The 8 Best National Parks in the USA You Should Road Trip To
What Are the Best National Parks in America?
If you are looking to take a road trip soon, make sure you stop by some of the best national parks in the USA. Overall, there are 58 national parks in the United States, with many going un-thought of when considering where to visit.
I’ll go over eight national parks that I feel deserve a visit on your next road trip.
1. Zion National Park, Utah
Located in southwest Utah, Zion National Park is a 229 square mile behemoth that houses some of the best views you will find in the United States. You’ll find 15 different trails to hike, varying in difficulty; from easy to strenuous.
Some of the main features you should consider seeing are:
Angels Landing. If you feel like getting adrenaline pumped through your veins for a few hours, then go ahead and hike Angels Landing. Once you reach the top, and are handing on to the only thing separating you from the bottom of the peak: a chain, you will get fabulous views of the 270 million-year-old rocks that make up Zion.
Emerald Pools. There are three pools you can visit, all at different elevations. Depending on how prepared you are, you can choose which difficulty you want to face as you hike to glimmering waterfalls and stunning pools.
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Caroline/Tennessee
Being the most visited national park in the United States in 2016, with over 11.3 million visitors, Great Smoky Mountain will make for a bit of crowding. However, there is over 816 square miles of park to discover, so there is plenty of opportunity for everyone.
Famous for the smoky haze that covers the mountains, the park also hosts plenty of wildlife, waterfalls, and other natural beauties that are hard to find anywhere else; especially this amazing and unique. The park is also a great place to stop by if you are staying in Hendersonville, one of the best small towns in America.
Cades Cove. Cades Cove is the most popular destination at the Great Smokies. Surrounded by an 11-mile ring road, feel free to drive it while utilizing the pull-offs to stop and take in the views and wildlife. Note though, traffic on the ring road gets heavy, especially during the summer and fall. Plan accordingly, and if you want to avoid being stuck, take your trip during the winter and spring months.
Mount LeConte. If you are up for a challenge, take on the Mount LeConte hike. You will not be disappointed with this hike, and any feelings of being tired will go out the window once you see all the views this trail has to offer.
3. Biscayne National Park, Florida
Located about 20 miles south of Miami, you will find the northernmost group of living coral reefs, protected by the park itself. The nifty thing about this park is, is that 95% of the park is underwater, so you can only access it by boat.
What isn’t there to do here? You have old shipwrecks, uninhabited Florida Keys beaches and trails, picnic areas, and so much more! If you love being by the water, and a good bit of history, this is the perfect national park for you.
Snorkeling. The definite activity you should try is snorkeling. The chance to see beautiful, living coral reefs is worth it alone. Not to consider the multiple shipwrecks and ocean life you will also come across. There are also opportunities for you to help clean up the waters, to contribute to keeping not only the fish alive, but the vibrant coral reefs.
Boca Chita. The most visited island in the park, you have a myriad of opportunities here. You can climb the 1930’s lighthouse, explore the island on your own, and even sail in the bay. A guided tour lasts around three hours, and includes all of that and then some!
4. Olympic National Park, Washington
Enjoy yourself as you explore the four regions of this gorgeous national park in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. You have the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, rainforest areas, and regular forests. In 1976, it was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, which means the area houses unusual plants and animals, and is therefore protected for research and educational purposes.
The one million acres of park is more than enough to satisfy your itch for the wilderness.
Hurricane Ridge Wildlife Tour. Looking to see some of those unusual plants and animals? Hiking up to Hurricane Ridge will provide just that. You can do it alone, or you can be guided by a biologist. Once you reach the top, you will see beautiful, panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains.
Hoh Rainforest. If you are up for getting a little wet, take a stroll through the Hoh Rainforest. The place is caked in moss which provides a magical experience where you can encounter Elk in the wild.
5. Arches National Park, Utah
Heading back to Utah, you have the fabulous Arches National Park. If you love seeing things you can’t see anywhere else in the world, make it a priority to go to Arches National Park. Not only will you get your fix of arches, you’ll get to experience things such as balanced rocks, pinnacles, and spires.
They have your fix for just about any geological formation, to really cure that craving.
At only $10 for a week pass, it is a perfect and affordable way to spend a few days. With 19 hikes available, there will be plenty for you to see, and I wouldn’t rush your time here.
Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is Utah’s prized icon, and the captain of the Arch team. With the La Sal Mountains in the background, your view of this big, beautiful arch will take your breath away. Then it’ll give it back, and take it away again. The hike to Delicate Arch is about 3-miles round trip, with moderate difficulty, however, it is more than worth it.
Landscape Arch. Toting the title of the largest arch on the planet, Landscape Arch is probably more delicate than Delicate Arch, ironically. Considering over the past few hundred years the arch has been seeing large chunks drop off, no one knows when the arch make cave in for good. So get out there and see it!
6. Capitol Reef, Utah
Who would have thought Utah would have been home to all of these amazing national parks? So while you are visiting Zion and Arches, make a road trip down to Capitol Reef and complete the trifecta. Capitol Reef, with over 100 miles of pure goodness, is not as busy as other parks in the area.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. Known for their towering white sandstone domes, rock pillars and more. With 18 hiking trails, and much less people, you are bound to have a great time while seeing canyons very similar to that of Zion.
Hickman Bridge. If you are looking for an easy hike, with incredible views, then start with Hickman Bridge. Just two miles away from the visitor’s center, the Hickman Bridge trail is the perfect starting point, and you get to see places such as Fremont pit house ruin and granary.
Chimney Rock. Feeling a bit more daring and adventurous? Try out the Chimney Rock hike. A bit longer and steeper, the rock is a natural spire, and stands about 300 feet above the road, according to Utah.com. If you are really up for the challenge, you can go down into the Spring Canyon on the east side for a 10-mile canyon crawl.
7. Badlands, South Dakota
With a name like Badlands, I would be surprised if this place wasn’t completely bad-ass. You’ll find buttes, canyons, and more as far as the eye can see. The Badlands hosts plenty of skeletons of prehistoric animals such as three-toed horses and saber-toothed cats.
There are eight trails you can hike, ranging from easy to strenuous, but they all offer their own unique appeal. With the chance to see wildlife and prehistoric fossils, you can’t go wrong with any of them. On top of that, a 39-mile loop that circles a large portion of the park, and you can stop and take in the beautiful views at one of the 16 designated scenic overlooks.
Badlands Wall. The Badlands Wall is a monumental ridge that runs through the park. It has been described as “otherworldly” according to Travel South Dakota. Being in a constant state of erosion, the Badlands wall and its incredible rock formations are slowly but surely changing.
Notch Trail. An easier hike perfect for all ages, the Notch Trail offers spectacular experiences with a perfect splash of adventure. If you enjoy seeing wildlife and some of Earth’s most unique formations, I’d start with Notch Trail.
8. Crater Lake, Oregon
A big, blue lake- Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America, and one of the deepest on earth. Being plus or minus 2,000 feet deep, it’s no wonder it holds this title. However, it is surrounded by 2,000 feet tall cliffs that host plenty of hiking opportunities.
Crater Lake has quite the history as well. It sits in the “belly of a dormant volcano,” one that once stood 12,000 feet tall, but then collapsed after an eruption 7,700 years ago, according to NPS.gov.
Cleetwood Cove Trail. Being the only legal way to access the shore of the lake, you can see why I would recommend it. Who can say they swam in a volcano? Probably not many people. Well, people who have visited before probably have, but that’s beside the point. Take a dip in the cold, blue water and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Rim Village Walking Tour. If you want to take a relaxing stroll, consider taking a guided tour through Rim Village. Listed as a historic district in 1997, Rim Village boasts a rich history full of native stone and log structures.
You’ll find fun, adventure, and natural beauty no matter what park you decide to go to. However, if you are looking to avoid huge crowds and high ticket prices, then staying to some of the more unknown national parks is the right idea for you.
Which national park is your favorite?
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