The United States National Parks are beautiful. There are 63 national parks in America and we’ve had the good fortune to visit many from Alaska to Hawaii and everywhere in between.
From the unique rock formations of Zion to the towering bamboo trees of Maui you’ll be mesmerized by the striking beauty of this area. These national parks are made for hiking, taking photographs, and enjoying the wonders of nature. Get lost, enjoy, and marvel at these U.S. National Parks.
Pictures of United States National Parks
The United States is the birthplace of the national park system with Yellowstone National Park being the very first protected area in the world. While Yellowstone was founded in 1872 with other parks like Sequoia, Yosemite, Mount Ranier National Park following suit before 1900, it wasn’t until 1916 that U.S. National Park Service was founded. Since then, The United States has been leading the way in establishing National Parks, state parks, and national monuments through to the 21st century. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia is America’s newest national park created in December of 2020.
Yosemite National Park – California
Located in California, Yosemite National Park is the mother of all parks. Renowned photographer Ansel Adams made this park his muse capturing its beautiful landscape from El Capitan to the Half Dome.
Rock climbers flock to Yosemite NP to tackle its world-class routes. Alex Honnold who was featured in the Oscar winning movie Free Solo scaled this mammoth without safety ropes. While the rest of us probably won’t be tackling el Capitan, there are plenty of hikes and beautiful trails in Yosemite to explore.
Sequoia National Park – California
Sequoia National Park became a national park in 1890 to protect its huge groves of Sequoia Trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum). These are the oldest and world’s largest trees and they must be seen with your own eyes to truly believe the scope. Another great place to see some of the world’s largest trees in California is Redwood National Park, visit the national park service for details at their website.
Death Valley National Park – California
Death Valley is the lowest, hottest, and dryest national park in the world. When you visit Death Valley, make sure you have a full tank of gas, lots of water, and sunscreen because temperatures reach to more than 120 degrees! The hottest day ever recorded in Death Valley was 134 degrees.
It is a truly beautiful landscape. We drove through Death Valley on our way to Vegas from California and were mesmerized by its captivating scenery. Even though it is hot, there are plenty of things to do in Death Valley NP from stopping at lookouts to view places like Zabriskie Point and Dantes View to seeing the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes pictured above. Check out the national park service website for more details.
California has more national parks than any other states with nine national parks. We haven’t been to them all, some others on our list to see are Lassen Volcanic National Park, Pinnacles National Park, and Channel Islands National Park. See the National Parks Service for more national parks in California here.
Red Rock Canyon National Park – Nevada
Las Vegas may be the place people go to gamble their lives away, but not too far from this city in the desert is the gorgeous Red Rock Canyon, National Park. Hop on this scenic drive that circles through the canyon for 13 miles and stop at its many hiking trails and viewpoints. If you want to do some rock climbing, this is a popular spot and you can learn to climb here too. Who knows, you may start in Red rock and wind up in Yosemite!
You may want to check out The Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary for a stop in Death Valley.
Joshua Tree National Park – California
Joshua Tree is where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts meet. It is famous for its Yucca trees scattered throughout the landscape. These trees got their names from the Mormon settlers who were reminded of Joshua from the bible. The trees reminded them of Joshua reaching his arms to the sky in prayer. The name stuck.
Joshua Tree may be famous for its yucca trees, but it also has an incredible landscape that has been sculpted by wind and rain. There are hiking trails, bouldering, and darks skies to enjoy here. So make sure to put it on your national parks to visit list! Read More about Joshua Tree NP at 11 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
Zion National Park – Utah
Utah’s first national park is filled with incredible sandstone cliffs and rock formations. It was declared a national park by Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and lucky for us, this beauty is protected.
Hike through the stunning Zion Canyon of pink, red, and creamy yellows and be amazed by the patterns in its rocks, and take a scenic drive through Zion Canyon drive. Enjoy these amazing 10 Best Hikes in Zion National Park
Utah houses 5 U.S. national parks which surprised us. Other parks not to miss besides the ones on this national parks list are National Reef National Park, Canyonlands and Arches. (We haven’t made it to Arches national park but it is high on our list!)
Grand Canyon National Park
Perhaps the most famous national park in the United States is the Grand Canyon. Every time we write about the Grand Canyon we say that it truly does live up to the hype.
With an area of 4931 square km (1,904 square miles) the Grand Canyon is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. To see it with your own eyes is a sight to behold. Read more about the Grand Canyon at 15 Fun Facts That You Need to Know About the Grand Canyon and The Absolute Best Things to do in The Grand Canyon
Badland National Park – South Dakota
Badlands National Park surprised us. We didn’t expect too much from it but once we gazed upon the Badlands Wall, we were hooked. With 244,000 acres to explore, it is huge! While visiting South Dakota, Badlands was definitely at the top of our favorite experience, and we had a lot of them! Read more here.
While exploring Badlands, you may come across bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and bison roaming the mixed-grass prairie landscape. From wildlife watching to scenic lookouts, there are plenty of hikes in Badlands National Park, but it can also be visited by car too. Read all about it at 10 Not to Miss Attractions Badlands National Park Hikes and Things to do
Wind Cave National Park – South Dakota
Wind Cave National Park houses one of the most complex cave systems in the world and one of the world’s largest caves, Wind Cave. Sitting within prairie grasslands, Wind Cave not only has one of the longest caves in the world, but you’ll also be able to view incredible wildlife from bison to elk and prairie dogs.
Denali National Park – Alaska
Mount McKinley stands proud over Denali National Park in Alaska. With a whopping 6.1 million acres, Denali may not be the biggest national park in the United States. That title goes to its nearby neighbor, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve at number one with Gates of the Arctic National Park at #2) but it is the largest national park that we’ve been to.
If you want to enjoy massive and rugged national parks in America, make your way to Alaska to enjoy its unspoiled beauty. Enjoy more from Denali National Park at Things to do in Alaska and 28 Amazing Things to do in Juneau, Alaska
Glacier Bay National Park – Alaska
Glacier Bay National Park is best explored by small ship. We went out to explore its glaciers by kayak and zodiac making it a trip to remember. Check out our experiences at Glacier Bay Uncruise Alaska – The Best Alaskan Cruise
Alaska is one of the final frontiers and if there is one time to take a cruise in your lifetime, this is it. Read: What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise
Dry Tortugas – Florida
The Dry Tortugas National Park located south of the Florida Keys, just may be the most remote national park in the United States. The only way to get there is by boat or plane. This former fort is a great addition to a visit to Key West. See more of the Dry Tortugas at 27 of the Best Things to Do in Key West, Florida
You can visit Dry Tortugas NP on a day trip or spend the night camping on the island. The beaches are soft white sand and the waters are crystal clear where you can snorkel in search of sea turtles. It’s a place you don’t want to miss. Visit the national park service for more details. Also, read Best Stops on a Florida Keys Road Trip Itinerary
Haleakala National Park – Maui
The Haleakala National Park is on the Hana highway and listed as one of these Best Stops on the Road to Hana. Making our way from Paia to Hana, we spent a day exploring the hiking trails and waterfalls of this beautiful national park.
Haleakala National Park not only has the bamboo forest and green jungle, but the Haleakala Crater is also a part of this huge park. Standing 10,023 feet above sea level it is the cornerstone of the park. See the US national park service for more details here.
Spanning 30,000 Haleakala NP has everything from lush jungle trails to the stark red deserts and waterfall trails. Read more: Top 12 Hikes in Maui to Take your Breath Away
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park shared its border with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Together they are known as the International Peace Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve is also one of the premier places to go hiking in the US. We had hiking expert Julie Mclain share her favorite hikes in Glacier NP. Read more here: 9 of the Best Glacier National Park Hikes
Not many people think of American Samoa when listing US National Parks but we had the chance to visit while taking a South Pacific Cruise with Holland America. American Samoa is a remote island in the South Pacific filled with tropical rainforests, beaches, and a rich South Pacific Culture. This American territory will definitely give you bragging rights as one of the most well-traveled national parks explorers.
Everglades National Park – Florida
I cannot tell you how many times we’ve driven through Everglades National Park and never stopped. These wetlands of Florida house incredible wildlife from the endangered manatees, Florida crocodile (yes, I meant crocodile, not gator), and the Florida Panther. When you visit Florida, get away from the theme parks and explore a bit of its preserved lands. Enjoy information about the Everglades NP at the Best Places to Visit in Florida
Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado
Take in the Rocky Mountains with the park that was named for them! Read more about Rocky Mountain N.P. at 15 Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
Crater Lake National Park – Oregon
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. The lake was created by a volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago and it is considered one of the most pristine lakes on earth. Read more at 12 Best Hikes in Oregon That Will blow Your Mind
Bryce Canyon National Park – Utah
Filled with hoodoos and rock formations that seem out of this world, Bryce Canyon is one of the most picturesque US national parks. It may be called Bryce Canyon, but it is actually made up of several canyons carving through a high plateau. Make sure to spend more than a day enjoying its hike or to even take a horseback ride through its rugged landscape. Read more: 12 Bryce Canyon Hikes That Will Blow You Away
Grand Teton NP – Wyoming
Grand Teton national park is located just a short distance from Yellowstone NP, so you can visit two iconic U.S. national parks at once! Many people also visit the area to ski Jackson Hole which is only a few miles from Grand Teton. Read more: 15 Best Hikes in Grand Teton National Park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – North Carolina and Tenessee
Located in North Carolina and Tenessee, the Great Smoky Mountains are super to visit during the summer months. We’ve mostly driven through the Great Smoky Mountains in the height of winter, but with 500 miles of hiking trails including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, this is the place to get outdoors. Read more: 24 Best Hikes in the USA to Add to Your Bucket list
Isle Royale National Park – Michigan
Located in the largest great lake of them all, Lake Superior, Isle Royal is one of the more isolated U.S. national parks. It is only accessible by boat or floatplane and offers backcountry hiking and camping through its north woods forest. Read all about Michigan Travel at Fun and Unique Things to do in Northern Michigan
We have kayaked on this lake and it is one of the greatest adventures. When visiting Isle Royal, get on the water and see it by canoe or paddling. Read more at: The Very Best Places to Visit in Michigan
U.S. National Parks Wish List
With 63 national parks in the United States, we have barely scratched the surface, there are still so many more for us to see. A few that are high on our bucket list are:
- Petrified Forest National Park – This has bee at the top of my list of US national parks to see for years. I’ve wanted to see e fossilized trees and animals from prehistoric times since I was a kid
- Virgin Islands National Park – We are always a little envious of our American neighbors that they have Caribbean Islands as part of their territory. I’ve always wanted to go to the Virgin Islands.
And these are the best national parks in America in photos. How many national parks have you been to in the United States?.