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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.

We’ve asked fellow travel bloggers and photographers to help us create a US National Park List of their favorite parks to visit and tips for planning a national park vacation.

 

  • List of 25 national parks you should visit (in alphabetical order)
  • More ideas to add to your US national parks list
  • National park vacation tips
  • Plan a US national park vacation
 

List of 25 national parks you should visit: National park vacation tips; Plan a US national park vacation #bucketlist #nationalparks #traveldestinations #photojeepers

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US NATIONAL PARK LIST: 25 MEMORABLE PARKS TO VISIT

 

Acadia National Park

Climbing Bubble Rock Trail at Acadia National Park.

Climbing Bubble Rock Trail at Acadia National Park.

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.

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 – *Acadia Photos © A Traveling Translator

Arches National Park

Double Arch at Arches National Park, Utah

Double Arch at Arches National Park.

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.

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 – *Arches Photos © Photo Jeepers

Tips for Visiting Arches National Park

Expert’s Guide to Arches National Park Photography

Visit Arches in the Winter

Arches National Park Hiking Trails

Where to Stay in Moab, Utah Near Arches and Canyonlands

Arches Summer & Winter Packing Lists

Badlands National Park

A group of big horn sheep at Badlands National Park.

A group of big horn sheep at Badlands National Park.

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.

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 – *Badlands Photos © MBsees

Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunrise at Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sunrise at Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park.

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 see, do and photography at 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.

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 – *Bryce Canyon Photos © Photo Jeepers

Travel Guide for Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

Where to Take Bryce Canyon Photos

Bryce Canyon Hiking Trail: Navajo-Queen’s Garden Loop

Canyonlands National Park

Visiting Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Arch at sunrise

Visiting Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Arch at sunrise.

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.

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.

Dave and Jamie from Photo Jeepers – *Canyonlands Photos © Photo Jeepers

Tips for Visiting Canyonlands National Park

Things to Do at Canyonlands Island in the Sky

Things to Do at The Needles Canyonlands National Park

Where to Stay in Moab, Utah Near Arches and Canyonlands

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

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. 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 – *Cape Hatteras Photos © Everywhere Forward

US National Parks: In the Spring | In the Summer

Capitol Reef National Park

The fruita district at Capitol Reef National Park.

The fruita district at Capitol Reef National Park.

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 to pick 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. 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 – *Capitol Reef Photos © Photo Jeepers

Best Capitol Reef Hikes and Activities

Crater Lake National Park

Enjoy snowshoeing around Crater Lake in the winter.

Enjoy snowshoeing around Crater Lake in the winter.

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.  

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 

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

Death Valley National Park

Add Death Valley to your US National Parks list of places to visit.

Add Death Valley to your US National Parks list of places 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.  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.

Carol from Wayfaring Views – *Death Valley photo © Wayfaring Views

Death Valley Photography Tour in the Spring

Artist’s Drive in Death Valley National Park

YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNEY FACEBOOK GROUP

This is the group for you if…

 You have a camera
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Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park.

Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park.

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.

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 – *Glacier Photos © Camera and a Canvas

Grand Canyon National Park

The views at Grand Canyon National Park are stunning!

The views at Grand Canyon National Park are stunning!

 

Visiting 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.  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.

Rachael from Bee Anything But Boring – *Grand Canyon Photos © Bee Anything But Boring

Grand Canyon Road Trip Adventure

Grand Teton National Park

Canoe the lakes at Grand Teton National Park.

Canoe the lakes at Grand Teton National Park.

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.

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!

Jeanine from Le Wild Explorer – Grand Teton Photo © Le Wild Explorer

Wyoming National Parks Road Trip

Grand Teton Photography: Best Tetons Photo Spots

Visit US National Parks: In the Fall | In the Winter

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fall colors are spectacular at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Fall colors are spectacular at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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, and 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.  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 

Five Smoky Mountains Outdoor Adventures That Should Definitely Be On Your Bucket List

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Walk through lava tubes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Walk through lava tubes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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.

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!

Natalie at The Educational Tourist – *Hawaii Volcanoes Photo © The Educational Tourist

Joshua Tree National Park

Keys View at Joshua Tree National Park.

Keys View at Joshua Tree National Park.

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.

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 – *Joshua Tree Photo © Universal Jetsetters

Guided Tour of Desert Queen Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

The best part of Mammoth Cave National Park is underground!

The best part of Mammoth Cave National Park is underground!

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. You’ll see spectacular domes and pits, large and small passages, and so many cool rock formations.

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. – *Mammoth Cave Photo © Traveling Mrs.

Mount Rushmore National Park

Add Mount Rushmore to your US National Parks list of places to visit.

Add Mount Rushmore to your US National Parks list of places 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.

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?). Although it could be just a stop on the way somewhere, Mount Rushmore and surroundings areas are worth a vacation of their own!  

Emily at She’s a Trip – *Mount Rushmore Photo © She’s a Trip

Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore National Park

Olympic National Park

Mountain views seen at Olympic National Park.

Mountain views seen at Olympic National Park.

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.

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!

Nate at Unbridled World – *Olympic Photo © Unbridled World

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

 

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Park has fun things to see while exploring!

Point Reyes National Seashore has fun things to see while exploring!

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 park 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.

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 Point 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 – *Point Reyes Photo © Hendry & Andrew’s Guide

Visiting Point Reyes with a Toddler

Rocky Mountain National Park

Beautiful Dream Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Beautiful Dream Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park.

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.

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.

Kris at Nomad by Trade – *Rocky Mountain Photo © Nomad by Trade

Hiking the Dream Lake Trail

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Famous sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park.

Famous sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park.

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.

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 – *Sequoia and Kings Canyon Photo © Where’s Bel

 

Shenandoah National Park

The view from Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park.

The view from Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park.

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.

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.

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 – *Shenandoah Photo © Road Unraveled

10 Best Hikes in Shenandoah

Yellowstone National Park

Mom black bear and two cubs at Yellowstone.

Mom black bear and two cubs at Yellowstone.

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.

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 – *Yellowstone Photo © Photo Jeepers

How to Plan the Perfect Yellowstone Vacation

Yellowstone Waterfalls

Yellowstone in the Winter

Visit Yellowstone in the Fall

Yellowstone in October – is it a Good Time to Visit?

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls at Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Falls at Yosemite National Park.

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. 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.

Nie Nie at Adventures With Nie Nie – *Yosemite Photo © Adventures With Nie Nie

Adventures in Yosemite National Park

Zion National Park

Red rock scenes found in Zion National Park.

Red rock scenes found in Zion National Park.

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.

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 – *Zion Photo © Dominican Abroad

Travel Planning Guide for Visiting Zion National Park

Zion National Park Hikes

MORE IDEAS TO ADD TO YOUR US NATIONAL PARKS LIST

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.

Best Hikes in Big Bend National Park

Things to Do at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park 

Day Trip to Santa Cruz Island, Channel Island National Park

Cuyahoga National Park Scenic Railroad

Experiencing Denali National Park | What to Know Before You Go to Denali

Hike Great Basin National Park

Sites to See on Chapin Mesa at Mesa Verde National Park

Visiting North Cascades National Park  

Hiking the Bear Gulch-High Peaks Loop at Pinnacles National Park

Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

An Afternoon with Bison at Wind Cave National Park 

NATIONAL PARK VACATION TIPS

Many 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, buying the US National Parks Pass is a good dealBUY 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 visiting national parks with kids, learn more about the Junior Ranger Program. It’s sure to be a hit with younger children and even teens.

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.

Booking.com

WHAT TO PACK FOR A NATIONAL PARK VACATION 

Download US national park packing lists

What to pack for a national park winter trip

 

1. US National Parks Pass

You can order passes online or get them at any of these Federal Recreation Areas

BUY THE PASS AT REI and they will donate 10% of sales to the National Park Foundation.

2.  Hiking Gear

Hiking boots or shoes – Merrell Moab are our FAVORITE!

Hiking socks – we LOVE Darn Tough Socks!

Walking stick or trekking poles

3. Clothing – Layers

Wicking and quick-drying base layers

Fleece or insulated jacket

4. Daypack

WATER – water bottles or hydration backpack

FOOD – healthy snacks

Flashlight or headlamp

National Park maps

Sunscreen

Lip protection with sunscreen

Polarized sunglasses

Sunhat

Insect repellant

Hand lotion

Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)

Hand sanitizer

First aid kit

Bags to pack out trash

5. Other

Cell phone

Portable charger

Medications

Binoculars

Guide books

Camera Gear

US national park packing lists - get the download

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25 Vacation Ideas to visit US National Parks: planning tips, things to do, what to pack. #bucketlist #nationalparks #traveldestinations #photojeepers

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