Things to Do HERE.

Channel Islands National Park – Read about a Day Trip to Santa Cruz Island HERE.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Read about the Scenic Railroad HERE.

Denali National Park – Read about Experiencing Denali HERE.

Great Basin National Park – Read about Things to Do HERE.

Great Sand Dunes National Park – Read about Sand Dunes in Utah, Colorado and California HERE.

Mesa Verde National Park – Read about Sites to See on Chapin Mesa HERE.

North Cascades National Park – Read more about North Cascades HERE.

Pinnacles National Park – Read about Hiking the Bear Gulch-High Peaks Loop HERE.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Read about Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt HERE.

Wind Cave National Park – Read about an Afternoon with Bison HERE.

CHECK OUT: US National Park Itineraries | National Park Gifts

 

Two bison with frost at Yellowstone National Park, USA

PLAN A NATIONAL PARK VACATION

Most national parks don’t even charge an entrance fee. Admission for those parks that do charge a fee range from $3 to $25, good for an entire carload of people for a week. And some days are fee free!

If you’ll be visiting multiple parks, or parks with high entrance fees, you would benefit from getting the US National Parks PassBUY THE PASS AT REI and they will donate 10% of sales to the National Park Foundation.

Find A Park gets you where you want to go. Select a park from the list or use the map to search by state. Once you’ve decided where you’re headed, check out the park’s online Plan Your Visit section. You’ll find great things to do, maps, calendars, directions, park brochures, and operating hours.

Be sure to read the park’s Basic Information section so you can have a safe, enjoyable visit.

If you’re traveling with children, learn more about the Junior Ranger Program. It’s sure to be a hit with the kids.

If you’re traveling with pets, be sure to check with the park. Many of our parks allow pets on leashes and in campgrounds, some even have kennels. You’ll generally find pet information in the Plan Your Visit section or contact the park (see each park’s Contact Us page for details).

Check out www.recreation.gov. You can make online reservations for some of our tours and campgrounds here, as well as learn about activities at other recreation sites.

Hiking Gear List

NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL TIPS

Enter the parks early! This is the best way to avoid lines and crowds during the busy season.

Check the weather in advance. Be prepared with the best clothing and gear for the activities you will do. Always carry plenty of water.

Be respectful of wild animals and keep your distance. The animals you may encounter in some national parks are not captive in a zoo—these animals are in their natural habitat and behave accordingly.

Take only pictures, and leave only footprints. Please be a responsible visitor.

Canyonlands Island in the Sky - two granaries along the Aztec Butte trail

READ: Getaways Near National Parks to Avoid the Crowds

 

PIN THIS FOR LATER

US National Parks List: Things to See, Do and Photograph    25 Incredible US National Parks

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37 comments

Such a fun post! The National Parks and very dear to me and I absolutely love getting out and exploring them!

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I have only been to the US once for just two weeks, and only managed to visit Joshua Tree and Death Valley. There are so many amazing ones, so my list grows and grows! Hope to make some new trip overthere soon.

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As we all get exposed to the various places around the world to visit, our lists just grow 🙂

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Wow – your photos are amazing!!! I am planning a trip to quite a few national parks right now and I just put Grand Teton down as a possibility yesterday. Think that might have to become a definite!! Thanks for the inspiration!

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You will LOVE the Tetons – hope you can make that trip a reality!

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This was fun! As I was scrolling through and counting how many I had seen from your list, I thought – oh, I had not heard of this one… and this one… and this one! And I feel like I have been to more parks than the average person 🙂 I can cross out 8 from this list. Your images are just incredible and I really now want to visit the others, I think Mammoth Cave is the most impressive from the list here I have yet to see!

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We still have quite a few on our list too – and we can’t wait!

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Absolutely stunning photos used for this post! As a European I wish I lived closer to be able to experience them all!

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Thanks for the comment about the photos. Hey, Europe has equally amazing things to see that we in the US wished we lived closer to experience 🙂

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Very informative list you shared, it will help us a lot. right now we all are in us and planning to go all of them. Thanks for sharing good blog post.

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Amazing images, thank you for sharing. This is absolutely on my bucket list now as well and I totally get the feeling of the more places you want to go, the more you want to see!

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One of the main reaons why I love the US so much, is its National Parks system. No other country has done so much to save their parks as the US has done. I love your list. Unfortunately I haven’t been to a majority of them. But I did visit a few and I think the annual pass is a great thing to get, if you a National Parks lover.

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I was not knowing that US has so many national parks to visit. I was knowing only two to three and the most famous one Grand Canyon. But there are many more beautiful ones. I would love to visit Glacier Park, Grand Teton and Olympic National Park as they look like paradise. You have put all useful information at one place which is great. I am saving it.

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Yes, the well-known parks get a lot of attention, and for good reason. But there are so many other parks with amazing beauty as well. It’s hard to choose the ones to see first!

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So many incredible national parks! And I am sad that I haven’t been to any of them! I haven’t explored the US properly yet. But these parks make me realise I’m missing out on quite a bit! They all look absolutely beautiful – but I love the sound of the Crater Lake National Park – that really does seem quite spectacular. Great guide!

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Hopefully one day you can visit these parks – they are amazing and beautiful!

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25 National Parks and all of them so good. The Volcano park of Hawaii looks adventurous type. Josua Tree park tour sounds great as it is doable in 2 days. I hope I can visit at least some of these.

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Yes, volcanos and joshua trees – these parks have such varied things to see!

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I bet there is no reason to be felt boring in US. Because of these many free national parks, you can have a tour and appreciate its beauty. Hope to have an opportunity to visit these parks in the future.

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Yellowstone National Park is on my bucket list! And good to know that it is best to visit during the autumn time when the crowds are less and the tress are turning a lovely color. Yosemite was my favourite – I absolutely loved visiting here and am so glad to see it on your recommended list! The Rocky Mountain National Park does look magically with its mountainous landscape – I am sure I would absolutely love this. What a great guide! Totally saving this for my next trip to the USA.

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Yellowstone is SO CROWDED in the summer, but for good reason. And yes, Yosemite is amazing, it is one of our favorite parks as well. We haven’t been to Rocky Mountain yet, but we will be going soon!

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I had heard USA has got plenty national parks, but I didn’t know about so many of them… One probably have to do a separate trip only for national parks I suppose

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There are National Parks all over the US. When you visit the US, depending on the state(s) you will travel through, be sure to find the National Parks in that state so you can at least visit while you are in the area. You won’t be disappointed!

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This post is incredible! There are so many gorgeous places in the states that I never knew about – and I grew up in the states! I’m so excited to go visit my family and explore some of these parks. Thank you for sharing – your knowledge is incredible. Do you have a favorite?

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Thanks Rachel. We haven’t visited all these locations – we had various travel bloggers help put this together. A favorite, boy that’s hard… probably Yellowstone/Tetons, all 5 in Utah Bryce Canyon/Zion/Arches/Canyonlands/Capitol Reef and Yosemite.

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Amazing list. We have had an opportunity to visit a couple but still have a lot more to go. We love hiking so your list is perfect for our next trip to the US.

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The US National Parks all have wonderful hiking trails. And we too still have a lot more to visit as well 🙂

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Whoa, talk about bucket list!! I’ve visited a couple of these parks, but need to make it to the rest of them!! Such stunning places!!

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Yes! The National Parks offer such a diverse array of beautiful things to see and fun things to do. Our bucket list is to visit all 59!

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Eek! This gives me the itch to travel just looking at it! Sometimes I get so caught up in seeing the world that I forget just how beautiful the US and its national parks are. We’ve hardly been to any of these parks yet! I’m sending this to my fiancé to convince him to go on some road trips this summer with me 🙂

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For sure Jess! Big Bend should be a road trip destination for sure – then tell us all about it!

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Love this list! So glad to see Shenandoah on this list — it’s my favorite (and most-local) park of all. I actually just got back from hiking Old Rag today :).

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It’s so nice to have a local NP (or even state park). Hope you enjoyed the hike! We haven’t been to Shenandoah yet ourselves, but it’s on our list, and we’ll have to check out Old Rag!

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What an amazing guide – everything you need in just one spot! I’m passing this along to a good friend who has all the parks on her bucket list!

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Thank you Natalie. We wanted to provide a good list of National Park information from the visitor viewpoint.

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