Top 10 National Parks in the US
The National Parks in the US are among some of the most breath-taking in the world. The diversity of landscapes, the stunning scenery and ancient myths surrounding their existence, also makes them some of the most visited. We have put together a comprehensive list of the top ten national parks in the US that you must visit this Summer. So here they are, in no particular order (we don’t do favorites here!). Our Top Ten National Parks in the US. Warning: severe wanderlust lies ahead!
10. Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park has been described as a spiritual experience, an orange tinted wonderland of adventure and freedom. Deep gorges and soaring red and white rock formations litter the landscape, resulting in some of the most impressive and photogenic scenery in the US. Rising out of the flat Utah desert, this extremely popular national park was formed from the Virgin River. Zion National Park is situated in southwestern Utah, in the United States. The closest major city is Las Vegas, and a drive will take about two and a half hours, crossing the border from Nevada into Utah.
Originally home to many Native American Indian tribes, the national park was first given its current name when the Mormons settled in the area in the 1860s. The word Zion occurs over 150 times in the Bible, and it essentially means “fortification”. They named Zion Canyon first, a deep canyon 24kms long and 800m deep, and the surrounding area was announced a national park in 1909.
Check out our comprehensive Zion National Park Travel Guide, including what to see and do, what to pack and how to get there.
9. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park has been described as a landscape straight out of a Dr Seuss book, and visitors will not be disappointed if you have this image in your head! This national park has some of the most unique and iconic landscape in the world, boasting strange and random rock formations, colourful rock layers, and obscure trees with clumps of spiked leaves. Joshua Tree National Park is located in California, USA, a two-and-a-half-hour journey east of Los Angeles. There is a north, a west and a south entrance to the park, however the north and west have the most facilities, camp grounds, and are closest to the main hikes and visitor centres.
The Joshua Tree, technically known as the Yucca Brevifolia, is native to southwestern United States, where it is mostly found in the Mojave Desert. The name Joshua Tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid 1800s. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a biblical story, in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Their strange appearance makes them extremely popular, with spikey clumps of green leaves protruding in different directions off the trunk.
Check out our comprehensive Joshua Tree National Park Travel Guide, including what to see and do, what to pack and how to get there.
8. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Adventure seekers unite! This one is for the brave souls who wish to venture to the Hawai’ian islands to see some the most frequently active volcanoes in the world. Named a designated World Heritage Site in 1987, the site covers 7 different ecological zones, over 1300 square kms, with two active volcanoes. The park itself celebrated its centenary in 2016, however remnants of human life in this area dates back to the 15th century, but the first people landed here. Hawaiian legends tell stories of Pele, the goddess of fire, who created the volcanoes on the islands.
Adventure to these incredible islands to explore the secrets of these beautiful volcanoes – but be careful!
7. Olympic National Park, Washington
The Olympic National Park in northern Washington State is one of the most rugged and raw places in the United States. Jagged and rough coastlines combine with mossy and wet rainforests to create an environment that is filled with stunning landscapes. Get lost looking for driftwood on the coast or explore snowy mountains Hurricane Ridge, either way, your adventure into this national park will be like taking a step back in time and escaping into the wild. Coast, mountains, snow, lakes, rainforests … this unique range of eco systems makes this national park a very special place.
The Olympic National park is located on the Olympic Peninsula, a large piece of land that dramatically juts out of the side of Washington State. The National Park takes up most of the peninsula, land that is mostly reservations. The park itself is huge, taking up almost 4,000 square kilometres.
Check out our comprehensive Olympic National Park Travel Guide, including what to see and do, what to pack and how to get there.
6. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake has been called one of America’s most beautiful places. A vividly blue lake is surrounded by stunning snow-peaked mountains, green Douglas Fir trees, and landscapes that rival Switzerland. The national park that surrounds it is filled with stunning vistas that will literally take your breath away. Crater Lake is located in central Oregon, about a 4 drive from Portland, USA, and is not far from the California border. The roads entering the National Park are very well maintained, and any car can access it.
The lake itself is absolutely breathtaking and has been the topic of wonder and awe among all those who visit. The lake is 522m deep, making it the deepest lake in the United States, and the ninth deepest in the world. The lake lies inside the collapsed remnants of an ancient volcano, that erupted about 7,700 years ago, and was the largest to occur in North America for more than half a million years. Though the mountain has now been dormant for five thousand years, geologists do expect it to reawaken someday.
Check out our comprehensive Crater Lake National Park Travel Guide, including what to see and do, what to pack and how to get there.
5. Glacier National Park, Montana
If you’re looking for perfect reflections, stunning mountains and the purest glacier water on Earth, look no further. This national park is known as the ‘Crown of the Continent’, as its waters flow to the Pacific Ocean, Hudson Bay and to the Gulf of Mexico, affecting most of the waterways in North America. It is also a world heritage site. A highlight is the Going-To-The-Sun Road, stretching from the east to the west of the park, showcasing some of its best parts.
Glacier National Park is located on Montana, just south of the Canadian border. Both of the cities of Spokane in WA and Helena in Montana are about 400kms from the national park, however Calgary, Canada is actually a lot closer.
4. Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado
With the incredible Rocky Mountains as your backdrop, you can’t go wrong in this part of the world. You’ll feel dwarfed by the enormity of these majestic mountains, wander through forests, and fall in love with this landscape. Covering a total area of 100 square kms, this national park had over 4.5 million visitors last year. With 360 degree views from the visitor centre alone, you know your Rocky Mountain experience is going to be a special one. Take the Rocky Pledge while you’re there, to protect and preserve the park and its inhabitants for future generations.
Located 100kms from Denver, this national park is accessible, engaging and a little slice of history in the US.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming
The motto of the Yellowstone National Park is ‘Marvel. Explore. Discover’ and you won’t be disappointed with these promises. Known as the world’s first national park, established in 1872, this park has a plethora of activities and sights to explore. A particular highlight is the Rainbow Pool, a stunning multi-coloured, circular hot spring within the park. At 8000 square kms, the park is one of the largest in the world, with a fully intact and maintained ecosystem.
Yellowstone actually has its own airport, if you’re bringing your private jet. For the rest of us, Salt Lake City is actually the closest major city to Yellowstone, 600kms away.
2. Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is the most internationally famous park in the US. Graced with high granite mountain peaks, stunning forests and unparalleled waterfalls, it’s easy to see why. The untamed beauty of this park attracts over 4 million visitors per year, and these numbers are rising every year.
Located in central-east California, close to the Nevada border, this national park stretches over 3000 square kms. The park is about 4 four-hour drive and 300kms from San Francisco, it’s closest major city.
Yosemite has been home to human beings for tens of thousands of years. Seven present-day tribes descend from the people who first called this area home. The Ahwahneechee people lived here for generations, before the arrival of the Europeans in the mid-1800s, which resulted in turmoil in the Yosemite Valley and the dispersal of many tribes. The Yosemite Valley Railroad from Merced to El Portal was completed in 1907, easing the journey for the European settlers. These settlers hosted a multitude of artists, including writers and photographers, who spread the word about the stunning ‘incomparable valley’ to the rest of the world. In 1918, Yosemite’s Clare Marie Hodges became the first female park ranger in the National Park Service.
1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon doesn’t derive its name for no reason – this is the most spectacularly grand experience you’ll ever have. It is the most visited national park in the US, with over 5 million visitors per year. The orange immensity of the walls of the canyon are breathtaking, not to mention the size of the canyon itself is incomprehensible. 446kms long, 29kms wide and 1.6kms deep at its deepest point – these stats aren’t for the faint hearted!
The Grand Canyon National Park is located in Arizona, close to the Nevada border. You can access the canyon itself from the north or south rims, which both have the best vantage points in the park. The North Rim is about 400kms from Laz Vegas, the closest major city. You can also access the South Rim from Flagstaff Arizona, about 300kms away.
The top ten national parks in the US is an epic list of unimaginable nature, stunning landscapes and majestic scenery. Access to these parks are priced reasonably and can be accessed by main highways within each state. The prices are as follows: