Millions of visitor’s head over to the various United States national parks to experience the beauty, wonder, and natural sights. For more than 100 years, millions of acres of land have been managed by the National Park Service for the inspiration, education, and enjoyment of this and all future generations. While all 62 national parks available across the country are worth visiting, we've narrowed down the list to 11 of the nation's best national parks you definitely need to considered visiting.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National park is located on the Atlantic rocky coastline of Maine and brings over 2 million visitors every year. Visitors can explore the park by car on its 30 miles of historic roads or hike on over 158 miles of different trails. The trails and park road are located on Mount Desert Island, which is a short distance from the town of Bar Harbor.
Acadia has four campgrounds on the park where tourists can stay, including Blackwoods, Seawall, Schoodic Woods, and Duck Harbor Campground. Be sure to book a reservation before going as they do not allow last-minute walk ups.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Over 2 million visitors come to Cuyahoga every year for gorgeous views and trails. Cuyahoga is located on over 33,000 acres and features tons of rock formations, forests, caves, waterfalls, and activities like horseback riding, biking, and hiking. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is an easy way for visitors to see the entire park.
Cuyahoga does not offer camping within the park so if you are looking to stay, be sure to checkout nearby campgrounds before you go.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park is located in the Pacific Northwest and draws a crowd of over 3 million visitors every single year. Visitors to Olympic National Park can expect to see several different ecosystems and unique landscapes available to explore, like high mountain peaks, rocky coastline, rain forests, boating, hiking, and stargazing throughout the one million acres of parkland.
Haleakala National park, Hawaii
Located on the gorgeous island of Maui in Hawaii, this national park features one of the best sunrises in the world. This park's name means "house of the sun" in Hawaiian, and it's easy to see why once experiencing the sunrise more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Plus, this vibrant terrain also features various hiking trails inside the crater and many breathtaking waterfall and views. You can even camp up to three nights in the park!
Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
Yellow National park is the world's first national park, established back in 1872. It spans over 2 million acres and is located in three different states. It attracts over four million visitors each year to the park, where visitors can see wildlife, lakes, and waterfalls. What excites most visitors are the unique hydrothermal attractions such as the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful Geyser, and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Looking to stay? There are 12 campgrounds within Yellowstone National Park you can stay at- just be sure to make a reservation.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rock Mountain National park is the third most visited park in the United States, with over 415 square miles making up this mountainous park. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife that can be spotted throughout, including bats, moose, sheep, bighorn, elk, and many more. Visitors attractions also include several hiking trails and scenic drives to view the park's wildflower-covered meadows and alpine forests.
There are five campgrounds to stay at in Rocky Mountain, two of which are first-come first-served campgrounds.
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park spans over 77,000 acres in Utah. This is the perfect park for hikers, rock climbers, backpackers, and photographers to view the oddly shaped sandstone monuments around every corner. There are over 2,000 arches in the park to visit, with some of the most popular, including Double Arch, Delicate Arch, and Landscape Arch.
Devils Garden Campground is the only campground at Arches National Park so you will definitely need to make a reservation before you go if you are planning to stay.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is referred to as one of the world's natural wonders, with millions coming every year to take in the sights. You can view the Grand Canyon from the top in one day or spend days rafting down the Colorado River or hiking the canyons walls. Not to mention, there are tons of opportunities to learn about Native American history and culture, which plays a significant role in the park's history. If you are looking to camp here, 2 of the 3 national park campgrounds allow reservations to be made in advance.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited parks in the United States, with over 4.5 million people visiting every year. This park is known for the ancient sequoias, wildlife, waterfalls, and towering granite formations of Half Dome and El Capitan. The park is open year-round, but the best time to fully see the waterfalls is in the springtime. To fully immerse yourself in this park, plan to camp overnight. Don't forget your camping gear and a Radiate Portable Campfire.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, North Carolina
With over 12.5 million visitors heading to Great Smoky Mountains National park every year, it's one of the most-visited national parks. Located in both Tennessee and North Carolina, this park is known for its fog-covered mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife. Visitors flock to see vibrant displays of gold, orange, and red foliage during the fall, which is when the park shines. However, the Great Smokey Mountains National Park can be visited year-round for fun hiking opportunities and scenic views. The park offers several different types of campsites from backcountry to horse camps.
Everglades National Park, Florida
Everglades National Park spans over 1.5 million acres and is located in the southern part of Florida. It's a subtropical wilderness that is home to a fragile and diverse ecosystem with cypresses, mangroves, coastal lowlands, and tropical hammocks. Many endangered specifies live in this park, such as dolphins, Florida panthers, manatees, alligators, and blue herons. Visitors can bike, walk on trails, and participate in ranger-led programs.
Know Before You Go
Before heading on your next national park adventure, there are a few things you need to consider to ensure you have a fantastic experience.
- Choose the Right Time: Some national parks are not open year-round or have certain parts of the park closed during various seasons, so it's essential to do your research on your specific park of choice to ensure you're going at the right time of the year.
- Bring the Proper Gear: If you're planning a trip to a National park and you don't live close by, you may want to consider camping or staying near by. If you decide to camp at a campground on or near the park grounds, be sure to bring the proper gear with you to ensure you have a fun, relaxing trip. Along with packing your basic camping gear, food & water, layer-able clothing, and your daytime backpack, you'll want to consider packing our Radiate Portable Campfire. It's a no fuss fire in a tin so you do not need to worry about lugging wood with you- simply light the Radiate to start and slide the lid on when you're done using it. Burn time is 3-5 hours so you'll have plenty of time to hang out by the fire!
- Plan Your Day: Research the available activities in your National park of choice to develop a game plan of how you want to spend your time. Not all national parks are free to enter, so be sure to look up the fees for an entrance pass before you go. Always add buffer time for all your planned activities to give yourself enough time to thoroughly explore, take a break, and enjoy nature around you.