The 12 Most Beautiful National Parks in the USA

From glaciers to deserts to majestic peaks, the national parks in the USA are beautifully diverse
From glaciers to deserts to majestic peaks, the national parks in the USA are beautifully diverse | © Sean Xu / Alamy Stock Photo
The USA and its territories are home to more than 60 stunning national parks. Offering an extremely diverse variety of landscapes, these gorgeous national treasures attract millions of visitors each year looking to immerse themselves in natural beauty. From the East Coast to the West and everywhere in between, here are some of the most beautiful areas in the USA.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Park
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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 (19,000ha) 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.
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Arches National Park, Utah

Park
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Located in southeastern Utah north of Moab, Arches National Park features approximately 73,000 acres (30,000ha) of colorful desert landscape along with over 2,000 natural red rock arches. To qualify as an arch, the opening must be at least three feet (1m) 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.
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Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Park
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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 (13,350ha) area is not quite as old or large as some of the others on this list, but its beauty is just as powerful. From the colorful display of wildflowers in the spring to the rich foliage of the fall season to stunning waterfalls – the Brandywine Falls are a must-visit – the park is brimming with picturesque scenery and hours of activities, including walks along the Towpath Trail.
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Glacier National Park, Montana

Park
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Declared a national park in 1910, Glacier National Park is a breathtaking area in northwest Montana. With over one million acres (404,000ha) of protected land, including majestic peaks, lakes, alpine meadows and glacier-carved valleys with numerous types of trees and other vegetation, this park is an outdoor lover’s haven with endless recreational opportunities. From hiking the over 700 miles (1,100km) 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.
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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Park
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Found in Arizona, 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, where some of the geological formations date back 1.8 billion years, is an impressive 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide and one mile (1.6km) 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 rafting trips on the Colorado River.
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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Natural Feature, Park
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Situated in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park is a serene area comprised of approximately 310,000 acres (125,000ha) 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 – bison, elk, moose and bald eagles, to name a few – an impressive cultural history can also be explored through various old homesteads and ranches. As for outdoor adventures, the area provides miles of trails along with plenty of water activities and climbing spots.
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

Park
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Home to some of the oldest mountains in the world, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (declared in 1934) is the most visited national park in the US, and it’s easy to see why. Straddling two states – Tennessee and North Carolina – the park boasts more than 500,000 acres (200,000ha) of dense forests containing over 1,600 species of vegetation blanket the mountains and create a natural masterpiece like no other. Adventurers will enjoy many activities, from hiking to wildlife watching and exploring waterfalls, while culture-lovers can visit one of the largest collections of historic log buildings in the country.
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Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Park
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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 (240,000ha) 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.
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Olympic National Park, Washington

Park
© Bill Gozansky / Alamy Stock Photo
Located in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington, Olympic National Park is a spectacular area of almost one million acres (405,000ha). Featuring several distinct ecosystems, from glacier-capped mountains to old-growth forests and rugged coastline, the scenery is truly diverse and breathtaking. Established in 1938, the land is home to an impressive array of animal life, while the sea is home to whales, dolphins and sea otters. The vegetation is equally diverse and lush, providing beauty at every turn. Popular activities include hiking, backpacking, climbing and camping.
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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Park
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With some of the highest mountains in the nation, Rocky Mountain National Park is truly majestic. Established in 1915, this park – which covers over 250,000 acres (100,000ha) – is beautiful, with its montane, alpine and subalpine ecosystems providing unique scenery from wildflowers, forests and lakes to diverse plant life and wildlife. Indeed, the mountains are home to everything from butterflies to reptiles and birds to mammals, including big-horn sheep, mountain lions and moose. The best way to explore this Colorado area is by getting out in nature and hiking or taking scenic drives.
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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Park
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The country’s first national park, established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park spreads across three states: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Home to the largest group of geysers in the world – of which Old Faithful is a definite must-see – this area contains over two million acres (810,000ha) of incredible landscape, including alpine lakes, waterfalls, canyons, forests and mountains. With such diverse scenery comes an incredible array of wildlife, from grizzly bears and wolves to bison and elk, plus various flora. As with all the other parks mentioned thus far, Yellowstone offers a plethora of outdoor activities, from hiking to boating and everything in between.
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Yosemite National Park, California

Park
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Having just celebrated the 125th anniversary of its being made a national park, Yosemite National Park is a beautiful treasure in California made up of almost 750,000 acres (304,000ha). Known for its waterfalls, the land also features imposing granite cliffs, valleys, lush meadows and giant sequoias, plus lakes and rivers that combine to create a feast for the eyes. If you’re lucky, you might see some of the resident black bears, mountain lions, pikas and bats. Must-see attractions include Half Dome and El Capitan, two impressive Yosemite landmarks, while must-do activities include hiking one of the many trails and swimming in one of the area’s bodies of water.
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These recommendations were updated on July 31, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.