America may be well-known for cities like Las Vegas, Boston, San Francisco, and New York City, but there’s a reason the song “America the Beautiful” exists. There are 58 national parks across the country, each with its own charm, scale, and draw for guests. For those looking to get reacquainted with nature, there’s no better option. Here, we list our picks for the top ten most interesting, most beautiful, and most worth-visiting parks in the United States.
10. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (Alaska)
If you’re looking for sheer size and scope, this is the park worth visiting. At a whopping 13.2 million acres, it is the largest U.S. National Park. It’s also among the tallest, housing nine of the 16 tallest mountains in the country. Glaciers are abundant, with the highest concentration in the States being within the park’s boundaries. The namesake mountain, Mount Wrangell, is also one of the world’s largest active volcanoes.
9. Zion National Park (Utah)
This is THE destination for thrill-seekers. The slimmest section of the canyon, nicknamed The Narrows, is a popular hiking location, and it can only be accessed by traveling upstream. Angel’s Landing will bring you nearly 1500 feet via a natural staircase. It’s not for those that tire easily or struggle with mobility, but it’s certainly worth visiting if you have the stamina.
8. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
No list of the top 10 National Parks would be complete without this icon. As America’s first national park, Yellowstone is insanely popular, due to sights like the Old Faithful geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring. Animal lovers will adore the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center or watching the buffalo population through binoculars. Keep an eye out for bears stealing your pic-a-nic baskets, though.
7. Death Valley National Park (California and Nevada)
As long as you don’t mind the heat, the bizarre geography of Death Valley is worth it. The park is home to the lowest point in the United States and iconic landmarks such as Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, and Darwin Falls. Manufactured structures like Scotty’s Castle and Tea Kettle Junction round out the park, meaning there’s something for all tastes.
6. Biscayne National Park (Florida)
Swimmers, this one is for you. Ninety-five percent of this park is underwater, with only 30 islets and a mangrove forest on (semi) dry land. But getting wet is worth it when you can take in the beauty of the world’s third-largest coral reef. Snorkeling and scuba diving are the activities of the day, and you’ll have plenty of company, ranging from barracuda to manatees. There are even shipwrecks to explore, some shallow enough for snorkelers.
5. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
On the opposite end of the spectrum is this land of fire. If you’ve ever wanted to see a lava flow in person, this is the premier destination for the experience. Mauna Loa and Kilauea are two of the most active volcanoes on the planet, with Kilauea erupting fairly regularly. This is another park that caters to adrenaline junkies quite readily.
4. Channel Islands National Park (California)
This criminally under-visited park is located on the Channel Islands, just offshore of the bustle of Southern California. Boat tours and easy hiking trails take you along the beaches and an archaeological anthology takes you back in time. It’s also a big draw for animal lovers, as sea lions and harbor seals love to gather and breed on the shores of the five protected islands. During migration season, boats can even take you whale-watching.
3. Grand Canyon (Arizona)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Grand Canyon ranks high on this list due to the sheer scope and significance it has. At 277 miles long and eighteen miles wide, there are hundreds of fantastic photo opportunities that define this American landmark. For those not so keen on hiking, rafting the Colorado River is always an option, or you could take a horseback ride to the stunning Havasu Falls.
2. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)
Speaking of horses, this is one of the few places in America where wild horses can still be seen. There are also buffalo and bighorn sheep to spot. It’s a place of cultural importance- the site of General Custer’s and Sitting Bull’s great battle. As the name implies, it was also the frequent stomping ground of Teddy Roosevelt, who helped found some of the ranches that are now part of the park
1. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
The numbers don’t lie. Ranked as both the US’s best national park and the best National Park in the world, this sprawling testament to nature is among the most popular, and for good reason. Jenny Lake, the Mormon Row Historical District, the Cascade Canyon Trail- there’s something for everybody here, and all of it is absolutely breathtaking.