37 National Parks To Visit Before You Die

first_img From montemlife.com LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply 29. Grand Teton National ParkNestled in the Wyoming Rockies, Grand Teton National Park is one of the most picturesque parks in the country. A favorite of backpackers, Grand Teton not only features incredible trails and spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, it also hosts portions of the Snake River.Things to DoHikingCampingBirdwatchingRock climbingMountaineeringRaftingCanoeingBoatingHorseback ridingFishingWildlife viewingScenic drivesGuided hikesSkiingSnowshoeingWhen to VisitGrand Teton National Park is quite cold during the winter and often blanketed in a thick layer of snow, so the bulk of the tourist activity occurs in the Summer. However, for those interested in skiing or snowshoeing, the Winter is obviously the best time to visit. Note that some of the park’s roads are inaccessible in the Winter, and some of the services are unavailable outside of the Summer season.Getting AroundBecause the park is located more than 100 miles from any major urban center, you’ll have to drive quite a long distance to access the park. Unless that is, you want to fly into Jackson Hole Airport, which is actually located within the park’s borders. Always be sure to call ahead and inquire about road closures from October to April, when snow and ice may make roads impassable.NeighborhoodsAside from Yellowstone National Park, there are a number of other interesting places to visit during your trip to Grand Teton. Fossil Butte National Monument is one of the area’s highlights, and the National Elk Refugeis also nearby. There are also several National Forests in the region, including Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee.MapPhotos 18. Congaree National ParkLocated about 17 miles southwest of Columbia, South Carolina, Congaree National Park is one of the largest remaining tracts of old-growth bottomland hardwood forests in the United States. Full of remarkable flora and fauna, Congaree National Park is a great place to explore, and you can do so on foot or by canoe.Things to DoHikingCampingWildlife viewingBirdwatchingKayakingCanoeingFishingGuided hikesInterpretive programsWhen to VisitCongaree National Park is somewhat crowded during the Summer, and the temperatures are sweltering at this time of year anyway, so you’ll have a better time if you visit in the Spring or Fall. However, the park is open year-round, and there are also plenty of neat things to see in the winter.Getting AroundGetting to Congaree National Park is fairly simple, given its close location to the state capital, but there aren’t any shuttle services of bus routes that ferry passengers from the city to the park. Accordingly, you’ll want to drive your own car or rent one at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport to get around inside the park’s boundaries.NeighborhoodsThe city of Columbia hosts a number of different cultural, social and recreational attractions, including Riverbanks Zoo. Manchester State Forest, Lake Murray and Lake Marion are also quite close to the park and offer additional hiking, boating and fishing opportunities.MapPhotos 19. Big Bend National ParkDespite being one of the largest parks in the United States, Big Bend is one of the least-visited National Parks, which makes it a dream come true for outdoor enthusiasts who like to avoid crowds. Located along the northern boundary of the Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park provides a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities and plenty of amazing scenery.Things to DoHikingCampingWildlife viewingBirdwatchingFishingScenic drivesStargazingInterpretive tours, classes and programsMountain bikingRaftingWhen to VisitLike Everglades National Park and several others located in the southern portion of the United States, Big Bend National Park is most hospitable during the cooler portions of the year. Anytime from October through April will work very well, but you can also visit the park during the early Summer if you aren’t afraid of high temperatures. Just avoid visiting in July, when the bulk of the rains occur.Getting AroundBig Ben National Park is relatively remote, and it is located right along the US-Mexico border. The closest major US cities are El Paso, which is about 300 miles to the northwest and San Antonio, which is about 400 miles to the east. You’ll have to drive to the park with your own vehicle, and because there is no public transportation inside the park, you’ll need to drive yourself around inside too.NeighborhoodsThere aren’t many things to do around Big Bend National Park (its isolation is, after all, part of its appeal), but you can visit Big Bend Ranch State Park, which is adjacent to the National Park.MapPhotos 20. Canyonlands National ParkCanyonlands National Park has, as you may expect given its name, some of the most beautiful and numerous canyons in the country. Most of the canyons have been cut by the Colorado and Green Rivers, as they meander across the Colorado Plateau.Things to DoHikingCampingMountain bikingFour-wheelingHorseback ridingRock climbingScenic drivesStargazingInterpretive hikes and programsBoating and raftingWhen to VisitBecause the Summers are hot, and the Winters are somewhat cold, the best times to visit Canyonlands National Park are the Spring and Fall. However, those who are interested in avoiding crowds may prefer visiting in the Winter, but be sure that you check for road closures and you are ready to deal with trail closures and icy conditions.Getting AroundYou’ll have to drive to Canyonlands National Park, as there is no public transportation to help you get there. You’ll also have to drive yourself around once inside the park, as there is no shuttle service. Note that the park has three different entrances, which are not connected inside the park; therefore, you’ll have to pick the entrance you use carefully to ensure you reach your intended destination.NeighborhoodsLike many of the other National Parks in Utah and the surrounding states, Canyonlands National Park is in a pretty isolated area. Grand Junction, Colorado and Salt Lake City are the only two major cities in the vicinity, and they are 120 and 240 miles away respectively. However, Arches National Park is quite close to Canyonlands and can be reached in less than ½ hour by car.MapPhotos 21. Death Valley National ParkLocated along the Nevada-California border, Death Valley National Park is nestled between the Mojave Desert (which lies to the south) and the Great Basin (which lies to the north). Death Valley National Park is a place like nowhere else and represents the hottest, driest and lowest National Park. However, despite the harsh climate of the area, the park is home to a surprisingly diverse assortment of plants and animals, making it a nature lover’s paradise.Things to DoHikingCampingWildlife viewingBirdwatchingStargazingInterpretive hikes and programsScenic drivesMountain bikingWhen to VisitYou can visit Death Valley National Park in the Summer, but most visitors will find it unbearably hot. Instead, most people will have a better time visiting the park in the early Winter or the late Spring. The Spring often offers visitors the chance to see the region’s beautiful wildflowers.Getting AroundMost people reach Death Valley National Park by car, but there are a few small, private airports in the vicinity if you are inclined to fly in. You’ll have to drive yourself around the park, as there is no shuttle service or public transportation.NeighborhoodsThe Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia & Kings National Parks are pretty close to Death Valley National Park, but because of the convoluted route you must take to travel between these locations, it will take 5 to 6 hours to complete the journey. Las Vegas is about 140 miles east of Death Valley National Park, so you may want to plan on leaving a day for the casinos and shows after your trip concludes.MapPhotos 22. Mount Rainier National ParkAlthough Mount Rainier National Park is home to several different habitats and hosts an impressive array of plants and wildlife, it is the park’s namesake volcano that attracts most of the attention. The most glaciated mountain peak in the lower 48 states, Mount Rainier is an impressive – and slightly imposing – sight that all outdoor enthusiasts should see in person.Things to DoRock climbingCampingHikingBicyclingWildlife viewingBirdwatchingFishingBoating and raftingInterpretive tours, hikes and programsWhen to VisitTo avoid the rain and enjoy the best possible weather, you’ll want to visit Mount Rainier between late April and early October. The park is open all year long, but many of the roads in the park close during this time of year. It can also be rather cold and wet during the Winter – especially as you head higher in elevation. However, the park is busiest during the Summer, and you’ll need to arrive or depart during the middle of the week to avoid big crowds.Getting AroundMost people travel by car to Mount Rainier National Park, but there are three semi-local airports (ranging between 80 and 140 miles of the park). There is no shuttle service or public transportation inside the park. Parking is often very difficult to find during Summer weekends, so visitors are encouraged to visit during the week.NeighborhoodsThere are plenty of things to do around Mount Rainier National Park. Seattle is only 90 minutes away by car, and three different National Forests – Gifford Pinochet, Olympic and Wenatchee – are also located in the same general area. Olympic National Park is a little bit farther away, but it is still close enough to warrant consideration.MapPhotos 23. Shenandoah National ParkLocated within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park offers a unique combination of wilderness areas (which comprise about 40% of the park’s land area) and Skyline Drive – a scenic route that passes through the region and offers some of the best views on the east coast of the United States.Things to DoHikingCampingBirdwatchingWildlife viewingInterpretive hikes and toursFishingBicyclingExhibit visitingScenic drivesPhotographyWhen to VisitShenandoah National Park is famous for its fall foliage, so many visitors prefer to visit between September and November. Fall also provides great weather and wildlife-viewing opportunities, although the Spring is another good time to head to the park. However, the park is open year-round and you can still have a great trip during the Summer or Winter if you plan for the weather.Getting AroundYou can travel to the park via car or if you are traveling from a great distance, plane. Four airports – Washington Dulles International, Reagan National, Shenandoah Valley Regional and Charlottesville-Albemarle – are all within driving distance of the park.NeighborhoodsA mere 70 miles from Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is surrounded by interesting locations. The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest lie directly to the west and south, while the Monongahela National Forest is only a little farther away.MapPhotos 24. Theodore Roosevelt National ParkNamed after conservation pioneer and former president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, this park is located in the Badlands of North Dakota. Characterized by gorgeous buttes and rock formations, sprawling prairies and cottonwood forests, Theodore Roosevelt National Park gives visitors a chance to experience spectacular scenery and see elk, bison and feral horses up close.Things to DoHikingCampingBicyclingKayakingCanoeingSkiing and SnowshoeingHorseback ridingFishingWildlife viewingWhen to VisitYou can visit the park 365 days a year, but it is understandably difficult to do so during some portions of the Winter. Additionally, several portions of the park may be closed if they become snow-covered or icy (and some of the services may be disrupted too). Summer and early Fall are generally the most enjoyable times to visit the park.Getting AroundTheodore Roosevelt National Park is rather remote, so you’ll need to fly into Bismarck Airport and rent a car, or simply drive all the way from your home. Once at the park, you can explore via bicycle if you like, but you’ll cover much more ground and be able to enjoy more scenery by car. There is no shuttle service or public transportation available inside the park’s boundaries.NeighborhoodsThere aren’t many attractions or points of interest near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. However, there are four different Indian Reservations – including the Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Fort Berthold and Fort Peck Reservations – within a 3-hour car ride.MapPhotos 25. Kings Canyon National ParkKings Canyon is located adjacent to Sequoia National Park, which lies to its north. While they are separate parks, they are often discussed and treated as a combined entity (the National Park Service even uses a single web page for both parks). However, true outdoor enthusiasts will certainly want to visit both parks and investigate the subtle differences between the two.Things to DoHikingCampingFishingHorseback ridingScenic drivesRock climbingPicnickingSkiingPhotographyBirdwatchingWildlife viewingWhen to VisitEarly Fall is likely the best time to visit Kings Canyon National Park, as the crowds are slightly smaller than during the Summer, yet the temperatures are still quite comfortable. You can visit the park in the Winter, but note that some of the roads and park sections may be closed in inclement weather.Getting AroundThere are a variety of ways to get to Kings Canyon National Park. Local residents can easily drive from Los Angeles, San Jose or Las Vegas, and several shuttle and bus services travel to the park (several also provide scenic tours inside the park). Note that some shuttles and buses only operate during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons.NeighborhoodsAside from Sequoia National Park, there are a number of other interesting locations to check out when visiting Kings Canyon. National Forests lie to the North and the South, while Death Valley National Park is located to the east. However, because you’ll have to navigate lengthy mountain passages, it will take you about 6 hours to reach Death Valley by car.MapPhotos 26. Mammoth Cave National ParkIf you want to check out the world’s longest known cave system, you’ll need to head to central Kentucky, where you can explore a portion of the 400-mile-long system at the heart of Mammoth Cave National Park. But Mammoth Cave National Park is not only home to this impressive cave complex, and there are a variety of other activities to enjoy while visiting.Things to DoCave toursBicyclingHikingCampingCanoeingKayakingFishingBirdwatchingGuided nature hikesWhen to VisitSpring is generally considered the best time to visit Mammoth Cave National Park, as the temperatures are pleasantly warm, and the wildflowers are in bloom. Additionally, by visiting in the Spring, you’ll arrive before the big Summer crowds show up. Note that while the internal cave temperatures are about 54 degrees year-round, the park does get its share of snow and ice in the winter, which can cause the closure of roads and the cancellation of activities.Getting AroundAlthough it is surrounded by miles of natural habitat, Mammoth Cave National Park is pretty easy to access by car or airplane. It is only located about 20 miles or so from Bowling Green and 90 miles from Nashville, Tennessee, so there are multiple ways to reach the park. There are a variety of roads, trails and paths to help you navigate between the different areas of the park; there’s even a ferry service that will allow you to get your car across the Green River, which flows through the park.NeighborhoodsIf Mammoth Cave National Park doesn’t scratch your spelunking itch, you can visit several other caves in the region, including Outlaw Cave, Cub Run Cave and Diamond Caverns Cave, among others. Nolin Lake and Nolin Lake State Park are just a hop, skip and jump to the northwest, and offer fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities.MapPhotos 27. Great Sand Dunes National ParkYou may think that a park named Great Sand Dunes National Park was surrounded by miles of relatively featureless landscapes, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In actuality, the parks 107,000 acres contain a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, alpine lakes, and tundra. Nevertheless, the park’s 700-foot-tall sand dunes – the largest in the world – are undoubtedly the greatest draw.Things to DoHikingCampingBirdwatchingSandboardingSand sleddingCreek wadingStargazingPhotographyHorseback ridingFat bikingFishingHuntingWhen to VisitEarly May is generally considered the best time to visit the park, as the rivers begin to swell from the melting ice of the mountains. Summer and Fall visits can also be enjoyable, as long as the winds are relatively calm. Relatively few visitors are willing to brave the cold Winter temperatures of the region, but this is a great time for solitude-seekers to visit.Getting AroundLocated about two hours away from Pueblo by car, Great Sand Dunes National Park is easier to access than most people would think. There are a variety of highways in the vicinity, making the park easy to reach by car, and you can also fly into a small airport in Alamosa, which is located about 38 miles from the park. Do be careful to watch your fuel, as there aren’t many gas stations around the park.NeighborhoodsThere are a number of different cultural, social and environmental attractions near Great Sand Dunes National Park. Zapata Falls is nearby (and the trailhead leading to the falls actually offers a great view of the dunes), while Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center is also very close to the park. There are also three different National Wildlife Refuges – Baca, Alamosa and Monte Vista – in the vicinity of the park, as well as a few private bison ranches.MapPhotos 28. Crater Lake National ParkCrater Lake National Park actually encompasses 183,000 acres of habitat, but the nearly 2,000-foot-deep lake (the deepest in the country) for which the park is named is the centerpiece of the region and the primary tourist attraction. Formed about 7,700 years ago when a violent eruption caused the peak Mount Mazama to collapse, Crater Lake is an incredible sight to behold.Things to DoHikingCampingBirdwatchingPhotographySnowshoeingFishingSwimmingBoat toursWhen to VisitThe region around Crater Lake can receive more than 500 inches of snow in a year, so most people will have more fun visiting the park in the late Spring through early Fall. In fact, the Rim Trail is only completely open during the Summer months in most years. Note that the lake is not always visible, due to the clouds that frequently occur at the top of the peak. Accordingly, you’ll want to call ahead before making the trek to the park and inquire about the current visibility.Getting AroundYou can reach Crater Lake National Park by car, but you needn’t drive all the way from home — you can fly into airports in nearby Klamath Falls or Medford, and then rent a car for the remainder of your journey. However, there are no public transportation services operating in or around the park.NeighborhoodsThere are a number of interesting attractions around Crater Lake National Park, including the Umpqua National Forest, Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and the Winema National Forest, among others. Upper Klamath Lake, Diamond Lake and Summer Lake are also relatively close to the park and offer aquatic recreation opportunities.MapPhotos Please enter your name here 37. Great Basin National ParkGreat Basin National Park is a 77,000-acre protected region that is located in eastern Nevada, about 10 miles from the Utah state line. Part of the Great Basin, a hot, dry area located between the Sierra Nevadas and the Wasatch Mountains, the park is actually comprised of several different habitats, including mountains, deserts and sage-covered foothills.Things to DoHikingCampingStargazingScenic drivesBirdwatchingSpelunkingRock climbingFishingHorseback ridingFishingPicnickingPine nut gatheringWhen to VisitSummer is generally the best time to visit Great Basin National Park as the night temperatures are warm enough to allow for stargazing (the park is considered one of the best places in North America to view the Milky Way). However, the Fall also offers comfortable temperatures and gives you the chance to see the beautiful aspen forest in all of its Autumn splendor. However, the park (or portions thereof) is open year-round, and it provides more solitude and a chance to appreciate the snow-covered backdrop.Getting AroundGreat Basin National Park is fairly remote, so there are limited options for reaching the park. The closest airport is more than 140 miles away and rental cars are not available at the location, so you’ll have to drive your own car to the park. Additionally, you’ll need your car to get around inside, as there are no public transportation options available.NeighborhoodsThere aren’t many things to do near Great Basin National Park. Fishlake National Forest is the closest federally-managed area to the park, but it is about 175 miles away by car.MapPhotos 34. Pinnacles National ParkOne of the many National Parks in the state of California, Pinnacles National Park is a unique landscape, formed in part by the explosion of a now-extinct volcano. But aside from the unique geology and rock formations of the region, the park is also home to an assortment of beautiful flowers and birds — including the California condor.Things to DoHikingBirdwatchingWildlife viewingCampingRock climbingGuided hikesInterpretive programsCave explorationPhotographyWhen to VisitBecause the temperatures are relatively mild, and the wildflowers are typically blooming, March and April are the two best months to visit the park. However, these months are often extremely crowded, especially during the weekends. Fortunately, the park is open year-round, and you can still enjoy a great visit during the Summer, Fall or Winter.Getting AroundBecause Pinnacles National Park is only about 120 miles from Fresno, it is relatively easy to get yourself to the park. There are two entrances to the park – one located on the eastern side, while the other is located on the western side. However, the roads leading from each entrance fail to meet, so you cannot drive from one side of the park to the other. However, there are foot trails in the park which connect the two sides. Shuttle services are available in the east side of the park.NeighborhoodsThere are a number of interesting things to do and see in the vicinity of Pinnacles National Park. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is located to the southwest of the park, and Henry W. Coe State Park is located to the north. You could also check out Monterey Bay Aquarium – located about 60 miles away — after leaving Pinnacles National Park.MapPhotos 33. Denali National ParkHome to the tallest mountain in North America, Denali National Park is comprised of over 6 million acres of forests, tundra and alpine habitat. A four-hour car ride north of Anchorage, Denali is located in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness and provides visitors with the chance to check out amazing scenery and an abundance of wildlife.Things to DoHikingBicyclingCampingWildlife viewingBirdwatchingPhotographyInterpretive programsGuided hikesFlightseeingWhen to VisitBecause the Fall foliage in Denali is often quite beautiful, early September is probably the very best time to visit the park. However, there are also plenty of great things to see and do in the late Spring and throughout the Summer. Winter weather typically leads to road closures service limitations. The park recommends calling ahead to find out about the local weather and road conditions.Getting AroundThe best way to reach Denali is by flying into Anchorage and then drive the remaining way. However, you can also take a train (Alaska’s state-run train travels right through the park entrance) or fly into the park. There is only one road in the park, which commonly closes during the winter when snow and ice render it impassable.NeighborhoodsBecause it is located in a rather remote location, there aren’t many things to see or do in the vicinity of Denali. The Nelchina Public Use Area and the Tanana Valley State Forest are reasonably close to the park, but they’ll still require great effort to reach from Denali.MapPhotos ***Remember to contact any National Park before planning your trip to familiarize yourself with the rules, regulations and current weather conditions, which may cause roads, entrances and attractions to be closed. This will help you avoid last-minute problems and ensure that you have the best trip possible.We’ve undoubtedly left off a few favorites, so be sure to let us know your favorite National Park in the comments below. Tell us where it is, what you like about it, and – most importantly – why it is one of the most important parks to visit before you die. You have entered an incorrect email address! Please enter your email address here Please enter your comment! 32. Saguaro National ParkNamed after the largest cacti in the country, Saguaro National Park is actually a split-location park that covers an area of about 92,000 acres. One portion of the park – known as the Tuscan Mountain District – is located about 10 miles to the west of Tucson, while the other portion – known as the Rincon Mountain District – is located on the opposite side of the city. The two portions of the park exhibit a number of differences in geology, habitats and wildlife, so it is worth the effort to visit both sides of the park.Things to DoHikingCamping (Rincon Mountain District only)PhotographyWildlife viewingBirdwatchingInterpretive programsGuided hikesWhen to VisitSaguaro National Park is open all year long, but the best time to visit is during the relatively cool and comfortable Winter season. If you plan to visit during the Summer, try to arrive and plan the bulk of your activities for the early morning or late afternoon, when the temperatures are relatively low. Note that the number of interpretive programs and hikes decreases during the height of the Summer.Getting AroundBecause both portions of the park are located within about 10 miles of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is one of the easier National Parks to visit. You can get to Tucson via car, bus, train or plane, and then travel to the park via taxi, rented car or bicycle.NeighborhoodsIn addition to all of the cultural and social points of interest in nearby Tucson, there are a number of nature-oriented attractions within driving distance of Saguaro National Park. The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and Coronado National Forest are both found south of the city, and several mountains – including Mount Graham, Kitt Peak and Mica Mountain – are also located in the area.MapPhotos Looking at those photos… those are the places I would love to be, right now as I type. Breathtakingly beautiful, and worth every penny of the admission price. Really wish I could visit them soon, but probably will have to settle for “stuck here in dullsville”………. Although any camping or hiking trip can be fun if are well prepared and travel with good friends or family, you’ll have an even better time if you visit one of the country’s best National Parks. But with nearly 60 to choose from, you may need a little help choosing the best destination.But we’re here to help! We’ve detailed 37 of the best National Parks in the United States, including a few parks in Hawaii and Alaska for those who want to enjoy the most distant parts of the US. This should help you compare and contrast some of the better locations to visit and make the most of your trip.Note that these are not listed in any particular order – we want to share the 37 best National Parks, but we’ll leave it to our readers to rank them.1. Yellowstone National ParkYellowstone National Park is one of the world’s most famous and best-known parks. Given the park’s remarkable scenery, wildlife-rich habitats and unique attractions – including geysers and mudpots, among other things – it is easy to see why it is so popular. Stretching across three different states (Montana, Wyoming and Idaho), Yellowstone National Park takes up nearly 3,500 square miles.Things to DoCampingBicyclingBoatingFishingChildren’s activitiesHorseback ridingSnowmobilingBird and wildlife watchingSkiingWhen to VisitThe summer months of July and August are easily the best times to visit the park, as all of the attractions and services are available at this time. You can visit the park at other times of the year, but will not be able to enjoy all of the various activities available during the summer – some areas of the park are completely inaccessible during the winter.Getting AroundThere are a number of gates through which you can access the park and several roads that crisscross the interior and provide access to the various attractions and features. However, many of the gates and are closed during the winter, and it can take hours to drive from one gate to the next via external roads. The North Entrance (Gardiner) is the only gate kept open year-round.NeighborhoodsGiven Yellowstone’s size, there are a number of nearby attractions that you can check out, including other National Parks and National Forest areas, as well as the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, the Homesteader Museum and the International Federation of Fly Fishers’ Museum.MapPhotos 2. Redwood National ParkNamed for the incredible trees (which are the world’s tallest) common to the region, Redwood National Park is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring locations. Located about 300 miles north of San Francisco, the park is home to more than just beautiful trees; picturesque prairies, rivers, forests and about 40 miles of coastline are all found within the park’s borders.Things to DoScenic drivesCampingInterpretive toursHikingGuided hikesBird- and wildlife-watchingBicyclingWhen to VisitDespite being located in the Sunshine State, the temperatures at Redwood National Park are surprisingly cool. Accordingly, the best time to visit the park is during the late summer and early fall, from June to September.Getting AroundRedwood National Park is one of the more accessible parks in the country. You can get there by car or via any of several local airports. There are even public transportation options for those who’d like to kick back and be chauffeured to the park.NeighborhoodsThere are a number of other National and State Parks in the vicinity of Redwood National Park, including Crater Lake (detailed below), Lassen Volcanic and the Lava Beds National Monument. You can also visit the Oregon Caves National Monument, just across the California-Oregon state line.MapPhotos 3. Sequoia National ParkWhile redwoods may be the world’s tallest trees, sequoias – for which the park is named — are the world’s most massive (and they aren’t exactly short either). Often referred to as Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks based on their close proximity to each other, these parks sit side-by-side near the southern end of the Sierra Nevadas.Things to DoDay hikingCampingBackpackingSpelunkingSkiingRock climbingHorseback ridingPicnickingInterpretive tours and presentationsWhen to VisitSome parts of Sequoia National Park are closed in the winter, although there are still several fun things to do at all points of the year. The entire late-spring through early-fall season provides the best temperatures, but go in the fall to avoid the biggest crowds. Note that this park contains almost 10,000 feet of elevation change, so you’ll not only need to consider the weather during your trip but the precise location and elevation in which you plan to hang out.Getting AroundSequoia National Park is easily accessible via car, and you can use your own car or the park’s shuttle service once you are inside. However, it is important to note that approximately 95% of the park is comprised of wilderness areas, which are not accessible via car.NeighborhoodsThere are a variety of nearby attractions and points of interest near Sequoia National Park. Obviously, Kings Canyon National Park (detailed below) is very close, and both the Sequoia and Sierra Nevada National Forests border the park, and Cedar Grove and Mineral King Valley are also very close to the park.MapPhotos 4. Grand Canyon National ParkNamed for the 277-mile-long river canyon that serves as the park’s premier attraction, Grand Canyon National Park is a beautiful park that encompasses nearly 2,000 square miles and attracts about 6 million visitors each year. One of the most beautiful places in the world (it is considered one of the Wonders of the World), Grand Canyon National Park should be at the top of every outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list.Things to DoHikingCampingInterpretive hikes and trailsBicyclingBus toursScenic drivesTusayan MuseumWhitewater raftingPhotographyMule tripsWhen to VisitBecause Grand Canyon National Park is such a popular destination, it remains very crowded during most of the Spring, Summer and Fall. Accordingly, the period between November and February is the best time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds. However, it is important to understand that while you can visit the park’s South Rim all year long, the North Rim closes during the winter.Getting AroundGrand Canyon National Park is accessible via car (although you can also fly into nearby Flagstaff and then head to the park with a rental car). The North Rim is accessible via Arizona State Route 67, while the South Rim is located near Arizona State Route 64. A shuttle service is also available to allow you to move between various places inside the park.South Rim MapNorth Rim MapPhotos 5. Yosemite National ParkLocated in the western Sierra Nevadas, Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the entire country. Full of granite outcroppings, crystal-clear streams and giant sequoias, this park is a nature-lovers dream come true. Noted for its incredible biological diversity, the park is home to nearly 1 in 5 plant species native to the state, including 160 species that are considered rare.Things to DoCampingHikingGuided toursScenic drivesBicyclingBirdwatchingFishingHorseback ridingRock climbingPicnickingRaftingSwimmingSkiingWhen to VisitLate summer and early fall are the best times to visit the park, as this is when the most attractions are open and most services available. However, this is also the busiest time of year for the park, so crowd-averse travelers may want to visit in the Winter or early Spring instead.Getting AroundYou can reach the park and access most of the attractions and points of interest by car. However, the park becomes very crowded during the late summer, and traffic jams are common. Additionally, it can be very difficult to find parking during busy times, so visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the park’s shuttle service.NeighborhoodsThere aren’t a huge number of attractions in the vicinity of Yosemite, but Lake Tahoe lies to the north of the park and the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are found to the south.MapPhotos 6. Hawai’i Volcanoes National ParkIf you want your outdoor adventures to provide plenty of excitement, then you’ll want to make sure you visit Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park. Home to two active volcanoes (Kīlauea and Mauna Loa), this park provides some of the most remarkable and unusual vistas and landscapes of any park in the world.Things to DoHikingBirdwatchingSightseeingJaggar MuseumInterpretive hikes and presentationsCampingBicyclingScenic driving toursAfter Dark in the Park speaking presentationsWhen to VisitYou can enjoy great weather year-round in Hawaii, although it rains more in the winter than in the summer. Nevertheless, the spring and fall are the best seasons to plan your visit, as the crowds are smaller.Getting AroundYou’ll have to get to the island of Hawai‘I by plane or boat, but once there, you can rent a car and drive to the park. You can also take advantage of public buses and shuttles, or rent a bicycle or motorcycle outside the park (none are made available for rent inside the park’s borders) to explore and get around.MapPhotos 7. Carlsbad Caverns National ParkCarlsbad Caverns National Park is located in southeastern New Mexico, in part of the Chihuahuan Desert. And while the park is home to abundant wildlife, beautiful geological formations and plenty of interesting desert plants, its claim to fame – a network of 119 caves – lies below the surface. Many of these caves are somewhat small, but the park’s main attraction is a 4,000-foot-long chamber, appropriately called “The Big Room.”Things to DoCave touringHikingWildlife viewingPhotographyBirdwatchingStargazingBat-flight viewingWhen to VisitBecause it is such a family-friendly attraction, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is very crowded during the Summer months, when kids are on vacation. September is probably the best time to visit the park, as the crowds will be relatively thin, yet the bats will not yet have become dormant for the winter, which means you’ll still be able to see the bats emerge from the caves at night. Nevertheless, the park is open year-round, except for a few key holidays.Getting AroundIf you are traveling from a great distance, you’ll probably want to fly into the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico or El Paso, Texas. From either of these locations, you can rent a car to reach the park; Carlsbad is about 20 miles from the park, while El Paso is about 145 miles away. You can hike into the cave yourself, or you can ride down into the underground labyrinth of caves via an elevator that is located in the visitor center.NeighborhoodsCarlsbad Caverns National Park is somewhat isolated, but there are a few local points of interest that deserve your attention. Three different Wilderness Study Areas are close to the park, including Brokeoff Mountain, Devils Den Canyon and Lonesome Ridge. If you are interested in crossing the border into Texas, you can check out the Guadeloupe Mountains National Park.MapPhotos 8. Rocky Mountain National ParkThe Rocky Mountains are clearly one of the most amazing natural features in the US, so Rocky Mountain National Park should certainly be on every outdoor enthusiast’s list of must-visit locations. This 415-square-mile park provides visitors with a variety of things to see and do, including more than 300 miles of hiking trails, dozens of breathtaking vistas and some of the best stargazing opportunities on the planet.Things to DoHikingCampingStargazingScenic drivesWildlife watchingBicyclingPhotographyInterpretive hikes and toursPicnickingFishingHorseback ridingWhen to VisitRocky Mountain National Park is open all year long, and there are plenty of reasons to visit during all four seasons. However, because winter weather may lead to road closures, it is probably easiest to visit in the Spring or Fall; the crowds are largest during the Summer.Getting AroundLocated in North Central Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is easily accessed by car or public transportation. You can also fly into Denver if you like, and then rent a car to complete the journey. Once inside the park, you can take advantage of several shuttle bus services to get from place to place. You can also walk, drive or bike through the park’s borders. Just note that some local and park roads may be closed during the Winter, so be sure to review the park’s website before visiting.NeighborhoodsRocky Mountain National Park isn’t terribly remote, so there are plenty of places to visit before or after checking out the park. The town of Estes Park lies to the east of the park and serves as the “gateway” to the mountains, while the town of Grand Lake lies to the town’s west, and serves a similar purpose. The cities of Boulder and Denver are within a short drive of the park, as are too many national forests and state parks to count.MapPhotos 9. Zion National ParkLike many of the other National Parks in the American West, Zion National Park is characterized by gorgeous landscapes and impressive geological features. However, because this park is situated at the junction of three different ecosystems (the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert), it also boasts very impressive and diverse flora and fauna.Things to DoCampingHikingBirdwatchingRock climbingCanyoneeringBicyclingHorseback ridingRiver raftingStargazingInterpretive programsGuided hikesWhen to VisitLocal temperatures can be a bit warm for many adventurers in the Summer, so the best times to visit Zion National Park are Spring and Fall. Note that the shuttle service is only active from April through October, so be sure to time your trip carefully if you’ll be depending on the shuttle to get around inside the park.Getting AroundYou can reach Zion National Park by car, although you could also fly into Las Vegas and then rent a car to get to the park (Las Vegas is approximately 160 miles from Zion National Park). You can drive, walk or bicycle around the park, or you can take advantage of the shuttle service that operates within the park’s boundaries.NeighborhoodsPart of the southwestern U.S.’s “Grand Circle,” Zion National Park is close to several other interesting and beautiful attractions, including Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Grand Canyon National Park, among others.MapPhotos 10. Great Smoky Mountains National ParkThe Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the United States, and approximately 11 million people enjoy the park every year. Situated along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, the park is primarily comprised of wooded mountains and valleys, which seem to stretch to the horizon. In addition to the plentiful wildlife and unique plant life of the region, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also home to a number of cultural and historical features.Things to DoHikingCampingScenic drivesWildlife viewingBirdwatchingBicyclingFishingInterpretive programsGuided hikesHorseback ridingHistoric building activitiesWhen to VisitGreat Smoky Mountains National Park is open year-round. The park’s southern location means that the Winters aren’t as harsh as they are in many other parks, but the summer can be quite warm – especially during the mid-afternoon. Spring and Fall both offer excellent weather and plenty of scenic beauty (you can check out the forest flowers in the Spring, or the Fall foliage in the Autumn), and the park is less crowded at these times than it is during the Summer.Getting AroundLocated in the heart of the American Southeast, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is within driving distance of Asheville, North Carolina; Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee; and Greenville, South Carolina. So, you can fly into any of these cities and then rent a car to complete the trip. You could even fly into Atlanta, Georgia, which is only about a 3-hour drive from the park.NeighborhoodsIn addition to all of the cities that are close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are also a number of State Parks and the Nantahala National Forest. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are also located just outside the park’s borders, and they offer a wealth of fun and interesting tourist attractions.MapPhotos 11. Arches National ParkIf unique and impressive geological features appeal to you, then Arches National Park is certainly a place you’ll want to visit. Home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches (including the 60-foot-tall Delicate Arch, pictured above), Arches National Park offers a litany of opportunities to take the photograph of a lifetime.Things to DoScenic drivesHikingCampingCanyoneeringHorseback ridingInterpretive toursGuided hikesPhotographyRock climbingStargazingCommercial toursWhen to VisitArches National Park is open all year long, but most of the visitors travel to the park during the late Spring and early Fall. Accordingly, you may want to visit during the Summer or Winter if you want to avoid the crowds. Just be sure to dress properly; the park is quite warm in the Summer, and the Winter can be very chilly.Getting AroundYou can drive to Arches National Park or fly into Canyonland Field Airport, located only 11 miles from the park’s entrance. There are also several shuttle services operating out of nearby cities, and you can even travel to Green River, Utah by train, before hopping on a shuttle or renting a car to complete your journey.NeighborhoodsArches National Park is surrounded by other National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests and National Conservation Areas. Although there aren’t many attractions to the park’s north, you can head in almost any other direction to reach other attractions. Canyonlands National Park – located to the southwest – and McInnis Canyon National Conservation area – located to the northeast – are the two closest points of interest.MapPhotos 12. Joshua Tree National ParkOne of the country’s youngest National Parks, Joshua Tree National Park is comprised of about 1,200 square miles of beautiful desert habitat. Named for the numerous yucca plants (which are not technically “trees”) that call the park home, Joshua Tree National Park encompasses the boundaries of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts, which are surprisingly distinct and different ecosystems.Things to DoHikingCampingWildlife viewingStargazingBirdwatchingPhotographyRock ClimbingWildflower viewingMountain bikingGeology toursHorseback ridingGuided toursWhen to VisitJoshua Tree National Park is open all year long, but most visitors will enjoy visiting in the Spring when the desert wildflowers bloom and the temperatures are mild. Crowd-averse travelers, however, may prefer visiting in the Winter. The Summer can also be a good time to check out the park, just be sure to prepare yourself for the desert’s hot temperatures.Getting AroundDespite being located in Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is actually a pretty remote location. The closest major city is Los Angeles, which is located about 140 miles to the west, and the closest airport is located in Palm Springs. There is no public transportation available inside the park, so you’ll want to prepare accordingly. The park cautions visitors not to use GPS devices to navigate, as they frequently route visitors into unsafe or impassable areas.NeighborhoodsThere aren’t very many attractions near Joshua Tree National Park, but you can visit the nearby Sheephole Valley Wilderness or head south to check out the Salton Sea. However, if you are a music and festival fan, you may want to time your trip to coincide with Coachella – an annual music festival located in the nearby Coachella Valley.MapPhotos 13. Olympic National ParkOlympic National Park is one of the most diverse parks in the country, and it provides visitors with the chance to explore habitats ranging from temperate rainforests to rugged coastline to snow-capped mountains. Encompassing nearly 1 million acres, this is a large park that has something for just about everyone.Things to DoBackpackingHikingCampingFishingBirdwatchingWildlife viewingBoatingInterpretive hikes and toursSkiingSnowshoeingRock climbingMountaineeringPhotographyWhen to VisitThe Summer months provide drier weather, so most visitors travel to the park between April and September. However, the park is open year-round, and there are interesting things to see during all seasons. If you are primarily interested in wildlife-viewing opportunities, plan your trip for the late Spring.Getting AroundYou can easily reach Olympic National Park via car or by flying into Seattle. Most areas of the park are accessible via Highway 101, but there are also a number of shuttles and ferries that provide transportation around the peninsula.NeighborhoodsLocated about 110 miles from Seattle, Olympic National Park is within a two-hour drive of hundreds of cultural and social points of interest, including museums, art exhibits and more. Also, the Olympic National Forest borders the park’s southeastern boundary.MapPhotos 14. Everglades National ParkThe third largest park in the lower 48 (and the largest tropical wilderness in the country), Everglades National Park covers approximately 2400 square miles. The park hosts a variety of rare plants and wildlife, including the American crocodile and the Florida panther. About 1 million people visit the park each year and enjoy the unique and ecologically important habitats within the park’s boundaries.Things to DoHikingCampingBirdwatchingBicyclingCanoeingKayakingFishingPhotographyBoatingGeocachingWhen to VisitYou can visit the Everglades National Park at any time of year, but most visitors enjoy exploring the park during the dry and mild Winter season. The temperatures are still very warm relative to the Winter temperatures in other parks, and you’ll find the local mosquito populations are at their lowest during the time between December and April.Getting AroundYou can reach the Everglades National Park by car from either Miami or the Florida Keys. There are three entrances to the park, but they are not interconnected, so you’ll need to plan your trip carefully. There is no shuttle service or public transportation inside the park, and the various points of interest are pretty far from each other, so you’ll need a car to get around once you are inside.NeighborhoodsMiami is only about one hour away from the park, but there aren’t many other attractions close to the park. However, Miami offers plenty of cultural and social attractions, which you may want to consider checking out during your vacation.MapPhotos 15. Glacier National ParkLocated in northern Montana, Glacier National Park plays a special role in the freshwater ecosystems of North America: It is home to the headwaters of streams that flow into the Pacific, Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico – nearly 2,000 miles away.Things to DoCampingGuided hikesHikingRanger-led activitiesPhotographyHorseback ridingFishingSkiingBoatingWhen to VisitAs with most other northern parks, the best time to visit Glacier National Park is in the summertime, from May to September. However, you can visit the park at any time of year. Winter visitors, however, must be experienced and prepared to deal with the challenges posed by the weather.Getting AroundYou can drive around inside the park during the summer, but many of the roads experience closures during the winter. Make sure you have a full tank of gas, though, as there are no fueling stations within the park’s boundaries. There are also shuttle services, which make it easier to get around in the park.Note that because invasive mussel species were recently detected in central Montana, the park has restricted all motorized and trailered watercraft.NeighborhoodsThere are a number of other parks and attractions in the vicinity of Glacier National Park, including Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Flathead National Forest and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.MapPhotos 16. Glacier Bay National ParkNot to be confused with Glacier National Park, Glacier Bay National Park is located in southeastern Alaska along the state’s lengthy Pacific coast. Home to a variety of different landforms and habitats, this 3.3 million-acre park and nature preserve offers visitors a chance to enjoy mountains, fjords, temperature rainforests and glaciers.Things to DoCampingHikingBackpackingKayakingRaftingMountaineeringGuided hikes and boat ridesBirdwatchingSportfishingWhen to VisitGlacier Bay National Park is open year-round, but you’ll have more opportunities to enjoy park services between May and early September when the temperatures are most comfortable.Getting AroundYou’ll have to hop on a plane or boat to reach Glacier Bay National Park, as there are no roads that lead into the town, except for one small road that connects the park to the nearby city of Gustavus. There are daily flights from Juneau to Gustavus, so if you can get yourself to Juneau, it is pretty easy to get to the park.MapPhotos 17. Badlands National ParkBadlands National Park is a 240,000-acre park, located in South Dakota. And although it is home to the country’s largest contiguous mixed-grass prairie ecosystem, the park also features plenty of beautiful geological formations, which have yielded an array of important prehistoric fossils, including saber-toothed cats and Cretaceous-era marine creatures, among others.Things to DoHikingScenic drivesCampingStargazingVisit the Fossil Prep LabWhen to VisitBadlands National Park is open year-round, but because of the cold Winter temperatures, most visitors prefer planning trips during the late Spring, Summer and early Fall. You’ll also enjoy better wildlife-viewing opportunities at this time of year.Getting AroundYou can reach the park via car, or you can fly into the closest city (Rapid City) and drive from there. You’ll need your car to get around inside the park, as there is no public transportation and the park’s size rules out walking or bicycling from one destination to the next. However, a number of private shuttle services do operate out of nearby Rapid City. If you are visiting the park between October and March, be sure to plan for road closures and inclement weather.NeighborhoodsThere aren’t many attractions located near Badlands National Park. However, the Black Hills National Forestis located on the opposite side of Rapid City from the park and is only about one hour away by car.MapPhotos center_img Florida gas prices jump 12 cents; most expensive since 2014 Gov. DeSantis says new moment-of-silence law in public schools protects religious freedom 1 COMMENT TAGSNational Parks Previous articleDecision Apopka 2018: What did we learn?Next articleHow to Be a Superhero… Today Denise Connell RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR 35. Acadia National ParkLocated on Mount Desert Island off Maine’s picturesque coastline, Acadia National Park is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River. A treasure trove of plant and animal species, Acadia National Park offers some of the best wildlife-viewing opportunities in the northeastern United States.Things to DoWildlife viewingBirdwatchingHikingInterpretive hikesBicyclingBoatingRock climbingFishingSwimmingHorseback ridingLeaf peepingPicnickingTidepool explorationWhen to VisitAcadia National Park is very crowded during the Summer, and traffic jams and parking issues are quite common. Accordingly, it is wiser to visit the island during the Winter, Spring or Fall, when fewer visitors are crowding the park. Spring will give you the opportunity to see the most wildflowers, but Fall provides glorious views of the Fall Foliage.Getting AroundYou can drive all the way to the park from the mainland, but because of the frequent traffic problems, visitors are encouraged to use some of the other options available. There are a variety of shuttle services that will transport you to the island, and the park’s Island Explorer Buses provide free transportation around the park.NeighborhoodsBecause it is located on an island, there aren’t many other things to do in the immediate vicinity of Acadia National Park. However, there are several other, smaller parks and preservations in the area, and the Canadian border is only about 2 ½ hours away by car if you’d like to give your vacation an international flavor.MapPhotos 36. Hot Springs National ParkKnown and revered for centuries, the warm-water springs at Hot Springs National Park provide visitors with the chance to see and feel 143-degree water, as it bubbles up from deep underground. Located at the northern end of the city of Hot Springs, this is one of the easiest National Parks in the country to access, although it is the smallest, at only 5,500 acres.Things to DoHikingCampingBirdwatchingPhotographyBathingSwimmingGuided toursPicnickingWhen to VisitHot Springs National Park is open year-round, so you can visit anytime you like. Summer is the most crowded season at the park, so you may want to visit during the Spring (when wildflowers are blooming) or Fall (when the foliage begins to change colors) to avoid the crowds. Winter temperatures are relatively mild in Arkansas, so this is another viable option.Getting AroundBecause of its proximity to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the park is easy to reach via car, plane, train or bus. There are a number of different ways to explore the park, including by car, shuttle, bicycle or on foot.NeighborhoodsThe expansive Ouachita National Forest is only a short distance from Hot Springs, and the Ozark National Forest is also within driving distance. Additionally, Lake Ouachita, Lake Hamilton and Lake Balboa are all close and provide a number of recreational opportunities. The nearby city of Little Rock is also home to a number of interesting attractions, which are worth checking out.MapPhotos Mama Mia 30. Isle Royale National ParkLocated in the upper reaches of Michigan, Isle Royale National Park is a 209-square-mile island, located in Lake Superior. A great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, visitors often characterize Isle Royale as a “hidden gem,” which should be on every outdoor enthusiast’s list of parks to visit.Things to DoBackpackingHikingCampingScuba divingKayakingBoatingCanoeingWildlife viewingPhotographyFishingWhen to VisitBecause of the harsh winter weather in the region, Isle Royale National Park is closed from November 1stthrough April 15th each year. Late Summer and early Fall are the best times to visit the park, as the temperatures are relatively comfortable, thanks in part to the cool breeze blowing across the lake.Getting AroundMotorized vehicles are prohibited on the island, so you’ll need to jump on one of the many boats that transport visitors to and from the mainland. You can reach Houghton by plane if you are traveling from distant locations, and bus services also depart from Grand Portage, Minnesota, on the opposite side of Lake Superior.MapPhotos 31. Kenai Fjords National ParkFirst established in 1980, Kenai Fjords is a 1,000-square-mile National Park, located on the Kenai Peninsula. Home to mountains, forests and miles of rugged coastline, Kenai Fjords also harbors Harding Icefield – one of the largest icefields in the country, and the source for more than 38 different glaciers in the area.Things to DoHikingCampingFishingKayakingBoat toursWildlife viewingFlightseeingGuided ranger hikesSkiingSnowmobilingDog sleddingPhotographyWhen to VisitThere are a number of things to do in the Winter at Kenai Fjords National Park, and this is the only time of year that some activities – including snowmobiling and dog sledding – are offered. However, most visitors will prefer to visit the park in the Summer (May to October), when the days are longer and the temperatures more hospitable.Getting AroundTo get to Kenai Fjords, you’ll first need to find your way to Anchorage, which is about 125 miles north of the park. From there, you can access the park by car, train, bus, boat or plane to the nearby city of Seward, located just outside the park’s borders. Inside the park, you can access some areas via car, and shuttles, taxis, air taxis and water taxis are also available to help you get around.NeighborhoodsThere aren’t many major attractions in the vicinity of Kenai Fjords, but if you plan to stay in Alaska for an extended period of time, you may want to check out Katmai National Park and Preserve or Denali National Park and Preserve.MapPhotos Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. UF/IFAS in Apopka will temporarily house District staff; saves almost $400,000 Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter Reply April 15, 2018 at 1:09 pmlast_img

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