The Best National Park in Every State

The Best National Park in Every State

 

From golden sand dunes to hardwood forests, from historic sites and iconic monuments to the winding trails that crisscross the United States, our National Park Service has ensured that every state in the nation has at least a sliver (or a generous wedge) of their most cherished places. Those in search of solitude will find it while wandering deep into the glaciated peaks and jungles of Olympic National Park, while rock climbers from around the world will challenge themselves on one of many world-class routes up the 3,000-feet of vertical on El Capitan in Yosemite.


History buffs and those curious about the country's past walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, which shaped the United States into the nation as we know it. This year, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial year-that's 100 years of caring for the most sacred stretches of land from California to the Eastern Seaboard. And you don't even have to step outside of your home state to experience something the Service has worked to recognize and protect.
Our favorite National Park (or National Park Service site) in every state is just a curated sample of the hundreds of other worthwhile destinations in the United States.

Selma to Montgomery, Alabama

On March 7, 1965, 600 Civil Rights activists marched along Route 80 from Selma toward Montgomery. By the time the walk ended in Montgomery on Thursday, March 25, there were more than 25,000 in attendance. Visitors can retrace their steps on this National Historic Trail, and pay respects to the fallen.

On March 7, 1965, 600 Civil Rights activists marched along Route 80 from Selma toward Montgomery. By the time the walk ended in Montgomery on Thursday, March 25, there were more than 25,000 in attendance. Visitors can retrace their steps on this National Historic Trail, and pay respects to the fallen.

Denali, Alaska

Many peaks remain snow-covered year-round, and access to the park becomes limited once the snow begins to fall in September or October. The park is most accessible during the summer months, but the more experienced outdoorsman may want to visit in the spring or fall to beat the crowds.

Many peaks remain snow-covered year-round, and access to the park becomes limited once the snow begins to fall in September or October. The park is most accessible during the summer months, but the more experienced outdoorsman may want to visit in the spring or fall to beat the crowds.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Cut to a depth of over a mile by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon stretches 277 miles long and 18 miles wide, making it the largest canyon in the country. Well over four million visitors visit each year, so those looking to avoid the masses may want to consider heading to the less-popular North Rim of the canyon. The North Kaibab Trail is an excellent, albeit strenuous hike that delivers visitors into the heart of the canyon.

Cut to a depth of over a mile by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon stretches 277 miles long and 18 miles wide, making it the largest canyon in the country. Well over four million visitors visit each year, so those looking to avoid the masses may want to consider heading to the less-popular North Rim of the canyon. The North Kaibab Trail is an excellent, albeit strenuous hike that delivers visitors into the heart of the canyon.

Buffalo, Arkansas

All 135 miles of the Buffalo National River remains one of the few undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. Fishermen may be pleased with the smallmouth bass population in the upper reaches of the river, or the largemouth bass and catfish in the lower reaches.

All 135 miles of the Buffalo National River remains one of the few undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. Fishermen may be pleased with the smallmouth bass population in the upper reaches of the river, or the largemouth bass and catfish in the lower reaches.

Yosemite, California

Yosemite (one of the most well known rock climbing destinations in the country thanks to its iconic wall, El Capitan) has enough outdoor recreation opportunities and breathtaking scenery for everyone to enjoy. Consider exploring the Tuolumne meadows area on the west side of the park for a more private experience.

Yosemite (one of the most well known rock climbing destinations in the country thanks to its iconic wall, El Capitan) has enough outdoor recreation opportunities and breathtaking scenery for everyone to enjoy. Consider exploring the Tuolumne meadows area on the west side of the park for a more private experience.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Camp under the stars in this Sahara-like setting, or explore the surrounding meadows and view the dunes from afar. It can get windy in the dunes, so plan when setting up a campsite.

Camp under the stars in this Sahara-like setting, or explore the surrounding meadows and view the dunes from afar. It can get windy in the dunes, so plan when setting up a campsite.

New England Trail, Connecticut

The cross-country trail traverses mountain ridges and winds past scenic vistas, but also gives hikers a taste of New England culture as it passes through farms and historic Colonial villages. The audacious may choose to through-hike the entire trail, while the more novice hiker may plan to hike a smaller section in just a day.

The cross-country trail traverses mountain ridges and winds past scenic vistas, but also gives hikers a taste of New England culture as it passes through farms and historic Colonial villages.
The audacious may choose to through-hike the entire trail, while the more novice hiker may plan to hike a smaller section in just a day.

First State, Delaware

As the first state to ratify the constitution in 1787, visitors are able to see an important piece of U.S. history in the First State National Historical Park. Walk through the forested trails of Woodlawn, or visit the 1732 Court House (where abolitionists stood trial for standing up for their beliefs).

As the first state to ratify the constitution in 1787, visitors are able to see an important piece of U.S. history in the First State National Historical Park. Walk through the forested trails of Woodlawn, or visit the 1732 Court House (where abolitionists stood trial for standing up for their beliefs).

Everglades, Florida

Keep your eyes open for manatees, crocodiles, or even a Florida panther. Fishermen will feel at home here, with opportunities to everything from acrobatic tarpon, to snapper or snook.

Keep your eyes open for manatees, crocodiles, or even a Florida panther. Fishermen will feel at home here, with opportunities to everything from acrobatic tarpon, to snapper or snook.

Cumberland Island, Georgia

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia’s largest barrier island, is full of untouched maritime forests, beaches, and marshes. 

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia’s largest barrier island, is full of untouched maritime forests, beaches, and marshes. 

Haleakala, Hawaii

While it’s tempting to spend your Hawaiian getaway in a cabana on a beach, sipping fruity, frothy cocktails, those who do only that during their visit to Maui will be cheating themselves of a beautiful, otherworldly escape. 

While it’s tempting to spend your Hawaiian getaway in a cabana on a beach, sipping fruity, frothy cocktails, those who do only that during their visit to Maui will be cheating themselves of a beautiful, otherworldly escape. 

Craters of the Moon, Idaho

Between 2,000 and 15,000 years ago, eight major volcanic eruptive periods occurred, forming the deep cracks, craters, and lava fields currently found in the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. 

Between 2,000 and 15,000 years ago, eight major volcanic eruptive periods occurred, forming the deep cracks, craters, and lava fields currently found in the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. 

Lincoln Home, Illinois

Claimed as their own by both democrats and republicans, Abraham Lincoln saved the Union and reshaped our Republic. 

Claimed as their own by both democrats and republicans, Abraham Lincoln saved the Union and reshaped our Republic. 

Indiana Dunes, Indiana

This National Lakeshore encompasses 15 miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline in northern Indiana. 

This National Lakeshore encompasses 15 miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline in northern Indiana. 

Effigy Mounds, Iowa

Over 1,000 years ago, thousands of mounds of earth were constructed across parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois by more than 20 different Native American tribes. 

Over 1,000 years ago, thousands of mounds of earth were constructed across parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois by more than 20 different Native American tribes. 

Brown v. Board of Education, Kansas

Take a tour of the historic Monroe School building, see a temporary exhibit, or wander through the galleries of this National Historic Site. 

Take a tour of the historic Monroe School building, see a temporary exhibit, or wander through the galleries of this National Historic Site. 

Tallgrass Prairie, Kansas

When we sing about America’s “amber waves of grain” and “beautiful for spacious skies,” we’re probably conjuring images of this swath of Kansas. 

When we sing about America’s “amber waves of grain” and “beautiful for spacious skies,” we’re probably conjuring images of this swath of Kansas. 

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park is located in the hilly countryside of south-central Kentucky and is a part of the Green River Valley. 

Mammoth Cave National Park is located in the hilly countryside of south-central Kentucky and is a part of the Green River Valley. 

Atchafalaya, Louisiana

Upon entering the state of Louisiana, it can almost feel like you’re entering a different country. 

Upon entering the state of Louisiana, it can almost feel like you’re entering a different country. 

Acadia, Maine

Granite cliffs piercing the sea and the sky are Acadia National Park’s most recognizable feature. Located right next to the bustling New England town of Bar Harbor, Acadia has a rugged seashore, great rock climbing opportunities, and more than enough hiking, camping, and paddling to go around. 

Granite cliffs piercing the sea and the sky are Acadia National Park’s most recognizable feature. Located right next to the bustling New England town of Bar Harbor, Acadia has a rugged seashore, great rock climbing opportunities, and more than enough hiking, camping, and paddling to go around. 

Assateague, Maryland

Too many people driving across Maryland go right past the National Seashore, which is inhabited by wild horses, without even knowing to stop. 

Too many people driving across Maryland go right past the National Seashore, which is inhabited by wild horses, without even knowing to stop. 

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Impossibly white beaches, marshes, and the lighthouses that decorate New England’s coast appear in abundance at the Cape Cod National Seashore. 

Impossibly white beaches, marshes, and the lighthouses that decorate New England’s coast appear in abundance at the Cape Cod National Seashore. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

Dunes rising 450 feet above the edges of Lake Michigan, countless miles of beaches, clear lakes, and spectacular views can be found at this National Lakeshore in Michigan. 

Dunes rising 450 feet above the edges of Lake Michigan, countless miles of beaches, clear lakes, and spectacular views can be found at this National Lakeshore in Michigan. 

Voyageurs, Minnesota

Named after the first people to travel this part of the country—the French-Canadian fur traders known as Voyageurs—this park is famous for its water sports. 

Named after the first people to travel this part of the country—the French-Canadian fur traders known as Voyageurs—this park is famous for its water sports. 

Gulf Islands, Mississippi

Spanning the southeastern coast of Mississippi and into the panhandle of Florida, the Gulf Island National Seashore encompasses both parts of the mainland as well as the islands. 

Spanning the southeastern coast of Mississippi and into the panhandle of Florida, the Gulf Island National Seashore encompasses both parts of the mainland as well as the islands. 

Pony Express, Missouri

With our current method of mail transportation slowly shifting toward electronic transfer, it is difficult to imagine a country in which the main source of delivering mail was by horseback. 

With our current method of mail transportation slowly shifting toward electronic transfer, it is difficult to imagine a country in which the main source of delivering mail was by horseback. 

Glacier, Montana

As its name suggests, Glacier National Park’s rugged mountains and sheer cliffs are crowned by glaciers that are rapidly waning due to global warming. 

As its name suggests, Glacier National Park’s rugged mountains and sheer cliffs are crowned by glaciers that are rapidly waning due to global warming. 

Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska

While this is true for much of the state, some magnificent and noteworthy places such as Scott’s Bluff National Monument do exist. Reaching over 800 feet above the North Platte River at its highest point, the Bluff is an important and magnificent monument along the 19th-century Oregon and Mormon trails. 

While this is true for much of the state, some magnificent and noteworthy places such as Scott’s Bluff National Monument do exist. Reaching over 800 feet above the North Platte River at its highest point, the Bluff is an important and magnificent monument along the 19th-century Oregon and Mormon trails. 

Great Basin, Nevada

If you think Las Vegas is the only worthwhile stop in Nevada, a visit to the Great Basin National Park should change your mind. 

If you think Las Vegas is the only worthwhile stop in Nevada, a visit to the Great Basin National Park should change your mind. 

Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire

While this National Scenic Trail traverses over 2,180 miles of terrain between Georgia and Maine, some of the most beautiful stretches can be found in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. 

While this National Scenic Trail traverses over 2,180 miles of terrain between Georgia and Maine, some of the most beautiful stretches can be found in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. 

Delaware Gap, New Jersey

But The Garden State is also home to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which contains 70,000 acres of streams, waterfalls, forests, and a stretch of the Delaware Rive. 

But The Garden State is also home to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which contains 70,000 acres of streams, waterfalls, forests, and a stretch of the Delaware Rive. 

Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument contains caves that have been used as shelters by nomadic peoples for thousands of years. 

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument contains caves that have been used as shelters by nomadic peoples for thousands of years. 

Hudson River Valley, New York

This National Heritage Area spans from New York City to Albany and is full of scenic parks, outdoor recreation, and plenty of history. 

This National Heritage Area spans from New York City to Albany and is full of scenic parks, outdoor recreation, and plenty of history. 

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

This 469-mile parkway lazily meanders through the Appalachian Highlands in Virginia and Blue Mountains of North Carolina. 

This 469-mile parkway lazily meanders through the Appalachian Highlands in Virginia and Blue Mountains of North Carolina. 

Lewis and Clark, North Dakota

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which stretches across the north-central and northwestern part of the country toward the Pacific Ocean, beckons visitors to walk the path of many women and men alike, including servicemen, scientists, and Native Americans. 

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which stretches across the north-central and northwestern part of the country toward the Pacific Ocean, beckons visitors to walk the path of many women and men alike, including servicemen, scientists, and Native Americans. 

Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio

Located in close proximity to Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park gives visitors the opportunity to escape the daily grind of urban life and immerse themselves in nature. 

Located in close proximity to Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park gives visitors the opportunity to escape the daily grind of urban life and immerse themselves in nature. 

Chickasaw, Oklahoma

Fisherman, boaters, and swimmers alike will find what they are looking for at Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Oklahoma. 

Fisherman, boaters, and swimmers alike will find what they are looking for at Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Oklahoma. 

Crater Lake, Oregon

Deep, impossibly dark blue waters have collected in the crater of an active volcano from pure rainfall and snowmelt over thousands of years. 

Deep, impossibly dark blue waters have collected in the crater of an active volcano from pure rainfall and snowmelt over thousands of years. 

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg National Park, located in south-central Pennsylvania, is the site of arguably the most consequential battle of the Civil War. 

Gettysburg National Park, located in south-central Pennsylvania, is the site of arguably the most consequential battle of the Civil War. 

Blackstone River Valley, Rhode Island

The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor can be considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, as the Blackstone River in Pawtucket powered America’s first successful cotton mill and initiated America’s push toward industrialization. 

The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor can be considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, as the Blackstone River in Pawtucket powered America’s first successful cotton mill and initiated America’s push toward industrialization. 

Congaree, South Carolina

Congaree National Park, covering 26,500 acres of South Carolina, is home to the largest old-growth forest in the southeastern United States. 

Congaree National Park, covering 26,500 acres of South Carolina, is home to the largest old-growth forest in the southeastern United States. 

Badlands, South Dakota

Punctuating the fairly flat state, the Badlands contain rock formations that have resulted from millions of years of deposition and erosion. 

Punctuating the fairly flat state, the Badlands contain rock formations that have resulted from millions of years of deposition and erosion. 

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is America’s most visited park, and for good reason. Car-bound families will find 384 miles of paved and unpaved roads to explore, while those willing to stray a bit further from the beaten path will find beautiful wilderness. 

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is America’s most visited park, and for good reason. Car-bound families will find 384 miles of paved and unpaved roads to explore, while those willing to stray a bit further from the beaten path will find beautiful wilderness. 

Big Bend, Texas

A powerful river cutting deep into the limestone, breaking up the monotonous desert landscape, is what draws travelers from around the world to this part of Texas. 

A powerful river cutting deep into the limestone, breaking up the monotonous desert landscape, is what draws travelers from around the world to this part of Texas. 

Zion, Utah

Zion National Park in southern Utah is arguably the most beautiful park in the state. Known for its famous slot canyons, Zion is ideal for hiking and canyoneering: though that doesn’t mean that the less athletic traveler will come up short on things to do. 

Zion National Park in southern Utah is arguably the most beautiful park in the state. Known for its famous slot canyons, Zion is ideal for hiking and canyoneering: though that doesn’t mean that the less athletic traveler will come up short on things to do. 

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller, Vermont

Explore the New England forests filled with sugar maple and hemlock, old fire roads, and Green Mountain pastures in this National Historic Park. 

Explore the New England forests filled with sugar maple and hemlock, old fire roads, and Green Mountain pastures in this National Historic Park. 

Shenandoah, Virginia

Located just over an hour’s drive from Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers a wilderness escape without having to venture too far. 

Located just over an hour’s drive from Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers a wilderness escape without having to venture too far. 

Olympic, Washington

Acres of old growth forests, miles of rocky coastline, lush rainforests, and glacier-capped peaks all contribute to the spectacular diversity and remoteness that this park offers those willing to venture deep into it. 

Acres of old growth forests, miles of rocky coastline, lush rainforests, and glacier-capped peaks all contribute to the spectacular diversity and remoteness that this park offers those willing to venture deep into it. 

New River George, West Virginia

New River, which cuts through the New River Gorge in Kentucky, is amongst one of the oldest on earth. 

New River, which cuts through the New River Gorge in Kentucky, is amongst one of the oldest on earth. 

Apostle Island, Wisconsin

With 21 islands, 12 miles of national lakeshore, and plenty of lighthouses guarding the shores of Lake Superior, hikers, paddlers, sailors, and fisherman will all enjoy the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. 

With 21 islands, 12 miles of national lakeshore, and plenty of lighthouses guarding the shores of Lake Superior, hikers, paddlers, sailors, and fisherman will all enjoy the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. 

Grand Teton, Wyoming

Rugged slabs of rock speckled with glaciers and snowfields protrude through the clouds, and shield the entry to Grand Teton National Park. 

Rugged slabs of rock speckled with glaciers and snowfields protrude through the clouds, and shield the entry to Grand Teton National Park. 

Gear up for Hiking

Gear up for Hiking

Top 20 Hikes for the Daredevil in You

Top 20 Hikes for the Daredevil in You