There is a park for everyone and the US National Park System is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in the world and deservedly so. Some boast iconic mountain scenes and others display landscapes which seem to be from another planet. Either way, you will get more than your fill of beauty, awe-inspiring panorama, and jaw-dropping views if you are ready to hit the road into the US wild. Below you will find 10 National Parks we recommend to visit this summer.
For more information on park reservations and requirements see our previous article here.
1 — Acadia National Park
One of the smaller National Parks, there is no shortage of diversity. Home to forests, mountains, lakes, rocky headlands, and wetlands along the Atlantic coast, Maine’s Acadia National Park has 27 miles of scenic roads and 158 miles of hiking trails you will find absolutely stunning. Here, the mountains really do meet the sea with Cadillac Mountain which is the highest point on the Atlantic coast and famous for offering the first sight of sunrise in the continental US.
2 — Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in all of America and one of the snowiest places in the US. It often takes until summer for all 43 feet of snow per year (on average) of it to melt. However, once the temperature heats up and the ring road and amenities are open for the season, this is truly a spectacular park to visit once you hit the road.
3 — Zion National Park
Even though located in the American Southwest, Zion National Park seems like you are in a far-off land. It is a nature preserve distinguished by Zion Canyon’s steep red cliffs, forest trails along the Virgin River, the Emerald Pools with waterfalls and hanging gardens, and deep chasms through the Zion Narrows wading hike.
4 — Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Seems like you are in another world with these sand dunes and the tallest topping 750 feet and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background. A true remote location in Colorado situated at just over 8,000 feet above sea level, it is an ideal campground to see the stars in a seemingly unearthly landscape.
5 — Glacier National Park
As the name suggests, Glacier National Park is a haven for many pristine glacial lakes as well as waterfalls, vast wilderness, stunning mountain views, and more. It has been dubbed “The Crown of the Continent”. Spanning about a million acres in northern Montana, this National Park is home to 15 active glaciers and the Going-to-the-Sun-Road (an engineering marvel) is only open during the warmer months. This 50 mile long drive is an adventure in and of itself, providing arguably some of the most beautiful views in the US.
6 — Kenai Fjords National Park
Yes, there are also “fjords” in the US and not just in Scandinavia. Like most of Alaska’s National Parks, Kenai Fjords is best experienced in the warmer months when melting glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield into the surrounding fjords. The summer brings perfect temperatures, wildflowers, easier access to the backcountry, and tour operators who can guide you to do whatever you can think of.
7 — Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is home to one of the most intimidating and famous rock climbing mountains in the world (El Capitan), the tallest waterfall in North America (Yosemite Falls), granite monoliths like Sentinel Dome, some of the largest trees on Earth (sequoias), and more.
8 — Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is arguably one of the most famous National Parks in the US. It boasts peerless geological features you will not find anywhere else and is easily accessible for all types of explorers. Some of its most iconic attractions can be appreciated on a scenic drive which makes for a great road trip destination.
9 — Joshua Tree National Park
Long known as an LA getaway, Joshua Tree seems to be more popular every year as indicated by its 3 million visitors in 2019. The dry desert is home to over 500 archaeological sites and the rugged geological features are a climber’s paradise with the variety of rock faces available to them. From climbing to hiking around the famously twisted Joshua Trees, this is a special environment everyone should check out at least once even if it is just to stargaze.
10 — White Sands National Park
Located in the Northern Chihuahuan Desert, between the New Mexico towns of Alamogordo and Las Cruces, White Sands National Park is one of the world’s great natural wonders and largest gypsum sand dune fields. These dunes offer some unique activities from a ranger-led hike to sledding down the sand dunes. Don’t forget to see all of the plants and animals that live there and, of course, just play in the sand.
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