There are 110 national parks scattered across North America, 62 parks in the US, and 48 in Canada. From the snowy peaks of Grand Teton to Half Dome in Yosemite, there is arguably no other place in the world where you can find the same staggering levels of beauty, landscape diversity, and adventure. Whether you’re planning to visit every national park on your list, just visiting the parks near you or head to one for a quick weekend trip… you seriously won’t regret it.
Seeing all 110 could literally take a lifetime, but there are a few parks you HAVE to experience at least once. Not sure which park to visit? Let us be your guide, here’s how to pick the best national park for you.
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10. The wildlife enthusiasts
Where to go: Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana
America’s first national park and known as the American Serengeti is one of the best places for wildlife enthusiasts and watchers. Spanning almost 3,500 square miles, Yellowstone has the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states and is home to over 200 species. A visit here will not only let you take in gushing geysers like famous Old Faithful, hot springs, lush forests, and dramatic canyons you’ll also see tons of animal friends like moose, bison, elk, grizzly bears, gray wolves, beavers, and more.
9. The weekenders
Where to go: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and one of the best national parks in North America. For those who like to make the most of their weekends without using all of their PTO days, visiting Grand Canyon national park is totally doable in four days. You’ll have time to ride a mule into the canyon, hike Bright Angel Trail, and take the scenic drive from the South Rim to the North Rim. Plus, you can even stop by picture-perfect Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend on the eastern end of the canyon for unmatched vistas.
8. The rugged adventurers
Where to go: Yosemite National Park
Located centrally and short rides away from both San Fransisco and Los Angeles, Yosemite is a sight to be seen. One step into the park and you’ll discover there are so many ways to explore Yosemite. Hiking? Check, enjoy over 750 miles of trail out there. Rock-climbing? You got it. For both beginners and pros like Alex Honnold in the hair-raising documentary Free Solo who free climbs straight up El Capitan. Yosemite has it all for the adventurous souls, river rafting, fishing, horseback riding, skiing and so much more, making this one of the best national parks in the U.S.
7. The history buffs
Where to go: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the US so whether you hike, bike, or camp you’ll find nearly 80 historical landmarks scattered throughout the park waiting for you to explore. Nicknamed the Smokies because of the ever-present morning fog, the mountain range is rich in Cherokee Indian Native American history, reminiscence of early settler life, and even a ghost town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, endless plant and wildlife biodiversity, and peek into past Southern Appalachian mountain culture make it the perfect park for history buffs and nature lovers alike.
6. The photographers
Where to go: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
For you, traveling means ending up with beautiful photographs of the all places you visit. And saying Grand Teton National Park is one of the best places for landscape photography would be an understatement. It truly is a photographer’s dream, around every corner each stop offers another jaw-dropping view of the park’s scenery. From the Teton mountains to Jackson Hole to Jenny Lake, enjoy the wide-open spaces and rich untouched nature. The big skies and cowboy culture make taking a trip to Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park a must-do.
5. The chill-out retreaters
Where to go: Joshua Tree National Park, California
Sometimes traveling in nature means full-on activity all day every day but we get it you like to have some chill time. So the best park for you is Joshua Tree, take a step out into two distinct desert ecosystems and experience a landscape like no other. Seriously, you’ll feel like you are on a different planet but the laidback vibes and downtime are just what you need. Let life slow down around you in J-Tree and explore at your own speed from venturing to Lost Horse Mine to learn about the park’s gold mining history, driving up to Keys View for a panoramic vista and vibrant sunsets, or visiting nearby Pioneertown an 1880s style Old West town movie set. A visit to Joshua Tree guarantees you’ll have the perfect desert retreat.
4. The pioneers
Where to go: Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
You like to see places before they go mainstream and get packed with people. On an isolated island in Lake Superior only accessible by boat Isle Royale National Park is one of the least visited parks in the entire US. But once you make it on the island, adventure is everywhere for backpackers, hikers, scuba divers, kayakers, and boaters. The remote wilderness and abundance of waterways are the perfect ways to enjoy the scenic views on this 207 square-mile island. For those that want to pave their own path, Isle Royale will not disappoint.
3. The escape artists
Where to go: Banff National Park, Canada
Need a vacay? Well, Banff National Park in Alberta is an escape like no other. Some have called Canada’s first national park the most beautiful place on earth. And if that isn’t enough of a hook the picturesque rocky mountain peaks, crystal clear turquoise glacier-fed Moraine Lake, and abundance of things to do definitely will. You’ll be truly immersed in nature and each season in Banff offer different activities and experiences. This place will have you coming back for seconds.
2. The sightseers
Where to go: Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
You are a sightseer and if one national park isn’t enough for you to set your sights on, two will be sure to please. Zion National Park in southwest Utah consistently ranks as one of the top-visited national parks. For good reason, Zion is the ultimate people pleaser you can see and do so much surrounded by massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, orange, and red. A few must-see sights and hikes in Zion are The Narrows, Angels Landing, Emerald Pools Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail, and Kolob Canyons. Conveniently located just over an hour away is Bryce Canyon National Park that is filled with a stunning amphitheater of crimson-colored hoodoos. The best part about Bryce Canyon? You can take a beautiful drive along the park’s 38-mile route and stop at 13 different viewpoints. These two parks have sights you HAVE to see.
1. The thrill seekers
Where to go: Arches National Park, Utah
A red-rock wonderland, Arches National Park lives up to its name and has over 2,000 national stone arches as well as other huge rock formations. There is no activity too crazy or out there, an adrenaline junkie haven. Mountain bikers drift off rocks, expert climbers scale the Three Penguins, and others jump off the arches creating human rope swings. Arches is the best national park for those that live for high sensation activities that make most of us feel nauseous.