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20 Best National Parks In The USA To Visit In 2023

20 Best National Parks In The USA To Visit In 2023

Are you looking for a comprehensive list of the very best USA National Parks to visit this year? Perfect! We’re going to show you 20 incredibly beautiful US National Parks you should add to your bucket list today, including some of the most iconic and spectacular landscapes from all across America.

What makes a National Park one of the best in the USA?

The criteria we used to create this list of best US national parks includes our own experiences, famous hiking trails, standout landscapes, unique features and even location.

For each of our personal top 20 US National Parks we will show you:

  • Location, how many days and when to visit
  • Best hikes in each National Park
  • Description of each top US National Park
  • Why each National Park is one of the best in the USA

Let’s start creating your USA National Park bucket list!

Table of Contents show

1. Acadia National Park

  • State: Maine
  • Town: Bar Harbor
  • Hikes: Beehive Trail, Precipice Trail, Acadia Mountain, Cadillac Mountain
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Season: May through October
Acadia Mountain summit with views over lakes and the ocean one of the best USA national parks
Acadia Mountain summit with views over lakes and the Atlantic Ocean

What Is Acadia?

Acadia National Park is a US east coast gem visited by millions each year between May and the end of October. The park is always busy when it is open, but Fall foliage season in early October is the best time to visit for spectacularly vibrant colors.

Hikers, photographers and families are all going to be blown away by the amazing Acadia National Park.

Why Is Acadia One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Acadia is overflowing with short but steep hiking trails leading to astounding vistas overlooking lakes, rolling hills, giant boulders and the Atlantic Ocean.

Watching a serene sunrise from Cadillac Mountain summit is the most popular thing to do in Acadia and pro photographers will need backup SD cards!

Our Acadia guides:

2. Arches National Park

  • State: Utah
  • Town: Moab
  • Hikes: Devils Garden Trail, Delicate Arch Trail, Windows Trail
  • Time: 1-2 days
  • Season: Year Round
Trail to Double Arch with strange sandstone rock formations
Trail to Double Arch and several unique formations in Arches National Park

What Is Arches?

Arches National Park is one of the most beloved landscapes in the NPS network. Dozens of mind-boggling natural arch formations draw millions to Moab in northeastern Utah year round.

Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch steal the show, but there are plenty more to find on the awesome Devils Garden Trail.

Why Is Arches One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Arches is small and can be visited in one day but it packs a mighty punch in striking and unique scenery. It is also home to 2 of the best hikes in Utah.

This is one of the most visually photogenic USA national parks and many visitors return for more arch action. Hikers, photographers and families will all have a blast at this bucket list favorite park in Utah.

Our Arches guides:

3. Badlands National Park

  • State: South Dakota
  • Town: Wall
  • Hikes: Door Trail, Notch Trail, Castle Trail
  • Time: 1 day
  • Season: Year Round
Badlands is one of the most unique and best national parks in the US with alien like terrain
Fascinating sandstone formations at Badlands National Park

What Is Badlands?

Badlands National Park is a bit of a hidden gem in the respect that very few visit the bleak and harsh South Dakota landscape, but it is a magical place once you look past the dull grey tones.

The red, pink and brown sandstone layers in Badlands originate from volcanic ash in present day Utah and Nevada.

Why Is Badlands One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Badlands isn’t going to blow you away with epic hikes like Zion, and it isn’t going to melt your mind with scenery like Yosemite. But overall Badlands gives you a handful of short hikes, unique photography opportunities, bighorn sheep, bison and prairie dogs.

All of that can be lapped up in just a few short hours on your South Dakota road trip.

Our Badlands guides:

4. Bryce Canyon National Park

  • State: Utah
  • Town: Bryce Canyon City
  • Hikes: Queen’s Garden Trail, Navajo Loop Trail, Fairyland Loop Trail
  • Time: 1-2 days
  • Season: Year Round
Bryce Canyon amphitheater glowing at sunrise
Bryce Canyon amphitheater glowing at sunrise

What Is Bryce Canyon?

Bryce Canyon is one of the most visually striking USA national parks. Rugged chimney shaped sandstone formations called “hoodoos” burst out of Bryce’s bowl shaped amphitheater, which glows beautifully at sunrise and sunset each day.

Hikers can drop down into the bowl and walk among the famous orange spires.

Why Is Bryce Canyon One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Bryce Canyon is a fan favorite because it is easy to visit in one or two days, its short immersive hikes are in unique surroundings and there are exceptional photography opportunities galore.

A scenic drive goes deeper into the national park but it is all about the magical Bryce Canyon amphitheater here.

Our Bryce Canyon guides:

5. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

  • State: Ohio
  • Town: Peninsula
  • Hikes: Ohio & Eerie Canal Towpath Trail, Ledges Trail, Brandywine Gorge Trail
  • Time: 1 day
  • Season: Year Round
The Ledges Trail in Cuyahoga National Park
The Ledges Trail in Cuyahoga National Park

What Is Cuyahoga Valley?

Cuyahoga Valley is a small but fun and family friendly national park sandwiched between Cleveland and Akron in Ohio.

You will find photogenic Brandywine Falls, countless miles of the Ohio and Eerie Canal Towpath, and a wonderful hike around the striking Ledges Trail.

Why Is Cuyahoga Valley One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Cuyahoga Valley is not one of the “best” national parks in terms of majestic canyons or world famous hikes, but it is easily accessible to families across northeast USA and the entire area can be explored in one or two days.

Sometimes it isn’t just about the landscape, it is about location to nearby urbanized areas and ease of access.

6. Death Valley National Park

  • State: California
  • Town: Furnace Creek
  • Hikes: Golden Canyon Trail, Natural Bridge Trail, Mosaic Canyon Trail, Mesquite Sand Dunes
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
View over unique formations in Death Valley National Park at sunset one of the best in the USA
One of Death Valley National Park’s mesmerizing landscapes

What Is Death Valley?

Death Valley National Park is a harsh and hostile environment but it is beyond spectacular. The diversity in landscape is incredible, from salt crystals at Badwater Basin to the rolling Mesquite Sand Dunes and intriguing smooth mounds of Golden Canyon.

Flanked on two sides by towering mountains, the scorched lands of Death Valley are among the most visually astounding in the USA.

Why Is Death Valley One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Death Valley gives you great hikes, enormous views from overlooks, sand dunes, a ghost town, the lowest point in North America and so much more.

The severe and barren landscape slowly grows on you, until you realize Death Valley is exceptionally beautiful. It is easy to visit Death Valley for anyone spending a few days in Las Vegas.

Our Death Valley guides:

7. Denali National Park

  • State: Alaska
  • Town: Healy
  • Hikes: Healy Overlook Trail, Savage River Loop Trail, Horseshoe Lake Trail, Triple Lakes Trail
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Season: Year Round (Best in Summer)
Denali in Alaska tallest mountain in the USA stunning wild national park with river fields trees and snow capped mountain
Denali in Alaska is the tallest mountain in the US

What Is Denali?

Denali, formerly known as Mt McKinley, is the tallest mountain peak in continental North America. At 20,310 feet above sea level, Denali is only climbed by experienced mountaineers.

However, the foothills of Denali are NPS land and can be accessed by anyone.

Why Is Denali One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Millions of acres of wilderness, extraordinary mountain views and lake hikes await visitors to this remote part of Alaska.

Denali is just one of 8 national parks in Alaska, but the iconic mountain with its beautiful natural wilderness and wildlife is the most iconic.

8. Glacier National Park

  • State: Montana
  • Town: Whitefish
  • Hikes: Highline Trail, Avalanche Lake Trail, Grinnell Glacier Trail, Iceberg Lake Trail
  • Time: 2-5 days
  • Season: Year Round (Best in Summer and early Fall)
Glacier National Park turquoise lake with mountains and trees surrounding
Grinnell Glacier Overlook in Glacier National Park MT

What Is Glacier?

Glacier is a strong challenger for the single most attractive and photogenic USA national park. This postcard-perfect landscape consists of colorful lakes, lush Alpine meadows, sharp mountain peaks and of course glaciers.

Hikers will be spoiled for choice, but those who just want to see the park’s unimaginable beauty can drive the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Why Is Glacier One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Glacier was one of the first names on this list of best USA national parks. It is exceptionally picturesque and we know all visitors will be blown away by the special scenery in northern Montana.

The Highline is one of the best hikes in the US, but there are a dozen more amazing trails for hikers to explore.

9. Grand Canyon National Park

  • State: Arizona
  • Town: Tusayan
  • Hikes: Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, South Rim Trail, Hermit Trail, Grandview Trail
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Season: Year Round
View into Grand Canyon South Rim from Bright Angel Trail
View into Grand Canyon South Rim and Bright Angel Trail

What Is Grand Canyon?

Grand Canyon is arguably the most globally renowned USA national park. The scale, enormity and grandeur of Grand Canyon National Park is beyond words. You simply have to see it to believe it.

Vast ravines, rugged sandstone formations and jagged tears in the Earth flank the mighty Colorado River to form North and South Rim. Grand Canyon is among the best places to visit in Arizona and the entire USA.

Why Is Grand Canyon One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time is one of those genuine jaw dropping moments. South Rim is by far the most popular side, but both are magical experiences.

Dozens of overlooks allow visitors to see different parts of the canyon, but hiking down into the Grand Canyon is the best way to appreciate this incredible act of nature in northern Arizona.

Our Grand Canyon guides:

10. Grand Teton National Park

  • State: Wyoming
  • Town: Jackson
  • Hikes: Cascade Canyon Trail, Delta Lake Trail, Taggart Lake Loop Trail, Surprise Lake Trail
  • Time: 2 days
  • Season: Year Round (Best May through October)
Grand Teton mountains and lakes reflecting
Striking mountain reflection in Grand Teton National Park

What Is Grand Teton?

Grand Teton is a goldmine of pure natural beauty and it is one of our personal favorite national parks in America. It may be small, but picture-perfect Grand Teton is among the best places to visit in Wyoming and it is adored by everyone who visits.

The park is relaxing, calming and endlessly scenic. Hikers, photographers and families fall head over heels for Grand Teton National Park every day from May through October.

Why Is Grand Teton One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Sharp jagged snow capped mountains, flat plains, the Snake River, countless wildlife spotting opportunities, famous sunrise photography locations and fantastic hiking trails await visitors to stunning Grand Teton National Park.

The contrast between neighboring Yellowstone with Grand Teton is fascinating.

Our Grand Teton guides:

11. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • State: Tennessee / North Carolina
  • Town: Gatlinburg
  • Hikes: Mount Leconte Trail, Laurel Falls Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, Peregrin Peak Trail
  • Time: 3-4 days
  • Season: Year Round (Best in Summer and Fall)
Calming peaceful dawn colors with silhouetted rolling mountains in Great Smoky Mountains North Carolina the most visited park in the USA
Silhouetted rolling hills at dawn in Great Smoky Mountain National Park NC

What Is Great Smoky Mountains?

Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited USA national park with a whopping 14.1 million visitors in 2021. Next is Zion with 5 million. The Smokies are a subrange of the Appalachians straddling the North Carolina and Tennessee border.

Millions of Americans who live on the US east coast can access the park within a few hours drive which makes this an appealing destination for families.

Why Is Great Smoky Mountains One Of The Best USA National Parks?

The popularity of Great Smoky Mountains is not just ease of access and geographical location, the national park is spectacularly picturesque and it has dozens of fantastic hiking trails.

But its most iconic aspect is of course those thick low hanging clouds clinging to endless rolling hills creating an eerie but magical natural landscape.

Throw in some soft light at dawn or dusk and you have a paradise for photographers.

12. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

  • State: Hawaii
  • Town: Volcano
  • Hikes: Kilauea Iki Trail, Precipice Trail, Thurston Lava Tube Trail, Crater Rim Trail
  • Time: 1-2 days
  • Season: Year Round (Best in Winter)
Molten lava pouring into the Ocean at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Molten lava pouring into the Ocean in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

What Is Hawaii Volcanoes?

Hawaii Volcanoes along with Haleakala make up Hawaii’s two US national parks.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Volcanoes national park gives visitors to Hawaii the opportunity to see molten lava and magma pour into the ocean or spit into the sky from two of the world’s most active volcanoes in Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Why Is Hawaii Volcanoes One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Does it get any more unique than watching lava flows and spewing flames inside an active volcano?! This is a landscape you can’t miss on a visit to Hawaii.

Hikers can walk around Kilauea Iki Trail through Lava Tubes and into the volcano crater. Stay until dark to see red and orange fire lighting up the night sky.

13. Joshua Tree National Park

  • State: California
  • Town: Joshua Tree
  • Hikes: Ryan Mountain Trail, Barker Dam Trail, Hidden Valley Trail, Lost Horse Mine Trail
  • Time: 1-2 days
  • Season: Year Round
Joshua Trees and arid landscape perfect for hiking near Los Angeles makes Joshua Tree one of the best USA national parks
Joshua Trees and rocks in the arid California desert

What Is Joshua Tree?

Joshua Tree is a fantastic USA national park located in both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in southern California.

In just 2 hours from Los Angeles or 2 hours 30 minutes from San Diego you can be camping, hiking and photographing Joshua Trees or Yucca Plants, which are native to the Mojave Desert region.

Why Is Joshua Tree One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Joshua Tree is easy to access for those living in the US southwest including Las Vegas and Phoenix. Hikers can explore a handful of fun and interpretive hiking trails, and photographers can capture images of Joshua Trees against a stunning backdrop.

Joshua Tree National Park has one of the darkest skies in the southwest for keen stargazers to enjoy and adds to the beauty of a weekend camping trip.

Our Joshua Tree guides:

14. Mount Rainier National Park

  • State: Washington
  • Town: Paradise
  • Hikes: Skyline Trail, Mt Fremont Lookout Trail, Burroughs Mountain Trail, Naches Peak Trail
  • Time: 3-4 days
  • Season: July through September
Skyline trail bridge green meadow and mountain at Mount Rainier National Park in washington USA
Mount Rainier Skyline Trail at sunrise is a beautiful place to hike

What Is Mount Rainier?

Mount Rainier is a firm favorite among regular visitors to USA national parks. It is located 2 hours and 30 minutes south of Seattle, but the skyline dominating stratovolcano can be seen from all across Washington.

Mt Rainier’s major hiking trails are only accessible for 2-3 months each year but it is one of the most magical and best places to visit in the United States.

Why Is Mount Rainier One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Mount Rainier is a hiking paradise suitable for all levels and ages. Some of the most iconic hikes in the USA are found on the slopes and foothills of Mt Rainier. Photographers are going to need multiple backup SD cards for this trip.

We lived in Washington for 6 months and this was the park we kept gravitating towards. There’s just something special about Mt Rainier.

Our Mount Rainier guides:

15. Olympic National Park

  • State: Washington
  • Town: Port Angeles
  • Hikes: Hurricane Hill Trail, Mt Storm King Trail, Hall of Mosses, Staircase Rapids, Rialto Beach
  • Time: 3-4 days
  • Season: Year Round
Staircase area of Olympic National Park with river and hanging moss
Hanging Moss and river in the staircase area of Olympic

What Is Olympic?

Olympic is a wildly popular national park in the state of Washington in northwestern USA.

Towering rugged snow capped mountains, dense temperate rainforest, serene lakes and beautiful sandy beaches create a diverse and inclusive family destination on the Olympic Peninsula just a few hours drive from Seattle.

Why Is Olympic One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Olympic caters to every type of traveler from campers to hikers and photographers. Hanging mosses in the legendary Hoh Rainforest are incredibly beautiful and unique.

Hikes like Hurricane Hill and Mount Storm King are extremely scenic, and beaches like Rialto and Ruby are perfect for sunsets.

16. Rocky Mountain National Park

  • State: Colorado
  • Town: Estes Park
  • Hikes: Emerald Lake Trail, Glacier Gorge Trail, Chasm Lake Trail, Gem Lake Trail, Mt Ida Trail
  • Time: 3-4 days
  • Season: June through September
Rocky Mountain meadows trees and mountains with puffy clouds
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

What Is Rocky Mountain?

Rocky Mountain National Park is located high up in the Rockies near Estes Park in Colorado. The Continental Divide runs directly through the rugged mountains, alpine lakes and forests of Rocky Mountain.

This is one of the best hiking arenas in the United States and should be on every national park bucket list.

Why Is Rocky Mountain One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Rocky Mountain is one of the very best national parks in the USA for sheer dramatic beauty. Adventurous hikers will need to spend at least 3 or 4 days in the park to tick off the top trails leading to azure lakes and magnificent vistas.

Drivers can cross the Rockies on Trail Ridge road, one of the most scenic drives in the entire US. Rocky Mountain is a sublime landscape for everyone to enjoy.

17. Shenandoah National Park

  • State: Virginia
  • Town: Waynesboro
  • Hikes: Old Rag Trail, Dark Hollow Falls Trail, Hawksbill Loop Trail, Rose River Trail
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Season: Year Round (Best in Spring and Fall)
Rolling hills green trees and rocky hiking trails in Virginia
Rolling green hills in Shenandoah National Park, VA

What Is Shenandoah?

Shenandoah National Park is the crown jewel of northern Virginia. The exceptionally scenic Skyline Drive begins just 1 hour and 30 minutes from Washington DC and 3 hours 45 minutes from Philadelphia.

Rolling hills covered in trees are reward for hiking to rocky summits, which are especially beautiful during peak Fall foliage season in October.

Why Is Shenandoah One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Shenandoah is easily accessible for those who live in the major northeast coastal cities and it is very beautiful. Although the park centers mainly around its scenic Skyline Drive, there are hikes such as the top rated Old Rag Trail that should not be missed.

Shenandoah is also at the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway scenic byway, which is the most popular road trip in the USA.

18. Yellowstone National Park

  • State: Wyoming
  • Town: West Yellowstone
  • Hikes: Mount Washburn Trail, Fairy Falls Trail, Avalanche Peak Trail, Mystic Falls Trail
  • Time: 3-4 days
  • Season: Year Round (Best May through October)
Morning Glory Pool hot spring in Yellowstone colorful unique formation makes this one of the most popular and best USA national parks
Colorful Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park

What Is Yellowstone?

Yellowstone is the original USA national park and one of the most iconic landscapes in the world. Millions fly into Wyoming from across the globe each year to watch steam billow and water spurt out of the volcanic Yellowstone caldera.

Colorful hot springs of all shapes and sizes, pools of bubbling water and mud, mountain peaks, lakes and canyons are all at the heart of what make Yellowstone so unique and beloved.

Why Is Yellowstone One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Yellowstone is about more than just Old Faithful geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring.

Yes, there are hundreds of geysers and hot springs to explore, but Yellowstone is also one of the premier wildlife spotting environments in the USA. Grizzly bears, wolves and eagles all call Yellowstone home.

This is a place you have to visit at least once in your lifetime.

Our Yellowstone guides:

19. Yosemite National Park

  • State: California
  • Town: Yosemite Valley
  • Hikes: Half Dome, Mist Trail, Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, Four Mile Trail, Clouds Rest Trail
  • Time: 2-4 days
  • Season: Year Round (Best in Summer and Fall)
Valley View at sunrise in the stunning Yosemite National Park USA
Staggeringly beautiful Yosemite National Park from Valley View

What Is Yosemite?

Yosemite is arguably the most cherished USA national park by its visitors who almost always return. We have to say we were completely enamored by the majesty of Yosemite during our first visit.

Extraordinary granite domes and cliffs are complemented by powerful waterfalls and gorgeous valleys. Everywhere you look in Yosemite is worthy of a postcard cover, it really is that picture perfect.

Why Is Yosemite One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Yosemite is home to some of the best US hiking trails, including the epic Half Dome hike which is top of many bucket lists. Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls is a close second but there are dozens more amazing hikes across the park.

Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America and the whole place is like a playground for photographers.

This is a USA national park you can’t miss.

Our Yosemite guides:

20. Zion National Park

  • State: Utah
  • Town: Springdale
  • Hikes: Angels Landing Trail, The Narrows Trail, The Subway Trail, Emerald Pools Trail
  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Season: Year Round
Notorious Angels Landing hiking trail formation in Zion one of the best USA national parks for hikes and adventure
Notorious Angels Landing hike in Zion National Park

What Is Zion?

Zion National Park is a hikers dream come true and one of the top places to visit in Utah. It is visited by 5 million people each year and most have the goal of testing themselves on some of the most adventurous hikes in the USA.

The park with its magnificent walled canyons is also great for families and photographers, but it is more of an adventure playground for hiking than anything else.

Why Is Zion One Of The Best USA National Parks?

Zion is one of the best USA national parks for hiking. Angels Landing, the Narrows and the Subway are the three bucket list trails but there are a dozen more fantastic hikes to explore.

Zion is easy enough to visit as a day trip from Las Vegas or a multi day trip from Salt Lake City, making it a must stop on any American Southwest road trip itinerary.

Our Zion Guides:

FAQ’s For The Best USA National Parks

Let’s finish by taking a quick look at the most asked questions about the best National Parks in the US.

What Is The Best National Park To Visit In USA?

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming was the first US National Park and today it remains one of the most visited, most spectacular and most unique natural landscapes in the USA.

What Is The Coolest National Park?

Zion National Park in southern Utah is arguably the coolest US National Park thanks to three of the top bucket list hiking trails in America, dramatic canyons and a younger crowd hanging out in nearby Springdale after dark.

What Are The Top Three Most Visited US National Parks?

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (14.1 million), Zion National Park (5 million) and Yellowstone National Park (4.9 million) were the three most visited US National Parks in 2021. The Smokies receives almost three times as many tourists to the next closest US National Park every year. Typically Zion, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain make up the top 5 most visited USA National Parks.

What State Has The Most Beautiful National Parks?

California (9 parks), Alaska (8 parks), Utah (5 parks) and Washington (3 parks) are the four US states with the most beautiful national parks.

More Best Of The USA Guides
More National Park Resources

We hope this guide to 20 of the best National Parks in the USA helps with planning your upcoming travels!

Please let us know if you have any questions about this list of the best US national parks in the comments below and don’t forget to read our roundup of the best national park quotes for inspiration!

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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