This blog post was updated on May 7, 2021.
With the weather warming up, it’s just the ideal time to visit one of the many awesome national parks spread across the country. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide? Relax. To help you out, we’ve identified 7 of the best and broken them down into what’s unique about each one and how they may match some of your interests. So, whether you’re a wide-eyed stargazer or just crazy about outdoor activities, here’s your perfect park for the summer!
If you like staying active, even when on holiday…
…head to North Cascades National Park, Washington!
There’s no debating the natural beauty of Washington state, and while other bigger parks might nudge out smaller ones, there’s something for the sheer compact nature of North Cascades. If you’re the adventurous type you’ll love all the biking, hiking, and kayaking options the park offers. The park also boasts placid rivers, picturesque waterfalls, and majestic glacial lakes. If you want a little activity in your park visit, then you’re booking cheap flights to the right place!
If you like amazing rock formations…
…head to Arches National Park, Utah!
You’ll think you’ve landed on another planet when you’re hiking through Arches National Park. The almost 2,000 natural rock formations, arches, and other monolith-like structures are quite simply just out of this world. Don’t forget to snap pics at the fragile looking Delicate Arch, the gravity-defying Balanced Rock, and the maze-like Fiery Furnace.
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY: The Most Underrated National Parks and What to Do When You Visit Them
If you like to be by (and in) the water all the time…
….head to Biscayne National Park, Miami!
For those of you who can’t be away from the beach for too long over the summer months, you’ll be surprised to note that this park is 95% water! Biscayne National Park is home to a rich marine ecosystem that gives you the chance to snorkel or scuba dive and witness the thriving coral reefs, along with colorful fish, manatees, and sea turtles. There are also plenty of shipwrecks for all you history buffs, a campground, and the chance to get in some good fishing and lobstering.
If you like the desolate beauty of the desert and starry nights…
…head to Death Valley National Park, California!
The beautifully barren landscape of Death Valley National Park showcases salt-flats, sand dunes, canyons, and mountains. The park is also famous for being the hottest and driest of all US national parks. You can take in the breathtaking views from Zabriskie Point, where the scenery unfolds in other-worldly fashion, with mountains and rocks laid out like crumpled pieces of paper with the sun casting fabulous shades on them. As an area that has restrictions on light pollution, it’s also great for all astronomy enthusiasts, with the nighttime sky offering spectacular views of heavenly bodies.
If you like great scenery and spectacular wildlife …
…head to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming!
There’s something to be said about the majestic Tetons raising their prominent five peaks into the clear blue Wyoming sky. But don’t think this is just a great photo op: the park is teeming with elks, grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and bighorn sheep. For the wildlife enthusiast, it doesn’t get better than this. There are great hiking trails as well as camping so you can experience nature — and appreciate it — to its fullest.
If you want to balance a big city getaway with some nature…
…head to Shenandoah National Park, Virginia!
With all the great free attractions in the nation’s capital, you’d be spoiled for choice when on summer vacation in Washington D.C. But how about turning things up a notch by pairing it with a nice little jaunt into nature? Shenandoah National Park is just an hour’s drive from D.C. and gives you access to view the Shenandoah Valley and its rolling hills. You might catch a glimpse of white-tailed deer and black bears while working your way through the 500 miles of hiking trails that snake through the park. When you’re done with appreciating all that beauty, you can always head straight back to D.C. to catch your flight back home – how’s that for the best of both worlds?
If you want the “classic” national park experience…
…head to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming!
An undoubted oldie but a goodie. Yellowstone has some many facets that make it appealing to everyone, whether you’re a seasoned outdoors person or have never been to a national park before. There’s wildlife that includes wolves, bears, elks, and bison, as well as the much-harder-see wolverines and lynxes. There’s geysers (like Old Faithful) and hot springs (Mammoth Hot Springs). There’s some amazing greenery and spectacular waterfalls (Lower and Upper falls). Plus, there’s no shortage of biking, hiking, and camping options. For the complete package and the classic national park experience, you’ve got to visit Yellowstone!
What’s your favorite National Park, and why? Tell us in the comments.