In the U.S., you don’t have to go far in any direction to experience the wonder of the great outdoors. The country’s 59 national parks alone offer the opportunity for adventures to be had, breathtaking landscapes to be awed, and the story of our nation’s past to be shared. From avid adventure-seekers to family-friendly travelers, these seven national parks are worthy of being added to anyone’s bucket list.
1. Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Spanning three states and 4,472 square miles, Yellowstone National Park, the world’s very first national park, gets over 4 million visitors each year. Known for its hot springs, geysers, and active volcano, it also boasts an array of wildlife, including 67 species of mammal, 285 types of birds, and 16 varieties of fish. In addition, Yellowstone is home to over 1,000 different plant species, as well as Yellowstone Lake, the largest high altitude lake in North America.
2. Yosemite National Park – California
Renowned for its granite cliffs and waterfalls, this Californian national park is also rich in history as our country’s first land dedicated to recreation and enjoyment. The Valley within the park is a 7 mile wide canyon that is open for visitors all year around. This park is also home to the largest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls, and the world’s top rock climbing destination, El Capitan.
3. Glacier National Park – Montana
At Glacier National Park, it should be no surprise that the must-visit attractions are the park’s 25 glaciers. These natural wonders are roughly 7,000 years old, and it was estimated that the area had 150 glaciers as recent as the year 1850. You can travel through the park by car, boat, foot, or even horseback to see these breathtaking blocks of ice. While the glaciers give the park its name, they are not all it has to offer. With 175 mountains, 563 streams, 700 miles of hiking trails, and 762 lakes, Glacier National Park is a must-see.
4. Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado
Picture-perfect views and a wealth of wildlife have made Rocky Mountain National Park one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Perhaps its most popular attraction is the two-lane Trail Ridge Road within the park, which is the highest continuous paved highway in America and covers 46 miles. While off-road mountain biking is not allowed in the park, Trail Ridge Road can be explored on two wheels and offers a fun challenge for seasoned cyclists, with the elevations peaking at 12,183 feet.
5. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Hawaii
Watch the earth change right in front of you when you visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home of Kilauea Volcano. This unique national park will have you embracing your dangerous side as you walk through lava tubes and hike across volcanic craters. Crater Rim Drive is considered one of the best ways to experience everything this park has to offer as it circles many of the most popular attractions within the park.
6. Acadia National Park – Maine
Glacier-carved mountains, cobblestone beaches, and 49,000 acres of rock-bound cost make up the beauty of Arcadia National Park. Primarily situated on Mount Desert Island in Maine, Acadia is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River and features an array of wildlife, hiking trails, and camping spots. Take in the splendor of the island at the top of Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse during one of their group or private tours.
7. Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Tennessee and North Carolina
Wherever you venture in the Smoky Mountains, you are sure to find something amazing. Hike the Chimney Tops Trail for spectacular views, or explore Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park. If you are interested in wildlife, look for a salamander, as the park is known as the Salamander Capital of the World, or an elk, which are usually most active in the park during early morning or late evening.