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Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada - Bear Cub

Your guide to 17 of the Best National Parks in America

Unforgettable Adventures Await: Experiencing the Wonders of US National Parks

America is full of incredible places to visit, and one thing they do particularly well is looking after their astonishing National Parks. There are 63 National Parks and over 400 areas which are looked after under the National Park Service, including National monuments, National recreation areas.

There are so many US National Parks, it’ll be hard to decide where to visit. Here we’ve pulled together a few of our favourites, to help you with planning your road trip itinerary.


1. Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is a treasure! You will be amazed as you reach the colossal granite cliff faces and venture into the valley.

How big is Yosemite National Park? Yosemite National Park is as tall as it is wide. Ok, not quite, but it does feel that way! 1,100 square miles of giant trees, thunderous waterfalls, and granite cliff faces.

What to do in Yosemite National Park? If you have a few days to spend in this huge National Park, you will want to make the most of your time. Catching the sunrise is always a treat, and if you’re not too tired from hiking, you can enjoy watching the sunset over the most beautiful valley in the world. The skies are blissfully unpolluted here, too, so this is a great opportunity for some stargazing.

How do you pronounce Yosemite? ‘Yo-sem-it-ee’.

The top things to do in Yosemite National Park? 

  1.  There are so many different trails, all ranging in difficulty and elevation. Glacier Point, Lower Mariposa Grove, Mirror Lake, and Lower Yosemite Falls are among the more accessible hikes under a 2-mile round trip, each as rewarding to complete with such exceptional forest views! 
  2.  Keep an eye open at all times for wildlife! There are Black Bears in Yosemite, Mountain Lions and Bighorn Sheep. Whilst it’s unlikely you will come close to these Animals, you should ‘bear’ in mind that this is their home.
  3.  Rock Climbing – Whilst you may not be geared up for your own climb, you should be sure to check out the hardcore, expert climbers crawling up the granite faces. You will need binoculars to see this; look out for the guys suspended in mid-air. 
  4. Before you visit Yosemite National Park, take time to watch the breathtaking, Oscar-winning documentary ‘Free Solo,” which follows rock climber Alex Honnold on his quest to perform the very first free solo climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan … Gripping stuff!
  5.  Stop at the famous viewpoints! Yosemite’s Tunnel View, Glacier Point and Olmsted Point offer breathtaking views spanning miles. 
  6.  Depending on when your road tripping through California, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Yosemite’s famous ‘Firefall’! For a short period each February, each sunset brings a moment when the waterfall glows a warm orange, and it looks like the lava is flowing over the cliff. 

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Yosemite National Park…

Yosemite National Park, California, Best National Parks in America

Yosemite National Park, California


2. Jasper National Park, Alberta

So, technically Canada, but still one of our favourite National Parks in North America. Jasper National Park is the largest National park in the Canadian Rockies, covering 11,000 square miles. Here, you will be surrounded by bright turquoise lakes, jagged mountains and spectacular scenery.

Where is Jasper National Park? You will find Jasper in western Alberta. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you reach the jagged mountain tops and breathtaking views you’ll be compelled to pull over to snap a picture of. You will reach this spectacular National Park by driving the Icefields Parkway, a scenic road taking you past ancient glaciers and huge waterfalls. Don’t leave the Icefields Parkway without a visit to the glowing Peyto Lake. The lake looks surreal with its bright blue glistening water.

What to do in Jasper National Park? There are guided tours to take you through the park, which explain the geology and wildlife you will discover. Cougars, wolves, bears and other wildlife can be seen here. Venture out to Maligne Lake, where you can enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities, hike or visit the famous Spirit Island. 

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Jasper National Park…

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada - Spirit Island, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Spirit Island in Jasper National Park, Alberta


3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina

America’s most visited National Park! Ridge upon ridge of perfect forest. Wonderful to visit throughout the year, we highly recommend a trip during the autumn, as the Smoky Mountains produce a unique show of colours for hikers and driving enthusiasts.

Where to find the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? The Great Smokies is in the East of the United States, straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is the most popular entrance into the park.

What is the weather like in The Great Smoky Mountains? The temperatures can vary from as much as 20 degrees from the base to the peak of a mountain, and it is likely to rain up there – so pack a jacket! The end of summer is a great time to visit the park, you’ll find the Smoky Mountains a bit cooler and will see clear skies. Frosts sneak in towards the end of September. Winter does see snow in the park, usually dusting the mountains in January and February.

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Balloon over the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains USA

The Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains


4. Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park is one of North America’s hottest and driest places. A land of magnificent, yet dangerous, extremes.

Death Valley recently broke the record for the highest recorded temperature on the planet! On August 16th, 2020, temperatures rose to 53°C, (130°F), the hottest Death Valley has been since 1913.

Where is Death Valley? You will find Death Valley in the Great Basin near the borders of Nevada and California.

How far is Death Valley from Las Vegas? Death Valley National Park is a 2.5-hour drive from Las Vegas, at 118 Miles. Alternatively, there is a scenic route which will take 4 hours.

What to do in Death Valley National Park? There are many ways to experience this landscape, including hiking, biking, climbing and horseback riding. Dante’s View gives you views of the entire valley, whilst Zabriskie Point is another famous viewing point. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the US at 282 feet below sea level, where you can walk out onto the salty flats. Alternatively, you can drive along the 9-mile scenic Artists Drive.

How much does it cost to enter Death Valley National Park? A fee of $30 per vehicle allows access to the park for 7 days. 

Is there wildlife in Death Valley? Death Valley isn’t entirely inhabitable despite extreme drought and soaring temperatures. Surprisingly, Coyotes, Bats, Bobcats, Big Horn sheep, and even the occasional Mountain Lion are among the wildlife making a home in this desert land.

Death Valley Top Tip… The name speaks for itself. Death Valley can undoubtedly be dangerous for those who are poorly prepared. Fuel up before you make your journey. 

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Death Valley National Park…

Death Valley National Park, California, Best National Parks in America

Death Valley National Park, California


5. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Prepare to be blown away by the Grand Canyon, an awe-inspiring natural wonder that verges on the unbelievable. On the top of many travellers bucket-lists this is certainly one of the best National Parks in America.

Where is The Grand Canyon? The world’s biggest hole is found in Arizona, at 18 miles wide and 277 miles long. . You really have to see it to believe it.

How was The Grand Canyon formed? This geological wonder can be seen from outer space! The Canyon was formed over billions of years by the water of the Colorado River running through.

When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon? The busiest time for visitors at the Grand Canyon is from May to September, which is also the hottest time! In autumn, the weather is mild and the colours of the Canyon are beautiful! Expect the crowds, but with a space so huge, you will find the perfect viewpoint to enjoy.

How much time should you spend at Grand Canyon National Park? Our road trips allow you to travel across America, spending as much time as you like in each location. So, whether you are spending the night at The Canyon or you’re just passing through for the afternoon on your road trip across Arizona, you can see as much of the Grand Canyon as you like.

Where to stay when visiting Grand Canyon National Park? Bright Angel and El Tovar Lodges are some ARTCo favourites. With natural, rustic character and the ultimate surroundings, an authentic, cosy cabin feel is always a win on a road trip! 

What to do at The Grand Canyon? There are some great hikes and trails around the National Park to experience the full effect of the canyon. There are also mule rides, bike rentals, and ranger talks to enjoy while you visit.

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a glass walkway at the West Rim, which reaches out over the Canyon, surprisingly not for the faint-hearted. This is a popular spot but one particularly worthy of a wait.

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Grand Canyon National Park…

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, Best National Parks in America, Grand Tour America

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona


6. Zion National Park, Utah

Visit Zion National Park, Utah, an otherworldly landscape full of towering red rock cliffs and carved winding canyons.

Where Is Zion National Park? You will reach Zion National Park in southwest Utah. Springdale is a charming little town just outside of Zion National Park and is a great place to stay on your road trip to enjoy Zion. From Springdale, Utah, you can hop onto the free shuttle service which services Zion National Park, taking you between each scenic spot. Zion National Park is 2.5 hours drive from Las Vegas, 1.5 hours from Bryce Canyon National Park and just under two hours from Page, AZ. 

 Zion National Park makes a great stop along your American road trip. We know we shouldn’t have favourites – but Zion is certainly an American Road Trip Company favourite!

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Zion National Park…

Zion National Park in Utah, USA, Las Vegas to The Grand Canyon

Zion National Park in Utah


7. Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana, is any nature lovers haven! Full of things to do and sights to see, there’s an adventure for everyone who will visit!

Where is Glacier National Park? Glacier National Park is in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. Running right up to the Canadian border in the North, often referred to as The Crown of the Continent!

What to do at Glacier National Park? Going To The Sun Road is the scenic road running through the middle of the Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park. This spectacular 52-mile road speaks for itself. You will drive along the narrow, winding roads, through the mountain tunnels and over the continental divide at Logan Pass. 

Top Tip for driving this scenic road: Set off early. Chances of spotting wildlife are also higher at this time. 

What wildlife can we see at Glacier National Park? Grizzly’s and Black Bears inhabit the park; it is bear country, after all! You may spot Moose, Deer, Wolverine, Big Horn Sheep, and smaller animals such as porcupines and beavers.

When does Glacier National Park open? This incredible National Park is open every day of the year, and visitors can enter at any time. The roads leading to the park and visitor facilities close during the winter as the conditions aren’t suitable.

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park typically closes during the winter months due to heavy snowfall and unsafe driving conditions. The specific dates for closure can vary each year but generally happen in late September to mid-October and reopen in late June to early July, depending on weather and snow removal efforts. You can check with the National Park Service for the most accurate and up-to-date information on road closures and openings, but should you book with us, our road trip experts will be in touch to let you know of any detours or changes to your route.

How much does it cost to enter Glacier National Park? The entrance fee is $35, allowing access for seven days.

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Glacier National Park…

Tunnel along Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park


8. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Herds of Bison roaming freely, colourful spring pools and lively Geysers all on top of a volcanic hot spot, it is the worlds oldest National Park – it’s Yellowstone!

Where is Yellowstone? Most of the park is tucked up in the northwest corner of Wyoming, with some spilling out into Idaho and Montana.

How much does it cost to enter Yellowstone National Park? It will cost you the entrance fee of $30 per vehicle to enter Yellowstone National Park, and it will be worth every penny! If you’re visiting three or more National Parks along your road trip, it will be most cost-effective to purchase the ‘America The Beautiful’ annual pass for $80. 

What to do at Yellowstone? There are five major hotspots within the park – Mammoth Hot Springs, Canyon Village, Lake Village, Grant Village and Old Faithful and each is home to some hydrothermal marvel!

There are hikes around the park for all to enjoy, ranging from short round trips around the Geysers to steep stairways such as ‘Uncle Toms Trail’. Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most popular attractions in Yellowstone; here, you can see the multicoloured spring from the boardwalks which surround the Midway Geyser Basin and take you along the other main features, which include Opal Pool and Turquoise Pool. 

Besides viewing the surreal landscapes, one of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park is to view the Wildlife. In Lamar Valley, you will see thousands of wild bison roaming freely. Take advantage of your jet lag and visit early morning; you could be lucky enough to spot deer, bears, coyotes and maybe even wolves! 

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Yellowstone National Park…

Giant Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Giant Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming


9. Sequoia National Park, California

High up in the mountain live the giants. Surrounded by deep canyons, and massive mountains, everything is huge! Visit Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. 

Where to find Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks?

You will find Sequoia National Park right beside Kings Canyon National Park high in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. As you drive in, you will reach nearly 5,000 feet in elevation, and as the air takes your breath away-you’ll be rewarded with the most amazing views!

What to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks? There aren’t many places where you can walk beneath some of the tallest trees on earth, drive through a fallen giant, peer down the deepest canyons and hike granite mountains! Take a drive along the Kings Canyon scenic byway; a winding road running beside the Kings River. Visit the natural wonder, General Sherman, the largest living tree (by volume). He’s 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter at the base. 

Top Tip… The National Park Service has a free Mobile app which can guide you through the parks, even without a mobile phone signal. Download the app before your journey and ‘download offline content in the app settings.’  

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Sequoia National Park…

Sequoia National Park, California. Top 5 Best National Parks in California.

Sequoia National Park, California


10. Everglades National Park, Florida

The Everglades National Park is a vast and unique collection of wildlife in an unusual ecosystem! Overflowing with amazing wildlife and picturesque landscapes, this will be an experience you won’t forget.

What are the Everglades? A network of freshwater wetlands, mangroves and forests compile the Everglades. The southernmost section is one of the most popular among visitors to the park.

What wildlife can be found at Everglades National Park? It’s no surprise that wildlife is abundant out in these wild marshlands. The Florida Panther, Crocodiles, Manatees, 350 species of birds and 50 species of reptiles inhabit this incredible National park. Be careful, you will see that the animals certainly aren’t shy! 

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Everglades National Park…

Everglades National Park, Florida, USA - Airboat

Everglades National Park, Florida


11. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Head to Bryce Canyon National Park, where intricately formed rocks shaped over thousands of years create a landscape that will have you thinking you’ve left planet Earth!

How far is Bryce Canyon from Las Vegas? You will find Bryce Canyon around 4-hour drive away from Las Vegas at 264 miles.

Can you drive around Bryce Canyon? Most of Bryce Canyon is best seen by car; driving through the park would take around three hours. There is an entrance fee of $35 per vehicle.

How long to spend in Bryce Canyon? This is one National Park that you can explore in just a day. If you have more than one day here, that’s great; hike away. For those passing through on your American Road Trip, we advise arriving early to beat any crowds and visiting the visitors centre. Inspiration Point is an amphitheatre shape, where you can witness the hoodoos.

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Bryce Canyon National Park…

Bryce Canyon National Park, Southwest USA

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah


12. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Visit Joshua Tree National Park, where the landscape looks otherworldly, like you’ve entered a Dr Seuss book! Enjoy unusual rock formations, peculiar plants, and views stretching miles over the Coachella Valley.

Where is Joshua Tree National Park? Joshua Tree National Park is straddling the Colorado and Mojave Deserts in California near Palm Springs. The crossover of deserts and ecosystems results in unusual fauna and flora, including the Joshua Tree.

What to do in Joshua Tree National Park? There are so many trails and hikes to explore within the park for all levels of adventurers. With unusual rock faces, such as Skull Rock, it is clear to see why the park is well known for its rock climbing! Catch a sunset or sunrise on your road trip through Joshua Tree. 

What is the weather like in Joshua Tree National Park? The weather in Joshua Tree National Park can be super hot in the summer and chilly through the winter, but at least the sky remains pretty clear all year round. Though it’s in the middle of the desert, Joshua Tree National Park occasionally witnesses rain and can even see snowfall. The ‘wet season runs from December through March. 

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Joshua Tree National Park…

Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Joshua Tree National Park, California


13. Redwood National Park, California

Walk amongst the giants! Get outdoors and re-discover nature at its finest at the top of California, where you can find yourself amongst the world’s tallest living things. Visit Redwoods National Park, home to nearly half of the world’s coast Redwood trees. These giants grow over 350 feet and are well-protected within the National Park.

Where is Redwood National Park? You will find Redwood National Park on the northwestern edge of California, and it’s filled with trees so big they make you feel tiny. There are also 70 miles of coastal trails leading to driftwood-laden shorelines. 

When is the best time to visit Redwood National Park? The best time is between late April and September when there is slightly less chance of rain. 

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Redwood National Park…

Walking amongst the trees, Redwood National Park, California, USA

Redwood National Park, California


14. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

This National Park is about to blow you away. Grand Teton, Wyoming, is full of pristine lakes and has soaring mountains in every direction. At almost 14,000 feet tall, you might be able to spot which mountain is Grand Teton amongst the 484 square miles of the National Park.

Where is Grand Teton National Park? You will find this exciting National Park in the northwest of Wyoming. Grand Teton rubs shoulders with Yellowstone National Park, but each holds its own. Grand Teton is a super relaxed, peaceful experience.

What to do at Grand Teton National Park? Great for adrenaline-junkies, there is opportunity for hiking, camping and exploring all over the park. The many trails will lead you to the Teton Range. From here, you can see right over to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National Park. Spend a couple of hours driving the scenic loop for 42 Miles of fantastic scenery. Hire a bike for a fast-paced way to tour the park. You can take a leisurely ride along the bike path or go ‘off-roading’ and join the gravel road along the Snake River. Bikes are available to hire from around $40 a day. Guided tours are also available, offering great insight into the park.

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Grand Teton National Park…

Grand Teton National Park, Best National parks in America

Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


15. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Visit Canyonlands National Park – the least visited National park in Utah! One of Utah’s’ Mighty 5′, Canyonlands is Utah’s best-kept secret- quiet and undeveloped. Once you find the striking red buttes and natural sandy arches, you’ll know you’ve arrived!

Where is Canyonlands National Park? To visit Canyonlands National Park on your road trip is easy. Just under 4 hours drive to Salt Lake City, 2 hours 20 minutes from Capitol Reef National Park and 5 hours 20 minutes from Zion National Park

What to see at Canyonlands National Park? When you visit Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Arch, The White Rim trail, and Grand View Point Overlook are at the top of our list. Kayaking, Hiking, Camping, and Cycling are plentiful in these bronze terrains. Finally, top off your day with an evening under the stars!

You should know before you go…  The only water available in the park is in the visitors’ centre, so take plenty with you. 

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Canyonlands National Park…

Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Western USA, Best National parks in America

Canyonlands National Park, Utah


16. Big Bend National Park, Texas

Visit Big Bend National Park, the biggest national park in Texas. In the Chihuahuan Desert, you will discover dusty red mountain cliffs, towering river canyons and the mighty Rio Grande.

Where is Big Bend National Park? The park lies on the border with Mexico and is separated by, you guessed it, a big bend in the Rio Grande River! Big Bend is a remote National park. Whilst it’s bigger than Yosemite and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this park receives just a fraction of the visitors, keeping the National Park quiet and undeveloped. The locals describe it as a ‘forgotten National Park’, but we would describe it as more of a ‘gem’!

What to do at Big Bend National Park? There are many hiking trails around the park; the most rewarding is the ‘Santa Elena Canyon trail’. If the water is low, you can wade into the water where 1500-foot-high walls line the way. There are hot springs in the Rio Grande Village area where you can dip into hot waters. Alternatively, pick up the pace and take a canoe trip along the Rio Grande River.

How much does it cost to enter Big Bend National Park? A fee of $30 per vehicle to enter the park allows entry for a week.

What’s the weather like at Big Bend National Park? Big Bend is usually a dry place with low humidity. The rainy season is from June to October, when there may be thunderstorms and flash flooding, but this tends to dry up quickly in the desert. 

Available on a bespoke tour. Talk to a road trip expert if you would like to include Big Bend National Park in your bespoke road trip itinerary.

Big Bend National Park, Santa Elena Canyon and Rio Grande, Best National Parks in America

Big Bend National Park, Santa Elena Canyon and Rio Grande


17. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

This impressive National Park is full of otherworldly landscapes and crazy rock formations. It will make you feel as though you’re on another planet.

Where is Badlands National Park? You will reach the dramatic landscapes of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, just a 1.5-hour drive away from Mount Rushmore, a 1-hour 40-minute drive from The Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park, and 4.5 hours from Cowboy-town Cheyenne.

What to do in Badlands National Park? There are many different hiking trails and routes to take through the park for all levels of expertise; the most popular is the Badlands Loop Road, which passes numerous vista points and trailheads, some near prairie dog towns! The Badlands loop drive takes over an hour to complete, though you’ll want a couple of hours spent here to allow photo stops en route.

Top Tip for Badlands… Go for the views, but stay for the sunset! Some great spots to view Badlands National Park include Conata Basin Overlook, Pinnacles Overlook and Norbeck Pass, which offer great sunset views.

Click here to view our Road Trip Itineraries that explore Badlands National Park…

Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Scenic road at sunset. Join The Team, Best national parks in North America

Badlands National Park, South Dakota


 

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