Skip to content

15 USA National Parks you must visit

Updated On 8th June, 2020

Are you heading out on or planning a USA adventure? Be sure not to miss out on visiting at least one of the USA National Parks whilst you’re stateside. USA National Parks are some of the best in the world and make for the road trip of a lifetime.

This is a bucket list for you, and for me! I’ve still so much of the USA to explore and I’m personally desperate to get out and see Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite! Particularly after watching Free Solo. If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend ti.

I’ve spent most of my time in the USA exploring California as I have many friends in San Francisco and with them, I have made road trips down to Southern California and out to Nevada for Burning Man. Additionally, I have done a road trip through Arizona ticking off bucket list destinations such as Scottsdale, Page, Sedona and the famous Grand Canyon.

In this blog post though, we are going beyond the ordinary, beyond the typical destination and I’m going to share with you 15 USA National Parks you must visit or at least add to your bucket list.

P.s. There are actually 61 National Parks in the USA so if you’ve ticked off these already (you go Glen Coco), fear not, there’s more!

15 USA National Parks you must visit

An Arizona + Las Vegas Roadtrip, USA | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

All images in this post have been legally labelled for commercial reuse.

1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The USA’s oldest National Park (1872) is spread across 3 states: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho. It’s home to an abundance of wildlife such as bears, wolves, and bison, and features stunning landscapes that include mountains, forest, lakes, rivers, hot springs, and even a volcano!

Things to do & see: 

  • Old Faithful geyser
  • Yellowstone Caldera
  • Yellowstone Lake
  • Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Grand Prismatic Spring
  • Grizzly & Wolves discovery centre
  • Hike Uncle Tom’s Trail (very steep!), leading to Lower Falls in the Yellowstone Canyon
  • Yellowstone Grand Loop road trip
  • Hike Mount Washburn
  • Boiling River – a natural hot tub

2. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

The USA’s newest National Park (2019) sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and is famous for its beautiful beaches.

Things to do & see: 

  • Sunrise at Lake Michigan
  • Ranger-led sunset hike
  • Hike around the 45 miles of trails
  • Horse ride Glenwood Dunes trail
  • Kayak or canoe on Lake Michigan
  • Watch for bird migration

3. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

The USA’s biggest National Park (32,375 km2) is in Alaska – along with the next 3 largest parks! However, despite its large size, it remains largely unvisited.

Fun fact: You can fit 6 Yellowstone National Parks in Wrangell-St Elias, yet it gets 98% less visitors! 

Things to do & see: 

  • Visit Kennecott
  • Drive along McCarthy Road and/ or Nabesna Road
  • Liberty Falls
  • Take a flight tour across the park
  • Nabesna Glacier
  • Explore the Taiga
  • The Northern Lights

4. Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri

The smallest USA National Park (0.8 km2) is famous for ‘The Gateway Arch’, a 630-foot (192 m) (both high and wide) catenary arch built to commemorate the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Things to do & see: 

  • The Gateway Arch & museum
  • The Old Courthouse

5. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

The Hot Springs National Park is famous for its 60 degrees celsius thermal water, and was originally made a protected area as it is believed the water carries medicinal properties.

Things to do & see: 

  • Bathhouse Row
  • Hot Spring Water Cascade
  • Hot Spring Mountain Trail
  • Buckstaff Bathhouse
  • Superior Bathhouse Brewery

6. Great Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee

This the the USA’s most visited National Park, and it’s easy to see why. Mile upon mile of beautiful forests, wildflowers, streams and waterfalls makes for some epic hiking.

Things to do & see: 

  • Clingman’s dome
  • SUP on Fontana Lake
  • Cade’s Cove
  • Waterfalls: Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, or Rainbow Falls
  • Visit The Place of a Thousand Drips
  • Walk the Appalachian Trail

7. Yosemite National Park, California

One of the USA’s most famous National Parks, Yosemite is popular for the famous sequoia trees and grey rockey cliff faces.

Things to do & see: 

  • Yosemite Valley Waterfalls
  • Half Dome
  • Merced River
  • Glacier Point
  • Olmsted Point
  • Wildlife watching (bears!)
  • Hiking, camping
  • Rock climbing

8. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

This National Park is a little different to the rest. Home to the world’s longest cave network, this one is for those of you who fancy a slightly different active adventure!

Things to do & see: 

  • Explore the underworld in the caves
  • Canoeing
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Camping

9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Famous as being one of the seven wonders of the world, this is obviously one you cannot miss!

Things to do & see: 

  • Hiking
  • Bike tours
  • Get some epic photos of the canyon
  • Helicopter flight
  • Raft through the canyon on the Colorado river
  • 4×4 tour
  • Grand Canyon Skywalk
  • Havasu Falls
  • Kaibab trail and bridge
  • Paragon skydive
  • Grand Canyon railway
  • Drive North Rim to South Rim
  • Run North Rim to South Rim (if you’re very active!)
An Arizona road trip: Scottsdale, Page, Sedona and The Grand Canyon

10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Despite being famous for having two active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, it’s unlikely they’ll erupt while you’re there. However if you’re lucky you might see a lava flow!

Things to do & see: 

  • Hiking Kīlauea and Mauna Loa
  • Napau Trail to Pu’u Huluhulu
  • Stay and eat at Volcano House
  • See the steam vents
  • Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Sunset at Halemaumau Crater

11. Acadia National Park, Maine

Perhaps more of a hidden gem, Arcadia isn’t full of mountains in the way other National Parks are. Think rugged green spaces and a great space to relax.

Things to do & see: 

  • Cadillac Mountain
  • Thunder Hole
  • Park Loop road
  • Jordan Pond
  • Bass Harbor Head Light
  • Sand Beach

12. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

This one is great for those of you who love climbing!

Things to do & see: 

  • Lakes: Dream, Nymph, Emerald, Bear, Haiyaha
  • Alberta Falls
  • Trail Ridge Road
  • Long Peak Campground
  • Forest Canyon Overlook
  • Hidden Valley
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Night Sky Festival
  • Full Moon guided walk
  • Snowshoeing
  • Continental Divide
A winter escape to Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado

13. Everglades National Park, Florida

One of the swampiest National Parks, but definitely worth visiting for the wildlife!

Things to do & see: 

  • Panthers, manatees, crocodiles, pelicans, eagles…
  • Corkscrew Swamp
  • Shark Valley panorama
  • Explore by boat
  • Diving, snorkelling
  • Wilderness Waterway
  • Hiking

14. Arches National Park, Utah

This park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, pinnacles that reach the stars, humongous rock fins and gigantic balanced rocks.

Things to do & see:

  • Arches Scenic Drive
  • Balanced Rock
  • Delicate Arch
  • Fiery Furnace
  • The Windows
  • Turret Arch
  • Devil’s Garden Trail
  • Stargazing at the Garden of Eden viewpoint
  • Panorama viewpoint

15. Glacier National Park, Montana

The name says it all here…

Things to do & see:

  • Hike some of the 700 miles of trails
  • Lake McDonald
  • Going to the sun Road
  • Wild Goose Island
  • Many Glacier & Swiftcurrent Lake
  • Apikuni Falls
  • Grinell Glacier
  • Lake Bowman
  • Avalanche Lake trail
  • Logan’s Pass
  • Hidden Lake Overlook
  • Rafting

Have you been to any USA National Parks?

What were your favourite trails? I’d love to know!

Love as always + happy adventuring,


Did you find this post helpful? I’d love you to share it for me.

I can’t do this without you.

Pin and save this blog post for later…

15 USA National Parks you must visit
15 USA National Parks you must visit




Shop the google map legends

Where's Mollie? newsletter