Happy 100th Birthday, National Parks Service! We’re celebrating the occasion by helping you indulge your outdoorsy side with our top 10 national parks in the USA (a tough decision considering there are 59 to choose from). Grab your reusable water bottle, lace up some hiking boots, and let's go #findyourpark.
Arches National Park, Utah
This park got its name for a reason- it consists of more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches. Not only will you find arches here, including the Delicate Arch that is a must-see, but you’ll find spires, monoliths, and crazy people climbing almost all of them. You’ll also be able to see petroglyphs dating back thousands of years and can appreciate that your drawing abilities are probably close to the same.
Bryce National Park, Utah
There are hundreds of hoodoos (those tall, sandstone formations) throughout the park. Head to the main viewpoint to get a bird’s eye view of them from up high and then hike down to get amongst them and really appreciate the size. While spectacular any time of the year, seeing them dusted with snow is pretty magical.
Glacier National Park, Montana
If you’re heading to Yellowstone, you should probably swing by Glacier National Park, seeing as it’s only 10 miles away. Whether your activity of choice is rock climbing, hiking, fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, playing on snowfields, or not being active at all and just sitting back and gazing, this park offers a little bit of everything that is mountainy (totally a word).
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park is filled with hardwood forests, mountain streams, waterfalls, and wildlife. If you want seclusion, one of the best things about this park is the fact that you can hike here and probably not run into another human outside of the parking lot (kind of freaky, but mostly awesome).
Everglades National Park, Florida
Unlike the other parks, which are famous for geographic features, the everglades are an ecosystem. These wetlands and forests are home to animals like panthers, crocodiles, and manatees (also known as sea cows, who doesn’t love a good sea cow?). Get out in the everglades on kayaks, a boat tour, or walk some of the paths- just keep your eyes out for crocs (not talking about the equally terrifying shoes).
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
When the caldera of an ancient volcano collapsed around 7,700 years ago, it left the deepest lake in the US with such a rich blue color that you have to see it to believe it’s not photoshopped. At 1,943 feet (592 meters) deep, be prepared for some mighty cold water if you decide to take the plunge. If not (because who wants to shiver for the rest of the day?), you can take a boat tour, try your hand at fishing, or hike along the caldera rim. Oh, and did we mention this lake is HUGE?
Death Valley National Park, California
As the hottest, lowest, and driest place in the US, Death Valley offers sights and experiences unlike anything else. From salt flats that look like a Martian planet, rocks that move on their own, and canyons painted by the minerals in the sand, it’s worth the trip. You can even try your hand at sand dune boarding (proceed with caution, wiping out on hot sand can hurt a fair bit more than fresh pow pow).
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Visiting Arizona without a stop to the Grand Canyon might as well be a cardinal sin (pretty sure the Pope would agree). Featuring 277 miles of canyons carved by the Colorado River (also helped along by millions of years of erosion), this place will make you feel small, especially when you consider the fact that some areas are over a mile deep!
A Little Bit Of Everything
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Not to be confused with Yogi Bear’s Jellystone (the bears don’t talk here, but they will steal pic-a-nic baskets). Yellowstone’s most famous attraction is Old Faithful, a geyser that shoots up and is more spectacular than the Bellagio’s fountain show. Four mountain ranges and a river run through the park, creating waterfalls, hot springs, and boiling mud pots. The park is also home to bison, grizzly bears, elk, lynx, and gray wolves, so be sure not to leave a trail of crumbs after your picnic…
Yosemite National Park, California
Granite cliffs, waterfalls- including the tallest in the US, wildlife-filled valleys, and forests make this one of the most spectacular places you could visit. While many things are viewable without hiking, the hikes are what really make this park so unique. Whether you want to hike to the top of Half Dome (remember to apply for a permit) or scale Cloud’s Rest, you’ll be rewarded with views so spectacular that the memories will last a lifetime.
Channel Islands National Park, California
Five of the eight Channel Islands are part of the park that is home to the Island Fox found nowhere else (it’s adorable and relatively common to see). Known best for their sea caves, these islands offer great kayaking!
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
This is the longest cave system known in the world and serves double duty as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore this limestone labyrinth on one of the tours offered.
Redwood National Park, California
This place is home to trees that are the tallest on Earth and the bases of some are bigger than studio apartments. Also, where else can you drive THROUGH a tree?