Welcome to a world of breathtaking natural wonders, where the air is crisp and the scenery is awe-inspiring! The United States is blessed with abundant natural beauty, from towering mountains and sweeping valleys to glittering lakes and dense forests.
And what better way to experience these wonders than by visiting some spectacular national parks in the US? In this article, we will take you on a journey through 10 of the US's most beautiful national parks, where you can experience exhilarating outdoor activities and nature's finest treasures. So, get ready to embark on a lifetime journey and discover the magic of these national parks!
How Many National Parks Are There In The US?
From Alaska's snow-capped Denali to Hawaii Volcanoes' tropical rainforests, these parks offer a variety of landscapes and ecosystems. If you are a nature lover or someone who is dedicated to exploring the great outdoors, you may wonder, "how many national parks are there in the US?"
The number of national parks in the US varies depending on how you see it as a park site or national park. There are 423 “park sites”, including Historic Sites, National Battlefields, Memorials, etc. Only 63 of them are considered “national parks” and administered by the National Park Service (NPS).
The US boasts a breathtaking abundance of national parks waiting to be explored. Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen from Unsplash
In addition to the national parks, there are other types of protected areas in the US, including national monuments, seashores, and forests. All of them provide their unique set of natural wonders and outdoor activities. So, if you're wondering how many national parks in the US to visit, the answer is plenty!
Top 10 Most Beautiful National Parks In The US
A real treat awaits you, explorers and environment lovers! The US boasts a list of US national parks that offer unparalleled opportunities to explore its diverse landscapes and stunning natural wonders.
Now, let’s look at the most stunning natural landscapes in the country. Get ready to embark on a journey through the scenery that will leave you in awe!
1. Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is truly a gem among the national parks of the United States. It is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California and covers an area of over 1,200 square miles. From the moment you arrive, you are greeted with picturesque natural beauty that will take your breath away.
In 1864, something incredible happened. President Lincoln took the bold step of protecting Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley for their natural beauty, marking the birth of the national park idea. John Muir's fierce advocacy then helped turn Yosemite into a national park. And today, we're still reaping the rewards of their vision and foresight.
Its granite cliffs and rock formations are simply stunning. Remember to visit the park's majestic formations, such as Half Dome and El Capitan, which tower thousands of feet into the sky. The way the sunlight dances off the granite surfaces during different daytimes is nothing short of amazing.
Yosemite National Park is one of America’s most scenic national parks. Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash
Besides granite monoliths, Yosemite is also well known for its waterfalls. Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall on the whole continent of North America, is a must-see. The mist and the sound of the water crashing over the rocks create a mythical setting.
In addition, there is a diverse array of wildlife that calls the park home. From black bears and mountain lions to golden eagles, there are several chances to see wildlife up close and personal. It is always a fantastic experience to witness these animals in their natural habitats.
Moreover, Yosemite is home to some of the world's most beautiful hikes. There's a route for everyone among the area's more than 800 miles of trails. It doesn't matter whether you are a seasoned hiker or just getting your feet wet; there's a path for you.
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the top national parks in the US. It covers 522,000 acres of land and is located primarily in the state of Tennessee and partially in the state of North Carolina.
The park is famously named after the "Smokies" mist that frequently blankets the mountains, created by the mingling of warm and cool air masses. This mist adds an enigmatic and distinctive quality to the park's atmosphere, attracting visitors from all corners of the globe.
One of the most alluring features of this park is its majestic mountain range that forms a mesmerising backdrop for the beautiful valley below. The Great Smoky Mountains are a sight to behold, and they offer endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park will comfort your heart with its beautiful natural beauty. Photo by Stephen Ellis from Unsplash
For environment lovers and animal aficionados, the park has grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, deer, and more. The biodiversity is so impressive that it earned the place a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. With over 800 miles of trails, don’t forget to capture stunning photos of its resources, including rushing streams, cascading waterfalls, and ancient forests.
Fontana Lake, the park's beautiful lake on the Southern border, is great for fishing and boating. The crystal-clear waters are surrounded by lush greenery, providing a peaceful and tranquil retreat. It is great for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, especially when it’s within driving distance of ⅔ of the US.
Hikers can’t miss the chance to climb on the rock because the park has plenty of options to offer. Opt for Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park, or the Chimney Tops. You will be treated to the gorgeous look of the valley and majestic surrounding mountains.
3. Congaree National Park, Carolina
Located in the heart of South Carolina, Congaree National Park is home to the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest. The place takes pride in being listed among the most beautiful national parks in the US.
Considering how many national parks in US, Congaree is a popular choice. The park is famous for its unique wetland environment, which creates an extraordinary ecosystem that supports an incredible diversity of wildlife. You will find everything from (about 170) rare bird species to river otters and even the occasional bobcat roaming through the park.
Another thing that sets Congaree National Park apart is its beautiful waterways. There are Congaree and Wateree Rivers, as well as numerous creeks and streams. These waterways offer opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. The scenery along the banks is absolutely breathtaking.
However, the most amazing feature is the way it changes with the seasons. In the hot springs, the forest floor comes alive with wildflowers and new growth. In the fall, the colours of the changing leaves create a stunning backdrop for a hike. Even in the winter, when the trees are bare, the park has a stark, haunting beauty that's unlike anything else.
4. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park, located in Texas, is America’s iconic natural wonder that offers an unforgettable experience that is hard to match. Spanning over 800,000 acres, this park is known for its breathtaking desert landscapes, rugged canyons, and crystal-clear night skies.
First, Big Bend boasts over 800,000 acres of protected land, including the largest protected area of the Chihuahuan Desert in the US. Its remote location also makes it an ideal destination for stargazing, with some of the clearest night skies in the country.
Satisfying your curiosity when exploring Big Bend National Park’s history sites. Photo by Backroad Packers from Unsplash
More than that, you should also pay a visit to the majestic Chisos Mountains, which rise over 7,800 feet above sea level. Hiking trails throughout the park offer breathtaking views of the surrounding terrain, including the Rio Grande River that marks the park's border with Mexico.
Furthermore, the park has a fascinating cultural history that spans thousands of years. Both the Castolon Historic District, dating back to the mid-19th century, and the Hot Springs Historic District, featuring structures from the early 20th century, are open for visitors to explore. Ancient peoples' values and practices are documented in the park's petroglyphs and pictographs.
5. Glacier National Park, Montana
When compiling a list of the best US national parks, it would be remiss not to include Glacier National Park. With over 1 million acres of protected wilderness and miles of hiking trails, it is a paradise to discover the American West's magnificent scenery.
You don’t want to miss the gorgeous national beauty at Glacier National Park. Photo by Craig Tidball from Unsplash
The park's rugged peaks, including the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, rise dramatically above verdant valleys and glistening glaciers. The routes provide stunning views of alpine meadows, cascading waterfalls, and turquoise glacial lakes, such as Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake.
The serene beauty of these pristine bodies of water is nothing short of enchanting, with their mirror-like surfaces reflecting the surrounding mountains. Whether viewed from above or below, the mountains and lakes of Glacier National Park are a testament to the power of nature.
Did you know that Glacier National Park is a stunning destination with so much to explore? For starters, the park is home to 26 breathtaking glaciers and an impressive number of 762 lakes (131 of which have their own names). So, bring your swimsuit and get ready to take a dip in some of the clearest water you have ever seen!
But Glacier National Park is not just stunning beauty - it's also a destination rich in history and culture. Learn about the park's past at the historic Many Glacier Hotel or the Logan Pass Visitor Center, or explore the traditional territory of the Blackfeet Nation, who have called this area home for centuries.
And here's a fun fact: the world's first International Peace Park was established in 1932. It is a combination between Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and Glacier National Park in the USA. How cool is that?
The mountain goat is a beloved symbol of Glacier National Park. These friendly creatures can be seen scaling the mountainsides. However, practice safety cautions: be at least 150 feet away, and always use a telephoto lens when taking pictures of them (or binoculars for viewing them).
6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Established on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone was the world's first national park, and its unique features and natural beauty continue to attract millions of visitors each year. The park covers an area of almost 3,500 square miles, located primarily in Wyoming, but also extends into Montana and Idaho.
The diversity of the park's ecosystems is unmatched. Yellowstone has a wide range of habitats, including mountains, forests, and grasslands, making it a sanctuary for a vast array of wildlife.
The park offers over 67 species of mammals, including the iconic grizzly bear, bison, wolves, and elk. Birdwatchers can also spot over 300 bird species, making it a paradise for nature lovers.
Yellowstone National Park offers unique hydrothermal and geologic features. Photo by Ron Barabash from Unsplash
Moreover, the park has over 10,000 hydrothermal features, including the world-renowned Old Faithful geyser, which erupts every 90 minutes. To capture it, you can choose a camera backpack to carry your favourite camera here.
The hot springs, mud pots, and geysers create a surreal landscape that feels like it's from another world. These unique features are constantly evolving, making every visit to Yellowstone a new adventure.
Finally, the park's preservation efforts and sustainability practices are impressive. The national park service also offers educational programs that teach visitors about the park's ecosystem and the importance of preserving natural resources.
7. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Situated in Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park is often listed among the best national parks in the USA. With a vast expanse of red rock formations, dramatic cliffs, and deep valleys. The canyon's scale is simply staggering, with the canyon walls stretching out for miles in all directions.
One of the most notable features of the Grand Canyon is its majestic view. It's one of the world's longest canyons at 277 miles long and a mile deep. With millions of years of erosion, the vividly coloured rock formations contrast with the pure blue sky and the rim's vegetation.
The sheer scale and majesty of Grand Canyon National Park are nothing short of amazing. Photo by Jason Thompson from Unsplash
Hiking is undoubtedly one of the most popular activities in the Grand Canyon. From the deep, narrow corridors of the Inner Canyon to the sweeping views, there's something for everyone at this remarkable park.
The Bright Angel Trail is a difficult but incredibly rewarding hike if you are up for a challenge. For a more relaxed experience, the Rim Trail offers stunning views without too much strenuous activity.
Another unique aspect of the Grand Canyon National Park is its rich cultural history. The park is home to numerous Native American tribes, and visitors can explore their history and culture through various exhibits and educational programs. The park also features multiple historic structures, including lodges and cabins, which offer a glimpse into its past.
8. Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is a breathtaking natural wonder located on the rocky coast of Maine. The rugged beauty and diverse landscapes make it one of the top national parks in the US.
The park features majestic granite mountains that rise from the sea, forming stunning vistas and panoramic views. From the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the eastern seaboard, visitors can see the rugged coastline dotted with islands and lighthouses.
Pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking fall foliage in Acadia National Park await you. Photo by Travel Hayes from Unsplash
Acadia is also home to over 120 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging climbs. These trails wind through forests, along cliffs, and past lakes, providing endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.
The park's coastline is equally impressive, with rocky cliffs, pristine beaches, and secluded coves. The pounding surf and crashing waves create a symphony of sound that is both soothing and invigorating.
In the fall, Acadia's forests explode with colour as the leaves turn brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. The crisp autumn air and clear blue skies make it the perfect time for hiking, photography, and relaxation.
9. Death Valley National Park, Nevada
Nested in Eastern California, Death Valley is among the best national parks in the USA. While the region's name may sound ominous, it has a rich history dating back over 9,000 years and was a hub of mining activity in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1994, Death Valley was designated as a national park after decades of conservation efforts to protect its unique and fragile ecosystem.
Now, let's start with the scenery. Death Valley boasts an array of landscapes, from dunes to canyons and mountains. Surprisingly, its arid terrain is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including coyotes, bobcats, and kangaroo rats.
The sliding boulders of Racecourse Playa and Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level, are just two of the park's many famous geological features.
Let’s dive into the uniqueness of Death Valley National Park’s natural beauty. Photo by Stefan Widua from Unsplash
The park's otherworldly landscape has made it a popular choice for filmmakers and photographers looking to capture its stark beauty on film. Several movies and TV shows have utilised the park as a setting, including Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope and Breaking Bad. Other notable TV shows that have been filmed here are The Twilight Zone, MacGyver, and The X-Files.
Today, you can explore ghost towns, abandoned mines, and attractions like Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and historic Scotty's Castle. However, you should take precautions to stay safe in the extreme temperatures, which can soar to record highs, especially during the summer months.
10. Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park, located in southwestern Utah, is a natural wonderland that offers a diverse range of stunning landscapes to explore. It has been listed among the top national parks in the United States for many years.
The park covers over 229 square miles and features a variety of landscapes, including high plateaus, deep sandstone canyons, and lush forests. The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, and golden eagles.
Zion National Park offers great ways to connect to nature. Photo by Dorina Perry from Unsplash
One of the park's most iconic landmarks is the towering red cliffs of Zion Canyon. These impressive formations rise over 2,000 feet and are a favourite among rock climbers and hikers alike. The canyon is also home to the Virgin River, which carves its way through the towering cliffs, creating a breathtaking sight.
In addition to the canyon, Zion National Park offers a number of other stunning natural features, including Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and Angels Landing. Each of these landmarks provides a unique experience and showcases the park's natural beauty.
If you have some more time to spend, consider visiting Bryce canyon. Most people visit Zion and Bryce on one trip, as they are only 62 miles apart. Each park takes about one day and a half to explore.
Tips For Visiting America’s National Parks
America’s top national parks are some of the most beautiful destinations in the US, attracting millions of visitors annually. With breathtaking landscapes, unique wildlife, and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure, it's no surprise that these parks are so popular.
However, visiting these natural wonders can be overwhelming, especially if you are not sure what to expect. To help make your trip as enjoyable as possible, we’ve put together a list of tips for visiting US national parks.
1. Plan Ahead
Before you head out to any of the most beautiful national parks in the US, it's essential to plan ahead. Check the park's website for information on hours, fees, and any closures or restrictions.
Consider booking campsites or lodging in advance, as many parks fill up quickly during peak season. Planning ahead can help you make the most of your time in the park and avoid any unnecessary headaches.
2. Pack Appropriately
Each national park has its own unique environment, so it's important to pack accordingly. Bring appropriate clothing and footwear, sunscreen, insect repellent, and plenty of water. To be more confident, check our best packing tips while preparing for your trip!
Pack a map, a first aid kit, and any necessary medication. Also, ensure you have a full gas tank before entering the park, as many parks have limited fuel options.
If you are seeking a suitable backpack for a visit to USA national park, don’t hesitate to try the CabinZero Classic 44L. Its lightweight design (weighing just 760g) makes the bag a great choice for hikers and backpackers looking to minimise their load.
Designed with comfort in mind, the backpack features padded shoulder straps and a back panel with airflow channels. You can wear it comfortably for extended periods.
3. Respect Wildlife
Be sure to learn and respect the local wildlife. Photo by Dennis Donohue - stock.adobe.com
One of the highlights of visiting national parks in the USA is seeing wildlife up close. However, it is essential to remember that these animals are wild and should be treated respectfully. Keep a safe distance from wildlife, and never feed them. Observe from a distance, and be mindful of your impact on their habitat.
4. Follow Leave No Trace Principles
When visiting America’s national parks, leaving the environment as you found it is crucial. Follow Leave No Trace principles, which include leaving natural and cultural resources undisturbed. Practise responsible fire safety, and avoid using single-use plastics.
5. Be Mindful of Others
National parks can be crowded, especially during peak season. Be courteous to other visitors by following posted rules and regulations, staying on designated trails, and avoiding excessive noise. Remember that everyone is there to enjoy the park's natural beauty, so be mindful of your impact on others' experiences.
6. Follow The Park Rangers’ Advice
When visiting a national park in the USA, park rangers are your go-to experts. They know all about the park's cool features, safety tips, and rules you need to follow.
Plus, they can give you handy advice on the best hiking trails, when to visit certain spots, and how to stay safe around wildlife. And remember. They can fill you in on all the fun activities and events happening in the park too!
Now that you know about the 10+ most beautiful national parks in the US, it's time to start planning your next adventure! From the towering red cliffs of Zion National Park to the stunning glaciers of Glacier National Park, each of them offers a unique and unforgettable experience.
Let’s pack your bags to these incredible national parks and see for yourself what makes them so special. With so much natural beauty waiting to be discovered, you are sure to have a trip of a lifetime!