Your guide to the USA’s 63 national parks

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The USA‘s national parks make some of the planet’s most breathtaking pieces of nature available to the public while keeping them just the way they always have been. If you visit Yellowstone National Park today, you can enjoy it almost exactly like President Roosevelt did during his spring trip in 1903, and hopefully how your own great grandchildren one day will.

Which national parks have you visited so far? Which remain on your bucket list? Find inspiration and plan your upcoming trips with this ultimate guide to the USA’s 63 magnificent national parks.

1. Acadia

Sunrise watching is a holy ritual in Acadia, the USA’s easternmost national park. Join fellow worshippers up the slopes to the summit of Cadillac Mountain and wait for that magical moment when the day’s first rays uncover picturesque Frenchman Bay beneath you.

The sun rising over Frenchman Bay and Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park, Maine.

2. Arches

This extraordinary red-rock collection features over 2,000 natural arches. Be sure to hike to the Delicate Arch, the largest free-standing arch within the park and the one depicted on Utah license plates.

The Delicate Arch shooting up towards the blue sky in Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah.

3. Badlands

  • Location: South Dakota.
  • Designated: 1978.

Enter the Badland’s heart of eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires, where each rock layer tells a fascinating chapter about the past. The flanking grass prairie offers opportunities to zoom out and admire grazing bison.

Layer after layer of ancient rock in Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park, South Dakota

4. Big Bend

Welcome to remote Far West Texas, where the seemingly endless Chihuahuan Desert hugs the Chisos Mountains. Follow Rio Grande, the natural border between the USA and Mexico, to identify that namesake bend.

Man walking with a red kayak along the river bed in Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park, Texas.

5. Biscayne

Dive into Biscayne’s captivating underwater world. Beneath the surface — water covers 95% of the park — the diverse marine species and sunken shipwrecks of the extensive Florida Reef await.

Boca Chita Lighthouse surrounded by blue water in Biscayne National Park, Florida
Biscayne National Park, Florida.

6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Aptly named, Black Canyon is so deep, steep and narrow that the sunlight only reaches its floor for a few precious moments around midday. Embark on a rim hike to admire the vertical environment while remaining in the sun yourself.

Group of people sitting in the sun on the rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado.

7. Bryce Canyon

Descend into the naturally created Bryce Amphitheater to immerse yourself in an otherworldly jungle of hoodoos. These peculiar-looking rock spires seem to love it here; the concentration of them is the planet’s greatest.

Jungles of reddish hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

8. Canyonlands

Choose from three different worlds of wilderness in Canyonlands: Island in the Sky boasts the most famous landmark, Mesa Arch; The Needles is dominated by sandstone spires; and The Maze caters to seasoned adventurers who want to leave civilization behind.

Vast reddish desert landscape in Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah

9. Capitol Reef

An 87-mile (140 km) rock snake, the Waterpocket Fold sets the awe-inspiring backdrop in Capitol Reef. Learn about the past as you wander through orchards in Fruita Historic District, where settlers once thrived.

The green Fruita settlement surrounded by cliffs in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

10. Carlsbad Caverns

While Carlsbad Caverns comprises a three-digit number of caves, there’s one chamber in particular that gets all the attention. Let North America’s biggest cave chamber, The Big Room, put you under a spell.

Stalagmites and stalactites decorating Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico.

11. Channel Islands

  • Location: California.
  • Designated: 1980.

If you think California ends with Highway 1, think again. The Channel Islands, nicknamed the “North American Galapagos”, draws visitors for its solitude and biologic diversity; 145 plant and animal species are endemic.

American flag welcoming visitors to the remote Channel Islands National Park, California
Channel Islands National Park, California.

12. Congaree

  • Location: South Carolina.
  • Designated: 2003.

Watery Congaree harbors the largest expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in southeastern USA. Stroll the convenient boardwalk or glide down Cedar Creek by canoe or kayak amid rising trees, some of which are deemed “champions” for their notable size.

Wooden boardwalk snaking through Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Congaree National Park, South Carolina.

13. Crater Lake

  • Location: Oregon.
  • Designated: 1902.

Leisurely cruise the Rim Drive around the caldera where the deepest lake in the United States rests. As mesmerizing as Crater Lake’s 1,943-foot (592 m) depth is its pristine deep-blue appearance, a result of that rain and snow exclusively feeds it.

Pristine deep-blue Crater Lake in the namesake national park, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

14. Cuyahoga Valley

Sandwiched between Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley knows all about making nature easily accessible to the public. Savor thick forests, rolling hills and idyllic farmlands centered around the energizing Cuyahoga River.

Train running through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.

15. Death Valley

The hottest place on Earth, Death Valley has seen the mercury hit 134°F (57°C). So be sure to protect yourself against the elements before conquering its vast desert landscape, including the continent’s lowest spot, Badwater Basin, at 282 feet (86 m) below sea level.

Aptly named Devil's Golf Course, characterized by its salt formations, in Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley National Park, California/Nevada.

16. Denali

  • Location: Alaska.
  • Designated: 1917.

Gazing up at Denali’s permanently snow-covered peak, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by its height. This is the tallest mountain in North America — 20,310 feet (6,190 m) enormous.

The snow-capped Denali reaching higher than all other mountains in the USA, Alaska
Denali National Park, Alaska.

17. Dry Tortugas

An unlikely structure, the heavy red-brick Fort Jefferson stands on isolated Garden Key in the Mexican Gulf. Plunge into the surrounding gin-clear waters to observe an abundance of coral reefs and exotic fish.

Seaplane in Dry Tortugas National Park, FL
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida.

18. Everglades

Spend some time in the USA’s biggest subtropical wilderness, covering over 1.5 million acres. Although Everglades is home to a wide range of species, the alligator is the undisputed poster animal — keep a safe distance.

The subtropical wetlands of the Everglades, Florida
Everglades National Park, Florida.

19. Gates of the Arctic

  • Location: Alaska.
  • Designated: 1980.

The northernmost national park, Gates of the Arctic promises raw Alaskan wilderness and lacks roads or official trails. Leading you towards the Arctic Ocean, Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain are the natural “gates” that served as inspiration for the freezing park’s name.

20. Gateway Arch

  • Location: Missouri.
  • Designated: 2018.

Few national parks stir up emotions like 630-foot (192 m) Gateway Arch, shining along the Mississippi River in Downtown St. Louis. It represents St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion, commemorating the achievements of Thomas Jefferson while teaching valuable lessons, but the big question remains: Should it really be a national park?

The Gateway Arch shining against the backdrop of Downtown Saint Louis, Missouri
Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri.

21. Glacier Bay

  • Location: Alaska.
  • Designated: 1980.

Discover the northern portion of the Inside Passage, connecting southeastern Alaska with Washington State. From the protected fjords to the dynamic glaciers, outdoor opportunities abound.

Thick glacier surrounded by dark mountains in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska.

22. Glacier

  • Location: Montana.
  • Designated: 1910.

An engineering feat, Going-to-the-Sun road winds around mountains, past waterfalls and over the continental divide on its way through Glacier. Stretch your legs at Logan Pass to find Hidden Lake and unassuming mountain goats.

Unassuming mountain goat taking in the landscape of Glacier National Park, Montana.
Glacier National Park, Montana.

23. Grand Canyon

This world-famous 277-mile (446 km) stretch of Arizona terrain is the result of a mere six-million-year effort by the Colorado River, tirelessly carving away rock. Absorb that from from the easily accessible rim overlooks, or hike down into Grand Canyon’s depths on the legendary Bright Angel Trail.

GrandCanyon South Rim overlooking the timeless landscape carved by Colorado River, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

24. Grand Teton

An iconic backdrop, the sawtooth-shaped Teton Range watches over inspired parkgoers below. Paddlers take advantage of pristine Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake, while history buffs gravitate towards the historic, once vibrant Mormon Row community.

The Mormon Row community backdropped by the snow-clad Teton Range, Wyoming.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

25. Great Basin

  • Location: Nevada.
  • Designated: 1986.

Great Basin invites you to stroll through ancient groves of bristlecone under the towering heights of 13,063-foot (3,982 m) Wheeler Peak. Below the surface, the Lehman Caves, extravagantly decorated with stalactites and stalagmites, offers a chapter on its own.

The Wheeler Peak shooting up behind a grove of trees in Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

26. Great Sand Dunes

Zigzag your way up along the imposing High Dune to gaze out across North America’s tallest sand dunes. Among them all, the two very tallest are Hidden Dune and Star Dune, both measuring 741 feet (225 m) from base to top.

Person walking along the rim of massive sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

27. Great Smoky Mountains

Embrace USA’s most visited national park, a protector of the southern Appalachians. Marvel at the characteristic fog-draped mountain ridges, feel the mist from waterfalls on your skin and recline in flower-dotted valleys — all while keeping an eye out for black bears.

Black bear sleeping in tree in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina.

28. Guadalupe Mountains

Guadalupe Mountains encompasses the four highest peaks in Texas. Climb the highest among them, 8,751-foot (2,667 m) Guadalupe Peak, to earn bragging rights as well as enjoy sweeping views of the encircling Chihuahuan Desert and nearby El Capitan peak.

El Capitan, a landmark peak, rising from the Chihuahuan Desert in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas.

29. Haleakala

Meaning “house of the sun” in Hawaiian, the dormant Haleakala volcano greets you to a world resembling Mars more than the planet you woke up on. Arrive at the summit area early to capture the most quintessential Haleakala experience, the above-the-clouds sunrise.

Mars-like landscape above the clouds in Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii.

30. Hawaii Volcanoes

Hawaii’s hottest power couple, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are among the world’s most active volcanos. Time it well to experience an eruption, when lava releases exceeding 2,000°F (1,093°C) illuminate the park.

Smoke Rising from the crater of Kilauea crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.

31. Hot Springs

  • Designated: 1921.
  • Location: Arkansas.

Reconnecting with nature doesn’t get more pleasant than here. Submerge in the thermal water at historic Bathhouse Row, maybe complemented by a spa treatment, and judge for yourself.

Fountain providing water in Hot Springs National Park, Arksansas
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.

32. Indiana Dunes

  • Location: Indiana.
  • Designated: 2019.

These 15 miles (24 km) of soft sand lapped by Lake Michigan attract beach bums in summer. Explore the surrounding habitats ranging from woodlands to prairies to wetlands to find unique diversity; over 1,100 plant species and 350 bird species have been documented.

Vegetated sand dunes backdropped by Lake Michigan in Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana.

33. Isle Royale

  • Location: Michigan.
  • Designated: 1940.

Hop onto a ferry or seaplane to reach the Isle Royale, the biggest island in Lake Superior. There’re no permanent inhabitants or roads here, but keep your camera ready for roaming moose at all times.

Sign on red-brick wall directing you to the Isle Royal seaplane operation, Michigan
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

34. Joshua Tree

Experience an inspirational handshaking of two deserts, the higher Mojave and lower Colorado. Highlights include quirkily-shaped rock formations, like eerie Skull Rock and lovey-dovey Heart Rock, and the spiky-branched Joshua tree that the park is named after.

Lonely spiky-branched Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park, California.

35. Katmai

  • Location: Alaska.
  • Designated: 1980.

The quintessential show in Katmai involves hungry brown bears and migrating sockeye salmon. Join fellow wildlife lovers on the Brooks Falls viewing platform to witness crowds of powerful eating machines compete for fish right in front of your eyes, a true spectacle of nature peaking in July.

Brown bear catching fish in Katmai National Park, Alaska
Katmai National Park, Alaska.

36. Kenai Fjords

  • Location: Alaska.
  • Designated: 1980.

When visiting Kenai Fjords, you feel like you have traveled back to the ice age. Ice permanently covers half of the park, with colossal Harding Icefield spawning 30-plus glaciers carving deeper and deeper fjords.

The sugar-white Harding Icefield covering Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.

37. Kings Canyon

  • Location: California.
  • Designated: 1940.

Kings Canyon has two different districts, each with its own draw. Go backcountry hiking in the vast wilderness of the namesake canyon, framed by 14,000-foot-plus (4,267 m) mountains. Or casually wander among skyscraper-sized sequoia trees in the compact Grant Grove.

Road leading into the depths of Kings Canyon National Park, California
Kings Canyon National Park, California.

38. Kobuk Valley

  • Location: Alaska.
  • Designated: 1980.

Like a slice of Sahara in the Arctic, surprising sand dunes covering 30 square miles (78 square km) break off the forest and tundra in Kobuk Valley. Look for wildlife tracks in the sand; you might find those of local bears, wolves, foxes and moose, or the caribou herds migrating through twice a year.

39. Lake Clark

  • Location: Alaska.
  • Designated: 1980.

Enter a land of lakes and rivers backdropped by two snow-clad volcanoes, Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna. The focal point is the namesake Lake Clark to which masses of sockeye salmon migrate each year, cheered forward by ravenous brown bears.

Lonely campsite on the shores of Lake Clark, Alaska
Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.

40. Lassen Volcanic

  • Location: California.
  • Designated: 1916.

Where the Cascades range, Sierra Nevada mountains and Great Basin desert meet, Lassen Volcanic reveals California’s boiling underside. Thread past steaming mud pots, fumaroles and hot springs under supervision of the imposing Lassen Peak, the world’s biggest plug dome volcano.

Steaming geothermal features in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California.

41. Mammoth Cave

Let the cave troll within you loose under the rolling hills of Kentucky, hiding the planet’s longest cave system. There’s no end in sight in Mammoth Cave yet, boasting over 400 miles (644 km) of explored passageways.

Entrance with stairs leading into Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky.

42. Mesa Verde

Ancestral Puebloans really lived here during the late 1100s through the majority of the 1200s, in sandstone villages built under overhanging cliffs. Inspect the 150 rooms in the staggering number-one dwelling, Cliff Palace, while reflecting about why it was abandoned after less than 100 years in use.

Historic dwellings built under overhanging cliffs in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

43. Mount Rainier

  • Location: Washington.
  • Designated: 1899.

Soak up this national park and active stratovolcano as you hike through blooming meadows and past splashing lakes on the Skyline Trail. With the summit shooting up 14,410 feet (4,392 m) above sea level, expect a short but stunning summer season.

The snow-covered peak of Mount Rainier, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

44. National Park of American Samoa

  • Location: American Samoa.
  • Designated: 1988.

In the South Pacific, this paradisiacal national park includes portions of three volcanic islands — Tutuila, Ta’u and Ofu — as well as 4,000 acres offshore. Enjoy diverse rainforests, white beaches and coral reefs teeming with colorful exotic creatures.

45. New River Gorge

New River Gorge, the longest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains, wows visitors with its breathtaking vistas. Gawk at snaking New River, popular with whitewater rafters, the steep forest-covered gorge sides and the human contribution made of steel, New River Gorge Bridge, connecting the two rims.

Huge steel arch bridge in West Virginia
New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia.

46. North Cascades

  • Location: Washington.
  • Designated: 1968.

North Cascades treats you to glistening perspectives. Be awestruck by the biggest glacial system in the contiguous USA, with more than 300 glistening glaciers dotting the alpine wilderness.

White mountains in the glacier-filled North Cascades National Park, Washington
North Cascades National Park, Washington.

47. Olympic

  • Location: Washington.
  • Designated: 1938.

Sheltering Seattle from the Pacific Ocean, Olympic provides an experience for every mood. Come to feel the salty wind blowing through your hair along the wave-battered coastline, walk through temperate rainforest or climb magnificent glaciated mountains.

Verdant rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park, Washington.

48. Petrified Forest

Be amazed by old logs, really old logs. The Petrified Forest contains fossils of trees that fell a mind-bending 225 million years ago.

Ancient petrified tree trunk in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

49. Pinnacles

  • Location: California.
  • Designated: 2013.

Goggle at the geologic features at the center of attention — soaring rock pinnacles — that are remnants of ancient volcanic activity. If you’re lucky, you might also spot the endangered condor circulating high above the crags.

Soaring rocks in Pinnacles National Park, California
Pinnacles National Park, California.

50. Redwood

  • Location: California.
  • Designated: 1968.

These old-growth coastal redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, with some shooting up more than 350 feet (107 m) above the ground. While feeling like a midget, contemplate the fact that they started their towering journey tomato-seed sized.

Rising redwood trees in Redwood National Park, California
Redwood National Park, California.

51. Rocky Mountain

Feel on top of the world in North America’s largest mountain system, the Rockies. Circumnavigate Bear Lake by foot, smelling ponderosa pine and admiring rising peaks, or drive the renowned Trail Ridge Road across the Continental Divide, reaching above the tree line.

Roaming wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

52. Saguaro

Stepping into this park feels like entering a Western movie set. All around you are prominent Saguaro cacti extending 50-feet-plus (15 m) into the blue Arizona sky. Where do you sign up for a starring role?

Saguaro cacti rising for the sky in Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Saguaro National Park, Arizona.

53. Sequoia

  • Location: California.
  • Designated: 1890.

There’re trees, and then there’s General Sherman in the Giant Forest of Sequoia. Make acquaintance with the world’s largest tree by volume, measuring 275 feet (84 m) high with a base diameter of 36 feet (11 m).

Man walking on gigantic fallen tree trunk in Sequoia National Park, California
Sequoia National Park, California.

54. Shenandoah

Take a bucket-list road trip along Skyline Drive, tracing the ridges of this northern Blue Ridge Mountains slice. Pull over at roadside vistas facing west to effortlessly take in the idyllic Shenandoah Valley below.

Cars having stopped at scenic overlook along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

55. Theodore Roosevelt

  • Location: North Dakota.
  • Designated: 1978.

To-be president Theodore Roosevelt was lured here by bison prospects in 1883 and found great inspiration in the grim beauty. Experience that same appeal yourself today — in the only national park named after a president — as you scan for bison, prairie dogs, wild horses, rattlesnakes and longhorn steers among bizarre badlands.

Bison grazing on badlands-surrounded field in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

56. Virgin Islands

  • Location: Virgin Islands.
  • Designated: 1956.

Bring your sunglasses: You’re headed for the tropical island of Saint John in the Caribbean. Spend your days lounging on the beach, scuba diving, rainforest hiking and exploring historic plantations.

Crystal-clear waters in Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands National Park, US Virgin Islands.

57. Voyageurs

  • Location: Minnesota.
  • Designated: 1975.

Mount a water-based expedition like the storied French-Canadian fur traders — the voyageurs — used to. With the main landmass, the Kabetogama Peninsula, inaccessible by land and nearly 40% of the park covered by water, paddling remains a key way of getting around.

Woman paddling through Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota.

58. White Sands

These snow-like sand dunes create opportunities for some unlikely desert recreation: Sledding. Bring your own plastic saucer or purchase one at the gift shop to glide through what is the world’s largest gypsum dune field.

Snow-like sand in White Sands National Park, New Mexico
White Sands National Park, New Mexico.

59. Wind Cave

Wind Cave features a fascinating maze of tunnels and pits decorated with thin honeycomb-like calcite blades, so called boxwork. Yet it might be the overground prairie abounding with bison and elk that makes you return.

Bison grazing in sun-bleached fields in Wind Cave National Park, SD
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota.

60. Wrangell-St. Elias

  • Location: Alaska.
  • Designated: 1980.

It’s hard to believe the size of USA’s largest national park. These 13 million acres, comprising all from Gulf of Alaska shoreline to towering 18,008-foot (5,489 m) Mount St. Elias, would fit many states and countries.

Blooming pink flowers backdropped by rising peaks in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

61. Yellowstone

The first national park, Yellowstone serves as the finest of role models, offering all you expect from the great outdoors, and more. Cruise on sky-high Beartooth Highway, count bison in Lamar Valley, snap a photo of Grand Prismatic Spring and marvel at the spouting Old Faithful geyser before cozying up in a log cabin.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park radiating vivid colors
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho.

62. Yosemite

  • Location: California.
  • Designated: 1890.

Yosemite Valley’s soaring granite cliffs and cascading waterfalls enchant visitors. The display peaks in spring, when snowmelt turns its waterfalls into roaring beasts — 2,425-foot (739 m) Yosemite Falls is the tallest.

Towering wall-like granite cliffs in Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park, California.

63. Zion

Reddish sandstone colors and sheer cliffs create an ever-going hype about Zion. See for yourself what it’s all about as you tackle its iconic hiking trails, ranging from hair-raising Angels Landing to piece-of-cake Riverside Walk.

Lush river bed sheltered by towering red cliffs in Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park, Utah.

Keep planning your national parks trip

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Ida

    What a beautiful collection. I have ticked off seven parks so far (mostly in the Southwest) but will try to add to that!

    1. Avatar photo
      Olof Arnberg

      Sounds like you’re off to a good start. Have fun exploring the parks!

  2. Lisa Thomas

    I’m at 13 here with a planned spring visit to Acadia NP that will make it 14.

    1. Avatar photo
      Olof Arnberg

      Just keep them coming!

  3. Mona H

    Thanks for this super inspiring guide. Hope to have visited them all one day.

    1. Avatar photo
      Olof Arnberg

      Hi Mona,

      Glad you liked it. Come back and report on your progress!

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