11 Noteworthy Parks
Here are the 11 parks you most want to explore — and why these places are great choices for any traveler’s wish list.
11. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Whether you pack a bathing suit to enjoy the park's year-round hot springs, a pair of sturdy boots and a walking stick for its 150-plus miles of trails, or binoculars to spot a few of the park's hundreds of bird species, Big Bend is a dream destination for those looking for a desert getaway.
10. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Hawai'i Volcanoes boasts two remarkable volcanoes - Mauna Loa, one of the largest volcanoes in the world, and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in existence. The park also boasts the largest tract of tropical rainforest in the National Park System, as well as a historic site that is sacred to Native Hawaiians featuring more than 23,000 petroglyphs carved into the lava.
9. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon is best known for its rock spires known as hoodoos - and this region has the greatest concentration of these colorful sandstone formations than anywhere else in the world.
Visitors can enjoy views of these magnificent rocks from above at viewpoints along the rim of the park's main amphitheater, and they can hike trails to the bottom of the valley floor and gaze up while walking among these same rocks.
8. Olympic National Park, Washington
Taking a trip to Olympic National Park is like visiting three parks in one: A coast with enormous rock formations known as sea stacks just off the water's edge, a lush rainforest carpeted with mosses and flowing with waterfalls, and a range of rugged, glacier-capped mountains. Although driving is permitted around the outer edge of the Olympic Peninsula, 95 percent of the park is designated wilderness.
7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Seven thousand feet above the valley of Jackson Hole, the Teton Range dominates the landscape with its distinctive jagged granite pinnacles, which stand tall above the Snake River as it winds through the landscape. The park also offers scenic lakes, 200 miles of trails, historic barns and homesteads from Mormon pioneers who settled in the area in the late 1800s, and in the summer, after most of the snow has melted, a variety of wildflowers bursting with color.
6. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Spanning 277 river miles and measuring a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide in some places, this famous canyon offers wondrous rocks, challenging hikes, world-class whitewater rafting and countless adventures. The park also protects a wealth of biological diversity, including numerous threatened species such as the bald eagle and desert tortoise.
5. Acadia National Park, Maine
The park's sun-kissed mountains, coastal forests, deep blue waters, scenic trails and carriage roads, and historic lighthouses make it a popular and picturesque Northeastern destination. Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast, is one of the first places you can see the sun rise in the United States; and because much of the park is surrounded by the ocean, Acadia is also one of the few good places on the East Coast to see the night sky after the sun goes down, protected as it is from light pollution.
4. Yosemite National Park, California
From Inspiration Point, showcasing an iconic view of Yosemite Valley's astounding rock formations, to Mariposa Grove, where visitors can walk among some of the largest trees in the country, to Tuolumne Meadows, where wildflowers grow in miles of fields surrounded by peaks and domes, there are so many breathtaking vistas and natural wonders, you could create an entire bucket list from the sights within the park itself.
3. Glacier National Park, Montana
With over one million acres of breathtaking alpine landscapes, glaciated mountains and deep blue lakes, Glacier is a place of natural wonders and remote tranquility. Going-to-Sun Road cuts through a cross-section of the park and is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the country, and outdoor lovers will find an abundance of adventures beyond this famous road, from wildlife watching, hiking the many trails, kayaking the peaceful lakes and rivers, and attending ranger-led programs, including boat tours and snowshoe walks in winter.
2. Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming
Famous for its geothermal wonders, including steaming geysers and burbling mudpots, this landmark park also features the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states and is an ideal spot to see bison, bears, wolves, pronghorn and other charismatic animals. The dynamic landscape of craggy mountain peaks, alpine lakes and deep forests is a classic choice for every bucket list.
1. Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Can you picture 6 million acres of forests, glaciers, mountains, rivers and valleys, with just one winding road leading into all of that rugged wilderness?