Eleven Best National Parks In USA

There are 63 protected areas known as national parks in the United States that are operated by National Park Service. That is a pretty long list and it really takes time to visit all of them. Luckily I had a chance to explore a part of the list so far and each of these parks created long lasting memories. It is so hard to determine which ones are among the best national parks in USA so I will list those that made the biggest impression on me and are the most photogenic ones. The list is subjective and you might have a different opinion – I’ll be happy to find out what would you recommend. Do you have a favorite park? Let me know in the comments below.

Tip: If you intend to visit multiple parks within a year’s time get the America the Beautiful-National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass for $80.

Arches National Park (Utah)

Arches National Park is the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches (2000 arches on 76,518 acres) along with other geological formations like massive balanced rocks, colossal sandstone fins, and soaring pinnacles. Visitors can explore the park’s many viewpoints and a wide variety of hiking trails or simply take a paved scenic drive that offers amazing views. The most popular attractions are Delicate Arch, Double Arch, Landscape Arch which is the park’s longest rock arch, Devil’s Garden Trailhead, and Fiery Furnace.

Location: The entrance is located 5 miles (8km) north of Moab along highway 191.

Park hours: Normally open 24 hours a day year-round. The most busy season is between March and October. To avoid traffic I recommend to visit the park at sunrise or after 3pm.

Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle 

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

There is no other place like Bryce Canyon National Park. Located in southwestern Utah, the park is characterized by original orange hoodoos and stunning vistas. There are 1.5 million visitors every year admiring the fantastic scenery and taking advantage of recreational opportunities. Popular activities other than hiking are horseback riding, biking, ATV tours and skiing or sleigh rides available in Winter time. Once you take a tour you will be left with a wow feeling. 

Location: Bryce Canyon National Park is located about 4.5 miles south of the intersection of Hwy. 12 & Hwy. 63.

Park hours: The park is open 24 hours a day year-round.

Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle

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Capitol Reef (Utah)

Capitol Reef National Park is filled with canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches. Most of the park is arid desert although there is the Fremont River that goes through the middle of the canyon of the Waterpocket Fold. You can get some highlights of the park while driving through scenic 24 State Route which cuts through the park traveling east and west between Canyonlands National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. However, there are hundreds of miles of trails and unpaved roads leading into the scenic background. You might want to prepare before visiting since there are parts of the park accessible only by high clearance vehicles. Also, ask at the Visitor Center for an update of the road conditions. 

Location: Capitol Reef National Park is located a few minutes west of Torrey in the center of southern Utah

Park hours: The park and campgrounds are open year-round.

Entrance fee: $20 per vehicle 

Death Valley (California)

Death Valley National Park, desert valley in Eastern California, is by far my favorite park (and one of the best national parks in USA in my opinion) mainly because of the variety of landscapes. I visited the park several times and it always wows me and makes me want to come back for more. Bare in mind that summers are super hot in the park and temperatures even reach north of 125F. I experienced the highest temp recorded on the earth while actually being in Death Valley. Historic moment but a tough one as well haha.

The points that you absolutely should visit are Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Badwater Basin, Artist Palette, Zabriskie Point, and Devil’s Golf Course. You can also drive Twenty Mule Team Canyon which is a 2.7-mile one-way dirt road that runs through some fantastic scenery. Basically wherever you will go you are going to feel like you landed on another planet.

Location: Death Valley is just 2 Hours from Las Vegas and a little more than 4 hours from Los Angeles.

Park hours: The park is open daily all year.

Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle 

Glacier National Park (Montana)

Glacier National Park located in northwestern Montana, is a scenic wilderness area in Rocky Mountains adjoining the Canadian border and Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. The park is known for many hiking trails ranking from the easy trail of the Cedars to the strenuous Grinnell Glacier. On the way you can see beautiful alpine scenery punctuated by jagged peaks, alpine meadows and glacial lakes. The best time to visit Glacier National Park is in July and August (peak season) when daytime average temperatures are in the 70s but at night can drop down to 40s (don’t forget to take a jacket).

Location: From Kalispell take Highway 2 north to West Glacier (33 miles). From the east take Highway 89 north to the town of Browning and then to the respective entrance (125 miles).

Park hours: The park is open daily all year.

Entrance fee: $35 per vehicle 

Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Grand Canyon is one of the most breath-taking experiences. It touches four states: Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. There are essentially three main rims: South, West, and North Rims with the East Rim reaching out more towards the Lake Powell area, which includes attractions like Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. 90% of travelers visit South Rim (classic national park experience) but there are also many visitors who choose to visit the West Rim which features the Grand Canyon Skywalk which is the glass bridge hanging over the canyon edge. The North Rim is less popular and mostly loved by hikers and campers. It has a short season, it is harder to get there, and is more wild and secluded. A great way to see Grand Canyon is simply to hop on a popular helicopter ride from Las Vegas.

Location: South Rim is located 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona (via route 64 from Interstate 40) and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff (via route 180). The North Rim is located 30 miles south of Jacob Lake on Highway 67.

Park hours: The South Rim is open daily all year. The North Rim is closed to all vehicles between December 1st and May 15th, and no visitor services are available.

Entrance fee: $35 per vehicle 

Haleakala National Park (Hawaii)

Haleakala National Park, Maui’s highest peak, is a rare and sacred volcanic landscape. The summit’s high elevation reaching 10,023 (3005 m) feet above sea level, lack of light and environmental pollution, and dynamic weather patterns make the park a perfect place to view the sky. The most popular time to visit the park is sunrise (requires reservations) and sunset. Both will give you absolutely unforgettable and spectacular experience. The views from above the clouds will completely blow your mind. Don’t forget that there is a natural area with unpredictable weather – it may be hot, dry, wet, or cold in any part of the park at any time. I wish it was not one of the most remote national parks in USA so I could visit it more often.

Location: Haleakalā National Park, located on the island of Maui, extends from the 10,023 foot (3055m) summit of Haleakalā down the southeast flank of the mountain to the Kīpahulu coast near Hana.

Park hours: Crater trails are open for day use in the Summit District. Sunrise reservations are needed from 3:00 am – 7:00 am. The Kīpahulu District is open 9:00 am-5:00 pm daily.

Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle 

Joshua Tree (California)

Joshua Tree is a desert east of Los Angeles and embraces parts of other two distinct deserts – the Mojave and Sonoran. The park tumbles down from the heights into the Coachella Valley near famous Palm Springs. The fascinating scenery sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain, is filled with variety of plants and animals. There are dozens of trails open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and rock climbing. In the spring you can admire a carpets of wildflowers. Also, the park with its super clear night sky, is an oasis for stargazing aficionados. Places not to miss are Cholla Cactus Garden, Skull Rock, Cottonwood Spring Oasis, and Arch Rock. This is one of national parks that I always try to come back to when traveling in USA.

Location: To access West entrance, the North Entrance, Black Rock and Indian Cove take exit 117 form I-10 for CA Highway 62 toward Palms/ Yucca Valley. For South Entrance take exit 168 off I-10.

Park hours: The park is open daily all year.

Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle 

Zion National Park (Utah)

Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah and is characterized by steep red cliffs. From mid-March to late November you can take a free shuttle bus that will drive you around the park along the scenic drive making stops in the most popular points of interest. Remember that cars are not permitted along this route during those months. From each stop you can go on many hikes to places such as Lower Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and Riverside Walk. There are also spots to do some rock climbing. For more experienced hikers and those who are looking for some adventure I recommend Angel Landing. It is strenuous hike that takes you to a spectacular viewpoint overlooking Zion Canyon. The trail follows a narrow ridge with long drop-offs so it is not for everyone.

Location: Zion National Park is located on State Route 9 in Springdale, Utah.

Park hours: The park is open daily all year.

Entrance fee: $35 per vehicle 

Yellowstone (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

Yellowstone is covering 3,000 square miles area has so much to offer among premier national parks found in USA. It is well known for the red-tinged canyon walls and inspiring natural wonders like Mammoth Hot Spring and Old Faithful. You can take many scenic hikes to see park’s waterfalls, forests and alpine lakes. Very popular trail among adventurous travelers is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Other activities are horseback riding, fishing, rafting, boat expeditions and excellent wildlife watching. When we visited the park we were lucky to see a herd of bisons and a pack of wolves, something you don’t get to experience often. 

Location: Yellowstone National Park is located in the western United States in Idaho (1%), Montana (3%), and Wyoming (96%). There are five entrance stations, and several are closed to regular vehicles during winter. 

Park hours: All opening and closing dates are subject to change based on future conditions, staffing levels, or public health guidance – head to park’s official website to find out more. 

Entrance fee: $35 per vehicle 

Yosemite (California)

Check out my Yosemite guide here to find out how to make it the best experience possible.

Yosemite National Park, one of finest national parks in USA, is located in California’ Sierra Nevada mountains and it is a place of inspiration for artists, climbers, and nature lovers, The park is mostly famous for its popular granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome as well as for giant, ancient sequoia trees. You can take scenic drives through Glacier Road or Tioga Road. It will provide you with stunning views of the park, alpine scenery, and many hiking trails. Check out my guide that will give you more details about how to plan the trip to Yosemite National Park. 

Location: You can enter Yosemite via Highways 41, 140, and 120 from the west. Tioga Pass Entrance (via Highway 120 from the east) is closed from approximately November through late May or June.

Park hours: The park is open daily all year.

Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle 


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