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, 61 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. News considered the opinions of both travel experts and recent park visitors. Do you have a favorite park? Cast your vote below.
- View 32 PhotosBelongs on List?#1 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
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.
- View 29 PhotosBelongs on List?#2 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 panoramic view of the Yosemite Valley. Plus, the picturesque lookout spot is relatively easy to access.
- View 23 PhotosBelongs on List?#3 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
Water and mountains define this national park, which spans three 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 scenic spots to explore include the Apgar Nature Center and the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- View 35 PhotosBelongs on List?#4 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
The Grand Canyon is so magnificent that even the highest quality photos don't do the park's beauty justice – you 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.
- View 17 PhotosBelongs on List?#5 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
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.
- View 16 PhotosBelongs on List?#6 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
Jackson Hole's backcountry is a wild wonderland begging to be explored. Once home to ranchers, farmers 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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Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park#7 in Best U.S. National Parks
Visit this park for a chance to get up close and personal with two of the world's most active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. The latter continually erupts, which visitors can witness from multiple points in the park, including the famous Chain of Craters Road. Along the drive, set aside time to stop at the Kealakomo Overlook. The scenic lookout offers expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and the ancient village of Kealakomo.
- View 25 PhotosBelongs on List?#8 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
Established in 1929, the original Arches National Park didn't even include its most famous 52-foot Delicate Arch. The park continued to expand over time though, and Arches National Park now 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.
- View 16 PhotosBelongs on List?#9 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
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, around 150 lakes and 77 mountains taller than 12,000 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.
- View 23 PhotosBelongs on List?#10 in Best U.S. National ParksRead More
Considered the "crown jewel of the North Atlantic coast," Acadia National Park boasts nearly 160 miles of hiking trails on Maine's Mount Desert Island. If you're not up for the challenge of hiking Precipice Trail, which forces climbers to scramble up the side of Champlain Mountain, you'll find plenty of less strenuous sightseeing opportunities throughout the park. If you're not much of a hiker, drive along the 27-mile Park Loop Road or take a walk or bike ride along the 57-mile network of Carriage Roads.
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