Acadia National Park
Declared a national park in 1919 under the name of Lafayette, Acadia National Park, as its been known since 1929, is a stunning area located in Maine. The first national park east of the Mississippi River, the land, which was donated by people who wanted to see it protected, features rugged coastline and 47,000 acres of verdant forests, lakes, and mountains plus flora and fauna. A photographer and outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, Acadia features miles of hiking trails and carriage roads perfect for strolling and taking in the scenic beauty.
Arches National Park
Located in southeastern Utah north of Moab, Arches National Park features approximately 73,000 acres of colorful desert landscape along with over 2,000 natural red rock arches. To qualify as an arch, the opening must by at least 3 feet wide. Officially becoming a national park in 1971, this national treasure will entice anyone to explore its beauty either through hiking, biking, climbing, off-roading, or camping. The Delicate Arch, Devils Garden, and Fiery Furnace, a labyrinth of narrow passages produced by sandstone fins, are a few of the parks must-see attractions.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Not far from Cleveland and Akron in Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park features a wide variety of landscapes from gorgeous forests and rolling hills, to open farmlands still in use. Becoming a national park in 2000, this 33,000-acre area is not quite as old or large as some of the others on this list, but the beauty is just as powerful. From the colorful display of wild flowers in the spring to the rich foliage of the fall season to stunning waterfalls, the Brandywine Falls is a must-visit, the park is brimming with picturesque scenery and hours of activities, including walks along the Towpath Trail.
Glacier National Park
Declared a national park in 1910, Glacier National Park is a breathtaking area found in northwest Montana. With over one million acres of land protected, including majestic peaks, lakes, alpine meadows, and glacial-carved valleys with numerous types of trees and other vegetation, this park is an outdoor lover’s haven by providing endless recreational opportunities. From hiking, there are over 700 miles of trails, to biking to historic chalets and lodges, there is something for every explorer. Be on the lookout for gorgeous wildlife, as everything from elk to grizzly bears to wolves to mountain goats call the area home.
Grand Canyon National Park
Found in Arizona, the Grand Canyon National Park is an awe-inspiring desert stunner that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A national park since 1919, this massive, colorful geological wonder, some of the geological formations date back 1,800 million years, is an impressive 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and one mile deep and is home to a diverse group of wildlife. Wanting to experience the grandness of the canyon, millions of people visit each year to capture the beauty on their cameras, to hike, or to take river trips on the Colorado River.
Grand Teton National Park
Situated in northwestern Wyoming, the Grand Teton National Park is a serene area comprised of approximately 310,000 acres of beautiful scenery. From majestic peaks that rise from the land to clear lakes to lush forests and more, the national park, declared in 1950, is bound to impress anyone who visits. Along with the natural elements, including a great variety of wildlife from bison to elk to bald eagles, an impressive cultural history can be explored as well through various old homesteads and ranches. As for outdoor adventures, the area provides miles of trails, plenty of water activities, and climbing activities.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Some of the oldest mountains in the world, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, declared in 1934, is the most visited national park, and it’s easy to see why. Straddling two states, Tennessee and North Carolina, over 500,000 acres of dense forests containing over 1,600 species of vegetation, and wildlife like bears, deer, birds, and more, blanket the mountains creating a natural masterpiece like no other. Adventurers will enjoy many activities from hiking to wildlife watching to exploring waterfalls while cultural lovers can visit one of the largest collections of historic log buildings in the east.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Designated a national park in 1980, Kenai Fjords National Park is an Alaskan gem featuring forests plus 40 glaciers that flow out of the incredible Harding Icefield. A stunning landscape, the park features over 600,000 acres of land half of which is covered by ice. Brimming with diverse vegetation and wildlife, nature lovers flock here to catch glimpses of land animals, including bears, wolves, lynx, and more, marine life, such as killer whales, humpback whales, and harbor seals, and birds of which over 191 species have been recorded. The area is also popular for adventure seekers with activities such as hiking and kayaking.
Olympic National Park
Located in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington, Olympic National Park is a spectacular area of almost one million acres. Featuring several distinct ecosystems, from glacier-capped mountains to old-growth forests to rugged coastline, the scenery is truly diverse and breathtaking. Established in 1938, the land is home to an impressive array of animal life: from cougars to bears to spotted owls, while the sea is home to whales, dolphins, sea otters, and more. The vegetation is equally diverse and lush providing beauty at every turn. Popular activities include hiking, backpacking, climbing, and camping.
Rocky Mountain National Park
With some of the highest mountains in the nation, up to 14,259 feet, the Rocky Mountain National Park is majestic. Established in 1915, this park, which has over 250,000 acres, is beautiful with its montane, alpine, and subalpine ecosystems providing unique scenery from wildflowers to forests to lakes and diverse plant life and wildlife. Indeed, the mountains are home to everything from butterflies to reptiles to birds to mammals, including big horn sheep, mountain lions, moose, and more. The best way in which to explore this Colorado area is by getting out in nature and hiking or taking scenic drives.
Yellowstone National Park
The first national park, established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is spread throughout three states: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Home to the largest group of geysers in the world, Old Faithful is a definite must-see, this area contains over two million acres of incredible landscape, including alpine lakes, waterfalls, canyons, forests, and mountains. With such diverse scenery comes an incredible array of wildlife, from grizzly bears to wolves to bison to elk plus various plant life. As with all the other parks mentioned thus far, Yellowstone also offers a plethora of outdoor adventures from hiking to boating and everything in between.
Yosemite National Park
Celebrating its 125th year of being a national park, Yosemite National Park is a beautiful treasure in California made up of almost 750,000 acres. Known for its waterfalls, the land also features imposing granite cliffs, valleys, lush meadows, giant sequoias, plus lakes and rivers creating a wonderful feast for the eyes. Nestled inside the landscape are hundreds of wildlife species, including black bears, mountain lions, pikas, and bats, plus assorted vegetation. Must-see attractions include Half Dome and El Capitan, two impressive Yosemite symbols, while must-do activities including hiking one of the many trails and swimming in one of the area’s bodies of water.