We’re huge fans of the US national parks, and we feel so fortunate that there is so much protected beauty to enjoy and explore in this country. Over the years, visiting the national parks has been one of our favorite things to do, either on a longer RV vacation or even just for a day getaway.
To help you with planning your trips to these awe-inspiring national parks, we’ve compiled this list of National Parks in the USA and grouped them by state. If a park is technically in multiple states, we’ve listed all the states it is located in.
Also, don’t forget to get an annual National Park Pass if you plan to visit multiple parks in the same year. We’ve had one of these annual passes for a number of years now, and we definitely get our money’s worth for the number of parks we visit.
** Want to bring your pet? Be sure to check out our complete blog post with links to all the National Park Pet Policies
National Parks Listed By State Alphabetically
We’ve been fortunate enough to visit so many of these awesome national parks over the years, but still, there are so many national parks still on our list to visit! That’s why we made an awesome National Park Checklist which you can download and even print to help keep track of the parks you have visited or want to visit.
Get the National Park Printable PDF Checklist Below!
Alaska National Parks
Denali National Park, Alaska
Located between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Denali National Park is named for the highest peak in North America and is the most popular National Park in all of Alaska. Many visitors to Alaska make the trip to this park, including cruise passengers during the summer months. Although we’ve yet to visit Denali, it’s definitely on our bucket list!
Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
This National Park is extremely remote, and we certainly haven’t been there yet. You can’t even drive into this park…you have to fly or hike in yourself! But if you are looking for the real Alaska, you’ll find it in this park. From the wildlife to the iconic scenery, Gates of the Arctic National Park is a very special place for those who are adventurous enough to visit.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Located in the southern Alaska wilderness north of Juneau in the famous Inside Passage, Glacier Bay is a beautiful park that represents all that is Alaska. You can see giant glaciers, visit Tribal Houses to learn about the indigenous people, and you can spot iconic wildlife on land and in the water. Cruise ships are popular ways to see parts of Glacier Bay, as many of them cruise through this area on their itineraries. But spending some time in this area, even renting a boat, will give you a deeper connection to the area and allow you much more time to enjoy the park.
Katmai National Park, Alaska
From brown bears to salmon, Katmai’s Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was home to the world’s largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century. Katmai National Park is also quite remote in Alaska, and is usually visited by those with a more adventurous spirit and passion for the wild!
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Located at the edge of the Kenai Peninsula, this park harkens back to the days of the ice age where mountains, land and sea meet with giant glaciers! In fact, there are over 40 glaciers that flow through the Harding Icefield, one of the park’s most popular features. This is a spectacular park where you can explore by boat or on foot and see these giant glaciers for yourself, before they all melt away!
Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
Another extremely remote National Park in Alaska, Kobuk Valley is named after the river of the same name which flows through it and it’s famous for the half million caribou which migrate through the area and across the river. Again, there are no roads to the park so getting here takes a lot more work. You’ll need to hire a plane or in the summer you can come by boat or hike in yourself.
Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
Yet another remote and wild park in Alaska, Lake Clark National Park is located southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula. You must take a plane or boat to get to this park, but once here, you are in for some of the most spectacular scenery in Alaska. From volcanoes, to bears, alpine lakes and jagged mountains.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska
The largest National Park in the US, Wrangell-St. Elias is actually 6 times the size of Yellowstone! With so many mountain peaks and very few roads, much of the park is typically seen by visitors when they are driving along nearby highways to the park. As you can imagine, the park is loaded full of wildlife, glaciers, lakes, rivers and more.
National Park of American Samoa
Let’s be honest, most of us probably didn’t realize that there was a National Park in American Samoa! I even named my childhood dog Samoa (true story) and I didn’t know this until recently. I’ve always wanted to go to Samoa, and after researching and seeing these photos — I have to say that a trip to Samoa has been bumped up higher on my bucket list! This stunning park seeks to protect the local culture as well as the tropical environment. Located in the heart of Polynesia, this park is home to a number of beautiful birds such as the colorful King Fisher and some pretty iconic landscapes. Plus, you are able to interact and learn about the local culture, history, art and dance.
Grand Canyon National Park
One of the most iconic of all National Parks in the US is probably The Grand Canyon. And yeah, it’s pretty grand! I can tell you that even though I’ve seen a lot of pretty awesome canyons over the course of my travels, I’ll never forget the first time Josh, myself, and Hana walked out to view the Grand Canyon. It’s impressive!!!
This is one stamp in our National Park Passport Book that we couldn’t wait to get!
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Just chilling in front of the Grand Canyon 🐕🤘🏔🚐 Just LIVIN that #labulouslife
Located in the northwest part of Arizona, the Grand Canyon has a few areas on both the north and south rims — but I’d say, the most popular areas for visitors is the south rim. We went to the south rim, which is accessible just north of Flagstaff, Arizona. There were many pull-offs to explore views, visitor centers and more. And there were even some campgrounds.
If you are feeling really adventurous, you could go for a hike down into the canyon or even do some rafting. There are also donkey rides, trains, and helicopters for more unique experiences. But for many of us, just hiking some of the trails up on the rip and gazing out over the canyon is enough to enjoy this park. And lucky for us, dogs are allowed to go along some of the upper rim trails near the visitor centers — so Hana was able to enjoy her visit to the Grand Canyon too!
Petrified Forest National Park
This park is located northeast of Phoenix, Arizona. There are 2 main areas to the Petrified Forest National Park, the northern end and the southern end. The southern end is where you will find much of the petrified wood that makes this park famous. Walking the Giant Logs or Crystal Forest Trails are some of the most popular things to do in the south end. The northern part of the park showcases more of the human story of the previous 13,000+ years of inhabitants and the history and change that has occurred. It also provides views out over the Painted Desert.
Saguaro National Park
When people think of cactus, they are actually picturing the iconic Saguaro cactus (and probably didn’t even know it)! These plants are famous symbols of the desert are actually only found in a small region of the American Southwest. These protected plants can be found all over this national park, which is near Tuscon.
Hot Springs National Park
Near the town of Hot Springs Arkansas, this area is known historically for its healing thermal waters. Although you need to pay to visit many of the bathhouses to take a soak, you can enjoy Hot Springs National Park by walking a number of the hiking trails, as well as enjoying the scenery by car or even camping.
Channel Islands National Park
While this park is primarily on 5 islands out in the Pacific off the coast of California, there are visitor centers on the mainland in Ventura and Santa Barbara, California. However, you can also take a boat out to the islands where you can enjoy hiking, camping, beautiful views and wildlife, including perhaps bald eagles! You can even take a virtual visit to Channel Islands park here through their website – which is a great way to enjoy the natural scenery from home.
Death Valley National Park (California and Nevada)
This is a famous National Park that I actually visited a few times as a kid and remember quite vividly…because boy does it get HOT here!!! The park encompasses a basin that actually sits below sea level and is known for its extreme temperatures. There’s actually quite a lot to do in this park, from hiking, biking, camping and there are even some backcountry roads to explore.
They even have a Star Wars Auto Tour where you can learn about different areas where they filmed some parts of the movies! Of course, you definitely need to be aware of the temperatures here. So if it’s hot, you may opt to go inside one of the visitor centers and enjoy some of their cool interactive exhibits and movies in the lovely air-conditioning.
Joshua Tree National Park
This is one park that we’ve been wanting to get to for years, but somehow the timing just doesn’t work out. Joshua Tree, located in southern California near Palm Springs is named after these really cool looking trees that can be found in the area. The area is known for it’s strong winds and soaking rain, as well as its clear skies which are perfect for stargazing!
As with so many national parks, Joshua Tree is a great place to find hiking trails, rock climbing, and even camping. Again, just be very careful to be prepared as the temperatures can rise quickly here and it can become dangerous if you get yourself lost.
Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park
These two parks basically run together, almost like one big park. Kings Canyon is famous for having the largest grove of sequoia trees that remain in the world. While most people visit Sequoia National Park because it is home to the biggest tree that you can find on Earth!
These two parks are pretty impressive if you like enormous canyons and trees so massive you will think you are on a different planet! I remember visiting Sequoia National Park as a teenager with my family. And I will never forget seeing General Sherman, the largest tree in the world! Seriously, our entire family of about 5+ linked arms and couldn’t even get halfway around the tree…it’s that big!!!
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Located in northern California, 130 miles north of Sacramento and east of Redding is Lassen Volcanic National Park. As the 15th National Park designated by Congress, it’s actually one of the oldest National Parks and encompasses over 100,000 acres of wilderness.
Hot water continues to shape the landscape here. Similar to other famous parks, like Yellowstone, you can walk on a boardwalk alongside bubbling mud pits and other geothermal activity. Along with numerous volcanoes, you can find steaming fumaroles, as well as crystal clear mountain lakes. With 150 miles of trails, you can get outside to explore the surroundings and take in magnificent views of the jagged volcanic peaks.
This park is fascinating if you enjoy rugged wilderness, and lively volcanoes. There are some great visitor centers with insightful details about different types of volcanoes in the area and how they were formed. You’ll also find interpretive trails, multiple campgrounds, picnic areas and many lakes.
Pinnacles National Park
Southeast of Monterey, California is where you will find Pinnacles National Park. Formed some 23 million years ago by volcanic activity, this park is known for its unique towering rock formations. This area is popular with climbers and hikers who enjoy exploring caves and sheer rock canyons.
There are over 30 miles of trails here, some are fairly easy while others are quite challenging. Many of these trails connect to each other, so you could do smaller loops if you wish or a full day hike. Many of the trails visit areas in the park such as Bear Gulch Reservoir, High Peaks, and the Balconies areas. Popular caves to explore include Bear Gulch Cave and the Balconies.
The park protects the largest diversity of bees in all of North America, and keep your eyes peeled for the once-endangered California red-legged frog. Campers here visitors to enjoy clear and bright starry skies, and the park is open year-round for visitors.
Redwood National Park
The thing to know about Redwood National Park is that while the National Park stretches 50 miles and has 5 visitor centers from Crescent City south to Orick, the area also combines a number of California State Parks as well spread across a wide area in northern California. So it’s not really just one destination.
Camping among the famous touring Redwoods is something that both Josh and I had been dreaming about for quite some time, and when we were finally able to visit, the park didn’t disappoint. We actually camped at Richardson Grove State Park, a picturesque area with loads of history and towering Redwoods all around you. We had a blast riding around on bikes with Hana through the paths at the campground, enjoying the visitor center and shop, and taking drives out to nearby areas.
Part of the reason we camped here was that it was in a central location to access many Redwood “groves” nearby and even the famous Avenue of the Giants drive was just up the highway a few minutes. The Avenue of the Giants is a must do! This is honestly one of the most picturesque Redwoods drives that you can do. It’s a 31 mile stretch of highway that parallels the main highway 101. It’s a leisurely drive, and since it’s not very long, feel free to take your time by stopping off to explore some of the groves and even have a picnic.
There are some truly lovely hikes in the Redwoods. Some of the groves seem almost magical! We explore areas that looked like they were straight out of a movie set, and other areas where movies actually were shot! We walked inside of old trees and through them, and really admired some of nature’s finest creations. Visiting the Redwoods is purely magical.
Yosemite National Park
When it comes to iconic images of US National Parks, Yosemite tops the list. And personally speaking, seeing the view of Yosemite Valley for yourself doesn’t disappoint. It’s quite possibly one of the most beautiful sights of all time, and it’s no wonder this is a popular National Park to visit.
There is wonderful hiking to do at this park, and the drives and overlooks are breathtaking. With over 1,200 square miles of wilderness, Yosemite is known for its waterfalls and rugged mountains for climbing or hiking. Camping is extremely popular in Yosemite, and there’s also fishing, rafting, swimming, horseback riding, interpretive programs and more. There are also some great audio-tour guides as well as narrated tours you can take as well.
If you plan to visit Yosemite, be sure that you plan accordingly because winter weather can affect operations and during peak season and around holidays the park can be very crowded.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Located in western Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is where you can find steep canyons and cliffs, towering rock formations, and the Gunnison River which has been carving its way through the area for millions of years.
This is a fairly remote park, and cell service is terrible at best but usually non-existent. Taking some scenic drives along the rim of the canyon and down to the water is the easiest to explore. There are hiking trails for all abilities on both north and south rims of the Canyon; however, there are a number of trails that are difficult and can be quite steep and dangerous. This park is also well known for its fantastic trout fishing in the river and has some nice campgrounds. But do be aware of the black bears!
Great Sand Dunes National Park
The Great Sand Dunes is one of those national parks that a lot of people may not have heard about. And even having traveled as much as I have, I didn’t realize this national park existed until we actually moved to Colorado.
Luckily, we were able to spend quite a lot of time at the Sand Dunes National Park and we really enjoy this park because it’s quite possibly the most dog-friendly national park in the States. We had a blast hiking the dunes with Hana and playing in the seasonal Medano Creek at the base of the dunes. There are many other hiking trails and 4×4 roads in the area, as well as a great visitor center.
If you are going to visit the Sand Dunes National Park, there is camping at the park but you may also opt to stay at the Sand Dunes Pool Hot Springs, which are about a 30 minute drive from the park and is one of our top hot springs in Colorado recommendations!
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is honestly, one of the most fascinating parks that I’ve ever visited. But sadly, it’s remote location doesn’t attract near as many visitors as it should. This park was created to protect the heritage of the ancestral Pueblo people who live here from 600 to 1300 CE. The area is home to some of the best preserved “cliff dwellings” in the US, with more than 600 discovered in the area and the park protects 5,000 known archeological sites that give an important window into early human life in this area.
We camped at the onsite at the Morefield campground and spent a couple days roaming about the area. The park is HUGE and it can take quite a while to drive around. But there are some really awesome trails with amazing views, some very cool visitor centers, and incredible historical architecture. Learning about how people lived in this area so long ago is just amazing. And you absolutely must take a tour to see it all up close. But keep in mind that you must book a tour in advance if you want to see it for yourself because guided tours are the only way.
100% worth it! This was by far one of the most interesting National Parks I’ve visited. Just the history of the area, and the incredible archeology. It’s fascinating to see how humans lived here so long ago, and how they thrived in these communities.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Living in Denver, we were lucky to be close enough to Rocky Mountain National Park that we have visited a number of times. This park includes 415 square miles of some of the highest peaks in the US. Visitors enjoy driving the Trail Ridge Road, which takes you up over 12,000 feet in elevation and you can see the changing landscapes from subalpine to alpine environments. There are over 300 miles of trails here, but it’s important to be prepared to hike at such high elevations.
Estes Park is a charming town located at the east entrance to the park. I highly recommend staying in this area, as there are a lot of fun things to do including shops and restaurants. However, Grand Lake is on the west side of the park is a charming small mountain town with some stunning natural scenery, lakes and hiking nearby. It’s also a lot quieter in Grand Lake than in Estes Park, which is a pretty popular touristy town.
Biscayne National Park
Primarily an aquamarine park, Biscayne National Park covers an area of water and land just north of Key Largo and can be seen if you look out to sea from southern Miami. While there is a visitor center on land in Homestead, this park protects the waters in this area and undersea life including coral reefs. The park is home to over 500 species of reef fish, neo-tropical water birds and more.
The primary things to do in this park is to go boating, fishing, paddling, camping, and wildlife watching. However, this is also a wonderful area to go snorkeling and diving due to the stunning coral reefs in the area that are full of sea life. If you are driving from Miami to the Florida Keys, this is a great stop along the way!
Dry Tortugas National Park
A National Park that has been on our wishlist for years, the Dry Tortugas are possibly one of the most remote National Parks in the US. Located 70 miles off the west coast of Key West, Florida, the only way you can get to this park is by boat or seaplane. The park covers 100 square miles, which is mostly water as well as many underwater beautiful coral reefs. There are a few small islands to explore, including the well preserved Fort Jefferson.
Most visitors to this park arrive by ferry boat from Key West. Plan for a full day trip, as the boat ride itself takes more than 2 hours one-way. Once you arrive, you can take a tour of historic Fort Jefferson, which was used as a prison during the Civil War, then relax on the beach or do some snorkeling before returning home later in the afternoon.
One of the most popular things to do here besides the Fort is enjoying the crystal blue waters. There is plenty of snorkeling and diving in the area. There’s also paddle sports, fishing, Geocaching, tours, and more. It is possible to camp here too, although it’s very limited and quite primitive! However, it’s a pretty incredible experience to be of only a few people on this far-flung tropical island overnight, with some pretty stunning skies.
Everglades National Park
Famous for its alligators, the Everglades National Park is dubbed the largest subtropical wilderness in the US. You can also find American crocodiles here, manatees…and panthers. Birdwatching is popular here as well. You might even catch a glimpse of a great blue heron. Many people don’t realize that the Everglades a World Heritage Site too!
The Everglades is the 3rd largest national park in the lower 48 states and it includes over 2,400 square miles. With educational visitors centers where you can learn all about the unique ecosystem in southern Florida and the wildlife, there’s a lot to discover in the Everglades. There are also hiking and biking trails, plenty of areas for boating, canoeing/kayaking as well as fresh and saltwater fishing.
A popular activity that tops our list in the Everglades is taking an airboat ride. It really is an iconic way to see and appreciate the area. You’ll find a number of operators to choose from nearby the park, many of which are quite knowledgeable and can give you some great insight into the area, the natural habitat, and the wildlife.
Haleakala National Park
Located on the popular island of Maui, Haleakala National Park covers an area from the summit of Haleakala all the way down near the town of Hana. There are many areas to discover in the park, but most of which are quite remote. Keep in mind that there is no gas in the park and few services, most things will be at least a 30 minute drive away.
Hiking and exploring this diverse landscape is extremely popular. There are many hiking trails that take you through lush forests, past magnificent waterfalls, along peaceful streams and overlooking rocky coastlines and cliffs.
One of the most popular things to do here is watching the sunrise from high atop the Volcano early in the morning (and I mean early!!!). Due to the popularity of this activity, you now need to make reservations up to 60 days in advance for this experience. Keep in mind that most of the resort areas on Maui are quite a distance away, meaning that you will have to wake up crazy early.
When we visited, we were actually lucky to be staying with a friend’s father who lives up on the side of Haleakala, making for a much shorter drive for us. Still, it’s a long day but totally worth it for that view!
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Having visited this park a couple times in my life, I can say with certainty that this park where I’ve walked in a Volcano is probably one of the most interesting parks I’ve ever been to. It’s crazy to think that you are standing on one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and longest erupting.
Covering an area from sea level all the way up to 13,000+ feet, Volcanoes National Park is diverse in landscapes, scenery, and geology. Not only are there interesting visitors, but nothing compares to hiking through a lava tube or down into the caldera of a volcano! Seriously, it’s such a cool hike! Then there’s driving out through old lava flows (with signs to date them) and seeing how different they look and arriving at the ocean where you can see the steam coming off the fresh lava flowing into the sea.
Finally, don’t forget to visit the main caldera at night for a fiery red glow in the dark that you will never forget! Looking up at the gorgeous star-filled sky (with little light pollution) and the glowing red of the lava below, is crazy to see in person and highly recommended.
Yellowstone National Park (See Wyoming Below)
Mammoth Cave National Park
The longest cave system on Earth, spanning over 400 miles, runs through this area of Kentucky and Mammoth Cave National Park is where you can go inside and see it for yourself. Located outside of Bowling Green Kentucky, this park has dozens of miles of trails below ground where you can explore a whole different subterranean world.
One of the most popular things to do at Mammoth Cave is to take a cave tour. In fact, tours of the caves around here stretch back over 200 years. There are over 70 miles of nature trails around the area, campgrounds, and a navigable river to enjoy.
Gateway Arch National Park (See Missouri below)
Indiana Dunes National Park
Located along a 15 mile stretch on the shores of Lake Michigan east of Gary, Indiana Dunes National Park is popular for flying kites, birdwatching, water activities, and hiking along the dunes trails. In fact, there are over 50 miles of trails over rugged dunes, wetlands, rivers and forests.
In the summer you can go swimming and other water fun, but in the winter the park is also popular for sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Dunewood Campground is a great place to stay and is open from April through October.
Acadia National Park
One of the top 10 visited National Parks in the US, Acadia National Park is a treasure along the northeast coast. There are 27 miles of roads that wind through the park, perfect for a road trip and picnic on a nice day. There are also 158 miles of hiking trails through the park, and the park is quite dog-friendly, which we love!
The natural and rugged coastline is the main attraction here, with beauty around every corner. Popular sites to see here include Bass Harbor Head Light, which is the only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island. You can also take a drive up the narrow winding road to the top of the highest mountain on the northeast coastline, Cadillac Mountain.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of marine activities here. From canoeing and kayaking, to swimming and fishing. There are also ranger-guided boat cruises out on the water, and bicycle tours on land. There are some climbing locations in the park as well, and definitely don’t miss out on the fall foliage colors changing magnificent shades!
Isle Royale National Park
If you are looking for solitude and some adventure, Isle Royale National Park in Michigan is a great option. This rugged island in Lake Superior is an ideal destination to do some kayaking/canoeing, boating, hiking, camping, and you can even go scuba diving!
This island feels so remote and you can enjoy interesting wildlife, such as the Red Squirrel which over time has evolved differently from its mainland counterparts. This peaceful and serene island is also home to 4 lighthouses (3 of which are still active). This important structures guided the way for ships in the area, and there are many shipwrecks nearby that prove just how dangerous these waters can be.
Voyageurs National Park
This water-based park is known for its maze of interconnected waterways. Voyageurs National Park is popular for boaters for this reason, and you can bring your own boat or rent one onsite at the park. Another option is to take one of the many ranger-led boat tours around the park. Houseboating is also a popular activity and gives a unique way to explore the park while enjoying comforts and having a place to stay overnight so you can enjoy life on the water under the stars.
Gateway Arch National Park
Marking the beginning of the “west” this park primarily consists of the famous arch structure that St. Louis’ skyline is known for. Overlooking the Mississippi River, this arch is a feat of engineering that you can actually go up inside! It’s tiny up there, but really really cool to see in person!
The Gateway Arch National Park is also a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening up the West for exploration. Underground below the arch is an entire museum that you can enjoy. This is also where you can buy tickets to go up inside the arch. Read more about our experience visiting and going up inside the Gateway Arch here!
Glacier National Park
With over 700 miles of hiking trails through an incredibly wild and serene landscape, Glacier National Park is one of the country’s most iconic parks. Explore forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and glacier-covered peaks. The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road is an absolutely epic drive that attracts visitors from around the country (and the world), but it’s only open a few months out of the year. So be prepared for some traffic on this major road through the park!
This is a stunning park, especially popular for those who enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, and being among some of the most pristine and remote wilderness in the country.
Yellowstone National Park (See Wyoming Below)
Death Valley National Park (See California Above)
Great Basin National Park
When people think of Nevada, they often think of the desert and Las Vegas. However, there’s some pretty spectacular scenery and wilderness in Nevada, and Great Basin National Park is where you can discover a lot of that for yourself.
Admire the peak of Mt. Wheeler at over 13,000 feet, or take a ranger-led tour through Lehman Cave. This is a remote park, about 4-5 hour drive north of Las Vegas, this area is home to some super dark skies at night, which makes for some incredible star-gazing as well!
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
A famous park that I’ve always wanted to visit but not yet gotten around to is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Located in the remote southeastern part of New Mexico (near the Texas border) this park is home to more than 119 caves under the Chihuahuan Desert. Sulfuric acid dissolved the limestone here leaving you with deep and rocky cave formations. You’ll also find flowering cactus here among other desert inhabitants.
There’s a great visitor center here with videos and other interpretive exhibits. But the most popular thing to do is take a cave tour. The good thing is that there are some areas of the caves where you can go on a self-guided tour at your own pace, such as the Big Room. However, you can also take one of the ranger-led guided tours as well for a more in-depth experience.
White Sands National Park
275 square miles of desert in southcentral New Mexico is home to White Sands National Park. With flowing dunes of bright white gypsum sand, this park is actually the world’s largest gypsum dune field and it’s an impressive natural wonder to see for yourself!
Of course, there are a number of trails here where you can explore the wildlife and nature in the area. Don’t miss taking the famous Dunes Drive, an 8-mile scenic road trip from the visitors center to the middle of the dune field. Another popular activity besides hiking is to go sledding on the famous white dunes on sand sleds!
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt came here to hunt bison back in 1883, and the area had such an impact on him that it forever changed his outlook on nature, and paved the way for our National Park system. Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is a park that is named in honor of the President, and to share with the public all the beauty and nature that inspired the President so long ago.
Take the South Unit’s scenic 36-mile loop drive to explore the Little Missouri Badlands, or the North Unit’s 28-miles drive through the Badlands and up to the River Bend Overlook. This scenic area in the Badlands is full of outdoor activities for enthusiasts, as well as camping.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (See Tennessee Below)
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
This park is easily accessible from the large towns of Cleveland and Akron, and is home to the Cuyahoga River. Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems far away from the urban cities so close by, as you will find forests, rolling hills and farmlands. There are over 125 miles of hiking trails through the peaceful surroundings, and it makes for a nice break from the busy city!
Crater Lake National Park
Another park that has been on my list for quite some time is Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. This park in southwestern Oregon is famous because it is technically a giant volcano that collapsed at the summit and filled with water, creating a high altitude lake up at the top of the mountain!
Crater Lake is impressive as it is the deepest lake in the USA and one of the most pristine clean lakes in the whole world! The lake is an absolutely gorgeous blue, and there are loads of things to do here for outdoor enthusiasts. From biking the rim of the lake, hiking, camping, boating and more. The elevation is high, and there can be quite a bit of snow in the winter, so be sure to check on the conditions before heading up the mountain. It’s quite the drive!
Congaree National Park
Located southeast of Columbia, South Carolina is Congaree National Park. This park is famous for having the largest old growth bottomland hardwood forest that remains in the southeastern United States. The Wateree and Congaree Rivers flow through this forest which nourish this fascinating ecosystem. Take a stroll on one of the many trails and boardwalks that go through the forest, or go on a canoe trip down Cedar Creek. The area is also popular for camping and fishing, and is a peaceful escape away from the busy city nearby.
Badlands National Park
Home to some of the richest fossil beds in the world, Badlands National Park is located west of Rapid City in the western part of South Dakota. Ancient horses and rhinos once lived in this area and with over 240,000 acres, this park protects a variety of wildlife such as bison, black-footed ferrets, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs. The area is rich with geology and paleontology artifacts and there are a number of hiking trails to explore, drives to take and camping to enjoy.
Wind Cave National Park
Named for the unique winds at its entrance, this cave system is one of the largest and most complex in the world. Wind Cave National Park is one of the oldest National Parks in the country and located in southwestern South Dakota. A visit to this area allows you to glimpse bison and elk roaming the grasslands and forested hillsides. And of course, you can also go inside the cave!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The most visited National Park in the USA, Great Smoky Mountains is easily accessible from many of the eastern states and is a very popular vacation destination much of the year. Driving through this park you have the chance to see black bears roaming in their natural habitat, as well as experiencing Southern Appalachian mountain culture.
Spending time in this park to do some hiking and biking is also recommended. Keep in mind that during holidays, this park is absolutely packed. So plan accordingly, especially if you plan to stay in the popular Gaitlinburg or Pigeon Forge tourist towns.
Big Bend National Park
Located in the southwest of Texas along the border with Mexico is Big Bend National Park. This park hugs the Rio Grande river as it carves its way through the limestone making towering canyons in the area. The diversity of wildlife species in this area is impressive, and there are a number of scenic drives you can take as well as day hikes and plenty of bicycling opportunities. But it’s not just the natural landscape that is fascinating, the history of the area and even some old settlements are reminders of the challenging past.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Located in western Texas along the border with New Mexico is Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This park is nearly adjacent to Carlsbad Caverns across the border in New Mexico and allows visitors to check off a couple National Parks right near each other in a visit! The area is home to the 4 highest peaks in Texas, and protects the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef.
Arches National Park
Home to thousands of arch formations, great hiking trails and incredible scenery, arches doesn’t disappoint. Located just outside of Moab, Utah, Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural stone arches and is filled with vibrant colors, textures and unique shapes.
While it’s best to spend a little time in this area (Moab is a super cool town anyway) we actually visited this park on a whim as we were driving through from Colorado to Idaho. We only had an afternoon, but that was enough time to explore the visitor center, drive around and admire the crazy landscapes, and even take a hike up to the most famous delicate arch! Yeah, you can hike right up to it and see it in person (or stand underneath it!).
We really enjoyed our time at Arches, and definitely recommend that if you have time, definitely try to spend at least a few days in the area. Besides that, there are a ton of other parks nearby to explore. So there’s plenty to do here. Oh, this part of Utah is a 4×4 off-roading paradise – if you are into that!
Bryce Canyon National Park
Another famous park in this part of Utah, Bryce Canyon is known for its colorful hoodoos (irregular columns of rock). In fact, Bryce Canyon National Park is the largest collection of hoodoos in any one place than anywhere else in the world.
There are multiple lookout points from the top of the canyon down into the chiseled hoodoos below. Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce viewpoints are all popular locations that you can drive to and enjoy the view below. There is also a rim trail that is fairly easy, where you can walk to and from the various viewpoints while enjoying the view. And there are also more difficult trails, where you can hike down into the hoodoos, like you are strolling through a forest of towering rock, and back up again. During the winter season, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular activities around here as well.
During our visit, we actually had our Class C RV and did not have a tow car with us. Sadly, we couldn’t drive our RV inside the park. However, they do have a great shuttle system so you don’t need a car! This was a great option for us to be able to take the shuttle and leave the RV at the main parking lot. Keep in mind though, the shuttle is not dog-friendly. Luckily, it was not hot during our visit so Hana was able to stay in the RV while we took the shuttle out to explore the park.
Canyonlands National Park
The Colorado River and its tributaries have been carving out this land for quite some time, making numerous canyons and buttes. There are 4 districts to Canyonlands National Park, divided up between the rivers, Island in the Sky, Needles, The Maze, and the Rivers. Every part of this park is distinct in its own way, and offers many things to do for visitors, especially those who enjoy hiking in the outdoors.
Capitol Reef National Park
Did you know that the Earth has a giant wrinkle? At Capitol Reef National Park you can see it for yourself. Technically called a geologic monocline which is essential a wrinkle in the Earth, and it stretches for over 100 miles! This park is a wonder with all its canyons, domes, cliffs, and natural bridges of stone. This park is a dream for hikers, and offers magnificent views throughout it’s many miles of trails. There are also some guided road-trips you can take, and interesting exhibits and movies at the visitor center.
Other activities include ranger programs, stargazing, checking out the petroglyphs panel, an old historic schoolhouse, and they also have a museum where, if you are lucky, they may have freshly baked pie during the season.
Zion National Park
An iconic park, Zion is not to be missed if you are in the area. Just outside of St. George, Utah in the southwestern corner, Zion National Park was actually the first national park in Utah, and it’s is a stunning park with incredible scenery to be enjoyed.
The colors and rock formations here are just amazing, and there are so many hiking trails to choose from. Imagine walking along some of the same trails that ancient natives walked in this area, or the old pioneers. Experience narrow canyons, soaring colorful cliffs all around you, and the contrast of the green plants against the red stone is just a vibrant contrast that no photo can capture.
As you can imagine, the area is very popular with hikers and climbers, as well as canyoneers. You definitely need to plan ahead if you visit this park, as peak season can be very crowded. Also, they do have shuttles during certain times to cut down on the amount of car traffic in the park, such as when we visited. And even the shuttle line could get pretty long.
Virgin Islands National Park
I’ve included this park because it is technically in the USA, and it’s a beautiful place to visit if you are ever in the Virgin Islands. Virgin Islands National Park is popular for those who want to experience a tropical paradise and appreciate the beauty of the landscapes and history of the area. You can hike to old the ruins of plantations, see old petroglyphs carved long ago by Taino Indians, and of course explore some beautiful beaches and snorkel the coral reefs.
Shenandoah National Park
Located only 75 miles from Washington DC, Shenandoah National Park is a serene escape from the busy city. The park is full of cascading waterfalls, flowers, woods, and views. With over 200,000 acres of protected land here, you can spot black bear, deer, and an array of birds. Outdoor activities are abound here, with rock climbing, hiking camping, fishing, horseback riding and more.
Mount Rainier National Park
This famous mountain is the backdrop for many scenic pictures of the Seattle area. Sitting ominously in the background at over 14,000 feet, it’s a massive mountain and rugged national park. Technically an active volcano, you’ll find ancient forests in the lower hills and subalpine wildflower meadows higher up on the side. And of course, glaciers all along the top!
I remember driving around Mount Rainier National Park with my family as a child, taking in the views, doing a bit of hiking, and stopping off for some pretty awesome picnics with incredible views! Mountain climbing is very popular here, but if sleeping high up on a freezing mountain isn’t your thing, then just taking a day hike through the meadows or forests is a perfect way to spend the day.
The park covers more than 368 square miles, and there are 260 miles of maintained trails and another 147 miles of roads. The park consists of 5 developed areas, with visitors centers, museums, a couple different climbing centers. Definitely keep the weather in mind, because portions of the park could have restrictions during different times of the year.
North Cascades National Park
In northwestern Washington State North Cascades National Park is only 3 hours from Seattle but seems like another world! Jagged peaks surround you with more than 300 glaciers ready to be explored, for those adventurous enough to get out there. The remote town of Stehekin along the shores of Lake Chelan, the 3rd deepest lake in the USA, is quite the experience as there are no roads leading in or out and you must travel by foot, boat or plane – which is part of the experience! This park is an absolute masterpiece of nature, with pristine beauty all around you!
Olympic National Park
Located on the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle on the other side of the Puget Sound, this park is massive at nearly 1 million acres and is known for its diversity with its glacier-capped peaks and old-growth temperate rain forests. This area has been inhabited for thousands of years by humans, and has various ecosystems stretching from the coast of the Pacific Ocean inland.
This area gets a crazy amount of rain. And that’s what makes it purely stunning. There are tons of waterfalls and loads of hiking trails around these parts. You can not only camp at Olympic National Park in one of the many campgrounds, but they also have a number of lodges, rustic cabins and mountain resorts, including a hot springs resort!
New River Gorge
Tucked away in the mountains of West Virginia is the newest National Park, as of 2021. New River Gorge is one of the most surprisingly beautiful parks hidden away in an outdoor oasis but just around the corner from some of the most populated areas on the East Coast of the US. Josh always describes driving through this area as “driving through a calendar” because of all the colors, geography, and buildings – like classic barns you see on a calendar!
Rock climbers and white water rafters will especially love this park, as there are climbing opportunities throughout and 50+ miles of incredible whitewater rapids – including class IV and V! There’s more than just adventure here thought. Museums recount the interesting history of the area including mining, lumber and rail workers. And of course, we highly recommend taking a scenic drive through the area and doing some hikes.
Grand Teton National Park
Growing up in Idaho, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized how spoiled I was having this National Park in my backyard. And to this day, there might not be a better view out there then staring up at these jagged peaks cutting up into the sky.
The Grand Tetons are just spectacular to visit. I highly recommend camping in this area so you can enjoy the lakes, hiking trails and views. We enjoyed staying at Signal Mountain Campground during our most recent visit. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, as we had a number of deer walk through our camp on a numerous occasions. I woke up to a moose in our neighbors camp early one morning, and bear sightings are frequent (I even saw 3 cubs one day along the highway!).
Don’t miss out paddling on Jenny Lake, or taking a boat ride to a waterfall and some hiking trails. There are also a number of paths for biking, even going all the way into Jackson Hole.
Yellowstone National Park
One of the most popular National Parks of all is Yellowstone. While the park is mostly in Wyoming, there are small portions in both Idaho and Montana, where you will also find entrances and exits to the park. Famous for being positioned on top of a giant active supervolcano, Yellowstone is known for its wildlife and wild geology.
Old Faithful is a must-see, this famous geyser has been erupting on schedule for the last 135 years. There’s also some truly interesting mud pits and geyser fields with paths and trails throughout. Just be sure you are super careful, as it’s incredibly fragile and dangerous ground. Definitely stay on the trail at all times.
The views at Yellowstone are impressive, and so is the wildlife. One of the most famous are the buffalo, which can be found all over the park. But there’s also a huge lake for boating, and various campgrounds and lodges throughout the park.
US National Park Printable Checklist!
With so many amazing national parks to explore here in the USA, it’s a fun goal to see how many you can visit. That’s why we made a great US National Park Checklist that you can even print to help keep track of all the parks you’ve visited, and those that are still on your bucket list for the future.
Download the Printable Checklist FREE Below!
Do You Have a Favorite US National Park?
It’s difficult for me to decide which National Park is my favorite. There are so many that we like for different reasons. Do you have a favorite park? Feel free to share in the comments below! We’d love to hear which ones you enjoy most and why!