Best U.S. National Parks
For more than 100 years, the National Park Service has managed millions of acres solely for the "enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations." Today, 62 national parks in the United States draw more than 300 million visitors a year to unique natural wonders and unforgettable terrains. To determine the best U.S. national parks, U.S. News considered the opinions of both travel experts and recent park visitors. Do you have a favorite park? Cast your vote below. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
- View 29 PhotosBelongs on List?#1 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
California's most-visited national park stands out for its bevy of impressive waterfalls, such as Vernal Fall and Bridalveil Fall, as well as unique granite rock formations like the Half Dome and El Capitan. Whatever your itinerary may be, make sure to stop by the Tunnel View Outlook, which offers a show-stopping panoramic view of Yosemite Valley. What's more, the picturesque lookout spot is relatively easy to access.
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Even if Yellowstone didn't hold the incredible distinction of being the world's first national park, the 2.2 million-acre park could easily stand on its own for its unique natural attractions and diverse geography. Here, travelers can get lost in the splendor of Yellowstone's many lakes, mountains, buffalo-filled valleys and, of course, its unmatched geysers and hot springs. To avoid the crowds that often plague the park, plan to visit in April, May, September or October.
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Water and mountains define this national park, which spans two mountain ranges and includes more than 700 lakes across Montana. Take advantage of the park's expansive hiking trails, and be sure to hit traveler favorites like the Trail of the Cedars and Iceberg Lake Trail. Other activities visitors can enjoy include a ride along scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road and a trip to the unique Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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The Grand Canyon is so magnificent that even the highest quality photos don't do the park's beauty justice – you just have to see it in person. The 18-by-277-mile UNESCO World Heritage Site offers endless hiking opportunities, as well as the chance to raft the Colorado River. The turquoise waters of Havasu Falls are also a must-see attraction. For a slight break from the tourist crowds, head to the less-visited North Rim.
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This Utah national park is a paradise for thrill-seekers. Hike Angel's Landing, which brings you up through a nearly 1,500-foot natural staircase, or trek The Narrows, a 10-mile hike through the thinnest section of Zion Canyon, which requires hikers to travel upstream through the Virgin River. For a less strenuous exploration of the park, hop in your car to traverse the 57-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which takes you past many of the park's most famous landmarks.
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Jackson Hole's backcountry is a wild wonderland begging to be explored. Once home to ranchers and fur trappers, the park now offers more than 200 miles of trails that weave through prairies, lakes and the park's most remarkable attribute, the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the Grand Teton mountain range. The Cascade Canyon Trail shows off the best of the park's stunning topography.
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Hoodoos are odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from forces of erosion, and Bryce Canyon is home to the most extensive collection of hoodoos in the world. Located in southern Utah, the roughly 35,835-acre park offers an array of hiking opportunities. While the Bryce Canyon is most popular in the summer, previous visitors say the park's snow-covered landscape is an unforgettable sight.
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Established in 1929, Arches National Park covers nearly 77,000 acres in eastern Utah. Oddly shaped sandstone monuments riddle every view, and the formations make the park an excellent place for backpackers, rock climbers and hikers, not to mention photographers. Visitors will find a whopping 2,000-plus arches in the park; the most popular to see are Landscape Arch, Delicate Arch and Double Arch.
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The Rockies earn plenty of points for their convenience. Sitting just 70 miles north of Denver, the area makes for an easy daytrip. However, you could spend days exploring this park. The Rockies' magnificent landscape is one for the books, featuring 355 miles of scenic trails, 147 lakes and 118 peaks taller than 10,000 feet. If you're short on time, Emerald Lake Trail is a popular trek that's less than 5 miles round trip and promises spectacular alpine views.
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Haleakala National Park#10 in Best U.S. National Parks
Come to this national park on Maui and you'll be treated to one of the best sunrises in the world. The name of this Hawaiian park actually translates to "house of the sun," and it's easy to see why once you've reached the visitors center, where fellow travelers gather to witness the sunrise from more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Other noteworthy pursuits here include exploring its bevy of breathtaking waterfalls and hiking inside the crater to admire the vibrant terrain.
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