National Parks are federally protected landscapes that have been preserved for their exceptional beauty, ecological significance, and cultural heritage. We’ve been lucky to visit numerous national parks in the US, and we’ve always been blown away by their extraordinary landscape and grandiosity. Read through our extensive, experienced-based guides below to inspire and help you plan your own national park getaway.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the United States. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, the park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. But what really sets Yellowstone apart is its geothermal features, like Old Faithful, a geyser that “faithfully” erupts every 90 minutes. Visitors can explore the park’s many hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. Yellowstone also offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and fishing. For us, Yellowstone National Park is one of the most incredible places we’ve ever been in the US.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Grand Teton National Park, located in Wyoming, is a breathtaking gem of the US national park system. Named after the towering Grand Teton peak, the park is renowned for its dramatic mountain landscapes, pristine alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. The jagged Teton Range rises abruptly from the valley, providing a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who come to explore its numerous hiking trails.
UTAH’S MIGHTY 5
Utah’s Mighty 5 refers to the five stunning national parks located in southern Utah: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. Each park is unique and offers its own breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities. Zion National Park is known for its towering sandstone cliffs and stunning river hikes, while Bryce Canyon boasts a landscape of hoodoos and natural amphitheaters. Capitol Reef offers a glimpse into the geological history of the region, with its unique rock formations and ancient petroglyphs. Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural stone arches, while Canyonlands showcases the rugged beauty of the Colorado Plateau with its deep canyons and towering mesas. A popular road trip in the US is to do all five national parks in one long loop. For us, southern Utah and it’s five national parks is one of the most sublime and surreal places we’ve been to in the US.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Joshua Tree National Park, located in southern California, is renowned for its rugged rock formations, iconic Joshua trees, and its striking blend of the Colorado and Mojave Desert ecosystems. The park is a haven for rock climbers, stargazers, and those seeking solitude amidst the desert’s mysterious majesty. The night skies in Joshua Tree are exceptionally clear, making it a designated Dark Sky Park. We absolutely loved hopping around the massive white boulders and gazing at the gnarled Joshua Trees that look straight out of a Tim Burton movie. Our son still talks about Joshua Tree to this day and wants to go back!
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Glacier National Park, located in Montana, is a true wilderness wonderland. This park is a sanctuary for outdoor enthusiasts who come to explore its extensive network of hiking trails, where they might encounter grizzly bears, mountain goats, and other wildlife. The park is aptly named for its active glaciers, which, while receding due to climate change, remain breathtaking symbols of the park’s ecological significance. The park’s famous Going-to-the-Sun Road offers one of the most scenic (and nail-biting!) drives in the country, showcasing the dramatic terrain and panoramic vistas.
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
Shenandoah National Park, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, is a cherished gem in the U.S. national park system. Its incredible appeal lies in its rolling, forested hills, cascading waterfalls, sweeping views, and a section of the iconic Appalachian Trail. What sets Shenandoah apart is its accessibility for millions of Americans on the East Coast, making it a beloved retreat for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and those seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The park is exceptionally popular in the fall when the entire park is awash in autumn hues.