Ultimate List of National Parks by State (+ When to Go and What to Do!)

Low hanging fog fills the valley along the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park.

The United States has one of the most diverse and photogenic landscapes in the world. You’ll find everything from skyscraping mountain ranges to arid deserts. And there’s no better place to see America’s beauty than in its national parks!

National parks have something for everyone: hiking, camping, backpacking, kayaking, and more! Visiting US national parks should be on your bucket list. And this list of national parks by state will help you achieve that goal!

Keep reading for the best time to visit and what to do in all 63 US national parks (including the newest park, New River Gorge!). Plus, discover the best national park road trips to add to your bucket list!


Things to Know Before Visiting U.S. National Parks

Before diving into these amazing national park adventures, I want to share a few important tips with you.

  • Buy a national park pass. Some national parks are free of charge while others charge per vehicle entrance fees. If you plan on visiting more than one national park in a year, you should consider buying the America the Beautiful national park pass. For only $80 per year, you get unlimited entry to all 63 US national parks for yourself and everyone in your vehicle. This pass also gets you into hundreds more national monuments and historic sites!
  • Visit on free admission days. A few times a year the National Park Service holds free admission days, where no entrance fee is charged to visit US national parks. Below are the free admission days for the upcoming year:
    • Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday – January 20
    • National Park Week – Full Week of April 18
    • Great American Outdoors Act Celebration – August 5
    • National Park Service Birthday – August 25
    • National Public Lands Day – September 26
    • Veterans Day – November 11
  • Check for park closures when planning your trip. Natural disasters, rockslides, and COVID-19 can affect your experience in a national park. Be sure to stay up to date on any park or road closures as well as changes in shuttle operations or visitation requirements. The best place to find this information is on the homepage of the national park you will be visiting.
  • Check trail status before you hike. National parks are subject to Mother Nature’s forces. Rain, snow, rockslides, and more can affect trail status. For the latest information, check the national park website before heading out for your hike.
  • Follow the Leave No Trace Principles. Leave No Trace helps reduce our impact on the outdoors when exploring. The Leave No Trace principles include staying on the trail and packing out any trash or food. These principles are crucial to keeping our national parks maintained for generations to come. To study up on how you can follow the Leave No Trace principles, refer to my detailed guide on Hiking for Beginners


Buy your America the Beautiful National Park Pass

National Parks Statistics

If you’re a numbers person like me, here’s a few quick stats to help you navigate the list of national parks by state!

Most Visited National Parks

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (12.5 million visitors)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park (6.0 million visitors)
  3. Rocky Mountain National Park (4.7 million visitors)
  4. Zion National Park (4.5 million visitors)
  5. Yosemite National Park (4.4 million visitors)

Least Visited National Parks

  1. Gates of the Arctic National Park (11,000 visitors)
  2. Kobuk Valley National Park (16,000 visitors)
  3. Lake Clark National Park (17,000 visitors)
  4. Isle Royale National Park (26,000 visitors)
  5. North Cascades National Park, Washington (38,000 visitors)

Largest National Parks

  1. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (8.3 million acres)
  2. Gates of the Arctic National Park (7.5 million acres)
  3. Denali National Park (4.7 million acres)
  4. Katmai National Park (3.7 million acres)
  5. Death Valley National Park (3.4 million acres)

Smallest National Parks

  1. Gateway Arch National Park (193 acres)
  2. Hot Springs National Park (5,554 acres)
  3. National Park of American Samoa (8,257 acres)
  4. Virgin Islands National Park (15,052 acres)
  5. Indiana Dunes National Park (15, 349 acres)

Oldest National Parks

  1. Yellowstone National Park (established 1872)
  2. Yosemite National Park (established 1890)
  3. Sequoia National Park (established 1890)
  4. Mount Rainier National Park (established 1899)
  5. Crater Lake National Park (established 1902)

Newest National Parks

  1. Indiana Dunes National Park (established 2019)
  2. White Sands National Park (established 2019)
  3. Gateway Arch National Park (established 2018)
  4. Pinnacles National Park (established 2013)
  5. Great Sand Dunes National Park (established 2004)

My Top 5 Favorite National Parks

I’ve been to many of the national parks on this list, so I wanted to share my favorites with you. Plus, a few reasons why I’m sure you’ll love them too!

Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the best scenic drives in America. The views are jawdropping, particularly around sunrise and sunset. The opportunities to spot wildlife here are unparalleled. I spent a week here and can’t wait to return to experience more hikes and explore the backcountry. You can’t miss hiking Grinnell Glacier and the Highline Trail.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park has one of the most iconic views in the country. From Tunnel View, you can see Half Dome and El Capitan towering above the valley floor. It’s hands down one of the most photogenic national parks in the country. It’s like you’ve stepped into an Ansel Adam’s photograph! It would take weeks to explore Yosemite, from the backcountry John Muir and Pacific Crest trails to scenic drives like Glacier Point. And Half Dome is a hike that belongs on everyone’s bucket list!

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is the perfect place to immerse yourself since the park is rarely crowded. Wandering here is therapeutic, feeling microscopic compared to these giant, ancient redwoods. The tallest tree in the world is hidden in Tall Trees Grove, one of the best hikes in the park. Plus, you’re only miles away from one of my favorite California road trips – the Lost Coast!

Bryce Canyon National Park

The hoodoos at Bryce Canyon burn bright twice a day, at sunrise and sunset. Everyone should see the glowing hoodoos, with pink and orange skies, at least once in their life. Bryce Canyon National Park is also an official dark sky park, meaning it has some of the best stargazing in the world. I was able to see the Milky Way with my bare eye on a clear May night.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is the perfect national park for hikers. It has some of the best trails in the national park system: Angels Landing, The Narrows, and Observation Point. All of these belong on your bucket list! There’s nothing quite like that feeling of accomplishment at the top of Observation Point, overlooking Zion Canyon!

US National Parks Map

List of National Parks by State

Without further ado, it’s time to discover the best parks on this list of national parks by state. As always, I’ve provided practical advice to help you plan your trip, including the best time to visit and must-do activities in each national park!

This list of national parks by state is organized in Alphabetical order, first by state, then by park name. 

Alaska

Denali National Park

Mount Denali looms in the distance across a grassy valley in Denali National Park

Mount Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley)  is the tallest mountain in North America. The elevation gain from base to peak is taller than Mount Everest! Much of Denali National Park is closed to vehicles, so the best way to explore the park is on a ranger-led shuttle with a few stops to explore the park’s hikes.

Best Time to Visit: June to August

Don’t Miss: See Mount Denali, Hike Mount Healy Overlook

Gates of the Arctic National Park

Gates of the Arctic National Park is the second biggest national park, behind Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (also in Alaska). The entire park lies within the Arctic Circle! This incredibly remote national park is best seen by plane – the park has no roads! Even in the summer, this park is rugged and visitors should expect inclement weather.

Best Time to Visit: June to July

Don’t Miss: See the Gates of the Arctic, Take a flightseeing tour, Paddle the park’s rivers

Glacier Bay National Park

Tidewater glaciers above the sea in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park is just north of Juneau, Alaska and is roughly 25% ice. The park is known for its 50 impressive glaciers, including tidewater glaciers that end in the sea! The best way to explore the waters and glaciers of Glacier Bay National Park is by boat. You can opt for a group boat tour from the Glacier Bay Lodge or explore on your own sea kayaking adventure.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: Take the Glacier Bay Lodge boat tour, Hike Bartlett River, Kayak Muir Inlet

Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park is the best place in the United States to spot brown bears and sockeye salmon! The highlight of this national park is the bears feeding on migrating salmon at Brooks Falls in the summer. From platforms above the water, you can observe and photograph the natural phenomenon. The best time for viewing wildlife in Katmai National Park is July.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: See brown bears at Brooks Falls, Backpack Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

Kenai Fjords National Park

A mountain is reflected in a glassy lake in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska

Kenai Fjords National Park is the smallest of the Alaskan parks, but still bigger than most of the contiguous US national parks. The famous Harding Icefield is the focal point of this national park, with a strenuous trail to explore it. Similar to Glacier Bay, one of the best ways to see the park’s wildlife and tidewater glaciers is on a boat tour.

Best Time to Visit: June to August

Don’t Miss: Hike Harding Icefield, Drive Exit Glacier Road

Kobuk Valley National Park

Kobuk Sand Dunes in the orange evening light in Kobuk Valley National Park in Alaska
Photo Credit: Kobuk Valley National Park Service

Like several of the other Alaskan national parks, Kobuk Valley National Park can’t be reached by car. This remote park is only accessible by foot, plane, or boat. Kobuk Valley is known for the unique Kobuk Sand Dunes, the largest Arctic dune field in North America. The best way to see the highlights of Kobuk Valley National Park is by air on a flightseeing tour.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: See the Kobuk Sand Dunes, Take a flightseeing tour

Lake Clark National Park

Lake Clark National Park in Alaska

Lake Clark National Park is one of the most difficult national parks to reach. It’s only accessible by plane! This national park is often referred to as a sampler of Alaska with forests, mountains, crystal clear lakes, and plenty of wildlife. The best way to see the park is on a long hike or canoe ride on the arctic lakes.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: Hike Tanalian Falls, Backpack Telaquana Trail, Canoe Lake Clark

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States at over 13 million acres. From this park, you’re only a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle! The best way to see this massive park is from above. On a flightseeing tour, you can capture the size of the massive mountains that cover the park.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: Take a flightseeing Tour, See Kennecott Copper Mine, Drive McCarthy Road and Nabesna Road

Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park

A view above the expansive Grand Canyon in Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular natural landmarks in the country and the second most popular national park! The Colorado River carved the canyon over millions of years. Today the park is split into 2 sections: the North Rim and the South Rim. The South Rim is where most visitors spend their time. It’s easiest to access and is home to the famous national park lodges along the canyon edge.

Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to October

Don’t Miss: Hike South Kaibab, Hike Rim Trail, Hike Bright Angel, Drive Hermit Road

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified wood is scattered across a barren desert landscape in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park is home to fossils, ruins, and petrified trees, all reminiscent of prior eras. This park is a history buff’s dream come true with fossil exhibits at Rainbow Forest Museum and petroglyphs at Puerco Pueblo. Explore the park’s history with a scenic drive, stopping at vistas and for short hikes.

Best Time to Visit: April to September

Don’t Miss: See the Painted Desert, Tour Puerco Pueblo, See Blue Mesa, Hike Agate House

Saguaro National Park

When you think of a picturesque desert, you’re likely envisioning the landscape of Saguaro National Park. This park is filled with giant saguaro cactuses and surrounds the major city of Tucson. Visiting the park in the winter allows you to escape the extreme summer heat. The best way to explore the park is on a scenic drive or short hike to observe its signature desert ecosystem.

Best Time to Visit: November to March

Don’t Miss: Drive Scenic Bajada Loop and Cactus Forest Drive, Hike the Desert Ecology Trail, Hike King Canyon

Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park isn’t your typical national park. It is made up of a series of bathhouses in a historic Arkansas town. The best way to experience Hot Springs National Park is with a soak in the therapeutic hot springs and stroll along Bathhouse Row. Visit in the fall for the best chance of catching the spectacular colors of the changing leaves!

Best Time to Visit: September to November

Don’t Miss: Walk Bathhouse Row, Hike Hot Springs Mountain, Visit Quapaw or Buckstaff Bathhouse

California

Channel Islands National Park

A string of islands with yellow wildflowers growing near the viewpoint on Channel Islands National Park in California

Channel Islands National Park is a group of islands off the coast of southern California, less than 25 miles from Santa Barbara. To reach this park, you’ll need to take a ferry and explore on foot or kayak once you arrive! A visit to Channel Islands National Park provides unique opportunities to spot marine wildlife. You’ll likely see dolphins, sea lions, and migrating whales.

Best Time to Visit: June to October

Don’t Miss: Kayak Santa Cruz Island, Hike Inspiration Point, Hike Arch Rock

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest, and lowest place in the United States. Temperatures in the summer months are regularly 110 to 120 degrees. Most visitors choose to explore Death Valley in the winter when temperatures are milder. In the winter,  you can explore the park’s sand dunes, salt flats, and wildflowers. Death Valley hugs the California Nevada border, with a small part of the park crossing over into Nevada.

Best Time to Visit: November to March

Don’t Miss: See Ubehebe Crater, Hike Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunset, See Badwater Basin, See Zabriskie Point at sunrise

Joshua Tree National Park

A lone Joshua Tree stands out against the low, dry brush on Geology Tour Road in Joshua Tree National Park in California

Two deserts converge in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park, providing a truly unique landscape. In the southern part of the park, you’ll find expansive deserts and short cholla cactus. In the northern part of the park, you’ll find the famous Joshua trees and enormous boulders. Joshua Tree National Park is a rock climbers paradise. Climbers will find endless opportunities to boulder the signature rock formations.

Best Time to Visit: March to April, October to November

Don’t Miss: See a Joshua Tree sunrise at the Cholla Cactus Garden, Drive to Keys View, Hike Ryan Mountain

Read More: How to Spend One Day in Joshua Tree National Park

Kings Canyon National Park

Evergreen trees frame an alpine lake and mountains in Kings Canyon National Park in California

Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park often come as a package deal. In fact, in many national park guide books, you’ll find them co-listed as Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park! Kings Canyon is a less crowded alternative to Yosemite National Park, with equally stunning views. The best way to explore the beauty of Kings Canyon is on a scenic drive or a multi-day backpacking adventure.

Best Time to Visit: June to October

Don’t Miss: Backpack Rae Lakes Loop, Drive Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, Hike Zumwalt Meadows

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Pine trees cover the valley in front of Mount Lassen in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to an active volcano (although it hasn’t erupted in over 100 years). The volcanic activity is to thank for the geothermal hot springs you find here. You’ll find stunning scenic drives, beautiful hikes to alpine lakes, and part of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Best Time to Visit: June to October

Don’t Miss: Drive Main Park Road, Hike Lassen Peak, Hike Bumpass Hell, See Manzanita Lake

Pinnacles National Park

A colorful prairie of tall, dry grass sits between two small mountains in Pinnacles National Park in California

One of the newer national parks, Pinnacles National Park was established less than a decade ago. Tucked inland from California’s famous Big Sur region, Pinnacles gets significantly fewer visitors a year. The park is split into two sections, only connected by hiking trails. The best way to explore the park is by taking a hike to scenic vantage points.

Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to November

Don’t Miss: Hike Moses Spring, Hike High Peaks Trail, Hike Bear Gulch

Redwood National Park

Looking up at tall redwood trees and a blue sky in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California

Redwood National Park takes you back a millennium with towering redwood trees and ancient ferns. Redwood National Park is home to the world’s tallest tree, but its exact location is kept secret. But Redwood National Park has more than just redwoods. You can also explore the rugged California coastline on an unforgettable, remote California road trip up the Lost Coast.

Best Time to Visit: March to November

Don’t Miss: Hike Boy Scout Tree Trail, Hike Tall Trees Grove, See Stout Grove, Hike Fern Canyon

Read More: Ultimate Guide to Redwood National Park

Sequoia National Park

Evergreen trees and sequoia redwoods grow along the rocky gray mountainside in Sequoia National Park in California

Just south of its sister park, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park is famous for its sequoia redwood forests. It’s also home to the tallest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney. Here you can find the world’s largest tree (not to be confused with the tallest tree in Redwood) and the photo-worthy drive-thru Tunnel Log.

Best Time to Visit: June to October

Don’t Miss: Hike Big Trees Trail, Drive under Tunnel Log, See the General Sherman tree, Hike Moro Rock

Yosemite National Park

Half Dome is reflected in the Merced River as seen from Sentinel Bridge in Yosemite Valley

Yosemite National Park is the most popular of California’s national parks. Tunnel View is considered one of the best views in the United States, with El Capitan and Half Dome towering above the valley floor. Yosemite National Park has something for everyone – scenic drives, hikes of all levels, and multi-day backcountry trips.

Best Time to Visit: June to October

Don’t Miss: Hike Yosemite Falls, Hike Half Dome, Sunset at Taft Point, Explore Yosemite Valley, Photograph Yosemite at Sunset

Read More: Best Things to Do on a Yosemite Day Trip

Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Gunnison River splits the mountains in two across the long valley in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado

Like the Grand Canyon, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is split into two sections: the North Rim and the South Rim. And one of the only ways to get to the bottom of the canyon along the Gunnison River is to hike down into the canyon. Most visitors choose to explore the vantage points and hikes from the park’s scenic drive atop the canyon.

Best Time to Visit: May to October

Don’t Miss: Hike Warner Point, See Gunnison Point, Drive East Portal Road

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Hikers trek across giant, beige sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest dunes in North America! The massive amounts of sand were left behind after an ancient lake receded from the region. The best way to explore the park is on a series of short hikes to the dunes and overlooks. Plus, adventurous travelers can rent sleds and sandboard down the dunes!

Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to November

Don’t Miss: Hike Dunes Overlook, Hike High Dune, Hike Star Dune

Mesa Verde National Park

Ancient Puebloan buildings are built into the mountain ledge in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most history-rich parks in the national park system. The park’s signature landmark is Cliff Palace, built by the Puebloans over 1,000 ago. The best way to explore Mesa Verde is on ranger-led tours of the ancestral Puebloan homes. The national park also has an archaeological museum to dive into the area’s important cultural significance.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: Tour Cliff Palace, Tour Balcony House, Hike Petroglyph Point

Rocky Mountain National Park

Green grass and pine trees cover the valley in front of the Rocky Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park is the 3rd most visited national park in the United States. This national park is home to the impressive, snow-covered Rockies. The Continental Divide splits the park into sections along the mountain ridgeline. The best way to see the park’s stunning mountains and vibrant wildlife is on a scenic drive or hike along the 355 miles of trails in the park.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: Hike Emerald Lake, Hike Sprague Lake, Hike Sky Pond Lake, Drive Trail Ridge Road

Florida

Biscayne National Park

A tree sits atop rocks on the border of the ocean in Biscayne National Park in Florida

Biscayne National Park is one of the more unique national parks – nearly 95% of the park is underwater! The absolute best way to see this park is by boat or swimming! Some of the most popular activities include scuba diving and snorkeling to see the hidden reefs and marine wildlife. Biscayne National Park is the perfect park to visit in the Winter and escape cold temperatures in other parts of the USA.

Best Time to Visit: December to February

Don’t Miss: Hike Elliot Key, Take a boat tour to Boca Chita Key, Snorkel the barrier reef

Dry Tortugas National Park

A long concrete and brick boardwalk runs next to Fort Jefferson along the ocean in Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park centers around Fort Jefferson at the southern tip of Florida. It’s the only park that beats out Biscayne National Park for being the most water-filled. 99% of Dry Tortugas National Park is made up of water! Explore the historical walls of Fort Jefferson before diving in to explore the crystal blue waters in this park’s keys. The most popular water activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

Best Time to Visit: December to February, April to May

Don’t Miss: Tour Fort Jefferson, Snorkel Garden Key

Everglades National Park

Lily pads and greenery cover the top of a dark blue swamp in Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is exactly what you’d expect from a Florida national park: swamps and alligators! The best way to see the expansive water-filled park is to get out on (or above!) the water. Everglades has viewing platforms and overlooks across the park to give you a closer look at the park’s wildlife. Like other Florida national parks, much of the year is hot, muggy, and hurricane-prone. To enjoy cooler, bug-free weather, visit the Everglades in the Winter!

Best Time to Visit: December to February

Don’t Miss: See Shark Valley, Hike Anhinga Trail

Hawaii

Haleakalā National Park

Brown dirt covers sloping mountains in the barren area of Haleakala National Park in Hawaii

Haleakalā National Park is split into two regions: tropical rainforests and mount summits. Located on the island of Maui, Haleakalā is a nature lovers dream. Most of the park is only accessible on foot, so leave the famed Road to Hāna behind and explore the park’s hiking trails and stunning views.

Best Time to Visit: December to April

Don’t Miss: See Haleakalā Summit at sunrise, Hike Pīpīwai Trail, Drive the nearby Road to Hāna

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Bright red lava and steam releases from the crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is home to… you guessed it… two active volcanoes! This national park is located on the island of Hawai’i, often referred to as ‘The Big Island’. When conditions allow, you can view active lava flows and vents along the volcanic crater.

Best Time to Visit: All year

Don’t Miss: Hike Thurston Lava Tube Trail, Drive Crater Rim and Chain of Craters Road, View lava at Halema’uma’u Crater

Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park

Small waves crash on the sandy beach shore at Indiana Dunes National Park in Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the newest national parks, only established in 2019. Here you can explore 15 miles of beaches and sand dunes along the shores of Lake Michigan. Only a short distance from Chicago, this national park is the perfect day trip escape from the city.

Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to November

Don’t Miss: Hike West Beach, Swim in Lake Michigan, Tour Mount Baldy

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park

Stalactites hang from the ceiling in the caves below Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the largest cave system in the entire world! The underground caves remain the same comfortable temperature all year long, making it the perfect park to visit in the offseason. The best way to experience this national park is on a cave tour, often requiring reservations in the summer.

Best Time to Visit: March to April, October to November

Don’t Miss: Take a guided cave tour, Hike River Styx Spring Trail

Maine

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is one of the few national parks on the East Coast. Here you’ll find the highest point on the eastern coast, Cadillac Mountain. The beauty of the fall in Acadia National Park is a must-see. The leaves in the park turn bright orange, providing a whole new level of beauty from the park’s summer greenery.

Best Time to Visit: September to October

Don’t Miss: Drive Park Loop Road, See Cadillac Mountain, Hike the Precipice Trail, See Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Michigan

Isle Royale National Park

Pine trees sit along the rocky shore lines of the lake island at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan

Isle Royale National Park was formed by lava millions of years ago. Today, it takes the shape of an island in Lake Superior, just miles from the United States & Canada border. Isle Royale is only reachable by ferry or seaplane. Once arriving in Isle Royale, the best way to get around is on foot or in a kayak. Explore the island’s coastal campsites or trek Greenstone Ridge on a multi-day backpacking trip.

Best Time to Visit: July to August

Don’t Miss: Hike Stoll Trail, Go backcountry camping

Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park is covered in lakes, as is expected from a national park in Minnesota, the land of 1,000 lakes! Like some other national parks, the best way to see the hidden gems of Voyageurs is by kayak or canoe. In fact, most of the park is only accessible by boat or seaplane! Bring your own boat or rent one at the lakeside campgrounds.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: Hike Cruiser Lake Trail, Canoe the North Canoe Voyage

Missouri

Gateway Arch National Park

Shared between Missouri and Illinois, Gateway Arch National Park protects the Gateway Arch in St Louis. The smallest national park is only a few hundred acres and sits along the Mississippi River. In the park museums, you’ll find exhibits remembering the United States’ westward expansion and the Dred Scott freedom case.

Best Time to Visit: May to October

Don’t Miss: Go to the top of the Arch, Visit the Old Courthouse to learn about the Dred and Harriet Scott case

Montana

Glacier National Park

A view of mountains in Logan Pass from Going-to-the-Sun-Road.

Glacier National Park is often referred to as the “crown of the continent”. It has epic views of the Rocky Mountains, world-class scenic drives, and endless hikes. This national park belongs at the very top of your bucket list. Once home to over 100 glaciers, there are now only 20 glaciers left in the park. The best way to explore Glacier National Park is on a scenic drive across the park’s famous Going-to-the-Sun Road or on hikes to mountain views.

Best Time to Visit: July to September

Don’t Miss: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, Hike Grinnell Glacier, Hike the Highline Trail

Ready to start planning your trip to Glacier? Check out these helpful resources:

Nevada

Great Basin National Park

Bristlecone pine trees surround an alpine lake at sunset in Great Basin National Park in Nevada

Great Basin National Park is in a remote part of Nevada few choose to venture to. Here you can explore both above ground and below ground. The park is famous for its Bristlecone pine trees, the oldest living organisms in the world! Below ground, you can explore extensive cave networks on ranger-led tours.

Best Time to Visit: April to October

Don’t Miss: Hike Bristlecone Trail, Drive Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, Tour Lehman Caves

New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Stalactites and stalagmites cover the dark caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns is home to an underground cave network only miles from Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The caverns were formed by ancient reefs – the area used to be covered by a sea! The best way to explore the caves is on a guided tour. The caves stay the same temperature all year, so this national park can be visited in any season!

Best Time to Visit: All Year

Don’t Miss: Ranger-led tour of King’s Palace Cave, Self-guided tour of Big Room

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park is characterized by large, rolling white sand dunes, as the name might give away. Here you can explore the sand dunes by renting sleds and sliding down them. You can also explore the park on the main road through the park, Dunes Drive.

Best Time to Visit: October to November

Don’t Miss: Drive Dunes Drive, Hike Interdune Boardwalk, Sled the dunes

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

A bright pink and orange sunset over the grassy green plains of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named after the president who protected 230 million acres of United States land. This national park is unique in that it’s made up of 3 separate, unconnected areas, or “units” as they are called. The most popular activity in the park is driving! Scenic Loop Drive takes you around the park to stunning viewpoints of the South Unit while a separate Scenic Drive allows you to tour the North Unit.

Best Time to Visit: May to September

Don’t Miss: Drive Scenic Loop, Hike Painted Canyon, See Oxbow Bend Overlook

Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of only a few midwestern national parks. The lush green landscape and rocky mountains aren’t what you’d expect to find in Ohio. Don’t miss the spring wildflowers and fall foliage in this national park. Unique to this national park, you can explore the beauty on a scenic train ride around the park!

Best Time to Visit: April to May, September-October

Don’t Miss: Hike Brandywine Falls, Hike The Ledges, Take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park

A lone island sits in the middle of the dark blue Crater Lake in Oregon.

Crater Lake National Park was formed after a massive volcanic eruption caused the mountain to collapse upon itself. The lake is the deepest in the country, over 1,100 feet deep! The best way to see the park is to take a drive on the scenic Rim Drive that surrounds Crater Lake.

Best Time to Visit: July to September

Don’t Miss: Drive Rim Drive, Hike Mount Scott, Hike Watchman Peak

South Carolina

Congaree National Park

A bench sits on a boardwalked path through tall tree in Congaree National Park in South Carolina

Congaree National Park is home to some of the largest trees on the east coast. If you happen to be in the park around mid-June, stay after dark to catch the rare synchronous fireflies flash in the dark. Explore this park’s greenery on elevated boardwalks through the massive trees!

Best Time to Visit: March-June, October-November

Don’t Miss: Hike the Boardwalk Trails

South Dakota

Badlands National Park

The arid, harsh environment of Badlands National Park wasn’t always this way. In fact, it used to be underwater! Today, Badlands looks like another planet and is the perfect place to explore fossils and history. Badlands National Park is also an exceptional place for stargazing and astrophotography.

Best Time to Visit: April to May, September to October

Don’t Miss: Hike Notch Trail, Hike Saddle Pass Trail, Drive Badlands Loop Road

Wind Cave National Park

A bison roams free across a field at sunset in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

Wind Cave National Park can be explored both above and below ground. Here you’ll find famous, unique cave formations underneath the rolling prairies. Above ground, you’ll find one of only four herds of free-roaming bison. If you’re adventurous, squeeze and scramble through Wild Cave on a guided tour to isolated parts of the cave network. And while you’re in this area of South Dakota, make a stop at the nearby Mount Rushmore and Devils Tower monuments!

Best Time to Visit: March to September

Don’t Miss: Tour Wild Cave, Hike Rankin Ridge

Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Layers of the hazy blue mountains roll into the distance in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of America’s national parks. The park spreads across Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Great Smoky Mountains is a popular summer hiking destination and the premier place for national park fall colors. To avoid crowds, start your day early or head out on a sunset hike. If you happen to be in the park around mid-June, stay after dark to catch the rare synchronous fireflies flash in the dark.

Best Time to Visit: June to November

Don’t Miss: See Cades Cove, Hike Clingmans Dome, Hike Alum Cave Trail

Texas

Big Bend National Park

The canyon walls tower over the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park in Texas

Big Bend National Park is tucked away in the far corner of Texas, along the United States-Mexico border. You won’t reach this park by accident and you’ll be rewarded with solitude when you do. The Rio Grande River runs through the park, with towering canyon walls on either side. Explore Big Bend by floating down the Rio Grande, hiking, or taking a scenic drive.

Best Time to Visit: October to April

Don’t Miss: Float the Rio Grande, Hike Lost Mine, See The Window at sunset, Hike Santa Elena Canyon, Hike Boquillas Canyon 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A lone mountain peak stick out above a grassy hill in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas

The sand dunes and mountains of Guadalupe Mountains National Park are incredibly dry and rugged. The best time to visit this national park is in the cooler shoulder months. Less than 40 miles from Carlsbad Caverns National Park, both parks were part of an ancient underwater reef. The best way to explore the Guadalupe Mountains is on a hike around sunset.

Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to November

Don’t Miss: Summit Guadalupe Peak, Hike The Bowl, See Gypsum Dunes at sunset

Utah

Arches National Park

Double Arch towers against the blue sky in Arches National Park in Utah

Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural arches, most hundreds of millions of years in the making. The best way to see the park’s famous arches is on short hikes off the park’s main scenic drive. Don’t miss the sunset in Arches National Park to observe the magnificent orange, pinks, and reds of the sandstone reflect the last light of the day.

Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to November

Don’t Miss: Hike Delicate Arch at sunset, Hike the Windows Loop, Hike Double Arch



Sunrise over Bryce Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon National PArk

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most unique landscapes in the United States. It’s famous for its erosion-carved spires called hoodoos. In fact, Bryce Canyon National Park has the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world. The best way to explore Bryce Canyon is on a scenic drive to 14 viewpoints atop the canyon.

Best Time to Visit: April to October

Don’t Miss: Drive the Scenic Drive and viewpoints, Hike Navajo and Queen’s Garden Loop, See sunrise along the Rim Trail


Read More: Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Well Planned Journey helps you plan your next outdoor adventure.

Only a short distance from Arches National Park, Canyonlands is much less crowded. Canyonlands National Park is made up of deeply carved canyons and is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. The park is split into 4 sections. Most visitors choose to visit the most accessible district, Island in the Sky.

Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to November

Don’t Miss: Hike Mesa Arch for sunrise, Hike Grand Viewpoint Overlook, See Green River Overlook and Shafer Point Overlook

Capitol Reef National Park

The single jagged rock, Temple of the Sun, stands tall in the desert in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Capitol Reef National Park is characterized by the Waterpocket Fold. This formation made the region impassible to many early settlers. Much of the park is only accessible on rugged 4WD roads, so most visitors only visit the Fruita district. The Fruita District is home to an orchard, schoolhouse, and shops from the Morman settlement that occupied the area.

Best Time to Visit: March to May, September to November

Don’t Miss: Pick fruit at Fruita Orchard in fall, Hike Cohab Canyon, Drive Capitol Gorge Road

Zion National Park

Zion National Park The Watchman

Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country and different from other Utah national parks. Unlike other Utah national parks, Zion is filled with greenery! Zion is a haven for adventurous hikers, with some of the most popular hikes in the United States, like The Narrows and Angels Landing.

Best Time to Visit: April to October

Don’t Miss: Hike The Narrows, Hike Angels Landing, Hike Observation Point, Drive Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

Ready to start planning your trip to Zion? Check out these helpful resources:

Virginia

Shenandoah National Park

Trees with orange and red leaves hover over Skyline Drive in the fall in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

Shenandoah National Park passes through a stretch of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. The absolute best way to see the park is on its long, scenic drive. Skyline Drive passes through the entirety of the park, running along the mountain top for 105 miles.  Shenandoah National Park is one of the best places for catching glimpses of fall colors.

Best Time to Visit: September to November

Don’t Miss: Drive Skyline Drive, Hike Old Rag Trail

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

The sun sets behind a snow covered Mount Rainier in the distance in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington

Mount Rainier National Park is one of the best national parks for hiking, with 300 miles of hiking trails. Hikers can explore the park’s bucket list day hiking and backpacking trails. Some of the most scenic hikes in the park take you far above the clouds to scenic fire lookout stations, like Mount Fremont Lookout.

Best Time to Visit: July to September

Don’t Miss: Hike the Skyline Trail, Hike Fremont Lookout, Hike Tolmie Peak

North Cascades National Park

The snow covered peaks of the cascade mountains in the distance behind an evergreen forest in North Cascades National Park in Washington

North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited parks in the country. Its mountains, forests, alpine lakes, and glaciers should put it on your radar. In fact, North Cascades has more glaciers than Glacier National Park! The best way to explore North Cascades is on a scenic drive on the North Cascades Scenic Highway and hiking some of the park’s many trails.

Best Time to Visit: June to October

Don’t Miss: Drive North Cascades Scenic Highway, Hike Trappers Peak, Hike Cascade Pass

Olympic National Park

Rocks and arches are govered in green moss and trees along the dark sand and waves on the beach in Olympic National Park in Washington

Olympic National Park gets its name from its highest peak, Mount Olympus, named after Greek mythology. The diverse landscape takes you through mountains, rainforests, and beaches. Explore the unique coastal national park by hiking and camping in the park’s various regions.

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: See Ruby Beach, Hike Hoh Rain Forest, Hike Shi Shi Beach

West Virginia

New River Gorge National Park

A river runs through lush green trees in New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge is the newest national park, only established in 2020. It protects the rugged New River, one of the oldest rivers in North America. The most popular activity in the park is whitewater rafting, with plenty of Class IV and V rapids.

Best Time to Visit: April to October

Don’t Miss: Whitewater rafting, Rock climbing, Hike Endless Wall Trail, Bike Arrowhead Trails

Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park

The distant Teton Mountains glow in the pink and orange sunset in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park is often overshadowed by its neighbor, Yellowstone National Park. But Grand Teton should be at the top of your national park bucket list! From stunning views of the Rocky Mountains to some of the best backpacking treks, this national park has something for everyone.  The best way to explore Grand Teton National Park is on a hike or even a multi-day backpacking trip!

Best Time to Visit: June to September

Don’t Miss: Hike Inspiration Trail, Backpack to Lake Solitude, See sunrise at Schwabacher’s Landing, Photograph John Moulton Barn

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring shows off its red, yellow, green, and blue rings in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States with over 4 million visitors per year. Yellowstone straddles 3 states: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, although most of the park is in Wyoming. You’ve probably heard of Yellowstone’s most well-known landmark, the Old Faithful geyser. The best way to explore the park’s popular geysers is on a scenic drive, stopping at the viewpoints along the way.

Best Time to Visit: July to October

Don’t Miss: Drive Grand Loop Road, See Grand Prismatic Spring, See Old Faithful, Hike Mount Washburn

The U.S. Territories

National Park of American Samoa

Teal blue water surrounds the island of Pago Pago in National Park of American Samoa

National Park of American Samoa is the furthest and least developed of the US national parks. This allows you to fully immerse yourself in the traditional Samoan culture. The national park is split up across 3 different islands, with a local flight required to travel between them.

Best Time to Visit:  June to September

Don’t Miss: Hike Mount’Alava Trail, Snorkel Vatia Bay, Snorkel Ofu Beach

Virgin Islands National Park

Bright teal blue water surrounds the island of St. John in Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park is the perfect tropical escape in the U.S. Virgin Islands. To get here, you’ll actually need to fly to another country first… the British Virgin Islands! The ferry from St. Thomas will take you to the tiny, US island of St. John. Virgin Islands National Park is famous for its underwater snorkeling trail along the reefs.

Best Time to Visit: December to April

Don’t Miss: Snorkel the Underwater trail in Trunk Bay, Snorkel Waterlemon Cay, See Cinnamon Bay

States Without National Parks

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Best National Park Road Trips

The best way to check national parks off your bucket list is on a road trip. Here are a few of my favorite national park road trips and when to go.

Before you head out on your road trip, be sure to pack the right things with this essential road trip packing list guide!

Alaskan Frontier

A long road way leads through a green valley between tall Alaskan mountains on a road trip through the Alaskan Frontier

National Parks: Katmai, Lake Clark, Kenai Fjords, Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias

Best Time to Go: July to August

Recommended Trip Length: 14 to 21 days

Where to Start: Anchorage, AK

California Sierras

Yosemite Valley in the distance with a valley of trees in the foreground in Yosemite National Park in the California Sierras

National Parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia

Best Time to Go: July to September

Recommended Trip Length: 7 to 10 days

Where to Start: San Francisco, CA

Northern California + Oregon

Ferns and tall coastal redwood trees grow together in a forest in Redwood National Park in California

National Parks: Redwood, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake

Best Time to Go: July to September

Recommended Trip Length: 6 to 9 days

Where to Start: Redding, CA or Medford, OR

Washington

National Parks: Mount Rainier, Olympic, North Cascades

Best Time to Go: July to September

Recommended Trip Length: 7 to 14 days

Where to Start: Seattle, WA

The Northern Rockies

Fog covers the valley along Going-to-the-Sun-Road in Glacier National Park.

National Parks: Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton

Best Time to Go: July to September

Recommended Trip Length: 7 to 14 days

Where to Start: Bozeman, MT

The Dakotas

Layered brown desert-like mountains stack upon each other in this Dakotas national park

National Parks: Badlands, Wind Cave, Theodore Roosevelt

Best Time to Go: May, September

Recommended Trip Length: 5 to 8 days

Where to Start: Rapid City, SD

Colorado

Yellow wildflowers grow on a rock mountainside in Colorado

National Parks: Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Best Time to Go: June to September

Recommended Trip Length: 10 to 14 days

Where to Start: Denver, CO

Utah “Mighty 5”

Well Planned Journey helps you plan your next outdoor adventure.

National Parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands

Best Time to Go: April to May, September to October

Recommended Trip Length: 7 to 10 days

Where to Start: Las Vegas, NV or Salt Lake City, UT

Looking for a shorter alternative? Consider this 3 day road trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon instead!

Southwest

The bright sun sets over the layers of mountains in the Southwest USA.

National Parks: Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, White Sands, Saguaro

Best Time to Go: March to April, October to November

Recommended Trip Length: 7 to 14 days

Where to Start: Pheonix, AZ or Albuquerque, NM or El Paso, TX

Midwest

Pine trees and green grass leads to the blue Michigan Lake waters in Isle Royale National Park

National Parks: Voyageurs, Isle Royale

Best Time to Go: July to August

Recommended Trip Length: 5 to 8 days

Where to Start: Minneapolis, MN

Southeast in the Fall

Low hanging fog hovers between the hazy blue ridge mountains and the changing fall colors of the forest

National Parks: Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah

Best Time to Go: October to November

Recommended Trip Length: 4 to 6 days

Where to Start: Charlottesville, VA or Knoxville, TN

Florida

The skies are bright pink as a fan boat powers across the waters of Everglades National Park

National Parks: Biscayne, Everglades, Dry Tortugas

Best Time to Go: December to February

Recommended Trip Length: 6 to 9 days

Where to Start: Miami, FL

Final Thoughts on This List of National Parks by State

Are you feeling inspired to visit America’s national parks this year? Well if so, check out more of these national park posts and start planning your trip!

Start With These Itineraries

Bucket List Experiences

want help booking your national park trip?

Book Your Accommodation
If you want to stay in the park, book early! For lodges, book around 1 year out. For in-park campgrounds, book on Recreation.Gov when reservations are released, usually 6 months out. I like to use Airbnb and Hotels.com to find affordable spots outside the park.

Book Your Flight
The best way to find cheap flights is by shopping around, looking at different routes, dates, and airlines. My favorite tool to research flights is Skyscanner. It’s easy to use and covers nearly every airline out there!

Make Sure You Have the Right Gear
Double-check that you have all the gear you’ll need for your trip and that it’s in good condition! Need to refresh your gear? I love REI for anything outdoors. Their store brand is affordable, but still high quality. If you’re short on time, Amazon has a good selection of outdoor gear too!

Not sure what you need? Check out some of my gear guides!

Looking for reliable travel brands and outdoor gear?
Check out my resource page for the best companies and brands to simplify your national park travel, from hotels to reliable outdoor gear brands.

Want to share your thoughts, tips, and advice with me and other readers? Have questions about your trip? Head down to the comments section below!

This post may include some affiliate links, where I earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase, all at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products or brands that I use. Any income helps me continue sharing national park tips and itineraries for free.

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