If you crave stunning landscapes, natural beauty, and one-of-a-kind experiences, it’s time to take a trip to a national park.
More than 60 national parks across the U.S. encompass everything from mountains and craters to lakes and pristine beaches. The vast majority of the parks are in the country’s western region, with a few scattered throughout the midwest, northeast, and south.
Every national park has its own unique qualities, and every single one is worth visiting. But there are a few that stand out as the best of the best.
If you’re spending time outdoors in the upcoming months, here are the seven top national parks to visit in the U.S.
1. Yosemite National Park
Best time to visit: May through September
The next time you head to California, carve out some time to enjoy the majesty of Yosemite National Park. Known for its stunning waterfalls, granite cliffs, and massive sequoia trees, Yosemite is a feast for the eyes and the soul.
El Capitan is the go-to spot for rock climbers. At its peak, this granite wall is more than 3,500 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. It’s an impressive natural feature and by far one of the most incredible sights in a park that’s rich with more than its fair share of natural wonders.
If you love a waterfall, be sure to spend some time at Yosemite Falls. The upper part of the falls presents a challenging hike, but inexperienced hikers can easily walk its base.
Some parts of the park require permits for climbing, overnight hiking, or camping. Be sure to check and get the necessary ones in advance.
2. Grand Canyon National Park
Best time to visit: March through May and September through November
If you’ve ever flown over the state of Arizona, you’ve undoubtedly heard your pilot announce when you’re flying over the Grand Canyon. And that’s because it’s a fantastic sight to behold, even at 35,000 feet.
But being on the ground in the park is beyond incredible.
The significant feature of Grand Canyon National Park is the gorge through which flows the Colorado River. It’s a geological wonder with jagged canyons, rugged cliffs, and steep trails.
There are a few access points where you can view the canyon by car. But if you want an up-close and personal view, we recommend taking an old-timey mule ride down the canyon.
3. Zion National Park
Best time to visit: April/May and September/October
Visiting the state of Utah might not be on your bucket list, but visiting Zion National Park should be.
Trekking through Zion is like taking a walk through history, as pioneers and Native Americans walked these very trails side by side.
Here are the most thrilling activities you can try at Zion National Park:
- Take a ride down the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to experience Angels Landing and wonder at the Weeping Rock.
- Hike The Narrows, a mesmerizing trail along a river through a canyon.
- Walk trails alongside gardens and waterfalls.
- Sit and watch the wildlife or grab your binoculars for bird watching.
At Zion National Park, you can be as active or as laidback as you want to be.
4. Yellowstone National Park
Best time to visit: April/May and September/October
Yellowstone National Park is unique in that it stretches into three states: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. With a distinct ecosystem and natural wonders at every turn, Yellowstone is a place like no other.
One of Yellowstone’s most spectacular sites is the Grand Prismatic hot spring. This natural spring is bigger than a football field and features a bright blue center with green, yellow, and orange edges.
Prefer to see water shoot up out the ground? Check out the Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts like a water volcano approximately every 90 minutes.
If you’re in the mood to hike, trek down Uncle Tom’s Trail deep into the canyon. Just be sure to make sure that the trail is open before you go. Sometimes it’s closed to keep the public safe from its most infamous occupants — grizzly bears.
5. Grand Teton National Park
Best time to visit: mid-May to late September
The mountains and wildlife of Wyoming make Grand Teton National Park one of the most beautiful places in North America. Its standout features include the Snake River and over 200 miles of hiking trails.
There’s plenty to do and see here, either by car or on foot, including:
- Discover the beauty of Jenny Lake and the Hidden Falls waterfall.
- Hike the trails around the lake or get on the water and enjoy a boat ride to the vista known as Inspiration Point.
- Feeling a bit more active? Jump in a canoe or kayak on the water.
- Take a drive down Moose Wilson Road, where you can actually spot some moose.
6. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Best time to visit: December through May (when it’s not hurricane season)
If Hawaii is on your travel list, head to the Big Island and visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
From Kilauea to Mauna Loa, you can’t visit the Hawai’i islands without getting a glimpse of lava and ancient volcanic craters.
Throughout the park, there are many places to hike and enjoy the natural beauty of volcanic activity.
7. Rocky Mountain National Park
Best time to visit: November through April
Planning to spend some time in Colorado? The Rocky Mountain National Park boasts the Continental Divide, epic mountain peaks, waterfalls, and lots of hiking trails.
This national park is perfect for outdoor adventurers. It’s the place for rock climbing and mountaineering, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
When you want to be a bit less physical, take a scenic drive and check out the Moraine Park Museum. Or get your Rocky Mountain high at one of the many picnic areas or fishing holes.
Be sure to check the Rocky Mountain National Park web page before visiting. Some roads and sites close throughout the year due to poor weather and dangerous driving conditions.
There are so many awe-inspiring parks to visit in America!
Whether you’re planning a weekend road trip with a friend or embarking on a cross-country family vacation, find some time to visit a national park.
You’re sure to have a truly unforgettable experience.
Caitlin Sinclair is the Property Manager at Diega with five years of property management experience and many more in Customer Service. She shares her passion for her community and looks forward to making Diega the place to call home.