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10 Best National Parks in the USA You Must Explore!

10 mins read
Photo by Piccinng: https://www.pexels.com/photo/the-grand-prismatic-spring-at-the-yellow-stone-national-park-wyoming-5339020/



Let’s go through the best national parks in the USA one can explore!!!

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the United States is a country of cosmic diversity. While we have Alaska in the northwest and the sweeping islands of Hawaii stretching towards the Pacific waters, there are enormous scenic treasures and mythical sites for one to explore.

What makes the United States exceptional is its diversity. Stretching across the broad swath of the country, you will be spoiled with multiple options, each offering you one greater than the other experience.

While each of these national parks exhibits certain characteristics that make them unique and worth visiting, it becomes a challenging job to segregate the best ones from the lot. From desert scrublands to dense, deep forests and captivating waterfalls, one can experience the potential of most of what nature is all about.

united states mountain ranges
Image by Ignacio Palés\Pexels copyright 2017

National Parks in America

Initially, there were around 420 national park sites in the United States operated by the National Park Service. Of these, 63 National parks have qualified as the most important ones chosen by the US Congress.

These protected areas have been designated for their exceptional beauty, breathtaking scenery, sundry ecosystems, and distinctive geological features. From gigantic tall trees and scenic landscapes to harmonious snow-capped mountain ranges, the United States offers a treasure trove of scenic attractions and adventure sports opportunities.

America houses some of the best marvels of nature that promise splendid landscapes and great adventure experiences alongside nurturing and conserving wildlife. Most of the National Parks in the US can be easily accessed, which means a few hours drives from major cities will get you to your desired destinations. Located far off the bustle of busy cities, these parks sustain their tranquility and make your long-planned journey worthwhile.

Here in this blog, we will look into some of the best national parks in the USA and discuss what makes these natural treasures worth visiting. However, scaling down top national parks can be subjective and can depend from person to person.

The list we have below is entirely based on popularity and visitation numbers. So plan your trip better and make the most of your stay as we look into some famous national parks in the USA.

Top 10 National Parks

Your visit to the United States shall remain incomplete if you miss out on any of these wonders. Be it a road trip or a detox weekend getaway, re-establish your long-lost connection with nature, and breathe from the fresh misty atmosphere while being absorbed in the enchanting beauty of what these national parks showcase.

1. Yellowstone National Park

Location: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

The Yellowstone National Park is the oldest national park in the world, founded in 1872. Attracting over 4.9 million visitors annually, the Yellowstone national park is one of America’s most popular national parks. Plenty of wonders await at the Yellowstone national park as you’ll always find erupting geysers, boiling springs, waterfalls, and bubbling mud pots.

The main attractions include the Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, which exhibits a spectacular rainbow color as the waters spread out, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

The Yellowstone national park offers a treasure trove of escapades with challenging hiking trails into the backcountry. In the Lamar and Hayden valley, you can indulge in wildlife watching. This is an appropriate park for wildlife lovers to spot animals, as you will find buffaloes, bears, wolves, and even herds of bison and elk wandering down their shelter homes.

There are wooden boardwalks accessible for specially-abled visitors, ensuring that no visitor misses out on the astonishing beauty of Yellowstone.

2. Yosemite National Park

Location: California

One of the most popular national parks in California, the Yosemite national park attracts over 4 million visitors annually, making it the 8th most visited national park. The iconic park has a diverse yet balanced mix of mountains, valleys, lakes, and forests that follow all the requisites for a stunning sightseeing experience.

The park offers picturesque views of waterfalls, wildlife, and the most fascinating tall granite cliffs, which are a major attraction here.

Yosemite valley
Photo by Mick Haupt\Pexels copyright 2019

What makes the park strikingly different is the Mariposa Grove which has big gigantic sequoia trees followed by Yosemite Valley and rock formations that steal the thunder, El Capitan and Half Dome.

The park also provides a perfect show of wildlife and plant life- you will find the Tuolumne Meadows, which features wildflowers, lakes, and breathtaking scenery. Furthermore, the Merced River, Bridalveil falls, Tunnel view, and the iconic Yosemite falls are some must-visit spots inside the park.

If you are rooted in adventure sports, then this park is an ideal one for you. Yosemite has some challenging hiking trails; some of the best are Half dome and Yosemite point.

Other activities include rock climbing, camping, and skiing during the winter. Visitors can also reconnect with the beauty of nature by going for a scenic drive on Tioga road and to popular viewpoints ‘Tunnel View’ and ‘Glacier Point.’

3. Grand Canyon National Park

Location: Arizona

Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon National Park can truly be called a nature’s wonder. Carved out by the Colorado River for over 5 to 6 million years, creating one of the most iconic landscapes in the United States, the Grand Canyon is backed by a long geological history.

This fascinating landmark is one of the most visited tourist spots in the world, witnessing around 4.5 million visitors annually.

grand canyon usa
Photo by Vlada Karpovich\Pexels copyright 2017

The Grand Canyon national park offers endless sightseeing opportunities, which makes it a worthy place to visit. The complexity and sheer size of this canyon are unfathomable, with river tributaries shaping the canyon continuously; the Grand Canyon qualifies as a place that must be visited at least once in a lifetime.

There are also various viewpoints from where visitors can get a better view of the titular canyon. About 7000 feet above sea level lies the south rim, which is the most easily accessible and has great viewpoints.

The other rim, however, is not as easy as the other rim and is 1000 feet higher than the south rim. The park also encompasses various hiking trails, and the popular ones are the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trail.

4. Zion National Park

Location: Utah

Zion National Park lies in the southwestern part of Utah near the city of Springdale. The cliff walls, chunky canyons, and cascading waterfalls collectively make it an explorer’s abode. You will find the Virgin river making its way through the canyon floor, the Zion canyon covered in greens, and the Navajo sandstone canyons creating a diverse landscape that calls out this park’s significance.

This natural marvel receives around 5 million visitors annually and, owing to its colorfully spectacular scenery, is one of the most renowned national parks in the US.

zion national park utah
Photo by Jess Tzunun\Pexels copyright 2018

Apart from the wilderness and scenic river views, Zion also has some popular activities visitors can engage in. The main highlight of this park is its challenging hikes and expansive canyons. The park has several hiking trails of varying difficulty; the most striking ones are Angel’s Landing hike and the Big Springs.

Along the foot of the Zion canyon averaging 2000 feet deep, lies a 16-mile adventure hike with a 20 to 30 feet wide area called ‘The Narrows’ along the Virgin River. Other activities include birdwatching, rock climbing, and even canyoning.

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location: North Carolina and Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains national park is the most visited national park in the US, with over 14 million visitors annually. This UNESCO World Heritage Site shelters a variety of plant and animal life. It has more than 19,000 identifiable species, while the numbers of undiscovered species remain obscure.

Located along North Carolina and Tennessee borders, the Great smoky mountains form an abode rich with mountain streams, glistening waterfalls, and foggy mountain ranges.

The Park also encompasses the ancient Appalachian mountain ranges, one of the oldest mountain chains on earth with over 480 million years of existence. It brings visitors to this magnificent park all year long with its rich biodiversity, enthralling geological history, and picturesque landscapes.

Aptly named the ‘Smokies’ due to its persistent foggy atmosphere that envelops most mountain peaks, this park is also home to the Cherokee Native American communities.

The panoramic view will have you spotting a number of wildflowers that bloom all year round and lush forests mixed with the colors blues and yellow. Key attractions here are the Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains offering breathtaking views of the mist-covered mountains.

Popular activities include camping, fishing, and, most importantly, hiking which also has a segment of the Appalachian Trail. Auto touring by the historic park roads can be one of the most rewarding experiences at the Smokies, as you can absorb the changing vistas of this arresting beauty even better.

6. Rocky Mountain National Park

Location: Colorado

The Rocky Mountain National Park is another top tourist spot in Colorado, widely known for its towering mountain peaks. One of the highest national parks in the US, the Rocky mountains has more than 60 mountain peaks that height above 12,000 feet, while many even go beyond 13,000 feet.

The highest peak here is Longs Peak which is 14,259 feet tall and offers a challenging hike. The main highlight of this park is its huge network of hiking trails and abundant wildlife, which attracts over 4.5 million visitors every year.

The Park’s wilderness shelters wild animals like moose, elk, black bears, and mountain lions. The Rocky mountains also have a perfect show of scenic beauty. Along with the lofty mountain wilderness, the park also has stunning alpine lakes, pleasant meadows, and gleaming waterfalls, which makes this park one of the most scenic, tranquil spots of all time.

The park offers myriad hiking opportunities with over 300 miles of trails. Other top attractions here include the Alberta Falls, Old Fall River Road, Trail Ridge Road, and Bear Lake, which promises astounding views of the snow-capped mountains.

7. Acadia National Park

Location: Maine

An ideal spot for weekend getaways, Acadia national park, outlines the rocky coastline of Maine. Also called the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” Acadia covers an area of 47,000 acres and features rocky beaches, granite outcroppings, coastal cliffs, and vast, varied landscapes.

This scenic gem promises rewarding short hikes, strolls by the shore, biking, and a panoramic sight viewing experience. The park garners over 4 million visitors annually, making it the 6th most visited national park in the United States.

 

If you are not a big fan of long hikes, Acadia national park makes a great trip as it compensates with scenic beach drives, striking viewpoints, and coastal lighthouses. The main highlight here is Mount Desert Island, which extends to the Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut, offering tranquil serenity.

Popular attractions include the Beehive Trail, Precipice Trail, Drive Park Loop Road, Bar Harbor, and Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the US East Coast.

8. Glacier National Park

Location: Montana

The Glacier national park is a land of expansive lush forests, gigantic mountain peaks, and aqua blue lakes that jointly provide one of the most glorious scenic drives in the country.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts an outstanding natural treasure filled with alpine scenery and snow-covered mountains sculpted over thousands of years by the glaciers.

glacier national park usa
Photo by Gapeppy1\Pexels copyright 2021

With over 3.1 million visitors yearly, the Glacier national park offers exciting hiking trails, including the Highline Trail.

Out of all the national parks mentioned, it can undoubtedly be said that Glacier national park is the only national park that has the most colorful viewpoints.

The most remarkable experience one can have here is a drive through the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is one of the most acclaimed scenic drives with captivating views of the magical landscape. Other attractions include the Grinnell Glacier, Hidden Lake, Logan Pass, and Two Medicine.

9. Death Valley National Park

Location: California

The death valley national park is the largest national park in the contiguous United States, as mysterious as its name suggests. Situated at the border of California and Nevada, the Death Valley is also called the land of extreme because its condition makes it the hottest and driest place on earth. So goes the justifiable name; death valley has recorded the highest air temperature on the planet, 56.7 degrees C.

The Death Valley, one of the most fascinating national parks, is its striking landscape highlighting rolling dunes, canyons, salt flats, desert plains, and the surrounding mountains.

This park also houses the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, about 282 feet below sea level. Other significant attractions are the Zabriskie Point and Artist’s Palette.

The death valley receives over 1.5 million visitors every year. This very national park also has a few outdoor activities for its visitors to engage in, one of them being stargazing. Stargazing in Death valley can be an unforgettable experience as you can see astounding views of the star-filled skies because of low levels of light pollution.

Camping is also one of the most prominent activities of death valley. Some excellent camping spots include Furnace Creek, Mesquite Park, and Texas Spring.

10. Grand Teton National Park

Location: Wyoming

The Grand Teton national park is an amazing road trip destination highlighting rugged mountain ranges and awe-inspiring scenic views. With over 4 million visitors annually, the park’s core attraction, the Grand Teton, stands tall at 13,775 feet above sea level.

 

The park has an equal balance of snow-covered mountains, lush forests, and reflective lakes. You will also find wildlife sightings interesting here with migratory animals like bison, pronghorn, moose, elk, or even grizzly bears.

The Grand Teton also has various water sports alongside hiking trails for visitors to enjoy their time at the park. Outdoor activities like trout fishing are popular here.

Top attractions include the Jenny Lake and hiking trails- Teton Crest Trail and the trails that run along the Teton range. The 42-mile scenic drive through the Grand Teton national park is a must for all travelers to catch astounding views of the park.

Other Notable National Parks in America

Although we saw some of the most spectacular national parks in America, we must also briefly look upon a few more national parks which have full capacity to make it into the top 10 lists of other websites. These parks might or might not be the most visited ones, but certain factors like transport, high crowd levels, or personal experience add to one’s overall opinion about a place.

So, in case you might consider diving deeper into the natural marvels of the US, below we have listed a few more of them-

  1. Arches National Park, Utah
  2. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
  3. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
  4. Sequoia National Park, California
  5. Olympic National Park, Washington
  6. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  7. Big Bend National Park, Texas

Conclusion

The USA is the hub of important natural preserves globally, and the US national park system rightfully looks after the broad chain of natural park sites. Each of these parks in the USA is strikingly different from the others; At the same time, some have dense dark forest landscapes, towering snow-clad mountain ranges, cascading waterfalls, exceptional viewpoints, and so on. We saw some of the greatest natural landmarks, from the most to the least visited national parks.

Hope we made your hunt a little easier and if we did, make sure the next time you plan a trip to the amazingness of the USA, do add a couple of these national parks to your list!

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USA Tales has content written by niche experts, travelers, students, and those with real-life experience. Our content is also periodically reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure content accuracy and relevancy. Have a question? Email us at team@usatales.com

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