Calling all nature lovers! Travel + Leisure readers have spoken and voted on the top 25 national parks in America, and the results are in. Topping the list is the breathtaking Yellowstone National Park, spanning three states - Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. But it's not alone in its beauty. Grand Teton National Park, Katmai National Park & Preserve, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Yosemite National Park are just a few of the other incredible destinations that made the cut. From natural attractions to activities, wildlife to accessibility, these parks offer something for everyone. So whether you crave the solitude of a remote retreat or the awe-inspiring wonders of a popular hotspot, the rankings provide the perfect inspiration for your next national park adventure.
Yellowstone National Park
Location: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
Yellowstone National Park is nestled in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, making it a truly diverse and expansive destination. Spanning over 2.2 million acres, this iconic park offers a wide range of breathtaking landscapes, from majestic mountains to tranquil rivers.
Voted as the best national park
In a survey conducted by Travel + Leisure readers, Yellowstone National Park earned the prestigious title of being the best national park in the United States. This recognition is a testament to the park's unparalleled natural beauty and the unforgettable experiences it offers to visitors.
Iconic features like Old Faithful, bison herds, and mountain views
Yellowstone National Park is renowned for its iconic features that make it instantly recognizable. One of the park's highlights is the famous geyser, Old Faithful. Witnessing the eruption of this natural wonder is a sight to behold. In addition to geysers, Yellowstone is home to incredible wildlife. The sight of massive bison herds roaming freely is a true symbol of the American wilderness. And let's not forget the breathtaking mountain views that surround the park, adding to its allure.
Accessibility for all visitors
Yellowstone National Park prides itself on providing accessibility for all visitors. Whether you are traveling with young children, have mobility challenges, or are a seasoned adventurer, there are numerous options available to ensure everyone can enjoy the park's wonders. Well-maintained trails, wheelchair-accessible boardwalks, and ranger-led programs cater to a wide range of interests and abilities, making Yellowstone a welcoming destination for all.
Grand Teton National Park
Nestled in the heart of Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park offers spectacular natural attractions and wildlife encounters. With its picturesque mountain ranges and crystal-clear lakes, this park never fails to captivate visitors with its stunning beauty.
Natural attractions and wildlife
Grand Teton National Park is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Towering peaks rise dramatically against the clear blue skies, creating a jaw-dropping backdrop for exploration. The park's pristine lakes, such as Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake, offer opportunities for boating, fishing, and leisurely hikes along their shores. Whether you are an avid photographer or simply a nature enthusiast, Grand Teton will leave you in awe with its awe-inspiring vistas.
Picturesque mountain ranges
One of the most striking features of Grand Teton National Park is its picturesque mountain ranges. The Teton Range, with its jagged peaks, is a sight that will take your breath away. As you explore the park, you'll be treated to the sight of grand summits such as the Grand Teton, Mount Moran, and many more. These majestic peaks offer endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, and even backcountry adventures for the more adventurous souls.
Grand Teton National Park offers a range of lodging options for visitors. From campsites that allow you to sleep under the stars and experience the serenity of nature to luxurious lodges that provide comfort and convenience, there is something for every type of traveler. Whether you prefer to rough it in a tent or indulge in a cozy cabin, the accommodations in Grand Teton National Park will ensure you have a comfortable stay while immersing yourself in the park's natural wonders.
Katmai National Park & Preserve
Located in the wilderness of Alaska, Katmai National Park & Preserve offers a truly remote and pristine experience. Less frequented by visitors compared to other parks, Katmai is a hidden gem that rewards those who make the journey with unparalleled wildlife sightings and unique features.
Remote and fewer visitors
Katmai National Park & Preserve is located in a remote part of Alaska, ensuring that visitors can immerse themselves in the untouched wilderness without the crowds. The solitude and tranquility of this park make it an ideal destination for those seeking a peaceful escape and a deeper connection with nature.
Highly rated for unique features like wildlife sightings
Katmai National Park & Preserve has gained a reputation for its unique wildlife sightings. Head to Brooks Camp, located along the world-famous salmon runs, and you'll have the opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring sight of grizzly bears catching fish in their powerful jaws. This attraction has been described as one of the most incredible wildlife experiences in the world, and it is no wonder that Katmai is highly rated for this remarkable feature.
Wildlife photography opportunities
For wildlife enthusiasts and photographers, Katmai National Park & Preserve is a dream come true. The park's untouched wilderness provides the perfect backdrop for capturing stunning images of bears, moose, eagles, and countless other species in their natural habitat. Whether you're an amateur photographer or a seasoned professional, the opportunities for capturing breathtaking shots are endless in Katmai.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Nestled in the heart of Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its scenic beauty and alpine landscapes. With its towering peaks, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife, this park offers an unforgettable experience for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Scenic beauty and alpine landscapes
Rocky Mountain National Park is a paradise for those seeking natural beauty. Marvel at the towering Rockies as they cast their majestic shadows over sparkling lakes and lush valleys. The park is adorned with wildflowers during the summer months, creating a vibrant tapestry of colors that is a feast for the eyes. Whether you explore the park on foot or by car, you'll be treated to breathtaking vistas that showcase the true essence of the Rocky Mountains.
Hiking and outdoor activities
With over 350 miles of hiking trails, Rocky Mountain National Park is a hiker's paradise. From leisurely strolls around alpine lakes to challenging climbs to the summit of Longs Peak, there are trails to suit every skill level and interest. Outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing are also popular in this park, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the splendor of the great outdoors.
Wildlife sightings and photography
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and even the elusive black bear. The park's abundant wildlife provides ample opportunities for wildlife photography, allowing you to capture stunning images to cherish for a lifetime. Whether you are an avid photographer or simply a nature lover, the wildlife sightings in Rocky Mountain National Park will leave you in awe.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is located in the beautiful state of California and is famous for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, and giant sequoias. This park's breathtaking landscapes and diverse array of outdoor activities make it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
Famous for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, and giant sequoias
Yosemite National Park is synonymous with awe-inspiring natural landmarks. The park's granite cliffs, such as El Capitan and Half Dome, draw climbers from around the world who seek the ultimate challenge. The sight of cascading waterfalls, including the iconic Yosemite Falls, is both mesmerizing and humbling. And let's not forget about the majestic giant sequoias, the largest living trees on Earth, which can be found in Mariposa Grove.
Hiking trails and rock climbing
Yosemite National Park is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the park's vast network of trails, ranging from easy strolls to strenuous multi-day treks. The Mist Trail, with its breathtaking views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, is a popular choice among hikers of all levels. For adrenaline junkies, rock climbing in Yosemite is an experience like no other. Whether you're a seasoned climber or a beginner, there are routes that will challenge and reward you with unforgettable views.
Yosemite National Park offers an array of ranger-led programs that provide insightful and educational experiences for visitors. From guided hikes and wildlife walks to stargazing sessions and photography workshops, these programs allow you to delve deeper into the park's natural wonders. Gain a deeper understanding of Yosemite's unique ecosystem and cultural heritage while creating lasting memories.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Location: Tennessee and North Carolina
Nestled between Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. Steeped in rich biodiversity and renowned for its scenic beauty, this park offers a variety of experiences for visitors of all ages and interests.
Most visited national park in the United States
With over 12 million visitors each year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds the title of being the most visited national park in the United States. This comes as no surprise given its stunning natural beauty, picturesque landscapes, and a plethora of recreational opportunities.
Variety of wildlife and plant species
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a biodiversity hotspot. The park is home to an incredible variety of plant and animal species, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. Spotting black bears, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys are just some of the exciting wildlife encounters you may have while exploring the park. In addition, the park's diverse plant life, including vibrant wildflowers and majestic old-growth forests, adds to its beauty and allure.
Scenic drives and hiking trails
Whether you prefer to explore by car or on foot, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has you covered. The park offers numerous scenic drives that wind through its mountainous terrain, showcasing breathtaking vistas and picturesque overlooks. For those who wish to stretch their legs, there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging summit hikes. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Appalachians and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon in Arizona is a world-famous natural wonder that needs little introduction. Its vastness, unparalleled beauty, and awe-inspiring geological features have captivated visitors from around the globe for generations.
Spectacular views and hiking opportunities
The Grand Canyon is synonymous with spectacular views. Standing on the rim and gazing into the vast chasm is a humbling experience that is difficult to put into words. As you explore the park, you'll discover a myriad of hiking opportunities that allow you to venture into the depths of the canyon. From easy strolls along the rim to challenging hikes into the inner canyon, there are trails to suit every level of fitness and adventure.
River rafting and camping
For those seeking a thrill, river rafting through the Grand Canyon is an unforgettable experience. Embark on a multi-day expedition down the Colorado River and witness the immense power of nature as you navigate through exhilarating rapids. Camping along the riverbanks under the starry desert sky adds to the magic of the adventure. Whether you're an experienced rafter or a first-time camper, the Grand Canyon offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature in an extraordinary way.
Redwood National and State Parks
Redwood National and State Parks in California are home to the tallest trees on Earth. This cluster of parks offers a unique and awe-inspiring experience, with their towering giants, stunning coastal scenery, and abundant wildlife.
Home to the tallest trees on Earth
Redwood National and State Parks are a testament to the immensity and grandeur of nature. The parks' iconic redwood trees, some of which exceed 300 feet in height, are among the tallest trees on Earth. Walking amongst these ancient giants is a humbling experience that transports you to a realm of ancient beauty and tranquility.
Coastal scenery and hiking trails
In addition to its magnificent trees, Redwood National and State Parks boast stunning coastal scenery. Explore rugged cliffs, secluded beaches, and dramatic seascapes that contrast beautifully with the lush forested landscapes. The parks offer a network of hiking trails that weave through the redwood forest and along the coastline, providing endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.
Wildlife and birdwatching
Redwood National and State Parks are teeming with wildlife, making them a haven for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers. Keep your eyes peeled for Roosevelt elk, black bears, and a variety of bird species. The parks' diverse ecosystems provide perfect habitats for many fascinating creatures, offering incredible wildlife viewing and birdwatching experiences.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park, located in Washington state, is a true gem that showcases diverse ecosystems, ranging from rugged mountains to lush rainforests and stunning coastline. This park offers a unique blend of natural wonders and outdoor activities that are sure to captivate every visitor.
Diverse ecosystems - mountains, rainforests, and coastline
Olympic National Park is renowned for its diverse ecosystems. The park encompasses majestic mountains, dense rainforests, and breathtaking coastline, all within its boundaries. Climb high into the Olympic Mountains and be rewarded with panoramic views of snow-capped peaks and alpine meadows. Explore the lush Hoh Rain Forest and wander beneath towering moss-draped trees. And finally, venture to the rugged coastline, where crashing waves, rocky tide pools, and sandy beaches await.
Hiking, camping, and fishing
With over 600 miles of hiking trails, Olympic National Park offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. From leisurely nature walks to challenging backpacking trips, there are trails suitable for all skill levels. The park also provides numerous campgrounds, allowing visitors to spend a night under the stars and immerse themselves in the sounds and scents of nature. Fishing enthusiasts will also find their paradise in the park's rivers and lakes, which teem with various species of fish.
Wildlife and marine life
Olympic National Park is a haven for wildlife and marine life. From majestic elk and deer to elusive mountain goats and Roosevelt elk, there are countless opportunities for wildlife encounters. In addition, the park's coastline is home to a diverse array of marine life, with tide pools revealing starfish, anemones, and other fascinating creatures during low tide. Whether you're exploring the park's trails or strolling along its shoreline, be prepared for unforgettable wildlife and marine life sightings.
North Cascades National Park
Located in Washington state, North Cascades National Park offers rugged mountains, glacial landscapes, and pristine wilderness. This remote and untamed park is a haven for adventurers seeking the thrill of exploring untouched landscapes.
Rugged mountains and glacial landscapes
North Cascades National Park is characterized by its rugged mountains and awe-inspiring glacial landscapes. The park's jagged peaks, such as Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker, rise dramatically against the clear blue skies, creating a true alpine paradise. Glaciers, with their sparkling blue hues, dot the landscape, carving their way through the mountains and leaving behind breathtaking vistas. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this untouched wilderness and let the grandeur of the North Cascades take your breath away.
Hiking, climbing, and boating
For those seeking outdoor adventures, North Cascades National Park offers numerous opportunities. Lace up your hiking boots and venture onto the park's extensive network of trails, ranging from leisurely day hikes to challenging multi-day backpacking routes. The park's rock walls also draw climbers from around the world, offering exhilarating routes and jaw-dropping views. Additionally, the pristine lakes and rivers in North Cascades provide ideal conditions for boating, kayaking, and fishing, allowing visitors to experience the park from a different perspective.
Wildlife and birdwatching
North Cascades National Park is teeming with wildlife, providing nature lovers and birdwatchers with endless opportunities for observation and discovery. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears, mountain goats, and elusive gray wolves as you explore the park. The diverse habitats within the park also attract a variety of bird species, offering birdwatching enthusiasts the chance to spot rare and magnificent feathered creatures. Whether you're a wildlife enthusiast or simply a lover of nature, the abundance of wildlife in North Cascades National Park is sure to leave you in awe.
In conclusion, America's national parks offer a wealth of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and opportunities for exploration. Whether you're drawn to the towering peaks of the Rockies, the tranquil lakes of the Tetons, or the ancient giants of the redwoods, there is a national park to suit every interest and desire. From the iconic features of Yellowstone to the remote and pristine landscapes of Katmai, each park has its own unique allure. So pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and embark on a journey to discover the wonders of America's national parks.