The United States is home to a vast and diverse array of natural beauty, much of which is protected within the national park system. Each park offers a unique glimpse into the country’s rich ecological and geological tapestry.
While it’s a daunting task to single out the “best” national parks — as each has its own special charm — the following parks are undoubtedly among the most iconic and mesmerizing.
All you need to do is meet the tourist visa requirements for the U.S. and grab this handy guide for the adventure of a lifetime.
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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho
Often hailed as the crown jewel of the U.S. national park system, Yellowstone was the world’s first national park. Established in 1872, this massive park spans over 2.2 million acres.
Renowned for its geothermal features, including the famous Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone also boasts lush forests, vast lakes, and diverse wildlife such as grizzlies, wolves, and free-roaming herds of bison and elk.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The sheer scale and beauty of the Grand Canyon make it one of the most iconic landscapes in the world. Carved by the Colorado River, this immense canyon offers breathtaking vistas, especially during sunrise and sunset.
Whether you hike the Bright Angel Trail, take a mule trip, or simply enjoy the view from the South Rim, the Grand Canyon is a testament to the power of nature.
Yosemite National Park, California
With its towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and ancient giant sequoias, Yosemite embodies the grandeur of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Iconic landmarks such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and the awe-inspiring Yosemite Valley have been drawing visitors and artists alike for over a century. Every corner of Yosemite feels like a piece of a natural masterpiece.
Zion National Park, Utah
This park is a symphony of red and pink sandstone cliffs, rising majestically against the blue sky. Zion’s canyons offer a plethora of hiking opportunities, with trails like The Narrows and Angels Landing being among the most famous and exhilarating.
Waterfalls, verdant valleys, and the meandering Virgin River add to the park’s allure.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Nestled on the rugged coast of Maine, Acadia is a gem of the Northeast. With a mix of coastal beauty and forested mountains, it provides a unique contrast to many other national parks.
Highlights include the panoramic view from Cadillac Mountain — the highest point on the U.S. Atlantic coast — and the picturesque Jordan Pond.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina
As the most visited national park in the U.S., the “Smokies” captivate with their mist-covered mountains and rich biodiversity. The park offers over 800 miles of hiking trails, leading to cascading waterfalls, verdant valleys, and highland meadows.
The historic Cades Cove loop is a window into the region’s cultural heritage, offering a glimpse of preserved settlers’ homes and churches.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Often referred to as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier is a land of pristine lakes, rugged mountains, and pristine forests.
The park’s iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road offers one of the most scenic drives in the country, weaving through the heart of the park and offering unparalleled views of its breathtaking landscapes.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic stands out with its incredible diversity. From the rugged Pacific coastline to the temperate rainforests of the Hoh and Quinault, and then up to the glacier-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains, the park provides a unique confluence of ecosystems.
This is a place where one can explore tide pools in the morning and hike in alpine meadows by afternoon.
Arches National Park, Utah
This park offers a surreal landscape of over 2,000 natural stone arches, as well as hundreds of soaring pinnacles, giant fins, and balanced rocks.
The iconic Delicate Arch, standing like a lone sentinel against the backdrop of the La Sal Mountains, is a sight to behold, especially during sunset.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California
Side by side in the Southern Sierra Nevada, these parks are famous for their colossal giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the largest tree on earth.
Beyond the big trees, one can explore vast caverns, hike rugged mountain peaks, and walk by serene meadows.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Encompassing the heart of the Rockies, this park boasts soaring mountain peaks, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. The Trail Ridge Road, one of the highest paved roads in the U.S., offers stunning panoramic views.
The park is also a hiker’s paradise with over 300 miles of trails.
Everglades National Park, Florida
The Everglades are a unique subtropical wilderness. This vast wetland, a mosaic of mangroves, freshwater marshes, and pinelands, is crucial for numerous species like the American alligator, Florida panther, and a myriad of bird species. It’s also the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist.
In conclusion, while this list captures some of the best national parks in the U.S., it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. boasts 63 national parks in total, each offering its own unique experiences and stories.
Every visit to a national park is a step into a world of wonder, a testament to the timeless beauty and power of nature. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, the national parks of the U.S. promise experiences that will linger in your memories for a lifetime.
About the Author: Ruben, co-founder of Gamintraveler.com since 2014, is a seasoned traveler from Spain who has explored over 100 countries since 2009. Known for his extensive travel adventures across South America, Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Africa, Ruben combines his passion for adventurous yet sustainable living with his love for cycling, highlighted by his remarkable 5-month bicycle journey from Spain to Norway. He currently resides in Spain, where he continues to share his travel experiences alongside his partner, Rachel, and their son, Han.