America is home to large portions of land carved out and protected from development. These areas are considered our national parks, and they provide an excellent outlet for urban-dwellers and nature-lovers who like to experience the country’s natural beauty. If you’re looking to experience some of the most unforgettable landscapes and beautiful vistas this country has to offer, here are the 20 top national parks you should absolutely experience.
Grand Teton National Park. Tucked in the northwest corner of Wyoming, this remote park is worth the detour. Hike, camp or backpack beneath the shadows of the spectacular Teton Range for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Rocky Mountain National Park. This gem is nestled in the heart of Colorado and offers some of the most majestic vistas and magical sunsets you’ll find anywhere. Take a scenic drive through the park to soak in the beautiful scenery or immerse yourself in the great outdoors with activities for adventurers of all skill levels.
Great Sand Dunes National Park. Also located in Colorado, this park is vastly different than its Rocky Mountain counterpart to the north. Known for the namesake sand dunes that seem to appear out of nowhere, it’s a sight unlike any other. Never been sand sledding? Here’s your chance!
Yellowstone National Park. If you’re in Wyoming, you must pay a visit to one of the nation’s most well-known treasures – Yellowstone. This park holds the honor of being America’s first designated national park, and it’s easy to see why. From fishing to witnessing well-known geysers like Old Faithful, your family will truly appreciate all there is to do at this stunning park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Situated along the North Carolina – Tennessee border, this park offers a wide variety of scenic hikes and drives to enjoy. This park boasts beautiful wildflowers, abundant wildlife and some truly incredible sunsets.
Grand Canyon National Park. A visit to Arizona isn’t complete without a trip to this national park. Whether you want to take a quick trip in to check out the canyon or you’d like to more fully experience the area on a hike or overnight backpacking trip, there’s something for everyone here.
Olympic National Park. Experience the lush wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in Olympic National Park, and you’ll be in for an experience you can’t find anywhere else in America. Hike through rain forests, admire snow-capped mountains, or soak in the views from the shore. Whatever you choose, you won’t be let down!
Arches National Park. This Utah park paints the perfect image of the southwest. Known for its namesake arch and other interesting rock formations, this park is an amazing playground for those who love to hike or mountain bike.
Sequoia & Kings National Park. Situated right next to each other in California, it would be silly to visit one park without a quick trip to the other. During the summer, these parks offer lots of opportunities to hike, horseback ride, rock climb and explore. When winter rolls around, it becomes an outdoor playground perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is another well-known national park that easily scores a spot on this list. This park is home to massive sequoia trees, some of the country’s most well-known hikes, and excellent camping opportunities.
Hot Springs National Park. The next time you find yourself in Arkansas, make sure you plan a visit to Hot Springs National Park. While there are some beautiful hikes in the area, you’re really here to enjoy a soak in one of the park’s thermal pools.
Acadia National Park. One look at the beaches of Acadia National Park and you won’t wonder why this one made the list! This Maine treasure is located on Mount Desert Island, making it the perfect park for water-lovers to experience.
Mount Rainier National Park. Southeast of Seattle, this park is home to the impressive Mount Rainier and offers an incredible outlet to experience the beauty of the northwest. Time your visit to coincide with wildflower season and you’ll be blown away by the natural flora in the area.
Zion National Park. Another hiking mecca, this Utah park is a great place to experience a taste of the desert. Plan your visit carefully to account for the weather and you’ll be treated to amazing views, great hikes and some of the best starry night skies in the nation.
Everglades National Park. Home to an incredible array of wildlife, including lots of endangered species, this swampy marshland is worth a stop if you’re in South Florida. Tour the area by boat, enjoy an afternoon of fishing, or spend some time looking for alligators in the shallow waters.
Wind Cave National Park. This South Dakota cave holds the honor of being the first cave named a national park. Take a guided tour of the park’s namesake cave and explore the surface over one of the many trails that cross the area.
Glacier National Park. This Montana park is paradise for hikers – there are miles of backcountry trails to explore that offer incredible views of the surrounding peak. These glaciers remain frozen year-round, so you’re always in for a visual treat, regardless of the season.
Saguro National Park. Saguro National Park is named for the giant catci that call the area home. Drive, hike or camp your way through this dry park and admire the striking beauty of the desert.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. If you find yourself in Hawaii, make sure you plan a visit to this incredible national park. Home to active volcanoes, hiking trails through lush rainforests, and lots of outdoor activities, you’ll be blown away by the power and beauty nature displays here.
Bryce Canyon National Park. This park is known for its unique sandstone pillars, known as hoodoos. Carved by years of erosion, you won’t see anything like them elsewhere.
How many of these national parks have you visited? Are there any others you’d include on the list? If so, leave a comment and let me know!
If you’re planning a family trip soon, make sure to involve your teen! Soon enough they will be on their own and will need to know how to figure gas mileage, rest stops, hotel stays and more.
Did you know Skill Trek has a lesson to help? Every level touches on some form of map reading, but the teens learn how to plan a trip from beginning to end – all within a budget!