The United States has enjoyed the National Park Service for 150 years. From rugged, glacier-topped landscapes to warm, beachy paradises, our national parks offer diverse land to explore. While there are many designations such as National Monument, National Seashore, and more, sixty-three sites are designated as a National Park.
Every National Park in the United States
Many parks are well-known and visited by the most rudimentary of outdoors people, but there are remote parks that are in pristine wilderness and best explored by people with wilderness survival skills. Regardless of your skill set or interest level, there is a national park for you.
Denali National Park and Preserve – Denali Parks, AK
Denali National Park covers six million acres and one road! The park starts in low elevation forest and is crowned by Denali, North America’s tallest peak. Because a majority of the park remains undeveloped, wildlife is abundant, and off-trail hiking is allowed.
Gates of The Arctic National Park and Preserve – Fairbanks, AK
This park is for the most knowledgeable of outdoors people. It’s absolute wilderness, with no signs, trails, or permanent visitor’s center, and no roads to access the park. Gates of the Arctic National Park are especially important for subsistence activities by local residents who depend on what they can fish, hunt, and harvest from the park.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve – Gustavus, AK
Part of a 25 million-acre World Heritage Site, the park encompasses 3.3 million acres. It’s a park of contrasts – mountains and glaciers with rainforest and unspoiled coastline. Xunaa Shuká Hít is the tribal house for the Huna Tlingit clan of Native Americans and provides visitors the chance to learn more about the culture and history of this Indigenous group.
Katmai National Park and Preserve – King Salmon, AK
Surrounding the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, this park is another remote location with no car access. According to the National Park Service, the park’s mission is to “protect, study, and interpret active volcanism.” Wildlife watching is easy, with thousands of brown bears inhabiting the park.
Kenai Fjords National Park – Seward, AK
Visit this park and feel like you have returned to the ice age. Almost 40 glaciers glide from the Harding Ice Field. Exit Glacier is the only portion of Kenai Fjords National Park that is accessible by road. However, kayaking the fjords or taking a ferry is a great way to explore the park.
Kobuk Valley-Kotzebue, AK
When glaciers retreated 14,000 years ago, they left behind 200,000 acres of sand dunes created by the glaciers grinding rock. Nature has taken back all but 30 miles of sand, but it’s still an unexpected sight in this arctic area. This park has no developed facilities, but acres of backcountry provide plenty of opportunities for fun.
Lake Clark – Port Alsworth, AK
You must fly via a small plane to view the simmering volcanoes and beautiful lakes. Lake Clark NP preserves the ecosystem at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. The park hosts two active volcanoes and valleys cut by glaciers that join the Alaska and Aleutian mountain ranges.
Wrangell-St Elias – Copper Center, AK
The mountain ranges of Wrangell and St. Elias contain some of the largest volcanoes and the most significant concentration of glaciers in North America. This is the largest national park – think of six Yellowstones to envision the size. Four major mountain ranges come together in this park, including nine of the 16 tallest peaks in the United States.
National Park of American Samoa – Pago Pago, American Samoa, AS
At roughly 2600 miles south of Hawai’i, this park is located deep in the South Pacific and is one of America's most remote national parks. Parts of three islands make up this park, and 4,000 acres are underwater! To really experience the Samoan culture, consider a homestay with a local family instead of a hotel.
Grand Canyon – Grand Canyon, AZ
Established as a National Monument in 1908 and a National Park in 1919, the Grand Canyon NP had almost five million visitors in 2022. The river that caused the erosion leading to the canyon is the Colorado, and it runs 278 miles within the park.
Petrified Forest – PFNP, AZ
Set in the gorgeous Painted Desert, this park is best known for the Triassic fossils found in the area. Other sights are petroglyphs from an ancient civilization and massive petrified logs. The Museum Demonstration Lab at the Painted Desert Visitor Center is the place to see paleontologists in action.
Saguaro – Tucson, AZ
Named after the cactus, the world’s largest saguaros are in Tucson. The flowering season is late April through June, making them look even more magnificent. There are over 170 miles of hiking trails, and camping is available in backcountry sites.
Hot Springs – Hot Springs, AR
Hot Springs National Park highlights the nine historic bathhouses and offers visitors access to thermal springs, beautiful mountain views, and hikes through the woods. Fordyce Bathhouse Museum and Visitor Center can show you more about the spot that was once a fashionable spa.
Channel Islands- Ventura, CA
Comprised of five islands and the one mile of ocean surrounding them, Channel Islands National Park requires advanced planning. There are no stores or gear-rental available once on the islands. Gather all your supplies from the mainland because you won’t want to miss opportunities for snorkeling, picnics on the beach, or surfing!
Death Valley – Death Valley, CA, NV
This is a park of superlatives; it is the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park. With 3.4 million acres to explore, it’s helpful to know that there is resort-style lodging in the park and campgrounds.
Joshua Tree – Twentynine Palms, CA
As the NPS website notes, the Joshua Tree looks like it belongs in a Dr. Seuss book. There is so much more to see, though, at this place where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts come together. The park entrance is open 24 hours a day, but you must bring any needed supplies.
Lassen Volcanic National Park – Mineral, CA
Every rock you see at the park came from a volcano! All four types of volcanoes are found at the park, with the last active eruption roughly 100 years ago. Steaming vents and bubbling mud pots prove there is still active volcanic activity underground.
Pinnacles – Paicines, CA
Pinnacles National Park was born out of the eruption of several volcanoes approximately 23 million years ago. If you’re a birder, you’ll love seeing the peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and the critically endangered California condors.
Redwood – Del Norte & Humboldt Counties, CA
I’ll bet you don’t think of prairies, rivers, and coastlines when you think of Redwood National Park. All of these are there to explore, besides the tallest trees in the world. Your best bet for seeing those famous redwoods is to use the park’s mobile app, which holds more accurate driving directions than most GPS systems.
Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks – In The Southern Sierra Nevada in Tulare and Fresno Counties, CA
While redwoods are the tallest trees, sequoias are the world’s largest trees, with massive trunks. While the ancient trees inspire awe, don’t miss the rest of the scenery – mountains, rivers, and other trail hikes. There are four resorts and camping opportunities within this park.
Yosemite National Park – The Sierra Nevada, CA
Even though 95 percent of Yosemite National Park is a Congressionally designated wilderness, this park can get incredibly crowded. Plan to arrive early in the day to take in the world-famous waterfalls and gorgeous valleys.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Montrose, CO
The Gunnison River has created a masterpiece in the Black Canyon over two million years. Take in the canyon during multiple hikes on both rims that accommodate different fitness levels.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve – Mosca, CO
Experience sandboarding and sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park! During summer, though, hit it early or late to avoid sand temps up to 150 degrees! Splash and play in Medano Creek while you can – it is created from melting snowfall and only hangs around in the Dunes parking lot from early May through June.
Mesa Verde National Park – Cortez and Mancos, CO
Pueblo people lived and created homes on mesas and in the cliffs of this area for over 700 years. Today, Mesa Verde National Park is committed to preserving the remaining cliff dwellings while promoting the culture of the Pueblo and other Tribes that have called Mesa Verde home.
Rocky Mountain National Park – Estes Park and Grand Lake, CO
Rocky Mountain National Park offers ever-changing scenic views from meadows to mountain peaks. The top third of the park envelops the windswept alpine tundra, while alpine lakes and tree-covered valleys are below. This park is bustling in the summer and requires timed-entry reservations.
Biscayne National Park – Miami, Key Biscayne and Homestead
Biscayne National Park is a water lover’s dream off the coast of Miami. Boat, paddle, or fish in the gorgeous waters. If you snorkel or dive, follow the underwater Biscayne Maritime Heritage Trail to view scattered shipwrecks.
Dry Tortugas National Park – Key West
Snorkel in these crystal-clear waters to get amazing views of marine life! Swimming and paddling are also encouraged. Check out Fort Jefferson on Garden Key if you're a history lover. It’s one of the country’s largest 19th-century forts.
Everglades National Park – Miami, Naples, and Homestead
As the third-largest park in the contiguous 48 states, there is plenty of room to roam. Rent paddling equipment or take a guided boat tour of a fraction of the 1.5 million acres of wetland. If you're lucky, you’ll see a manatee, an American crocodile, or even the rarely-sighted Florida panther!
Haleakalā National Park – Kula, Maui
The Summit District of Haleakalā National Park has over 30 miles of hiking trails. These can be strenuous, and altitude sickness is a concern. Alpine desert and subalpine shrubland hikes are great ways to see more of the park’s native wildlife and vegetation. In the Kīpahulu District, visitors can enjoy hiking to waterfalls and Hawaiian archeological sites in this coastal district.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park – Hilo
Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are two of the world’s most active volcanoes, and both summits are included in this park that begins at sea level and goes up to 13,680 feet. Visit the former Kahuku Ranch and take the trails to view lava flows from an 1868 eruption.
Indiana Dunes National Park – Porter
This park includes 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s shores, making it great for paddlers and swimmers. Nature lovers will enjoy the park’s great plant and bird diversity along the 50 miles of hiking trails.
Mammoth Cave National Park – Mammoth Cave
If you need a break from the heat, go underground. Mammoth Cave is the longest-known cave system in the world. Take a guided tour to learn more about the formations and people who called the caves home years ago.
Acadia National Park – Bar Harbor
The beauty of Acadia National Park helps it achieve a place on the “top 10 most visited” parks list. This rugged landscape along the rocky Atlantic coast is ready for hikers but also has miles of bike and carriage trails and 33 miles of scenic drives.
Isle Royale National Park – Houghton
This park is an archipelago made up of over 400 islands. Plan for plenty of outdoor fun once you’ve crossed Lake Superior by ferry, boat, or seaplane. Diving is exciting as Isle Royale National Park has the most intact collection of shipwrecks in the National Park Service.
Voyageurs National Park – International Falls, Kabetogama, Ash River, and Crane Lake
Known for its walleye fishing experience, Voyageurs National Park preserves its history. In addition to the usual outdoor activities, visitors can stay in the historic Kettle Falls Hotel, view remnants of the 1900s logging era, and visit the Harry Oveson Fish Camp, highlighting the life of commercial fishermen.
Gateway Arch National Park – St. Louis
Take in the Gateway to the West at this park in St. Louis. Don’t miss taking a tram ride 630 feet to the top of the arch! St. Louis’ Old Courthouse is also part of the park and was where Dred Scott sued his enslaver for his freedom.
Glacier National Park – Northwest Montana
Glacier National Park is a backcountry camper's paradise with over 700 miles of hiking trails, mountains, and alpine lakes. If you want to see any of the park’s namesake glaciers, hurry. Of the 80 glaciers in 1850, only 26 remained in aerial photography from 2015.
Great Basin National Park – Baker
Tour the Lehman Caves, the most extended cave system in the state. They are limestone caves with all manner of interesting formations. If you prefer to look to the skies, you’re in luck. Great Basin National Park has some of the least polluted and clearest skies in the continental United States.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park – Carlsbad
Below the surface of the park are over 119 caves. Two are available for you to explore independently, while visitors can access more through ranger-led tours. Take advantage of the nightly bat flight from late May to October. Stand outside the cavern when thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats emerge!
White Sands National Park – Alamogordo
The white sands are gypsum dunes and cover 275 square miles of New Mexico desert. White Sands National Park has the world’s largest gypsum dune field. Be a kid again and slide down the dunes in a snow-sledding saucer!
North Carolina and Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – NC, TN
The most visited National Park is sprawling on the border between two states Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s easy to see why, with stunning mountain vistas and the preservation of Southern Appalachian mountain culture.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora (South Unit), South of Watford City (North Unit)
The 26th president of the United States was a massive champion of preserving wild spaces and created 230 million acres of public lands during his presidency. This park celebrates his love of wilderness and preserves the area where he briefly lived. Wildlife such as bison, feral horses, and elk abound.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Cleveland and Akron
Just outside Cleveland and Akron is a unique slice of nature. Twenty-two miles of the Cuyahoga River run the length of this park. Walk or bike the historic towpath that mules trod for the Ohio and Erie Canal. Another unique way to get around the park is to ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
Crater Lake National Park – Crater Lake
Crater Lake was formed by volcanic eruptions that weakened Mount Mazama and caused it to collapse almost 8,000 years ago. Filled by rain and melting snow, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the most pristine.
Congaree National Park – Hopkins
The park service states that Congaree National Park is “the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.” This floodplain's nearby rivers and creeks make the park an excellent destination for paddling enthusiasts.
Badlands National Park – Southwestern
The Lakota tribe originally called this park mako sica – “bad lands.” Why? The environment was difficult to traverse, and living conditions were inhospitable. Today, the park is a wonder. It holds one of the world’s richest fossil beds. The beautifully striped geologic formations owe deposition and erosion to their creation over thousands of years.
Wind Cave National Park – Hot Springs
Wind Cave is the first cave to become a national park worldwide. It’s also one of our oldest national parks, created in 1903. Guided tours of various parts of the caves are available and cater to different fitness levels.
Big Bend National Park – The Big Bend of The Rio Grande
There is incredible bio-diversity in this park that, at first, appears barren. Nearby rivers meet the desert, allowing a unique blend of plants and wildlife to thrive. The park is also full of geological wonders that tell the story of thousands of years. This desert landscape has produced sea fossils, dinosaur bones, and volcanic dikes.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park – Salt Flat
The Chihuahuan Desert surrounds the four highest peaks in Texas. The 1,000-foot limestone cliff, El Capitan, is a must-see for park visitors. Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet above sea level. What you don’t see is a small part of a primarily underground fossil reef complex formed 260 million to 270 million years ago.
US Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands National Park – St. John
There is much more to Virgin Islands National Park than beautiful beaches and stunning snorkeling opportunities. You can view petroglyphs from the Indigenous Taino people, the island's original inhabitants. Also visible are the ruins of sugar plantations that speak to the problematic history of the Dutch colonists and their enslaved plantation workers.
Arches National Park – Moab
The stunning geologic formations at Arches National Park result from 65 million years of building up and breaking down. The landscape is constantly changing, albeit slowly. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches and other fascinating geologic formations.
Bryce Canyon National Park – Bryce Canyon
One of the most recognizable spots in the park is the Bryce Amphitheater. This area has the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos – otherwise known as irregular columns of rock. You’ll take in spectacular amphitheater views within the first three miles of the park road, but keep going. The following 15 miles encompass the Southern Scenic Drive, treating you to less-seen views of the park.
Canyonlands National Park – Moab
Divided into four distinct districts, each part of Canyonlands National Park has its appeal. Visit sheer sandstone cliffs or walk trails between spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone. The Maze is the most remote area of the park, requiring a high level of self-sufficiency. At the same time, the Green and Colorado Rivers offer a different perspective from the rocky formations surrounding them.
Capitol Reef National Park – Torrey
Visit this park to view the gorgeous red rocks of this area, but stay to learn more about the Waterpocket Fold. It’s a geologic monocline, described as “a wrinkle on the earth.” This wrinkle extends almost 100 miles and is considered a warp in the Earth’s crust.
Zion National Park – Springdale
Zion National Park was Utah’s first national park and is one of its most visited. Beautifully colored sandstone cliffs are a draw for hikers. Birders will get excited about the 291 species of birds in the park. The most popular hike is The Narrows, with gorge walls roughly 1,000 feet tall.
Shenandoah National Park – Blue Ridge Mountains Near Luray
Less than 100 miles from the hurry and fast pace of Washington, D.C., is a peaceful place of waterfalls, wildflowers, and woods. During fall, take a gorgeous road trip along Skyline Drive, but watch the speed – wildlife often cross the road!
Mount Rainier National Park – Ashford, Enumclaw, Packwood, and Wilkeson
At 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington and is an active volcano. The mountain is covered in glaciers that feed five major rivers with snowmelt. It’s also a seismically active volcano, enduring roughly 20 small earthquakes per year.
North Cascades National Park – Marblemount
North Cascades National Park is a convenient three hours from Seattle. An outdoor sportsperson’s paradise, opportunities to fish, hike, camp, and boat abound. It’s also a great place to brush up on wilderness mountaineering skills.
Olympic National Park – Port Angeles
This national park combines a diverse group of ecosystems. Visitors can explore glacier-covered peaks, rainforests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline. The Olympic Coast is a great place to try your hand at tide-pooling. If you’re there during April-May or October-November, you might be able to spot whales in migration.
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve – Hinton, Beckley, Glen Jean, and Fayetteville
Originally a National River, New River Gorge was redesignated as a national park and preserve in 2021. The New River is among the oldest rivers worldwide, cutting the deepest and longest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountain chain. Visitors will enjoy the trails and the historic farm buildings preserved on site.
Grand Teton National Park – Moose
With over 200 miles of trails, you have plenty of hiking choices in Grand Teton National Park. You can also take your pick of four lakes to fish from and paddle on. The Teton Range rises over 7,000 feet above the valley of Jackson Hole and is home to wildlife such as moose and elk.
Yellowstone National Park – Yellowstone National Park, ID, MT, WY
Yellowstone has the honor of being our nation’s first national park, established in 1872. The geyser Old Faithful gets much attention, but the park has many other hydrothermal features, such as hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots. There are also lush forest areas and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
Take Time To Explore Every National Park in The United States
It’s no wonder that the National Park System was declared “America’s best idea.” Preserving our public lands ensures they are available for generations to come. The parks aren’t just for recreation but for study and scientific analysis. By supporting our National Park System, we can help families enjoy time together and assist scientists in learning more about our world. America’s best idea, indeed.