Introduction

Often called “America’s Best Idea” the US National Park Service manages 60 designated National Parks from Hawaii to Maine, Florida to Alaska.  National Parks are more popular than ever with over 330 Million visitors in 2017.  Below is Bucket List Traveler’s Top 10 National Parks in America.

National Parks Map

10) Grand Teton National Park

Located in northwestern Wyoming, the Grand Teton National park includes the 40-mile-long Teton mountain range and portions of the Jackson Hole Valley.  Popular activities include mountaineering, hiking, fishing, and camping with 1,000 drive-in campsites and over 200 miles of hiking trails.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

9) Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is located in Washington State and includes the entire stratovolcano Mount Rainier.  The park contains waterfalls, valleys, subalpine meadows, forests, and glaciers.

Mt Rainier National Park

Mt Rainier National Park

8) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Located on the Island of Hawaii, a.k.a. “The Big Island”, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park contains one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea.  Climates vary drastically within the park from lush tropical rain forests to arid and barren desert, providing unusual hiking and camping opportunities.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kilauea Volcano Summit

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Lava Flow

7) Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is located in Washington State on the Olympic peninsula.  The park contains three distinct areas: alpine, temperate rainforest, and rugged Pacific Shore.  An abundance of diverse wildlife can commonly be found such as elk, bears, cougars, beavers, otters, seals, dolphins, and whales.

Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge

Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach

6) Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National park is located in southwestern Utah and contains large natural amphitheaters.  The park contains distinctive geological structures called hoodoos which were formed by frost weathering and stream erosion.   More than 400 native plant species live in the park with about 170 species of birds visiting the park each year.  The night sky at Bryce is one of the darkest in North America, providing spectacular star gazing opportunities.

Bryce Canyon National Park: Sunrise

Bryce Canyon National Park: Thors Hammer

5) Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is located in Northern Montana and more than 1,000 species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals.  The park is over 1 millions acres and is dominated by mountains which were carved by huge glaciers during the last ice age.  Glaciers have been retreating and disappearing over the last century from 150 glaciers in 1850 to only 25 glaciers today.  It is estimated there will be no remaining glaciers by the year 2030.  Once of the most scenic drives in the country, Going-to-the-Sun road, traverses though the park and provides epic views across the mountainous scenery.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park: Backpacking

4) Zion National Park

Zion National Park is in southwestern Utah which prominently features the 15-mile long Zion Canyon.  The park has a unique geography and ecosystems that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity including 289 species of birds, 75 mammals, and 32 reptiles.  Four biomes included in the park include desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest.  The geology of Zion canyon formations represent 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park: Angels Landing Trail

3) Arches National Park

Arches National park is located in Eastern Utah and home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. Millions of years of erosion and geologic changes help shape these remarkable natural arches.  Popular activities include backpacking, biking, camping, hiking, and astronomy due it its dark night skies.

Arches National Park: Delicate Arch

Arches National Park: Pine Tree Arch

2) Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is located in northwest Wyoming and was the first national park established in the US.  The park is known for its wildlife and geothermal features such as Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring.  The park’s territory spans over 2.2 million acres and is comprised of lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges.  The Yellowstone caldera is the largest volcanic system in North America.  One of the finest megafauna wildlife habitats, Yellowstone is home to many bison, grizzly bears, elk, moose, timber wolf, cougar, and bighorn sheep.

Yellowstone National Park: Riverside Geyser

Yellowstone National Park: Grand Prismatic Spring

1) Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is located in the western Sierra Nevada of California and spans 747,956 acres.  Yosemite is renowned for its towering granite monolith cliffs, giant sequoia groves, waterfalls, valleys, mountains, lakes, meadows, and glaciers.  Popular features within the park include Half DomeEl CapitanYosemite FallsMariposa Grove, and  Yosemite Valley.  Over 800 miles of trails are available to hikers that range from easy strolls to strenuous multi-day backpacking hikes.

Yosemite National Park: View from Glacier Point

Yosemite National Park: Sequoia Tree in Mariposa Grove

Honorable Mention

  • Acadia National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Haleakala National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park

Haleakala National Park