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Best National Parks in America: these words evoke a sense of wonder, of pristine landscapes and untamed wilderness, and they are your gateway to a world of natural beauty beyond compare. The United States is a treasure trove of awe-inspiring national parks, each a testament to the majestic power of nature. From the towering peaks of Yosemite to the fiery depths of Hawaii’s volcanoes, these protected wonders are more than just destinations; they are experiences that will stir your soul.As we journey through this expansive collection of America’s finest natural parks, we will uncover unique masterpieces and dive into the heart of nature, where you can gaze upon colossal cliffs, and breathe in the serenity of the wild charm of these untamed landscapes.

So, lace up your hiking boots, ready your cameras, and prepare to be captivated by the essence of the natural world. Welcome to Framey’s journey through America’s Best National Parks,  and witness nature’s artistry at its finest.

Table of Contents

1. Yosemite National Park, California: Unveiling Nature’s Crown Jewel

Two deer in front of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley during sunset

Two deer in front of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley during sunset

We head first to the Sierra Nevada mountains, where Yosemite National Park beckons adventurers with open arms. This National Park’s fame resonates worldwide and for a compelling reason.

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is a testament to nature’s artistry. This living canvas boasts colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls that paint the landscape with their iridescent beauty, meandering streams, ancient sequoia groves that whisper tales of centuries past, and a vibrant tapestry of biodiversity that captivates all who venture into its embrace.

Why is Yosemite National Park so famous? 

Yosemite’s fame transcends borders, celebrated for its awe-inspiring features including towering cliffs, crystalline streams, and a collection of the world’s tallest waterfalls, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Yosemite Valley at sunset

Yosemite Valley at sunset

What is the best month to visit Yosemite? – Best National Parks in America 

To experience Yosemite at its finest, plan your visit between May and September. During these months, the park welcomes you with pleasant weather and opens up all its enchanting attractions.

What is unique about Yosemite? 

Yosemite stands as an exceptional natural wonder, boasting majestic granite cliffs, ethereal waterfalls, meandering streams, and ancient sequoias, and serving as the headwaters for two Wild & Scenic Rivers, the Tuolumne and Merced Rivers. Its most iconic features, Half Dome and El Capitan, dominate the landscape, inviting rock climbers and adventurers to its challenging slopes.

ℹ️ Official website 

2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: Earth’s Majestic Chasm – Best National Parks in America

Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River, Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River, Grand Canyon

Nestled in the heart of the arid lands, the Grand Canyon stands as one of the world’s most remarkable examples of erosion. Carved over millennia by the mighty Colorado River, this immense chasm stretches across 29 kilometers at its widest, making it an awe-inspiring geological wonder. Grand Canyon National Park is going to be an unforgettable trip!

What is special about the Grand Canyon National Park? 

The Grand Canyon is renowned as one of the most spectacular instances of arid-land erosion globally. This immense canyon, shaped by the mighty Colorado River, extends over 445 kilometers and boasts an average depth of approximately 1,220 meters.

Grand Canyon Views

Grand Canyon Views

How did the Grand Canyon become famous? – Best National Parks in America

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson designated the Grand Canyon a national park, safeguarding its extraordinary natural wonders under the care of the National Park Service. This recognition led the United Nations to declare the park a World Heritage Site in 1979, propelling its fame worldwide.

What do people do at the Grand Canyon National Park? 

Your journey to the Grand Canyon offers an unparalleled adventure that will leave you breathless. Explore this natural treasure, breathe in the fresh air, and gain a unique perspective on life. Whether you choose the South, West, or North Rims, or even the East Rim towards Lake Powell, you’ll find each section of the Grand Canyon offers a distinctive experience. Traveling by car is currently the preferred mode of transportation to reach the Grand Canyon, with each rim and tour type providing its own way to immerse yourself in this wonder of nature.

ℹ️ Official website 

3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: A Geothermal Marvel

Grand Prismatic Spring,Southwest on the Southern Loop, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone - Best National Parks in America

Grand Prismatic Spring, Southwest on the Southern Loop, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone

Read more:

15 Mind-Blowing Natural Phenomena You Have to See

Are you ready to explore the unique wonderland that is Yellowstone National Park? This park is famous for its extraordinary geothermal features, perched atop a dormant volcano. With more geysers and hot springs than any other place on Earth, it’s a true natural spectacle. As you delve into its mesmerizing landscapes, you’ll encounter the breathtaking Yellowstone Grand Canyon and a diverse array of wildlife, from the largest buffalo herd in America to grizzly bears and wolves.

Why is Yellowstone National Park Famous?

Yellowstone’s fame emanates from its extraordinary geological features. It boasts an impressive collection of geysers and hot springs, creating a surreal landscape that appears otherworldly. Within its boundaries, approximately 50 percent of the world’s hydrothermal features can be found, giving the ground an appearance as if it were aflame. Among these, the renowned Old Faithful geyser steals the show, making it one of the most recognized natural wonders in the United States.

Wild bison in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

Wild bison in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

What is Old Faithful, and why is it iconic? – Best National Parks in America

Old Faithful, an iconic symbol of Yellowstone, is a world-renowned geyser known for its predictable eruptions. This remarkable geyser awakens approximately every hour and a half, captivating visitors with its spectacular displays. During an eruption, Old Faithful propels scalding water to incredible heights creating an awe-inspiring sight that demands your attention and readiness to capture the moment.

How many days do you need in Yellowstone?

To fully savor the wonders of Yellowstone National Park, a minimum of three days is recommended for your visit. This duration allows you to delve into the park’s diverse attractions and experiences. However, even a single day spent in Yellowstone promises an unforgettable adventure, providing a taste of its natural grandeur and unique features.

ℹ️ Official website 

4. Mount Rainier National Park: Where the Majestic Meets the Challenging

Surreal landscape on Mount Rainier

Surreal landscape on Mount Rainier

Nestled in the serene wilderness of Washington State, Mount Rainier National Park is an amazing reserve that beckons nature enthusiasts and adventurous souls alike. It is the place where the majestic beauty of nature meets the challenge of conquering its highest peak.

At an awe-inspiring elevation of 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier proudly claims the title of the highest volcanic peak in the contiguous United States. This imposing giant is adorned with the largest alpine glacial system outside of Alaska, creating a magnificent spectacle. Within its summit crater lies the world’s largest volcanic glacier cave system, a geological wonder that stirs the curiosity of explorers.

Is Mount Rainier difficult to climb? 

Climbing Mount Rainier is a formidable challenge, reserved mostly for experienced mountaineers. In fact, 50% of all summit attempts end in failure. While the mountain offers incredible climbing experiences for climbers of all levels, from beginners to seasoned mountaineers, it’s a journey that demands respect. With an elevation of 14,411 feet (4,392 meters), Mount Rainier stands as the highest point in Washington State and ranks as the fifth-tallest peak.

Majestic sunset at Mount Rainier

Majestic sunset at Mount Rainier

What is the best month to climb Mt. Rainier? 

The best time to embark on the ascent of Mount Rainier is during the months of July and August. While the unpredictable weather can pose challenges year-round, these months offer the most favorable conditions for climbers. During this period, the number of fellow climbers reaches its peak, creating a vibrant mountaineering community. As the season progresses, the route may become slightly more intricate, providing an ever-evolving challenge for adventurers.

Is Mount Rainier a danger?

While Mount Rainier has remained relatively calm in terms of significant eruptions over the past 500 years, it commands attention as a potentially perilous volcano within the Cascade Range. Its remarkable height, frequent seismic activity, active hydrothermal system, and extensive glacier coverage contribute to its reputation as one of the most hazardous volcanoes in the region. These characteristics make it crucial to closely monitor and understand the volcano’s behavior to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities.

ℹ️ Official website 

5. Zion National Park, Utah: Nature’s Majestic Canvas in Southwest Utah

Canyon Lights - Zion National Park - Best National Parks in America

Canyon Lights – Zion National Park

Zion National Park, the captivating natural sanctuary in the heart of southwest Utah, stands as a testament to the remarkable forces of nature. It’s most renowned for Zion Canyon, a breathtaking gorge adorned with towering red cliffs. The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the park’s main artery, leads visitors through this awe-inspiring landscape, providing access to verdant forest trails along the meandering Virgin River. This waterway meanders to the Emerald Pools, where waterfalls and suspended gardens create a mesmerizing tableau. Carving through deep chasms, the Virgin River unveils the iconic Zion Narrows wading hike.

Why Is Zion National Park Famous?

Zion National Park has earned worldwide acclaim for its colossal sandstone cliffs, making it a revered destination for big-wall climbers. The ideal climbing conditions typically prevail from March through May and then again from September through early November. Here, adventure seekers can enjoy themselves in a vertical world of unparalleled beauty and challenge.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park? – Best National Parks in America

Spring, spanning from March to April, is widely regarded as the prime season to explore Zion. During this time, the weather is mild, with daytime temperatures in the comfortable range, and the likelihood of thunderstorms is minimal. It’s a period when early-season flowers bloom, and the trees begin to don their lush foliage.

How Many Days Are Ideal for Exploring Zion National Park?

For a comprehensive exploration of Zion National Park, plan to spend two to three days. This duration allows you to delve deeply into the park’s wonders, embarking on memorable hikes such as Angels Landing or the Narrows, all while relishing the captivating vistas that grace Zion’s landscape. Taking the time to savor the grandeur of Zion makes for an unforgettable and enriching experience.

ℹ️ Official website 

6. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: Where Majestic Heights and Wildlife Abound – Best National Parks in America

Just after sunrise - Grand Teton - Best National Parks in America

Just after sunrise – Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park, gracefully situated in the northwestern region of Wyoming, unveils a realm of natural wonders. This cherished park envelops the illustrious Teton mountain range, home to the towering Grand Teton peak, reaching over 2,100 meters above the valley of Jackson Hole. The captivating landscape is inextricably linked to the iconic Jackson Hole valley, forming a haven for summer enthusiasts who seek the thrills of mountaineering, hiking, backcountry camping, and fishing. Moreover, the park enjoys a close connection with the neighboring Yellowstone National Park through the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

What Makes Grand Teton National Park Special?

Nestled in the heart of northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park is celebrated for its awe-inspiring mountain vistas and a rich tapestry of wildlife. The Teton Range dominates the park’s breathtaking skyline. This captivating park stands as a testament to nature’s grandeur and the preservation of pristine wilderness.

Jackson Hole Valley, Grand Teton National Park - Best National Parks in America

Jackson Hole Valley, Grand Teton National Park

How Many Days Are Ideal for Exploring Grand Teton National Park?

While it’s possible to explore Grand Teton National Park in just one day, it would be ashamed to rush it so it is better to take at least three to four days for a more full-on experience. This extended stay allows you to savor the park’s highlights, including Jackson Lake, Jenny Lake, Snake River Overlook, and a deeper connection with the natural wonders that grace this remarkable landscape.

What Is the Best Month to Visit Grand Teton National Park?

The optimal time to visit Grand Teton National Park spans from mid-May to late September. During this period, all visitor centers, hiking trails, and park activities, including kayaking and fishing, are open and accessible. As October unfolds, the park transforms into a winter wonderland, with most facilities and roads closing down for the season.

ℹ️ Official website 

7. Arches National Park, Utah: Where Nature’s Artistry Unveils Its Wonders

Sunrise at Delicate Arch Trail, Moab, UT, USA - - Best National Parks in America

Sunrise at Delicate Arch Trail, Moab, UT, USA

In the north of Moab, in the captivating state of Utah, Arches National Park stretches along the southeastern banks of the majestic Colorado River. This remarkable park is renowned as the sanctuary of over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the colossal and red-hued Delicate Arch gracing the eastern horizon.

Within the park’s embrace, the ethereal Landscape Arch, slender and elegant, stands sentinel in the enchanting expanse of Devils Garden to the north. Here, nature’s handiwork is on full display, with geological marvels like the towering Balanced Rock adorning the desert landscape’s heart.

What Makes Arches National Park Famous?

Arches National Park proudly boasts the world’s densest congregation of natural stone arches. With a tally surpassing 2,000 documented arches, along with striking pinnacles, balanced rocks, and mesmerizing fins and geologic formations, this park stands as a testament to nature’s artistry. Each arch is a unique masterpiece, with some gaining more renown than others, offering visitors a remarkable journey into Earth’s sculptural wonders.

What are the Best Months to Explore Arches National Park? – Best National Parks in America

For an optimal exploration of Arches National Park, plan your visit during the temperate months of April through May and September through October. During this period, daytime temperatures ensure a comfortable and enjoyable outdoor experience. The scorching summer months can make hiking the park’s trails a less inviting prospect.

What Draws Visitors to Arches National Park?

Arches National Park stands as a magnetic allure for travelers from every corner of the globe. Amidst this diversity, four prominent destinations continue to captivate the hearts of most visitors. These cherished spots include Balanced Rock, Devils Garden, the Delicate Arch, the symbol of the park’s grandeur; and The Windows, a window to the ethereal beauty of the natural world.

ℹ️ Official website

8. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: Where Nature’s Majesty Unveils Its Heights – Best National Parks in America

In the northern reaches of Colorado, we head to the Rocky Mountain National Park. This protected expanse stretches across the Continental Divide, encompassing a realm of mountains, lush forests, and pristine alpine tundra.

It’s a land of breathtaking beauty known for its iconic Trail Ridge Road and the historic Old Fall River Road, scenic drives that wind through forests of aspen trees and along babbling rivers. The park beckons adventure seekers with the famed Keyhole Route, a daring climb navigating sheer vertical rock faces that leads to Longs Peak, the loftiest summit in the park. For those who seek a gentler experience, the tranquil Bear Lake trail offers picturesque views of the surrounding peaks.

What Sets Rocky Mountain National Park Apart? – Best National Parks in America

Rocky Mountain National Park holds a special place as one of the highest national parks in the United States, boasting elevations ranging from 2,400 to 4,300 meters (7,860 to 14,259 feet). The park’s skyline is adorned with a staggering sixty mountain peaks that ascend beyond 3,600 meters (12,000 feet), creating a world-renowned landscape of unmatched splendor. The Continental Divide, running in a north-south orientation through the park, marks a climatic division that shapes the park’s unique and diverse ecosystems.

When is the Optimal Time to Explore Rocky Mountain National Park?

Summer, spanning from mid-June through August, emerges as the favored season to experience Rocky Mountain National Park. The park’s high-altitude location ensures that even during the height of summer, temperatures remain pleasantly mild, providing ideal conditions for exploration and outdoor activities. Rocky Mountain’s summer charm beckons travelers with the promise of unforgettable natural encounters in a comfortable, inviting climate.

How Much Time Should You Allocate for a Rocky Mountain National Park Adventure?

Exploring the vast wonders of Rocky Mountain National Park requires several days, given its extensive size and a plethora of remarkable hiking opportunities. To make the most of your visit, plan for a stay of at least three days, which will allow you to embark on journeys along Alpine Ridge Road, and Old Fall River Road, and partake in a selection of the world’s greatest hikes, all while savoring the park’s boundless beauty.

ℹ️ Official website

9. New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia: Embarking on an Expedition of Wonders

The infamous bridge, which spans the New River Gorge and measures 924 meters in length, has the longest steel arch in the United States, which measures 518 meters

The infamous bridge, which spans the New River Gorge and measures 924 meters in length, has the longest steel arch in the United States, which measures 518 meters – Photo by ronakp967

The Appalachian Mountains in southern West Virginia are home to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. This gem of the Appalachians is not merely a picturesque landscape but an embodiment of natural wonders. 

At its core, the magnificent New River, one of the oldest rivers on Earth, meanders through the gorge, journeying from the southern reaches to the northern, traversing through three states. A captivating experience awaits those who embark on the New River Gorge Waterfall Tour, an expedition that traces the path of eight enchanting waterfalls. Commencing north of the park near the town of Gauley Bridge, the tour culminates at the renowned Sandstone Falls. Along the way, four of these waterfalls can be effortlessly accessed from the road, while the remaining four await intrepid explorers on hiking trails.

What is special about New River Gorge National Park?

New River Gorge National Park is renowned for the excellence of its fishing and the thrill of whitewater boating along the iconic New River. This sanctuary also serves as a haven for some of West Virginia’s most elusive and treasured plant species. In recognition of its ecological significance and the preservation of this free-flowing waterway, Congress established the park in 1978. The New River Gorge stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of natural beauty and vibrant biodiversity.

How many days do you need in New River Gorge? – Best National Parks in America

To fully experience the beauty and adventures that New River Gorge National Park has to offer, plan for a minimum of three days. This time frame allows for a comprehensive exploration of the three main park areas: Canyon Rim, Grandview, and Sandstone. Additionally, it provides the opportunity to partake in an exhilarating whitewater rafting experience, further enhancing your connection with this extraordinary natural wonder.

What time of year is best for New River Gorge?

While summer is the most popular season for visiting the New River Gorge, you might be better advised to plan your trip for September or October. During these months, the weather becomes pleasantly cooler, the crowds thin out, and the region comes alive with locally cherished events. This period offers a perfect balance of comfortable conditions and the charm of vibrant local culture, ensuring a memorable and enriching visit.

ℹ️ Official website

10. Death Valley National Park, California: Unearth the Extraordinary – Best National Parks in America

California state route 190 winding through Death Valley

California state Route 190 winding through Death Valley

Death Valley National Park spans the border of eastern California and Nevada, a captivating realm of stark contrasts and unparalleled natural wonders. From the haunting allure of Titus Canyon and its ghost town to the surreal salt flats at Badwater Basin, this park offers a range of captivating landscapes. Telescope Peak Trail weaves through pine trees high above the valley, while the Devil’s Golf Course presents spiky salt mounds. Rattlesnakes call the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes home, adding a touch of wilderness to the breathtaking scenery.

What Makes Death Valley National Park Special? 

Death Valley National Park is a realm of extremes. It boasts the highest temperature ever recorded worldwide (a blistering 134 degrees in July 1936) and is recognized as North America’s driest spot. However, from autumn through spring, Death Valley invites exploration, offering an otherworldly beauty that defies its forbidding name.

Death Valley, USA - Best National Parks in America

Death Valley, USA

Is a Trip to Death Valley Worth It? 

Absolutely, a visit to Death Valley is an experience like no other. Its unique landscapes will transport you to a world that feels far removed from the rest of the United States. Even in just one day, you can witness extraordinary natural phenomena that will leave a lasting impression. We wholeheartedly recommend a journey to this remarkable park.

When is the Best Time to Explore Death Valley? 

Spring is the prime time to explore Death Valley. With warm and sunny days, it offers the possibility of witnessing the desert’s splendid wildflowers. If the preceding winter brought rain, the desert bursts into a breathtaking floral display, typically peaking from late March to early April. This season combines natural beauty with comfortable weather, making it the perfect time to immerse yourself in the park’s wonders.

ℹ️ Official website

11. Olympic National Park, Washington: Where Nature Unveils Its Diversity

Olympic National Park - Best National Parks in America

Olympic National Park

A mere stone’s throw from Seattle, Olympic National Park is a natural treasure for adventurers to explore a mosaic of glacier-capped mountains, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches, all within the park’s expansive boundaries. Often dubbed as three parks in one by its visitors, an expedition to Olympic National Park promises a nature experience that will leave an indelible mark on your memory.

What Makes Olympic National Park Special? – Best National Parks in America

Olympic National Park’s distinction lies in its remarkable diversity of ecosystems. It encompasses the rugged Pacific coastline, towering glacier-clad peaks, and a temperate rainforest on the west side, which receives a staggering 150 inches of annual rainfall, ranking it among the wettest areas in the continental United States. Additionally, the park is home to an ancient old-growth forest with a notably drier climate. This rich variety of ecosystems ensures that every visit is a unique encounter with nature’s wonders.

When is the Best Time to Explore the Olympic National Park? – Best National Parks in America

The best time to visit Olympic National Park is during the summer months, from June through August. Summer offers mild weather and the lowest average rainfall, making it the ideal season to fully savor the park’s diverse landscapes and outdoor activities.

How Long Should You Plan to Stay at Olympic National Park? 

For a comprehensive exploration of the Olympics’s diverse landscapes, it is recommended to spend at least two or more days in the park. With extra time, you can delve into the park’s extensive trail network, indulge in hikes through enchanting rainforests, and discover lesser-known gems like Deer Park or the Quinault Valley. Olympic National Park is a vast tapestry of natural wonders, and a longer stay allows you to immerse yourself in its beauty and tranquility.

ℹ️ Official website

12. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: Where Hoodoos Paint a Surreal Landscape – Best National Parks in America

Outstanding view of Bryce Canyon National Park, United States - Best National Parks in America

Outstanding view of Bryce Canyon National Park, United States

Bryce Canyon National Park is a geological masterpiece that unveils a world of surreal beauty. Its defining feature is a mesmerizing gallery of crimson-colored hoodoos, and spire-shaped rock formations that defy imagination. To truly grasp the wonder, one must venture close, hike among these natural sculptures, and witness the enchanting red and orange-hued sandstone come to life.

What Sets Bryce Canyon National Park Apart? 

This Park boasts the world’s largest collection of hoodoos, the iconic rock formations that grace its landscape. These distinct structures are complemented by horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters, hewn from the eastern rim of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The park offers panoramic vistas and is renowned for its exceptionally dark night skies, making it a stargazer’s paradise.

Aerial view of Bryce Canyon National Park, United States - Best National Parks in America

Aerial view of Bryce Canyon National Park, United States

How Many Days to Experience Bryce Canyon? 

While Bryce Canyon can be explored in a single full day, it’s advisable to dedicate at least two days if possible. This extended stay allows you to bask in the enchantment of both sunset and sunrise, with ample time for hiking along the park’s mesmerizing trails. It’s the perfect duration to savor the park’s breathtaking landscapes and truly absorb its natural wonders.

When is the best Time for a Bryce Canyon Visit? 

The period from May through September is considered the park’s peak season. During this time, Bryce Canyon National Park creates the ideal conditions for hiking, stargazing, and exploration. These months offer the best opportunity to experience the park’s enchantment to the fullest.

ℹ️ Official website

13. Kings Canyon National Park, California: Where Nature’s Majesty Unveils

Home to the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world - Kings Canyon National Park

Home to the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world – Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park, in the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains of California, is an awe-inspiring haven known for its towering sequoia trees. Among its many natural wonders is the monumental General Grant Tree in Grant Grove, the second-largest tree in the world. To the east, Cedar Grove stands encircled by towering granite canyon walls, offering trails leading to Zumwalt Meadow alongside the Kings River and Roaring River Falls. The park is a habitat for diverse wildlife, including rattlesnakes, bears, and cougars.

And when you factor in that Sequoia National Park, home to the 83-meter-tall General Sherman, the world’s largest tree, is just a hike away, you understand why this attraction is not to be missed!

What is special about Kings Canyon National Park? 

Kings Canyon National Park is often compared to Yosemite Valley. This park boasts the largest surviving grove of sequoia trees globally, with deep valleys, sky-piercing trees, and distinctive rock formations that once led naturalist John Muir to consider it “a rival to Yosemite.”

A cute white-headed woodpecker in Kings Canyon National Park

A cute white-headed woodpecker in Kings Canyon National Park – Photo by wildlife_whisperer

What is the best time of year to visit Kings Canyon? – Best National Parks in America

The optimal time to visit Kings Canyon is during the cooler months, from late spring to early autumn, May to September. This period offers a more pleasant climate for exploration, allowing you to savor the park’s natural beauty.

Is Kings Canyon National Park worth it? 

The short and long answer is YES! Kings Canyon National Park is definitely a worthwhile destination. While it primarily caters to hikers and backpackers due to its limited road access, the scenic drive into Kings Canyon is an adventure in itself. The park’s breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife make it an unforgettable journey for all nature enthusiasts.

ℹ️ Official website

14. Badlands National Park, South Dakota: A Geological Wonder Awaits – Best National Parks in America

Getting up in the morning offers more opportunities to spot bison, bighorn sheep, and so many other types of wildlife

Getting up in the morning offers more opportunities to spot bison, bighorn sheep, and many other types of wildlife – Photo: taywanders

Venture to the heart of South Dakota, and you’ll discover a natural wonder unlike any other. Badlands National Park, with its dramatic landscapes and rich history, is a testament to the Earth’s ever-changing canvas. It’s famous for more than just its rugged beauty. The park holds a treasure of ancient fossils and diverse wildlife. A journey through this geological marvel is going to give you the chance to explore what makes Badlands National Park so renowned and why it’s a must-visit destination.

Why is Badlands National Park so famous? – Best National Parks in America

Badlands National Park is renowned for containing one of the world’s most abundant fossil beds. This unique feature allows scientists to delve into the evolutionary history of mammal species, including horses, rhinos, and saber-toothed cats. Beyond its paleontological significance, the park is a sanctuary for diverse wildlife, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and butterflies.

Incredible views of the Badlands National Park - Best National Parks in America

Incredible views of the Badlands National Park – Photo: taywanders

Why are they called Badlands? 

The name Badlands harks back to the early days of French traders, who dubbed this landscape as bad land to travel. It describes the challenging and rugged terrain that made the navigation difficult. Picture a journey across the broken, alien-like landscape of the Great Plains of North America and you will get the picture!

In Badlands, there are all kinds of rocks and things to trip over - sturdy, reliable footwear is a must!

In Badlands, there are all kinds of rocks and things to trip over – sturdy, reliable footwear is a must! – Photo: taywanders

Is Badlands worth visiting? 

While the Badlands may not be the first thing that makes you travel to South Dakota, it’s absolutely worth dedicating a full day to exploring this unique park. Experience the scenic drive, embark on a few hikes or short walks, and savor a meal at the visitor center. The park’s distinctive rock formations and the potential for solitude create a truly unique and memorable visit.

ℹ️ Official website

15. Acadia National Park, Maine: Nature’s Symphony in Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

Set along the Atlantic coast, Acadia National Park is a huge masterpiece of nature that calls Maine’s Mount Desert Island home. Its diverse landscape is adorned with woodlands, rugged shorelines, and granite peaks sculpted by ancient glaciers. Cadillac Mountain, the East Coast’s loftiest point, proudly stands within this remarkable park, which teems with wildlife, including moose, bears, whales, and seabirds. As you explore this coastal gem, you’ll also find the charming town of Bar Harbor, a gateway to unforgettable adventures.

What is so special about Acadia National Park? 

Among Acadia’s unique features, the miles of carriage roads, crafted under the visionary John D. Rockefeller Jr. between 1913 and 1940, stand out. These roads were designed for horse-drawn carriages, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty without the interruptions of modern sounds and scents. A truly tranquil experience.

Surfing on the low sea waves at Acadia National Park

Surfing on the low sea waves at Acadia National Park

What is the best month to visit Acadia National Park? – Best National Parks in America

While Acadia is a year-round treasure, the absolute best time to visit is during the fall. As the leaves transform into vibrant new shades, Acadia’s autumn display surpasses New England’s renowned leaf-peeping season. Venture out on a crisp October day, and you’ll be rewarded with picturesque vistas intensified by nature’s own paintbrush.

Why is it called Acadia? 

The name Acadia has roots in the Indian word La Cadie, which means The Place. The French originally used this name to describe the North American coast, stretching from present-day Nova Scotia to New Jersey.

ℹ️ Official website

16. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska: Nature’s Grand Canvas in Southeast Alaska – Best National Parks in America

Frozen beauty at Glacier Bay National Park - Best National Parks in America

Frozen beauty at Glacier Bay National Park – Photo: jasminealley

In the wilderness of Southeast Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve unfurls a breathtaking spectacle, where nature’s artistry knows no bounds. 

This national park initially proclaimed a monument by President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, is a pristine wonderland of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforests, wild coastlines, and tranquil fjords. From towering peaks to sculpted ice fjords, from teeming marine life to colossal tidewater glaciers, Glacier Bay ranks among Alaska’s most awe-inspiring destinations, forming part of a vast World Heritage Site. For those willing to embrace the rugged wilderness, the rewards are beyond imagination.

What is so special about Glacier Bay National Park?

Glacier Bay is a realm of glaciers that cascade from the towering mountains, nourished by abundant snowfall. A mere 270 years ago, a glacier thousands of feet thick filled the fjord here. Today, its retreat has unveiled a resilient landscape, fostering a continuous cycle of marine and terrestrial life.

What is the best time to visit Glacier Bay? 

Late June through mid-September is the prime period to explore Glacier Bay for most visitors. During this window, you can traverse the Going to the Sun Road, embark on river rafting and fishing excursions, venture along hiking trails, experience the backcountry Chalets, and traverse various park areas on both sides of the Continental Divide.

When can you see whales in Glacier Bay? – Best National Parks in America

The opportune time for whale watching in Glacier Bay is from April to November. During this period, around 600 humpback whales grace the waters of the northern Inside Passage. Whale-watching tours, available in Juneau and near Glacier Bay, offer unforgettable encounters with these majestic marine giants. Daily boat excursions to Tracy Arm also frequently feature remarkable whale sightings, often observing several on a single voyage.

ℹ️ Official website

17. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee: Where Nature Unveils Its Majesty

Sunrise at the Great Smoky Mountains

Sunrise at the Great Smoky Mountains

Nestled along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a testament to the untamed beauty of the natural world. Its expansive terrain is a canvas painted with lush forests and a perpetual display of wildflowers that grace the landscape throughout the year. Streams, rivers, and waterfalls adorn the hiking trails, including a segment of the iconic Appalachian Trail. Clingmans Dome, the park’s highest peak, is crowned with an observation tower that offers breathtaking views of the mist-shrouded mountains.

Why is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park so famous? 

Affectionately known as the Smokies, this mountain range has earned its fame through the perpetual morning fog, the astonishing diversity of its plant and animal life, the timeless allure of its ancient mountains, and its rich history steeped in southern Appalachian mountain culture.

Beautiful morning capturing the elk at Great Smokey Mountains

Beautiful morning capturing the elk at the Great Smokey Mountains – Photo by imsteveryan

What is the best time of year to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? – Best National Parks in America

The best times to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are summer (June, July, and August) and fall. July, during the summer season, is the busiest month, while October’s weekends beckon those in search of the resplendent hues of autumn foliage.

What is the most visited national park in the United States? 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, by a considerable margin, retains its status as the most visited national park in the United States. The park, straddling North Carolina and Tennessee, welcomed nearly 13 million visitors in the last year, according to recent National Park Service data.

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18. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky: A Subterranean Wonderland – Best National Parks in America

The underground rivers in the world's longest cave system

The underground rivers in the world’s longest cave system – Photo by Mammoth Cave National Park

Situated in the heart of south-central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park boasts the awe-inspiring Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known to humankind. Beyond just being a cave, Mammoth Cave National Park is renowned for housing a subterranean masterpiece, with over 405 miles (651 km) of mapped passageways. This extensive labyrinth was sculpted over time as water slowly dissolved Mississippian-aged carbonate rocks, giving birth to sinkholes, tunnels, and underground rivers.

Nestled amidst rolling hills and deep river valleys, Mammoth Cave National Park offers more than just cave exploration. It serves as a repository of thousands of years of human history and embraces a rich tapestry of plant and animal life, earning its distinction as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.

Exploring the caves

Exploring the caves in Mammoth Cave National Park – Photo by karah_rah

Is Mammoth Cave National Park worth visiting?

Mammoth Cave’s grandeur is undeniable, and the park’s proximity to other captivating attractions, especially family-friendly ones, makes it a must-visit destination.

Is Mammoth Cave the biggest cave in the world? 

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky claims the title of the world’s longest-known cave system, with over 400 miles of explored passages. It’s also one of North America’s oldest tourist attractions.

What has been found in Mammoth Cave? – Best National Parks in America

Mammoth Cave has unveiled an array of secrets throughout its existence, from the preserved remains of ice-age mammals in unconsolidated deposits to the fossils of ancient marine organisms nestled within the limestones that birthed the cave system.

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19. Joshua Tree National Park, California: A Desert Wonderland

Desert sunsets just hit different

Desert sunsets just hit differently – Photo by sofia.gavrishov

In the southern reaches of California, Joshua Tree National Park is a vast sanctuary of unspoiled beauty. Its allure lies in the rugged rock formations and the stark, dramatic landscapes of the desert. Named after the twisted and bristled Joshua trees that inhabit the area, the park straddles two distinct deserts: the cactus-studded Colorado Desert and the higher, cooler Mojave Desert.

For breathtaking vistas, one can ascend Keys View, which offers panoramic views over the Coachella Valley, while the park’s hiking trails meander among the captivating boulders of Hidden Valley.

Van life - Stargazing at Joshua Tree

Van Life – Stargazing at Joshua Tree

What is so special about Joshua Tree National Park? 

Joshua Tree National Park stands as an otherworldly masterpiece in southern California. Renowned for its unique Joshua trees, it casts a surreal spell, particularly at sunrise and sunset, making it one of the most enchanting national parks in the United States.

What is the best time to visit Joshua Tree? – Best National Parks in America

The prime windows to explore Joshua Tree National Park are from March to May and October to November. While the park welcomes visitors year-round, these periods offer the most comfortable temperatures, with average highs around 85 degrees. It’s worth noting that temperature variations can occur depending on your location within the park.

Why is it called Joshua Tree? 

Legend has it that mid-19th-century Mormon immigrants, having crossed the Colorado River, bestowed the tree with the name of the biblical figure Joshua. They saw the tree’s limbs as outstretched in supplication, providing them with a guiding light on their westward journey.

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20. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii: Where Earth’s Forces Unveil Mysteries – Best National Parks in America

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you say Hawaii? I bet it is the incredible breathtaking and romantic views, the welcoming atmosphere, and the lush of the islands. It is all that makes it one of the Best Destinations for Couples and you can read more about that here.

But there is even more to Hawaii than just romance. Nestled on Hawaii Island, often referred to as the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a testament to the raw power of nature. This park’s heart is dominated by the mighty Kilauea and Mauna Loa, both active volcanoes. Exploring the park unveils a dramatic landscape sculpted by volcanic activity. 

Mauna Kea Observatory, above the clouds

Mauna Kea Observatory, above the clouds

Is it worth going to Volcanoes National Park? – Best National Parks in America

 A resounding Yes! Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a journey that’s undeniably worth taking, particularly if you have an interest in geology, the wonders of natural landscapes, and the extraordinary opportunity to witness volcanic phenomena up close.

What is special about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park? 

Stretching from the ocean’s edge to the lofty heights the park encompasses the summits of two of the world’s most actively erupting volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. It proudly carries designations as an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rivers of lava flowing across the big island of Hawaii - Best National Parks in America

Rivers of lava flowing across the big island of Hawaii

What is the best time to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park? 

To witness the ethereal glow emanating, the best times are either before sunrise or after 9 p.m. – moments when the majority of visitors have departed, leaving you to savor the mesmerizing spectacle. The park remains open 24 hours a day, ensuring you can experience its magic at any hour.

ℹ️ Official website 

Final words on the Best National Parks in America

As we conclude our exploration of America’s Best National Parks, I hope you feel inspired to embark on your own adventures, witness the wonders of these pristine landscapes, and deepen your connection with some of the best views in the world. And remember, these parks are not just places, they are gateways to moments of awe, serenity, and exhilaration.

So, whether you’re an avid hiker seeking untouched trails, a wildlife enthusiast longing to spot majestic creatures, or simply someone yearning for a break from the ordinary, these parks hold the key to unforgettable journeys. America’s Best National Parks are your invitation to explore, to be inspired, and to connect with the magnificence of the natural world.

If you enjoyed discovering the mesmerizing world of the US’s Best National Parks and to make planning your next adventure easier, I give you Framey App. With its wealth of resources, interactive maps, and insider tips, Framey will be your trusted companion in your quest to discover the beauty of these extraordinary destinations. Don’t miss out, your next adventure awaits!