It’s estimated that the USA’s various national parks attract 100 million recreational visits every year. When you consider the range of experiences available, it’s tempting to join that statistic and plan a trip of your own. The trouble is, it’s difficult to know where to start. California alone boasts eight national parks, while Utah has five, and the two Montana national parks are among the top 10 most-visited USA parks. That’s before getting into national parks in states like Colorado and Arizona. Should you see the Grand Canyon? Want to climb El Capitan? Feeling spoiled for choice? Fear not! We’ll break down 14 of the best national parks USA has to offer and outline what each brings to the table.

Yellowstone National Park

Spread across parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park was the first of the American national parks. It is also widely regarded to have been the first national park established anywhere in the world. It spans more than 4,000 km2 and is the perfect option if you want to see varied wildlife.

Bears, bison, deer, foxes, wolves and snakes are all native to the region, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. The Wyoming section of the national park is also home to Old Faithful, a famous geyser that regularly shoots water 50 metres into the air. It’s also where you’ll find the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in North America.

Green trees under a blue sky and white clouds during the day at Yellowstone National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

As the name suggests, Rocky Mountain National Park is dominated by the Rocky Mountains. This is the largest mountain system in the United States and makes the national park a major attraction for hiking, mountain biking and mountaineering. With that said, the alpine lakes are one of the region’s most
picturesque fishing locations.

The national park is very accessible, meaning it’s ideal for full exploration or more fleeting visits. Trail Ridge Road provides a scenic driving route and is open for most of the year, although it closes in the winter due to heavy snow. Popular hiking routes include the Emerald Lake Trail and Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

Image with green trees near the lake under white clouds and blue sky during the day in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Grand Canyon National Park

Do you love capturing amazing photos? Would you like to see the Grand Canyon, which is one of the world’s most famous natural landmarks? If so, Grand Canyon National Park could be the best of the national parks in USA territory. It is divided into the north rim and south rim, which offer different experiences.

The south rim is ideal if you are planning to drive to the region, with Desert View offering amazing views. The north rim, on the other hand, contains several popular hiking trails, like the North and South Kaibab Trails.

Image of the Grand Canyon from above.

National Zion Park

The National Zion Park ticks many of the boxes you would expect from the very best national parks in America. It is an ideal destination for backpacking and camping and is easily accessible, offering stunning natural beauty.

As a region, this national park in Utah is home to hundreds of species of bird, around 20 different bat species, dozens of reptiles and a large number of mammals, ranging from squirrels and deer to cougars, coyotes and grey foxes. All of this makes it a great location for animal lovers, while the park is also popular with hikers and rock climbers.

Trees near the mountain at National Zion Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in the southwest of Utah, close to National Zion Park, so you could easily fit visits to both into a trip to the United States. It takes its name from a series of enormous natural amphitheatres that line a plateau in the region.

Most visitors are drawn by its natural formations. A scenic driving route is provided, with a total of 13 viewpoints that are perfect for putting your photography skills to the test and capturing the amazing sights.

Image of snow-covered Bryce Canyon National Park.

Glacier National Park

One of the most awe-inspiring national parks USA visitors can explore, Glacier National Park provides an amazing opportunity to see glaciers before they recede from the effects of climate change. It is spread over 4,000 km2 and offers 700 miles worth of hiking trails, including the popular Iceberg Lake Trail.

The park is located in Montana and is close to the Canadian border, potentially making it a viable destination if you take a trip to the USA or Canada. Aside from hiking, the park is a popular location for kayaking and fly fishing.

Aerial view of the lake near the mountains of Glacier National Park.

Arches National Park

The Arches National Park in Utah is located alongside the Colorado River and is home to thousands of stone arches and other unique natural rock formations. It is the area containing the highest density of natural arches on Earth.

While the national park is popular with rock climbers, climbing on the arches is banned, and it is important to follow climbing regulations. It is also a great tour destination for drivers and attracts plenty of backpackers, hikers and cyclists. Low light pollution and favourable weather patterns also make it a great destination for stargazing.

Brown rock formation under a blue daytime sky at Arches National Park.

Grand Teton National Park

Named after the Grand Teton mountain range, Grand Teton National Park offers picturesque canyons, lakes, waterfalls and other natural wonders. Spanning over 1,300 km2, it is also located close to Yellowstone National Park, making it relatively simple to visit both parks during your trip.

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center serves as a logical starting point, exhibiting some of the park’s history. Many of the region’s mountains are easy to access by road, which has made it a hotspot for rock and mountain climbers. It’s also one of the best national parks USA has to offer for sailing and
water skiing.

Green trees and mountains at Grand Teton National Park.

Denali National Park and Preserve

If you’re looking for an experience of untouched nature, it’s difficult to compete with a visit to the Denali National Park and Preserve. Located in Alaska, it only has one road within the park’s boundaries, meaning most of the park is authentic wilderness. Snow is common, and it is home to Denali, North America’s highest mountain.

The presence of Denali naturally attracts keen climbers, with the West Buttress Route providing a relatively high percentage of successful climbs to the summit. Many visitors also enjoy cross-country skiing.

Trees and green mountains during the day at Denali National Park and Preserve.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park takes its name from the distinctive Joshua trees in the area. While these twisted trees are a key feature, Joshua Tree has plenty more to offer as one of the top West Coast national parks. It has multiple established camping sites, some of which have running water and fully functional toilets, while hiking options include the Hidden Valley nature walk and the Ryan Mountain trail.

Aside from hiking and camping, the park is a popular destination for rock climbing. If you enjoy more relaxing experiences, the park is home to hundreds of bird species, making it a perfect location for birdwatching, while its dry air, high altitude and low light pollution make it a great spot for stargazing.

Green tree on brown grass field during sunset at Joshua Tree National Park.

Death Valley National Park

One of the most unique national parks the USA has to offer is Death Valley National Park, which straddles California and Nevada. It has a hot desert climate, and one part of Badwater Basin is 86 metres below sea level, making it the lowest point in the USA. Yet, it also has a section of the highest mountain in the contiguous USA, Mount Whitney.

Most people visit the park outside of the months from May to October, as this period is subject to extremely high temperatures. Popular activities for visitors to Death Valley National Park include hiking, mountain biking, 4×4 driving and camping. It’s also a very popular location for adventurous motorcyclists.

Brown rocky mountain during the day at Death Valley National Park.

Sequoia National Park

Another one of the most popular West Coast national parks is Sequoia National Park in California. This park is most famous for its sequoia trees, including the General Sherman Tree, which is the world’s largest tree. Major attractions include the Giant Forest and the Crystal Cave. Like Death Valley National Park, it contains a section of Mount Whitney.

Campgrounds are available, and the Giant Forest Museum highlights the history of the forest. Animals found in the park include black bears, coyotes, cougars, wolverines and woodpeckers.

Photography of brown trees during the day Sequoia National Park.

Petrified Forest National Park

Spanning around 900 km2, the Petrified Forest National Park is known for housing the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Not only has this made it a place of great archaeological interest, helping to unlock mysteries of the Late Triassic period, but it’s also a location full of natural beauty.

The Painted Desert can be easily reached from the park, and the Painted Desert Inn serves as a museum. Hiking trails include the Painted Desert Rim and Blue Mesa. Petrified Forest is also one of the best American national parks for year- round visits. While snow does fall in the winter months, many winter days are relatively mild.

A dirt road in the middle of a dry grass field at Petrified Forest National Park.

Yosemite National Park

We’ve saved one of the very best USA national parks for last, especially if you are an active person with a keen sense of adventure. Yosemite National Park is famous for its spectacular waterfalls, cliffs, lakes, trees and the iconic El Capitan vertical rock formation. Aside from rock climbing, it offers hundreds of miles of
hiking trails.

Some of the most popular trails include the Panorama Trail and the Mist Trail. Warmer months are also perfect for rafting. If all of this sounds like too much hard work, don’t let that put you off. Much of the park is also accessible via car, with Tioga Road providing unbelievable views of the mountains and lakes.

Landscape photography of Yosemite National Park waterfalls.

Plan a Visit With WeRoad

If you’re interested in visiting some of the USA’s best national parks, why not join us? Our California 360°: From LA to Yosemite and beyond tour includes entrance to both Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park. It’s an easy-going trip, with strenuous activities being entirely optional. Don’t worry, though —we’ll just look at El Capitan from a safe distance.

Alternatively, our America on the road: Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles trip is a once-in-a-lifetime road trip, passing through seven states as we drive along America’s most iconic road. Along the way, you’ll hit up Petrified Forest National Park and watch the sunset over the Grand Canyon.

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team