America is beautiful. The national parks are incredible, but not all of them are equal. There are 60 of them and it is hard to decide which ones to go to. You only have so much time. Fortunately though, you have this article, The Top 10 US Outdoor Bucket List Vacation Destinations. Even if you are not the most outdoorsy person, you can still enjoy the breath taking beauty that each of these parks offer their visitors each and every year.
While many parks did not make this list, that does not mean you should not go to them. They are just as good. I made some hard choices when I crafted this list, but all of the national parks are magnificent. Any hoo, let’s jump right into it.
10. Acadia National Park – Where Ocean and Land Meet
Off the coast of Maine, you can find Acadia National Park. Most of the park is on Mount Desert Island. It is the only national park in the northeastern United States. The site to see there is the top of Cadillac Mountain, a truly breathtaking panoramic view. If you are worried about reaching the top, do not worry because you can take a drive to the summit. Also, be sure to go there during the Fall. You can see the leaves change color to all sorts of shades and light up the scenery in a welcoming rainbow.
For visitors to the park, there is boating, bird watching, hiking, climbing, backpacking, camping, tide pooling (Santa Cruz has that too), swimming, cycling, leaf peeping, skiing, and snow mobiling. You will find plenty to do here. You can watch the sunrise over the Atlantic and venture through its miles of hiking trails.
9. Glacier National Park – Grab Your Ice Cleats
Located in northern the Montana heartland, Glacier National Park is chock-full of glaciers. Be sure to go there while you can. The global pollution epidemic is melting the glaciers and they will not be around too much longer. Nicknamed the “Crown of the Continent Ecosystem,” the park is home to a plethora of wildlife, from the marmot and mountain goat to the cougar and skunk, stinky! There is a lot of wildlife for you to see here to say the least.
For visitors to the park, the big site to see is Grinnell Glacier. It is the most photographed site in the park and wonderful for the whole family to gasp in awe. The park has a splendid scenic drive that offers fantastic views of the park in all its enormity. Pack the ice cleats and get going today!
8. Rocky Mountain National Park – a Young Range
Located in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is divided in two. On one side you have the Eastern slope of the continental divide and the Western slope on the other side. It is also where the Colorado river starts, so be sure to take a look at that to see the mighty river’s origins. The top trail there is the Emerald Lake trail where you wind your way around the Lake, offering up plenty of spectacular views.
For visitors to the park, you can watch wildlife, hike, picknick, camp, fish, horseback ride, and much, much more. The park is just a marvel to behold, giving you the chance to watch ancient glaciers creep on by and to see majestic animals stride across the landscape.
7. Olympic National Park – the Jewel of Washington
If you really want to see an American rain forest, then Olympic National Park is the place to go to. The thing about Washington is that it never stops raining, so you always have a constant drizzle falling on top of you. It gives the fauna of the park plenty of water to help them grow, giving the park a very green color. Watch out for the trees overhead, you will get a lot of drops on you.
The park offers hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, boating, backpacking, and much, much more. The top sites to see here are Ruby beach, a salt water forged coastline; Hurricane Ridge, a magnificent hiking trail with plenty of scenic views; and Olympic National Forest, an ancient forest that reminds you of Fangorn Forest from Lord of the Rings.
6. Arches National Park – There’s a lot of Them
Utah and Arches National Park go hand in hand with each other. There is a reason they call it Arches National Park. The number of arches is incredible. They just keep on going and going. There are over 2,000. It is incredible. Through the powers of wind, time, and erosion, Mother Nature forged the incredible number of arches you see in the park today.
For visitors to the park, the top site to see is the Delicate Arch. It stands atop a cliff overlooking a fantastic view. It stands alone like a king. Other things to do in the park include mountain biking, backpacking, hiking, camping, canyoneering, photo shooting, horseback riding, and much more.
5. Grand Teton National Park – Powerful Peaks
Located in the heart of Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park sticks out of the skyline like a school girl looking for attention. You just cannot ignore it. The peaks demand your attention, standing forth from the earth like a jagged blade. You stand from the meadow below and look up. Wow, those are some nice peaks.
In the park, you can camp, hike, mountaineer one of the formidable peaks, raft the Snake River, cruise Jackson Lake, view majestic wildlife like the mighty bison, and even take a bus tour. The activities are almost endless. When you go to Grand Teton, you will stand aghast at the peaks.
4. Grand Canyon National Park – a Hat Tip to Rivers
I think, when most people think of America, they think of the Grand Canyon, a giant deep and wide hole on your way to the West coast. It stands before you and you cannot go through it easily. The layered bands of red rock tell a geological story of immense length. Over millions of years, the Colorado River wore down the rock you see today, taking its sweet time and culminating in a depth of 1 mile (1.6 km) and a max width of 18 miles (29 km).
Located in Arizona, the park offers many attractions. It is quite large and expansive, so you want to make sure you head to the South Rim first. That portion of the canyon offers the most amenities and best views. Among other things, you can hike, backpack, canyoneer, explore, mountain bike, boat, and much, much more.
3. Zion National Park – Utah’s Best
Of all the parks in Utah, this one is the best. Utah’s Zion National Park is a site to behold. Much like Yosemite, the park boasts of deep cliffs on either side in Zion valley, but they take on red, pink, and cream hues that remind us this is the American Southwest. You can walk the paths of American pioneers and step in the footsteps of Native Americans. When you absorb all that is offered here, you will leave breathless in awe.
For visitors to the park, there is backpacking, climbing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and scenic drives. The top site to see is the Narrows, a very thin section of cliff to hike through. Be careful though. In a flash flood, you can be swept away like a leaf on this river. It is tight to say the least.
2. Yellowstone National Park – the World’s First
Located in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana and coming in at a very close second, Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park. You can see it all here, mountains, geysers, wildlife, hot springs, mud pots, forests, lakes, and a super volcano. It defines the American heartland, standing between both coasts like a colossus.
For visitors to the park, there is always something to explore. Just when you think you have seen it all, there is another site to see, making the park quite magical. The park is vast in size and scope, containing 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2) and over 100 different attractions. By far though, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is the best site to see. Pack your gear and drive on to the world’s first national park.
1. Yosemite National Park – John Muir’s Treasure
Alright, I will say it. I am biased. As a Californian, I adore Yosemite. No other park in California comes close to the magnitude of stunning natural scenery here. Granite spews forth from each side of the valley. Glaciers carved them, speaking to the strength of water. John Muir, the bearded legend of an environmentalist behind the founding of the park, would cry a tear if he saw it again today.
When you first arrive to the park, the sides spring to your eyes. It is a marvel. For visitors to the park, there is Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, and much, much more. The beauty keeps on rolling in. The quality only increase. It is the best.
Are You Going to Go to Visit One of these Puppies?
If you want to see some awesome photos of America’s national parks, then check out my article on 20 pictures of US National Parks. There will be the parks listed here and more. Take a deep breath and jump right on into adventure. You will be sure to enjoy the photos. From the shores of Maui to the mountains of Appalachia, America has a lot of opportunity for outdoor adventure.
Each of these national parks is breath taking. Mountains spring out of the earth like a surprise. Rivers carve and wind their way through canyons. The sea beats down on the beach to form the coastline. You will stand aghast in any one of them, but only if you go. Are you ready to take the plunge and go visit one of these puppies?
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!