The USA is a big place. Really big. Within the wide-open spaces of the contiguous United States, as well as Alaska and the far-flung islands of Hawaii, there’s just about every climate and ecosystem you can imagine; from temperate rainforests and pine-clad mountains to deserts and scrublands.
Naturally, there are a lot of national parks dedicated to preserving the best that nature has to offer in the USA. Otherworldly sandstone monuments, multicolored hot springs that have to be seen to be believed, craggy coastlines, scorching deserts strewn with iconic cacti – it’s all here in the best national parks in usa.
10.Big Bend (Texas)
The aptly named Big Bend National Park in Texas is so-called because it’s set in a dramatic meander of the Rio Grande: on one side of the river is Texas, USA, but on the other side is Mexico. Almost the same size as Rhode Island, Big Bend is known for diversity and has loads to discover on its many trails.
The Chisos Basin is the most popular area of the park and features mountain views, but the Chihuahuan Desert – home to real-life roadrunners and coyotes – is really the place to escape into nature at this national park.
Saguaro is home to the classic southwest American cactus – their iconic shapes of the park’s namesake stand tall in this quite literally deserted area. Divided into East and West portions, the two halves of the park are separated by the city of Tucson.
Both portions of the national park offer an abundance of trails amid its desert landscapes. The Rincon Mountain District is the larger, eastern portion of the park and serves up adventurous horseback rides and camping opportunities. In the west, the Tucson Mountain District is spectacular, which means hiking – such as on Signal Hill – is well worth the effort.
A breathtaking national park, Shenandoah is full of an abundance of wildflowers in summer. In autumn, however, the trees burst into brilliant oranges and reds for some prime fall foliage. Situated 75 miles from Washington D.C., there are lengthy hiking trails to discover in this national park.
In fact, part of these trails make up around 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Hiking is certainly the order of the day here; the climb up to the peak of Old Rag Mountain, for example, is strenuous, but worth scrambling for the views. For those less interested in hiking, the Skyline Drive means stunning vistas from the comfort of your car.
7.Mesa Verde (Colorado)
Mesa Verde is the perfect spot for adventures among nature, and to understand more about mysterious, centuries-old cultures. This is the site where the ancient Puebloans once lived in their cliff dwellings (circa 1100 AD); where they went or why they left, nobody knows, but their houses built in precarious places can be seen to this day.
Because of the important history, walking off-trail is forbidden, as is entering the ancient dwellings without a ranger. Take the Mesa Top Road Circuit that loops around ten of the excavated pueblos, and you’ll be able to discover more about these fascinating old dwellings.
6.Death Valley (California)
Death Valley National Park might sound like somewhere that’s quite hot and hellish, but there’s actually an abundance of nature to enjoy here. There are huge boulders seemingly lying around on a grand scale, canyons carved by gushing streams that slice through the land, sand dunes that actually ‘sing,’ volcanic craters that are long extinct, and soaring mountains to tackle – or view comfortably from afar.
True to its title – and the place that gives the park its name – it is nevertheless a scorching area: one of the hottest spots in the US. Dante’s View offers a panoramic vista across the southern portion of Death Valley Basin from atop the Black Mountains.
5.Crater Lake (Oregon)
The only national park in Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is named after the eponymous lake; formed by a huge volcanic eruption around 7,700 years ago, it’s the deepest lake in the entire United States. The sparkling waters of this magnificent lake itself reflect the surrounding craggy mountain peaks in its mirror-like surface for a gorgeous effect and some inspiring photo opportunities.
There are over 90 miles of trails that criss-cross the park, but most of these are only be accessed in summer as snow covers trails for much of the year. Head up to higher ground to see the wildflowers in full bloom in summer as well as a breathtaking view across the landscape.
New England’s one and only national park, dating back to 1916, Acadia sits on the coast and boasts some dramatic views of this region’s storied shoreline. Acadia National Park is all about rewarding mountain hikes, strolls along the shore, beautiful bike rides, and drives that will induce oohs and ahhs.
There’s a surprisingly varied landscape to discover in this national park; from its dense forests and languid lakes to boulder-strewn beaches dotted with lonely lighthouses. There are also sandy beaches and islands, such as the famous Mount Desert Island, to explore here.
Canyonlands National Park is a truly otherworldly place. With a landscape more like something you would expect on Mars than Earth, the largest national park in Utah is all about its canyons. These snake around its ancient landscape, which is also punctuated by 1,000-foot-tall white cliffs above the Colorado and Green Rivers, as well as strange rock formations.
The park itself is divided into four sections by both those rivers forming a Y shape in this rocky, alien stretch of land. Island in the Sky – a vast mesa – sits in the middle, and is the busiest part of the park – for good reason; the views are incredible.
Home to the giant trees of the same name, Redwood National Park lies on the northwestern Pacific Coast in California. It’s home to some of the tallest trees in the world. There’s an enigmatic mix here of lush coastal scenery and lush prairielands.
The Sequoia sempervirens – scientific name for the redwood – are also some of the most ancient trees on the planet, with branches covered in moss and ferns. There are plenty of trails to enjoy walking through the vast forests, which make for good days out, but to really soak up what the park has to offer it boasts campgrounds and backcountry sites for overnight stays in this heavy-hitter of nature.
1.Grand Teton (Wyoming)
Grand Teton in the Rocky Mountains is a wild wilderness of 12 peaks sculpted throughout the ages by glaciers. This includes, of course, the Grand Teton itself, which stands at an impressive 13,775 feet above sea level.
The beautiful landscape here is just begging to be hiked. There are captivating canyons filled with fresh forests to explore, crystal alpine lakes to marvel at, and – at the right time of year – fragrant wildflowers which provide pops of color. This rugged land plays host to all manner of beasts, including elks, moose, and bears.