9 Best National Parks in the USA
Almost anyone with access to the internet has seen a picture of the Grand Canyon. Even though that's the most famous national park in the United States, it sure isn't the only one. There are so many that's it's hard to say which one is the most beautiful one. So here is a list of 9 of the best national parks in the USA so you can pick your favorite:
1. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
This natural wonder cradles two billion years of geologic history, with 40 layers of rock shaped into buttes, spires, and cliffs. Carved by the Colorado River, the 277-mile gorge is magisterial from any perspective, but it’s thrilling to venture below the rim. The safest place to start is the well-maintained Bright Angel Trail, which follows an ancient route past sculpted sandstone to a cottonwood oasis. For an overnight at the Grand Canyon, hikers can switch back steeply down to the river, a mile below the rim, where secluded campsites reward the effort.
2. Yosemite National Park, CA
Millions of people come to this Sierra Nevada wilderness each year to see jagged peaks, glaciers, lush meadows, and some of the world’s tallest waterfalls. Spanning 1,200 square miles, Yosemite offers activities ranging from child-friendly to extreme. Massive granite slopes like Half Dome and El Capitan dominate the landscape, taunting rock-climbers. Paddlers dip into lakes and rivers, drivers cruise the dramatic Tioga Road, and day hikers walk by sequoias and canyons.
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
With about 12 million visitors annually, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the country’s most-visited national park. Crossing North Carolina and Tennessee, this park is known for its wildlife, waterfalls, and fog-covered mountains. It’s worth visiting year-round for scenic views and outdoor activities like hiking, but the park really shines in autumn, when its trees put on a vibrant display of red, orange, and gold foliage.
4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
America’s first national park is bigger than Rhode Island and has been a jewel in the NPS's crown since 1872. Critters are everywhere in Yellowstone: geysers spurt regularly; sulfurous lakes bubble and boil, and massive waterfalls glint in the sun. Plus, don’t be surprised if you spot buffalo wandering right down the center divider of the two-lane road that connects the park.
5. Acadia National Park, Maine
Located on Maine’s rocky Atlantic coastline, Acadia National Park sees over 3 million visitors every year. You can explore the park by car on 27 miles of historic motor roads or by foot on 158 miles of hiking trails. Most of the national park is located on Mount Desert Island, where you will find the scenic Park Loop Road and picturesque trails perfect for bird-watching just a short distance from the charming town of Bar Harbor.
6. Zion National Park, UT
The incredible thing about Zion National Park is that it hasn't changed over the year. Mosey to spectacular overlooks, hike to Emerald Pools, walk to Weeping Rock, or stroll on Riverside Walk and you'll get a sense of the grandeur of this spectacular national park.
7. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 square miles of breathtaking, protected mountain wilderness. With more than 300 miles of trails, panoramic vistas of snowcapped peaks, picturesque meadows, valleys, and meandering rivers, and Trail Ridge Road, the options are endless.
8. Glacier National Park, Montana
Glaciers, lakes, mountains, and meadows fill the picturesque landscape at Glacier National Park in Montana. The iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road is a must-visit; the road partially closes during the winter due to the weather, but it’s typically fully open in June or July, and if you visit during the summer, be sure to keep an eye out for wildflowers.
9. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Red rocks, pink cliffs, and endless vistas await at this national park in Utah. People travel to Bryce Canyon from around the world to see the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world, but the park's high elevation also makes it a great place for stargazing. One of the U.S.'s more compact national parks, you don't need a ton of time to hit the highlights like Thor's Hammer, Inspiration Point, and the Queens Garden Trail.