Not that we need a reason to pay homage to the superb National Park Service in America, but what better time than its Centennial. On August 25th, 2016 the NPS turns the ripe old age of 100!
The National Park Service operates 409 areas covering more than 84 million acres. These areas include national parks, monuments, historical sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails. In our opinion, the best places to find tranquility, unparalleled beauty, and majestic lands of grandeur.
We asked travel bloggers from around the globe to tell us about their favorite experience with the National Park Service. Discover America’s exceptional natural beauty with us below.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
— Tarah & Tip from Fit Two Travel
Our favorite national park is Crater Lake, mostly because it’s beautiful but also because it is the only national park in our home state of Oregon! Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US. There is no shortage of beauty here between the lakes, the hiking trails and the wildlife. There are more than 90 miles of hiking trails in the park but the best part for us was having a picnic with our dog along the rim of the lake, soaking up the beauty.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
— Nancie from Aperture of My Soul
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
— Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park has a very special meaning for me. I was going through a tough period in my life and decided to go on my first solo “Eat. Pray. Love” trip. Yosemite was the pray portion. I stayed in a cabin in the park which was more like “glamping” than camping. I went on several walks through the woods only hearing the birds chirping, the crackling of leaves under my feet and the wind blowing through my hair. I was able to clear my head and meditate on all the positive things in the world. What better place to do so than Yosemite National Park filled with natural beauty all around you.
I hiked up to the observatory to view the Half Dome and felt as if I was in the sky. The air was clean and fresh and literally breathed new life into me. The waterfalls are captivating as well. For anyone who wants to get away from it all while enjoying nature & adventure, plan a visit to Yosemite National Park.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
— Joe from Joe Baur
My favorite U.S. National Park is Cuyahoga National Park between Cleveland and Akron. It hits the top of my list for a variety of reasons. First, it’s right in my backyard, so I know it better than any other national park.
I wrote a hiking book called “Best Hikes Near Cleveland” for Falcon Guides that made it my job to spend a ton of time out in the park. It did not suck. My favorite hike in the book is the overnight hike that takes readers along the Buckeye Trail, which eventually cuts into Cuyahoga Valley National Park territory. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can add a few extra miles once you hit the camp site and see Brandywine Falls, which is easily the top attraction of all things nature in Northeast Ohio. At the end of the hike, you take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad back to the start. It’s a diverse hike that gets you out into sweet nothingness and drops you off at Peninsula, Ohio, a cool little town right off the railroad.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
— Paige from For the Love of Wanderlust
Canyonlands National Park is one of those parks that can stop you in your tracks and make you gasp at the amazing-ness that is nature. I love Utah’s landscapes filled with insane rock formations, vast canyons and arches that frame these landscapes. My favorite moments in Canyonlands are driving portions of Shafer Road in a jeep, hiking to the Upheaval Dome and sitting under Mesa Arch with my dad just taking it all in. It’s just a place that makes me feel wild and free.
Sequoia National Park, California
— Ghowneu from Ghowneu’s Adventure
Sequoia National Park is not too far from Bakersfield and Fresno. The trees are so huge that you can’t even wrap your arms around them! It’s one of my favorites, because as a kid, it was one of the first national parks I’d hiked. Ever since then I’m addicted to nature!
Glacier National Park, Montana
— Alex from The Wayfaring Voyager
My favorite national park is Glacier National Park. I grew up miles away from it and have fond childhood memories of swimming in Lake MacDonald, hiking through the Trail of the Cedars, and encountering various wildlife like moose or bear on my adventures.
Zion National Park, Utah
— Nigel & Martha from Bay Breezin
After years of talking about doing a US road trip we finally headed across ‘the pond’ in 2013 for a 3 week, 9 stop tour of the Southwest during which we took in some amazing scenery including the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. One of our favourite trips, however, turned out to be to Zion National Park in Southern Utah.
Zion is perhaps overshadowed by the larger and more famous Yosemite and Yellowstone parks yet that is what we liked about it as Zion is perhaps like a miniature Yosemite but without the vast numbers of visitors so there were times when we felt like we had the Park to ourselves and on a very hot late September day we were able to explore various hiking trails at our leisure and soak up the beauty and tranquility of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River which runs through it.
We chose not to undertake a more challenging hike to the famous Angels Landing, which looks like a truly amazing viewpoint, primarily due to the high temperature, about 34 degrees C, and the length of time which it would take as we only had the one full day to explore Zion but would love to return in the future in the Spring perhaps to see it for ourselves.
Our abiding memory of Zion National Park was being able to walk barefoot along its soft sandy trails and stopping at clear mountain streams, ponds and waterfalls to cool off and take in the spectacular surroundings in total solitude.
We stayed at the nearby town of St George in Utah which has a wide range of good, affordable accommodation. Accommodation is also available in Springdale just outside the entrance to the Park though it will cost more obviously.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan
— Brianna from Archives of Adventure
My favorite national site is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” in 2011 by Good Morning America, this National Lakeshore will make you wish you’d brought another SD card! From thick, lush forests to the stunning blues of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will not disappoint.
This park is my favorite because it holds so many memories. I grew up fairly close to the park, so my family would visit often. I have vivid memories of climbing up the gigantic Dune Climb, only to turn around and race back down. I remember having picnics on the dunes, and hiking through the woods with my high school choir members.
But the most special memory that stands out is when my boyfriend and I went to the famed Pyramid Point to watch the sunset, which ended with him proposing to me!
Fort Matanzas National Monument, Florida
Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
— Penny from The Travel Writers
As an international visitor to the Seattle area from Australia, I was in awe of Mt. Rainier National Park during my short trip last year.
I am not familiar with vistas of meadow flowers, snow-topped mountains and occasional sightings of bears. I am used to a sunburnt country – a land of droughts, kangaroos and flooding rains.
I will never forget the perfume from the blue lupines at sunrise as I watched the sun’s rays touch the snowy peaks of Mt Rainier. While I listened to the chatter of small birds, heralding a new day, I was touched by the magic of being ‘one with nature’. It was then I understood why my friends from the Pacific North West are proud to call this place, “home.”
Redwoods National Park, California
— Jamie from The Daily Adventures of Me
Grand Canyon, Arizona
— Anisa from Two Traveling Texans
If the Grand Canyon is not on your bucket list, you really should think about adding it. I know there are so many ‘must sees’ but this is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Unfortunately the Grand Canyon is not conveniently located. There is no airport close by, so when I was in Las Vegas, I decided to splurge and take a helicopter tour. It is definitely an experience I will never forget!
It is a short but scenic flight from Las Vegas. We flew over Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, and the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and then landed on the floor of the Grand Canyon. We were in awe of its monumental scale, and its peaceful beauty. We took a few pictures and just soaked up the dramatic view. It lives up to its reputation, I wasn’t ready to leave.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to go hiking or white water rafting. It would also be nice to visit the Skywalk, a transparent horseshoe shaped bridge that extends over the edge of the canyon. You can walk on it and look down into the Grand Canyon, definitely not for those afraid of heights. I know you can also ride a mule in and out of the canyon, but not sure that is for me. Also, I am a big fan of sunset and sunrises, and I can only imagine how spectacular that would be in the Grand Canyon.
Someday I will return and complete the rest of my Grand Canyon to-do list.
Olympic National Park, Washington
— Dave & Angela from Dang Travelers
Olympic is the most diverse park in America. The west coast wonderland possesses temperate rainforests, dense alpine woods, snow capped mountains, and rugged coastline.
In one day, you can surf the wild waves of the Pacific, look like a munchkin standing next to the world’s tallest spruce tree, and gaze at the Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus. Exploring Olympic National Park is a magical adventure.
What is your favorite National Park Service destination?
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Nice job on this post, guys! All these pictures are making me want to head out the door TODAY!
Us too! We are so excited to be hitting some of these on our 3 month road trip this summer!! Thanks for your input Brianna.
That was interesting to read about a few new national parks I never knew about! I’m confident they are each very special in their own way to qualify for the honor of being a National Park…adding them to my bucket list!
There are so many amazing places and too little time. We cannot wait to see some of these magnificent places in the future.
The post looks fabulous!! I can’t wait to see some of these parks!! They all have their unique beauty. Thanks so much!!
Thank you Nancie. We loved your gorgeous photos of Bryce Canyon. Never thought to plan a trip there in the winter. We always had it in our heads most of the US national parks should be visited in the summer, but obviously that’s not the case!
White Sands is my favorite National Park property. My favorite actual park is probably Everglades or Virgin Islands (yes, it is a National Park!).
I haven’t been to New Mexico yet (Dave has been when he was much younger). We will put White Sands on the list of sights to see! We did adventure through the Everglades last year and really enjoyed it. We were surprised at how beautiful marshland and sawgrass is!
Neil | Joyful Journeying
Thank you for this nice roundup of National Parks. I was interested to see that we have visited most of them at one time or another. I was trying to decide which was my favorite, and gave up. Each one is outstanding in many different ways. I do agree with Charles McCool also, White Sands is especially unique and a must see.
You are welcome Neil! We will definitely try to get out to White Sands soon. We have a 3 month road trip this summer planned to visit 11 national parks, but we are not making it down to New Mexico unfortunately. But when we do, it is now on the list!
Ellie - Flash and Frugal
Ah – such a good backpacker holiday would be to go to all of these!
It would be. We are averaging $30 for lodging (camping & some hotels)
Thanks for sharing. Wow! There are so many amazing National Parks in the US to visit. Hope to get there soon and we definitely to plan at least a year or two to road trip around the US.
Thanks for the travel inspiration. Will safe the link for our travel planning.
So many parks, so little time! A year or two in the US would be great. There’s so much to experience here. Thanks for reading!
We purchased an America the Beautiful pass last summer and took full advantage of it. Really impressed with the national park service.
We really enjoyed driving the going to the sun road in Glacier and visiting the pueblo ruins at Mega Verde but our favourite Park this trip was Yellowstone because of seeing bears. One of our most enjoyable trips was when we went to Acadia in Maine a few years ago which is small enough to be rally accessible.
Sounds like an amazing summer! We are heading off on a 3-month road trip this summer to 11 National Parks throughout the US and Canada. Yellowstone is on the list so I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it. We would love to get back to Acadia. We had a stop over so we went for a day, but had a lot of fog and misty weather. It looked nothing like the pictures I had seen when I was researching what to do there!
There seems to be an endless supply of National Parks with incredible scenery in the USA. Thank you for getting these bloggers to help you compile this list.
You are welcome Dean! The USA does have an array beautiful parks and stunning scenery.
Lovely post. Yes I love our National Parks. There are a few lesser known ones but absolutely gorgeous. A few at http://NationalParksImages.org
All of these parks look AMAZING! I especially want to visit Yosemite National Park: the scenery is absolutely breathtaking!
I haven’t been either (Dave has) but it is high on my list. Everyone has such great things to say and the pictures are stunning!
I can’t wait to start going to National parks when the kids are a bit bigger:) Awesome list you’ve got. Thanks for sharing…
Thanks. Visiting the parks with the kids will be such a great memory for them! Start planning now 🙂 we are working on the details of our road trip this summer and it entails a lot of planning because the parks get so busy.
National parks are the absolute best thing about traveling, living, camping, being in the US. When I retire, I’m hoping to live as much of the year as I can in them! Great post. Love all these parks.
Thanks Corinne. We think the parks are the best America has to offer! We are heading out on a three month road trip this summer and can’t wait to explore eleven parks (9 in the US). Each one is so unique.
Great article and love to see those national parks. I have been to almost all of them but your post inspires me to go visit them again. thanks