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Editor Pick

Ultimate Checklist of All 63 National Parks in the U.S.

Updated: June 14, 2024

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, SMT

The great national parks in the U.S. are among the most iconic features of North America. These 63 parks, spanning coastlines, mountains, forests and deserts, offer visitors a wide range of landscapes to tour.

From the towering peaks of the Rockies to the sprawling sand dunes of the Great Basin, each park has its own unique topography. Sounds incredible, right? But what exactly are national parks? How do they differ from other federal and state lands, such as national monuments and state parks?

About the U.S. National Parks

Established in 1916, the National Park Service oversees more than 400 parks, preserves, recreation areas and monuments across the country, each with unique features. National parks in the U.S. are typically large areas of land set aside for public enjoyment and environmental protection. They're places for hiking and enjoying the rugged beauty of nature and, most importantly, are a refuge for wildlife.

National monuments, on the other hand, are usually smaller and focus on protecting specific landmarks or historical sites. National preserves are similar to national parks but allow limited development and resource extraction. Historic sites are designated as areas of historical importance, while heritage sites have cultural significance. Finally, individual states rather than the federal government manage state parks.

In short, national parks are places to enjoy and celebrate the vast natural beauty of America in protected environments. People are drawn to national parks for different reasons. Many go for the opportunity to experience the great outdoors and to see America's most beloved wildlife, including bison, bears and condors.

But be aware: not every state has a national park. New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Nebraska are just a few states that don’t have any. In fact, Maine is the only state in the Northeast that has a national park. Meanwhile, California is home to nine of them! Check out AAA’s TourBook for guides to the nation’s most popular national parks.

Or take a look at the National Parks USA Map as the starting point for your next outdoor adventure. With so many options, it can be difficult to decide where to go. The National Parks USA Map makes it easy to find the perfect park for your next trip by searching by state or region. You can also filter parks by activities, such as hiking, camping or fishing. Whether looking for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, the National Parks USA Map is a handy resource for planning your next adventure.

Start planning your next vacation to one of the many beautiful national parks in the U.S. with AAA Travel.

Northeast

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is one of Maine's most popular tourist destinations — and it’s no wonder. Acadia is where the mountains and the ocean meet, creating jaw-dropping vistas. The park has a variety of wildlife, including seals, red foxes and porcupines.

Acadia is also home to the tallest mountain on the Atlantic seaboard, Cadillac Mountain. Visitors can hike to the top of the mountain or drive to its summit. Many of the hikes in Acadia National Park are suitable for beginners, making this national park an excellent family-friendly option. Vehicle reservations are required to drive up Cadillac Mountain from late May to late October.

Other popular activities in Acadia National Park include camping, kayaking and canoeing. Reservations are required for camping. Acadia’s high season is the autumn months of September and October, when the weather is pleasant, and the leaves change color. Places to stay near Acadia National Park include campsites, motels, hotels, and bed and breakfasts.

Location: Maine

Size: 49,071 acres

Peak season: June to October

Closest airports: Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, Bangor International Airport

South

Shenandoah National Park

Established in 1935, Shenandoah National Park is a stunning example of nature's beauty, boasting lush forests, cascading waterfalls and towering mountains. The park spans over 200,000 acres and has an abundance of wildlife, including black bears, deer and wild turkeys.

Shenandoah is also a popular destination for hikers, with over 500 miles of trails winding through the heart of Virginia. So whether you're looking to journey into the great outdoors or simply take in the breathtaking views, Shenandoah National Park will delight visitors of all ages. While reservations are not required to enter the park, they are strongly encouraged during peak season.

Location: Virginia

Size: 200,445 acres

Peak season: September to November

Closest airports: Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport, Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport

New River Gorge National Park & Preserve

New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, the newest national park, has plenty to offer visitors. The most obvious attraction is the gorge itself, a deep canyon carved by the New River. Surrounded by cliffs and forests, the views from the gorge are stunning. There are a variety of hiking trails, both in the gorge and the surrounding forest. There are also several camping sites and a visitor center with exhibits about the history and ecology of the park. In short, New River Gorge National Park & Preserve is a beautiful place with an abundance to see and do. Whether your interest is hiking, camping, or simply taking in the scenery, it is definitely worth a visit.

Location: West Virginia

Size: 72,345 acres

Peak season: April to October

Closest airport: Beckley Airport

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park is located in South Carolina, about 20 miles from the capital city of Columbia. The park is home to the Congaree River, which runs through a swamp full of trees and plants endemic to the Carolinas. The park also has a hiking trail that leads to an observation deck, where you can see the river and the swamp. Congaree National Park is open year-round, and there are no admission fees. It’s host to a number of must-see things to do and see, including kayaking, fishing, bird-watching and hiking. But beware — although fairly uncommon, alligators live in Congaree.

All things considered, Congaree National Park is a great place for anyone who loves nature or wants to experience landscapes that are unique to the American southeast.

Location: South Carolina

Size: 26,692 acres

Peak season: March-June, October-November

Closest airports: Columbia Metropolitan Airport, Charlotte Douglass International Airport

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park inhabits two southern states — Tennessee and North Carolina. It is the most visited national park in the United States and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is known for its diversity of plant and animal life, as well as its scenic beauty. The Great Smoky Mountains are home to over 1,500 species of plants and animals, including black bears, elk, deer, wild turkeys and bald eagles. In addition to its abundant wildlife, the park features hiking trails, waterfalls and views of the stunning Appalachian Mountains. Visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park enjoy a variety of activities, such as camping, fishing, picnicking and horseback riding. Several historic sites also are located within the park, including the Mountain Farm Museum and the Cades Cove Historic District.

Location: Tennessee

Size: 522,427 acres

Peak season: June to October

Closest airports: McGee-Tyson Airport, Asheville Regional Airport

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park, in central Kentucky, about 60 miles from Louisville, is incredible. The park consists of a network of caves — Mammoth Cave is known as the longest and deepest cave. In addition to its underground features, the park includes hiking trails, a river and a variety of wildlife. Mammoth Cave has a diverse ecosystem, including several endangered species. The cave itself is an amazing natural wonder; its vast size makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kentucky. Visitors can trek into the cave on guided tours, which range from easy to strenuous. There are also opportunities to camp, fish, kayak and more. Regardless of how you spend your time at Mammoth Cave National Park, it's sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Location: Kentucky

Size: 52,830 acres

Peak season: May to October

Closest airport: Louisville International Airport

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park is located in central Arkansas. And, as its name would suggest, it has several hot springs, natural springs that produce water much warmer than the surrounding air. The hot springs have been a popular destination for centuries, and today they’re one of the main reasons to visit Hot Springs National Park.

One of the most popular things to do in the park is to take a dip in one of the springs. The water in the hot springs is said to have therapeutic properties. To that end, people have been coming to Hot Springs for centuries to experience their healing powers. There are a number of different springs to choose from, so you can find one that suits your needs.

Location: Arkansas

Size: 5,550 acres

Peak season: August to October, February to April

Closest airports: Hot Springs Memorial Field Airport, Little Rock National Airport

Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is a treasure of South Florida, located only 25 miles southeast of Miami. The park consists of four main islands (Elliot Key, Ragged Keys, Adams Key and Long Key), several smaller islands and the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay. The park is known for its diverse marine life, including coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses. Ibis, herons and pelicans are among the birds found on the island. Visitors to the park can enjoy activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, and picnicking, and a number of ranger-led tour guide programs are offered throughout the year. But the best time to visit is in the winter months of December, January and February, after the hurricane season has passed and before the extreme heat of spring and summer. Biscayne National Park is open year-round, and there is no entrance fee.

Location: Florida

Size: 172,971 acres

Peak season: November to May

Closest airport: Miami International Airport

Everglades National Park

The Everglades National Park is the vast, swampy wetland region on the southern tip of Florida. It’s easily accessible from the city of Miami. The park has a diverse range of plant and animal life, as well as a variety of landscapes, from marshes to mangroves to sawgrass prairies. Visitors can journey in the park by foot, boat or tram, and there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching, birding and photography. The park also offers ranger-led programs and educational opportunities for all ages. So whether you're looking for an adventure or a chance to learn about nature, Everglades National Park is the perfect destination.

Location: Florida

Size: 1,542,526 acres

Peak season: November to April

Closest airports: Miami International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is a small island park off the coast of Key West. The park is best known for spectacular snorkeling, diving and abundant wildlife. Visitors to the park can also enjoy camping, kayaking and boating nearby. Dry Tortugas National Park has some of the most exotic wildlife in the United States, including endangered sea turtles, manatees and dolphins. The waters of the park are also home to a wide variety of fish, including sharks, rays and eels. Dry Tortugas National Park is an ideal destination for adventurous types seeking a unique outdoor experience.

Location: Florida

Size: 64,701 acres

Peak season: February to April

Closest airport: Key West International Airport

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to the highest peak in Texas, Guadalupe Peak. Located in West Texas, the park includes an extensive fossil record and unique geological features such as McKittrick Canyon. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a fabulous spot for hiking, backpacking and horseback riding. There are also plenty of opportunities for bird-watching and stargazing.

The park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is between October and November, when the fall foliage is at its peak. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a great place to get away from it all and experience the natural beauty of Texas.

Location: Texas

Size: 86,416 acres

Peak season: March to May, September to December

Closest airports: El Paso International Airport, Midland International Airport

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is replete with striking land formations of the Chihuahuan Desert in southwest Texas. The park encompasses over 800,000 acres of desert landscape, making it one of the largest national parks in the United States. Big Bend is known for its dramatic scenery, including towering mountains, deep canyons and winding rivers. The park offers a variety of activities for visitors, from hiking and camping to rafting and stargazing. With so much to see and do, it's no wonder that Big Bend National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country.

Location: Texas

Size: 801,163 acres

Peak season: October to April

Closest airport: El Paso International, Midland International Airport

Midwest

Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park is a hidden gem in the middle of Lake Superior. The park is only accessible by boat or seaplane, which adds to its feeling of being undiscovered. Once you arrive at Isle Royale, you’ll be greeted by rugged cliffs, pristine forests and crystal-clear lakes. The island is also home to moose, wolves and beaver. Numerous hiking trails wind through the island's forests and along its shoreline. While Isle Royale may be off the beaten path, it’s definitely worth a visit for its natural beauty and isolation.

Location: Michigan

Size: 132,018 acres

Peak season: July to September

Closest airports: Houghton County Memorial Airport, Thunder Bay International, Duluth International Airport, Sawyer International Airport

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeastern Ohio has landscapes typical of the American midwest. They include, most notably, woodlands, wetlands and waterfalls. Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, as well as scenic views of the Cuyahoga River. The park also offers a variety of educational programs and events throughout the year. Some must-see attractions in Cuyahoga Valley National Park include the Ledges Trail, Brandywine Falls and the Beaver Marsh. Many trails are easy to moderate, making this park a perfect family-friendly option.

Location: Ohio

Size: 33,300 acres

Peak season: April to May, September to October

Closest airports: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Akron-Canton Airport

Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park hugs the shore of Lake Michigan in the northwest corner of Indiana. The park is known for its diverse ecosystem, which includes more than 1,100 species of plants and animals. Visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, camping and bird-watching. Indiana Dunes National Park also offers a variety of educational programs and events throughout the year. Must-see attractions include the sand dunes, some of the tallest in the Midwest, and the historic Lake Michigan shoreline.

Location: Indiana

Size: 15,349 acres

Peak season: March to May, September to November

Closest airports: Gary Regional Airport, South Bend Regional Airport, Chicago's Midway International Airport, O'Hare International Airport

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is a unique and exceptionally beautiful place. The park has more than 200,000 acres of water, making it the perfect destination for boaters, canoeists and fishing enthusiasts. Additionally, the park's lakes and rivers are connected by a system of canals and portages, making it possible to trek through the entire park with only intermittently leaving the water. Voyageurs also boasts an abundance of wildlife, including bald eagles, osprey, beavers and moose. And of course, no visit to Voyageurs would be complete without seeing one of the park's most iconic residents: the loon. With its stunning scenery and diverse wildlife, Voyageurs National Park is truly a national treasure.

Location: Minnesota

Size: 218,055 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airport: Falls International Airport

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is a must-see for anyone visiting South Dakota. The park is home to some of the country's most unique and beautiful landscapes, with its towering spires, deep canyons and sweeping prairies. Badlands has a variety of wildlife, including bison, pronghorn and black-footed ferrets. In addition to its natural beauty, Badlands is also rich in history. The park contains the fossilized remains of ancient animals and plants, as well as evidence of early human habitation. These fossilized remains offer insights into the region's past and provide visitors with a glimpse of what life was like millions of years ago.

Location: South Dakota

Size: 244,000 acres

Peak season: April to June, September to November

Closest airport: Rapid City Regional Airport

Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota is home to one of the longest caves in the world called — you guessed it — Wind Cave. This cave is known for its intricate passageways and wind-formed geological features and, in addition to being extremely long, is one of the deepest caves in North America.

If you're planning a visit to Wind Cave National Park, there are a few things you should know beforehand. The first is that the park is in a very rural area, so have all your supplies with you before arriving. Secondly, cave tours can be physically demanding. Be prepared for some hiking and crawling. And finally, because the caves are such delicate environments, only certain areas are open to visitors — but there's still plenty to see and do in the park!

Location: South Dakota

Size: 33,970 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airport: Rapid City Regional Airport

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is a stunning slice of the American West. The park is home to bison, elk and wild horses. The landscapes are dotted with lush grasslands, winding rivers and towering cliffs. In addition to its natural beauty, the park offers a glimpse into the history of the American frontier. Visitors can see where Theodore Roosevelt lived during his hunting trips in North Dakota. With so much to offer, it's no wonder Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in North Dakota.

Location: North Dakota

Size: 70,446 acres

Peak season: May to September

Closest airports: Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport, Bismarck Airport

Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Missouri is best known for its 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch, built in the 1960s as a monument to westward expansion. However, the park also has a number of other attractions, including the Museum of Westward Expansion, the Old Courthouse and the newly renovated Visitor Center. You can take a tram to the top of the Arch for views of the city or enjoy a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River. In addition to its many attractions, Gateway Arch National Park boasts a rich history. Located at the site of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the park has been home to Native American peoples — namely the Missouri people — early French explorers and surveyors headed west on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Today, Gateway Arch National Park is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Location: Missouri

Size: 90 acres

Peak season: June and July

Closest airport: St. Louis Lambert International Airport

West

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park spans three American states: Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. It’s the oldest and perhaps the most iconic national park in the U.S. It was established by Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872.

The park covers a massive area of over 3,000 square miles and is known for its wildlife and geothermal features, notably its geysers. Some of the most popular things to do in the park include camping, hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing and sightseeing at famous landmarks such as the Old Faithful geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring. Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States with over four million visitors annually. It’s suitable for all age groups, but you should note there are potential dangers in Yellowstone, especially the wildlife. The park is home to grizzly bears and gray wolves that can turn violent if they feel threatened.

Summer and fall are the best seasons to visit Yellowstone, as winters can be brutally cold, and spring can be wet.

You can bundle your next national parks expedition out West with AAA. AAA Vacations offers a train tour to Yellowstone, the Rocky Mountains, Arches National Park and Canyonlands.

Location: Wyoming

Size: 2,221,766 acres

Peak season: June to August

Closest airports: West Yellowstone Airport, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, Jackson Hole Airport

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming and is known for its dramatic mountain scenery. The park has eight peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. Other defining features of the park include its glacial lakes, meadows, forests and wildlife, making the park popular among hikers, climbers and cross-country skiers.

One of the main reasons to visit the Grand Tetons is for its scenery. The landscapes here are truly breathtaking and unlike anywhere else on Earth. The park is also home to elk, bison, grizzly bears and moose. And if you're looking for a challenge, there are plenty of trails to roam and peaks to summit.

Though the park was established in 1929, humans, including the Blackfoot, Crow, Shoshone and Nez Perce peoples, lived in the area in the 11,000 years prior to European settlers. The land continues to have a deep cultural connection for indigenous peoples.

Location: Wyoming

Size: 310,000 acres

Peak season: May to September

Closest airports: Jackson Hole Airport, Idaho Falls Regional Airport

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is a vast and rugged wilderness in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. The park has towering peaks, crystal-clear lakes and an abundance of wildlife. Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, fishing and other outdoor activities. Glacier National Park also has a long and rich history. The Blackfeet, Kootenai, Salish and Pend d'Oreille, have lived in the area for thousands of years, and the park was officially established as a national site in 1910. Today, Glacier National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.

Location: Montana

Size: 1,012,837 acres

Peak season: May to September

Closest airport: Glacier Park International Airport

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in western Colorado and is known for its deep and narrow canyon walls. The park gets its name from the steep canyon walls that block most sunlight, creating a black canyon. The park is also known for its unique geology, including Precambrian rocks, some of the oldest in North America.

Among the must-see sights in the park are the Gunnison River, the Black Canyon Trail and the Painted Wall. The area was designated a national monument in 1933 and a national park in 1999.

Location: Colorado

Size: 30,750 acres

Peak season: May to October

Closest airports: Montrose Regional Airport, Grand Junction Regional Airport

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beloved national parks in the United States. Every year, millions of people come to enjoy its stunning scenery, diverse wildlife and endless opportunities for recreation. The park is known for its many incredible road trips. Rocky Mountain National Park spans more than 415 square miles and includes four distinct ecosystems, from alpine meadows to subalpine forests. Visitors can journey on over 300 miles of hiking trails, drive the iconic Trail Ridge Road or venture into the backcountry for an adventure.

Location: Colorado

Size: 265,807 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airport: Denver International Airport

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is located in southwest Colorado and is well known for its archaeological sites. The park encompasses more than 52,000 acres, and it was established in 1906 to protect the homes and villages of the ancient Pueblo people. Today, Mesa Verde is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. The park offers a variety of activities and attractions, including hiking trails, camping sites and guided tours of the ancient cliff dwellings. In addition to its archaeological significance, Mesa Verde also boasts stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.

Location: Colorado

Size: 52,485 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airports: Montezuma County Airport, La Plata County Airport, Four Corners Regional Airport

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, near the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Colorado, is known for its massive sand dunes that formed over millions of years by wind and water erosion. The dunes cover an area of about 30 square miles, some over 700 feet tall. The park is also home to bighorn sheep, pronghorn and mule deer.

The unique location of Great Sand Dunes makes it a popular spot for stargazing. But the park is perhaps most loved for its sandboarding opportunities. Visitors can channel their inner sand surfer by sandboarding down the massive dunes.

Location: Colorado

Size: 149,137 acres

Peak season: May to September

Closest airports: San Luis Valley Regional Airport, Colorado Springs Airport, Denver International Airport, Albuquerque International Sunport

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is one of the most iconic national parks in the United States. The park is home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, as well as a variety of other unique rock formations. Naturally, rock climbing is one of the most popular activities that visitors engage in here. But there are also plenty of less extreme activities, such as hiking on trails that offer stunning views of the desert landscape.

Location: Utah

Size: 76,519 acres

Peak season: March to October

Closest airports: Canyonlands Regional Airport, Grand Junction Regional Airport

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park, in south-central Utah, is named for its white sandstone domes and cliffs that resemble the U.S. Capitol and for the many reefs formed by the erosive power of the wind and rain. The park covers an area of 378 square miles, making it one of the largest national parks in the United States. Capitol Reef has many landscapes, including canyons, deserts, mountains and forests. The park also contains a number of historical and archaeological sites, and it offers several ranger-led programs, such as guided walks and talks, junior ranger activities and astronomy programs. Capitol Reef National Park is a spectacular place to learn about the natural world.

Location: Utah

Size: 241,900 acres

Peak season: March to June, September to October

Closest airports: Bryce Canyon Airport, Canyonlands Regional Airport

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is one of the most unique and beautiful places on Earth. The park is characterized by the massive canyons, mesas and buttes typical of southeastern Utah. The canyons, carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries, provide an impressive network of hiking trails, camping sites and lookout points. While the canyons are the main attraction in the park, there are also many other reasons to visit. Canyonlands is home to rare wildlife, such as peregrine falcons and desert tortoises, and it has a rich history, with evidence of human habitation dating back 5,000 years. Today, Canyonlands is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and it is well worth the trip.

Location: Utah

Size: 337,597 acres

Peak season: March to May, September to November

Closest airports: Canyonlands Regional Airport, Grand Junction Regional Airport

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is among the more fascinating national parks in the United States. The park is known for its incredible hoodoo rock formations, formed by millions of years of erosion. Hoodoos are particularly striking because they often have narrow bases and wide tops due to the rock at the bottom of the formations being more susceptible to erosion than the rock at the top.

The best time to visit the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park is between April and October when the weather is mild. However, the park is beautiful in all seasons, and even winter visitors can enjoy activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking. Whether you’re a nature lover, photographer or looking for a unique place to wander, Bryce Canyon National Park should be on your list.

Location: Utah

Size: 35,835 acres

Peak season: May to September

Closest airports: Bryce Canyon Airport, Cedar City Regional Airport

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. The park has stunning landscapes, from red sandstone cliffs to lush green valleys. Zion is also known for its diverse wildlife, which includes everything from deer and bighorn sheep to endangered species like the California condor.

In addition to its natural beauty, Zion National Park has a rich history. The park was originally home to the indigenous Paiute people, and many of their rock art and petroglyphs can still be seen today. With its dramatic scenery, diverse wildlife and fascinating history, Zion National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in learning more about the natural world.

Location: Utah

Size: 148,016 acres

Peak season: April to October

Closest airports: Cedar City Regional Airport, St. George Regional Airport

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park, one of Oregon's most popular tourist destinations, is home to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet. Visitors can hike, camp, fish and picnic in the park. The best times to visit Crater Lake National Park are in summer and in early autumn. During these months, the weather is warm and sunny, and the water levels in Crater Lake are at their highest.

In winter, the lake is covered in snow, and visitors can go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. No matter what time of year you visit Crater Lake National Park, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.

Location: Oregon

Size: 183,224 acres

Peak season: July to September

Closest airports: Crater Lake - Klamath Regional Airport, Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park, in the state of Washington, has diverse landscapes, from snow-capped mountains and forests to alpine meadows and rivers. Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking, camping and fishing during the temperate months.

North Cascades is home to a fantastic variety of wildlife, including bears, eagles and even wolverines! The park also offers opportunities to learn about the region's history and culture. With its stunning scenery and wealth of recreational and educational opportunities, North Cascades National Park is an ideal destination for all ages.

Location: Washington

Size: 504,780 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airports: Bellingham International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. The park is home to Mount Rainier, a 14,411-foot-tall active volcano. Visitors can see the mountain's glaciers, wildflower meadows and old-growth forests. Many hiking trails wind through the park, offering stunning views of the mountain and surrounding area. In addition to its natural beauty, Mount Rainier National Park is also rich in history.

The area is the ancestral homeland of the Cowlitz, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Yakama and Coast Salish peoples. The U.S. government declared the land a national park in 1899 to protect the mountain from development. Today, Mount Rainier National Park is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Location: Washington

Size: 236,380 acres

Peak season: July to September

Closest airport: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is located in Washington state, on the Olympic Peninsula. And it has some of the most spectacular fauna and flora of all the national parks in the U.S.

The park has four basic regions: the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, the west side temperate rainforest and the east side temperate rainforest. There also are several distinct ecosystems that are home to many diverse plant and animal species. Animals in the park include mountain goats, elk, deer, porcupines, cougars, bobcats, coyotes, lynx, raccoons, otters, beavers, squirrels, chipmunks, mice and shrews. The bird life in the park includes bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, ravens and crows. Along the coast you can find puffins, cormorants and gulls.

In terms of flora, there are over 1,450 species of vascular plants, including over 200 mosses and 400 lichens. Some of the trees found in Olympic National Park include Douglas firs, western hemlocks, Sitka spruces and western red cedars. Salmonberry bushes, prevalent in the park, have edible salmon-colored fruits.

Because of the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest, Olympic National Park can be visited all year round. However, it’s most comfortable in the summer months of June, July and August, or in early autumn.

Location: Washington

Size: 922,650 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airport: Seattle-Tacoma International

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a unique and beautiful destination, located in Southern California. The park is named for the iconic Joshua trees that dot the landscape, and it has a variety of other plants and animals. Joshua Tree also has dramatic rock formations, popular among climbers and hikers.

The park offers ample opportunities for stargazing, as it’s one of the darkest places in the continental United States. Visitors can enjoy camping, biking and horseback riding. Joshua Tree National Park is a place of stunning natural beauty, offering something for everyone to enjoy.

Location: California

Size: 792,726 acres

Peak season: March to May, October to November

Closest airport: Palm Springs International Airport

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is one of the most well-known national parks in the U.S. The park is famous for its dramatic landscapes, including the lowest point in North America, Death Valley itself. Visitors to this national park will see vast fields of Joshua trees as well as volcanic craters, petrified woods and towering sand dunes. There are also a number of hiking trails and camping sites available. The park is open all year round, but the best time to visit is between October and April when the temperatures are milder. Death Valley is known for recording some of the hottest temperatures on Earth.

Location: California

Size: 3,422,024 acres

Peak season: November to March

Closest airports: Furnace Creek Airport, Inyokern Airport, McCarran International Airport

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park is an often-overlooked gem just off the coast of Southern California. The park is made up of five islands, each with its own unique ecosystem. Visitors can see tide pools, kelp forests and miles of hiking trails. The island of Santa Cruz is home to a large population of sea lions, and island excursions are available to see these animals in their natural habitat.

Channel Islands National Park is a popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling due to the clear water and abundant marine life. Late summer into early fall is the best time for this activity. With so much to offer, it's no wonder that Channel Islands National Park is a favorite destination for nature lovers.

Location: California

Size: 249,561 acres

Peak season: June to October

Closest airport: Los Angeles International Airport

Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park is a popular national park in the U.S., in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The destination is noteworthy for hikers, climbers and nature lovers in general. The park is home to some of the tallest trees in the world, glacially carved granite peaks and a variety of wildlife. Visitors can journey in Kings Canyon by foot, horseback or car. Popular trails include the Mist Trail, which leads to the top of majestic waterfalls, and the John Muir Trail, which passes through alpine meadows and mountain lakes.

Kings Canyon also offers a variety of ranger-led programs, including hikes, wilderness safety seminars and stargazing parties. Whether you're looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure or a peaceful stroll through the woods, Kings Canyon National Park has something to offer everyone.

Location: California

Size: 461,901 acres

Peak season: June to October

Closest airports: Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Visalia Municipal Airport

Redwood National and State Parks

Towering redwoods, pristine beaches and dramatic coastlines: These are the things that make a visit to Redwood National and State Parks an unforgettable experience. You can hike through old-growth forests, camp beneath the stars and kayak along the coast. In addition to its natural beauty, Redwood National Park has a diverse array of wildlife, including Roosevelt elk, bald eagles and sea lions. Whether you're looking for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, Redwood National Park is an ideal destination.

Location: California

Size: 138,999 acres

Peak season: March to November

Closest airports: Arcata-Eureka Airport, Del Norte County Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Charles M Schulz Sonoma County Airport

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park, located near the Salinas Valley of California, has interesting rock formations and numerous hiking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Wildlife is also plentiful in the park, and visitors often see bobcats, eagles and smaller animals such as foxes and deer. In addition, Pinnacles National Park is an excellent place for stargazing; on clear nights, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye.

Location: California

Size: 26,685 acres

Peak season: March to May, September to November

Closest airports: San Jose International Airport, Oakland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a national park in northeastern California. The dominant feature in the park is Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range.

Lassen Volcanic National Park started as two separate national monuments designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907: Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument. The heat source for volcanism in the Lassen area is subduction off the Northern California coast of the Gorda Plate diving below the North American Plate.

Location: California

Size: 106,589 acres

Peak season: June to October

Closest airports: Redding Regional Airport, Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Sacramento International Airport

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park provides a great outdoor experience for the whole family. With crystal clear lakes, rugged mountains and, of course, giant sequoia trees, there's plenty to take in along the various marked trails. Plus, you get those classic family photos with everyone standing beneath the sequoias! You can even take in breathtaking views of Moro Rock or tour some of nature’s best architecture, such as Tunnel Log while hiking to their majestic heights. Local species in Sequoia National Park include bobcats, gray foxes, western whiptail lizards and North American black bears.

Location: California

Size: 404,062 acres

Peak season: June to October

Closest airports: Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Visalia Municipal Airport

Yosemite National Park

Visiting Yosemite National Park is a must-do for anyone traveling to the United States. The magnificence of the park and its plentiful attractions make it a one-of-a-kind experience. From hiking in Glacier Point or Tuolumne Meadows to admiring the many views like those from Inspiration Point, Yosemite offers something for everyone. For those looking for other activities, there are numerous options like horseback riding, biking and fishing in the surrounding waters. There are also opportunities to get close to nature, such as bird-watching and stargazing. With so much to see and do, no stay at Yosemite National Park will ever be long enough.

Location: California

Size: 761,747 acres

Peak season: June to October

Closest airports: Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Merced Regional Airport

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park is an incredible destination, blending nature and culture into a unique experience not found anywhere else. Sitting near the border of Utah and Nevada in the shadow of Wheeler Peak, Great Basin includes plenty of cultural attractions. The park is home to Lehman Caves, an incredible limestone cave system full of intricate crystal formations.

Visitors can also trek down miles of brilliant hiking trails scattered about a landscape of juniper forests and bristlecone pines — some of the oldest lifeforms on Earth. In addition to history and nature experiences, Great Basin National Park offers a number of recreational activities including camping, picnicking, bird-watching and fishing. There is something for everyone at Great Basin, America’s historic frontier.

Location: Nevada

Size: 77,180 acres

Peak season: April to October

Closest airports: Cedar City Regional Airport, St. George Regional Airport

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park, nearby Tucson, Arizona, is an incredible place to visit, especially for those who love the outdoors. This park is teeming with stunning landscapes and wildlife, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers. It's also home to the majestic saguaro cactus, which can live up to 200 years! While there, visitors can participate in educational programs provided by park rangers, take hikes on the many trails or set up a picnic beneath an ancient saguaro. No matter what you choose to do, your experience in the unique landscape of Saguaro National Park will be unforgettable and enriching.

Location: Arizona

Size: 91,327 acres

Peak season: November to March

Closest airports: Tucson International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park, in Arizona near the city of Holbrook, is an area full of volcanic activity from millions of years ago that left an array of dramatic views, like Petrified Forest's 300-foot-high painted desert cliffs. Visitors can marvel at the large and colorful petrified logs throughout the park — remnants of ancient forests in those bygone days. Petrified Forest National Park offers a number of exciting activities, including hiking incredible trails and viewing prehistoric Native American artifacts. Learning about the planet's history through observing its fossilized wonders makes this park a must-visit destination for any nature lover.

Location: Arizona

Size: 221,390 acres

Peak season: April to September

Closest airports: Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is approximately 200 miles from Las Vegas. This awe-inspiring national park is as beautiful as it is vast, with its towering red cliffs and majestic canyons that stretch for miles. Most importantly, it holds a treasure trove of unparalleled history and archaeology. You’ll find some of the oldest known fossils from the dawn of early man and ancient artifacts from cultures long gone.

Location: Arizona

Size: 1,218,375 acres

Peak season: March to May, September to November

Closest airport: Flagstaff Pulliam Airport

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southern New Mexico is best known for its extraordinary cave system, home to limestone caves and caverns. From high above in the Chihuahuan Desert, visitors can view the many natural wonders that exist beneath the surface. Visitors can go on cave tours, venture into the bat flight amphitheater or follow the crawling grounds trail while they marvel at this unique national park. The park also offers plenty of recreational opportunities like bird-watching, camping and more. Carlsbad Caverns National Park provides nature lovers with an unforgettable adventure within a mystical underground environment. Whether you take a guided tour or wander solo, you will never forget this wondrous place!

Location: New Mexico

Size: 46,766 acres

Peak season: May to October

Closest airports: El Paso International Airport, Lubbock Texas International

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park is known for its unique white gypsum sand that covers a 115-square-mile area of the Chihuahuan Desert. Visitors can spend time on the dunes by taking leisurely hikes on the trails, camping and observing wildlife like roadrunners and various types of lizards in their natural habitat. You can even sled down some of the larger dunes with special equipment available at the park! Of course, it isn't just about fun and games — those passionate about photography will find plenty of opportunities to snap shots during unparalleled sunrise or sunset hours. If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind natural experience, White Sands National Park is worth visiting.

Location: New Mexico

Size: 73,600 acres

Peak season: March to July

Closest airport: El Paso International Airport

Alaska and Hawaii

Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve is one of America's greatest natural treasures and a true wilderness wonderland. In northeastern Alaska, the park boasts spectacular mountain views, glacial valleys, boreal forests and rivers full of fish. Visitors can also appreciate the rich cultural heritage of its indigenous people — the Nunamiut — who have lived as subsistence hunters and fishers for centuries. From hiking and backpacking to camping and kayaking, geocaching and cross-country skiing in the winter, outdoor adventure awaits you at Gates of the Arctic. Whether it be journeying through the remote tundra landscape or learning about its native cultures, spending time in this majestic national park will be an unforgettable experience that you don't want to miss out on.

Location: Alaska

Size: 8,400,00 acres

Peak season: June to July

Closest airports: Fairbanks International Airport, Anaktuvuk Pass Airport

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is a must-see destination for nature enthusiasts. This natural wonder spans 3.3 million acres and includes Glacier Bay and the adjacent mountains, islands, fjords and wildlife. It has exceptional scenery, including tidewater glaciers, wildflowers in full bloom, incredible coastal rainforests, an abundance of shorebirds and sea life, and even some of the largest colonies of seals found anywhere!

You can indulge in various activities at Glacier Bay, such as kayaking around icebergs, whale watching or joining guided hikes through breathtaking landscapes to learn the history of the regional cultures. With its unique habitats and wealth of indigenous species, there really isn't any other place on Earth like Glacier Bay National Park.

Location: Alaska

Size: 3,223,384 acres

Peak season: July to August

Closest airport: Gustavus Airport

Katmai National Park & Preserve

Katmai National Park & Preserve is known as one of the most exciting parks in Alaska. Not only will you find stunning views of volcanoes and glaciers, but it is also one of the best places in the world to view and photograph brown bears in their natural habitat. If you’re looking for an adventure, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fish for salmon or hike trails and paddle down rivers by kayak or canoe.

The opportunities for wildlife watching are unparalleled. A visit to Katmai National Park provides an educational and inspiring experience. Whether a day trip or an extended stay, take time to observe the often-changing landscape and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of this wondrous park.

Location: Alaska

Size: 4,300,000 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airport: Anchorage International Airport

Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park is known primarily for its striking glaciers and marine wildlife. Located in the southern part of Alaska, the park combines spectacular scenery with a range of activities, making it an ideal destination for anyone looking to experience one of nature's wonders. Visitors have ample opportunities to appreciate nature here, including guided tide pool tours, kayaking, whale watching, mountain climbing and hiking. From semi-dense forests to snow-covered mountains and glorious waterfalls, the views at Kenai Fjords are breathtaking. With so many unforgettable experiences in store, Kenai Fjords is easily one of the best places to visit if you want to immerse yourself in nature's beauty and serenity.

Location: Alaska

Size: 669,650 acres

Peak season: June to August

Closest airport: Anchorage International Airport, Homer Airport

Kobuk Valley National Park

Kobuk Valley National Park is a spectacular place for outdoor lovers to experience nature in its natural state. Spanning over 1.75 million acres of pristine wilderness, this national park in northwestern Alaska is renowned for its vast sand dune fields, picturesque landscapes, incredible wildlife, rivers rich with salmon and gorgeous brown bears. Whether you are looking to take amazing photographs or simply take in the beauty of Kobuk Valley National Park, there are many reasons to visit this breathtaking region. You can partake in activities like camping, hiking, boating and fishing while absorbing the scenic views at every turn — so don't forget to bring your camera!

Location: Alaska

Size: 1,795,280 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airport: Ambler Airport (air taxis)

Denali National Park & Preserve

Denali National Park & Preserve is a beautiful and picturesque Alaskan park with plenty of natural beauty. It's known for its sheer grandeur and breathtaking views, the centerpiece of which is Denali — the highest peak in North America. Besides stunning scenery and overlooks, visitors can enjoy many activities such as wildlife viewing, camping, hiking, snowshoeing and backcountry excursion. Whether you prefer to take it all in from afar or jump right into the wilderness with a guide in tow, there's no shortage of options when visiting Denali National Park. From fishing trips to helicopter tours to historic mountain climbing adventures, you'll have an unforgettable experience making memories that will last a lifetime.

Location: Alaska

Size: 6,075,030 acres

Peak season: May to August

Closest airport: Fairbanks International Airport

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve is a stunning wonder for visitors and adventurers alike. Located in southwest Alaska, the national park boasts magnificent vistas that combine glaciers, volcanoes, cliffs, rivers and waterfalls for a memorable experience. Not only does the area offer breathtaking views, but it also is teeming with wildlife, such as moose, bears and wolves. Incredible bird-watching opportunities abound as well in this one-of-a-kind sanctuary. A variety of accommodations is available, and those who visit can go glacial lake kayaking, hiking through tundra trails or relaxing among the miles of gorgeous landscapes within the park. If you're looking for an outstanding outdoor retreat, you'll appreciate majestic scenery, then Lake Clark National Park & Preserve.

Location: Alaska

Size: 4,030,006 acres

Peak season: June to October

Closest airport: Anchorage International Airport

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve spans 13.2 million acres across Alaska, making it America's largest national park. Home to some of nature's best spectacles, from mountain ranges to snowy glaciers and turquoise beaches, this national park has something for everyone looking to experience the great outdoors. On top of its stunning sights, Wrangell-St. Elias offers its visitors several activities such as rafting, hiking, fishing and backpacking — all best enjoyed with some good company and a healthy dose of appreciation for the natural beauty surrounding you.

Location: Alaska

Size: 13,175,791 acres

Peak season: May to September

Closest airport: Anchorage International Airport

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is one of the most beautiful, diverse and beloved national parks in the United States. It is most known for its two active volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kilauea. It also has unique landscapes ranging from tropical rainforests to lava deserts, allowing visitors the chance to experience many different climates in one spot. Wildlife, including nēnē (Hawaiian goose), pueo (Hawaiian short-eared owl) and Hawai‘ia creeper (endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper), are endemic to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, providing a fascinating insight into the stunning biodiversity of this part of the world.

The park has a number of sightseeing trails allowing visitors to hike safely. Camping spots provide an authentic outdoor experience. With its diverse habitats and wildlife, spectacular views, and excellent facilities for tourists, visiting Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park should be at the top of any American travel destination list.

Location: Hawaii

Size: 335,259 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airport: Hilo International Airport

Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park, located on Maui, is an absolute must-see for anyone lucky enough to visit the Hawaiian Islands. Home to the world's largest dormant volcano, spectacular views of sunrises and sunsets and various ecosystems ranging from mountain forests to lava desert, it is no wonder Haleakalā has been recognized as an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot endemic wildlife at the park, like the endangered nēnē (Hawaiian goose), rare palila birds, ‘ua‘u and Hawaiian hoary bats. Plus, with so many attractions, such as a journey view from 10,023 feet at the summit of Haleakala Crater or a dip in one of its many hot pools and waterfalls, visitors of all ages can find something unique to enjoy.

Location: Hawaii

Size: 30,183 acres

Peak season: December to March

Closest airport: Kahului Airport

U.S. Territories

National Park of American Samoa

The National Park of American Samoa offers a unique experience not to miss! Located in the South Pacific, this island park allows visitors to travel through a tropical landscape unlike anywhere else. For hikers, there are trails through tropical rainforests and coastline views. There is also plenty to learn about traditional Samoan culture by interacting with people in the villages or spending time at historical sites. Visitors can also embark on snorkeling trips or go bird-watching. With its spectacular beauty, rich cultural heritage and diverse wildlife, the National Park of American Samoa is an unforgettable destination for any traveler looking for an exciting adventure away from the usual tourist sites.

Location: American Samoa

Size: 9,103 acres

Peak season: June to September

Closest airport: Pago Pago International Airport

Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park is a pristine destination in the Caribbean that offers some of the most spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife in the United States. From incredible views of snow-white beaches to stunning coral reefs, there’s something for everyone at this amazing national park, which has its visitor center in beautiful Cruz Bay. Visitors can experience everything from swimming, snorkeling and kayaking to hiking trails filled with lush green vegetation and colorful tropical birds. You can also visit centuries-old archaeological sites, like those from the Danish Colonial Era, or enjoy some of the freshest seafood available in the Caribbean!

Location: U.S. Virgin Islands

Size: 15,052 acres

Peak season: December to March

Closest airport: Thomas's Cyril E. King Airport Airport

Make your next vacation to a U.S. national park

The great outdoors in the United States is truly one of a kind! From the giant redwood trees of California's national parks to the sweeping vistas of Maine’s Atlantic coast, the variety and beauty are unmatched anywhere else. Whether you’re looking for wildlife viewing or want to take a scenic drive through some awe-inspiring landscapes, visit a national park and marvel at nature's beauty. The serenity and adventure that each park offers will make your getaway unforgettable. With so many incredible options available, there’s no wrong choice when visiting one of America’s treasures. So grab some sunscreen and make your next vacation to a national park in the U.S. — you won't regret it!

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, SMT

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