There is no denying that the United States is one of the most diverse countries in the world – diverse in terms of nature and landscapes, that is. Although it doesn’t even come close to the cultural diversity of Europe or the fantastic food cultures in Asia, the U.S. does have a lot to offer when it comes to nature. From the California desert and the Rocky Mountains to the wetlands of Florida and the deciduous forests of New England, every single vegetation type and climate is present. The Alaskan tundra and glaciers, and Hawaii’s volcanoes complete the picture.
That diversity is pretty much unique in the world. The U.S. is also home to the oldest national park in the world: Yellowstone National Park (see below). In total, there are no less than 58 national parks found all over the nation, all of them with their own specific features and all of them definitely worth visiting. Some of them are, however, more popular than others and that’s usually for good reasons.
The following ten national parks in the United States stand out from the rest.
Top 10 US National Parks
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses an area of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Highlights are scenic roads, including the highest road in North America, hiking trails and iconic mountain peaks.
Denali National Park
Alaska’s Denali National Park is home to Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. This is a region of vast valleys, rugged mountain ranges, taiga and glaciers. Popular activities include wildlife spotting, hiking, canoeing and mountaineering.
Glacier National Park
Home to vast numbers of wildlife, Glacier National Park in Montana is one of the best United States national parks to spot high-profile wildlife, such as grizzly bears, moose, wolves and lynx. The best way to explore the park is on foot – the network of hiking trails exceeds 700 miles (1,125 kilometers).
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park encompasses Wyoming’s majestic Teton Range, a series a jagged mountain peaks that rises up out of river-intersected plains. It’s an area of glacial lakes, wildflower-covered valleys and downright spectacular natural scenery.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is located in Utah in the southwest of the country. The park’s main feature is Zion Canyon, a massive canyon of 15 miles (10 kilometers) long and half a mile (800 meters) deep. Other attractions in Zion National Park are painted rock walls, rivers, gorges, sandstone pillars and natural arches.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The most visited national park in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts no less than nine million people every year. It lies in North Carolina and Tennessee and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is free to visit, which is probably one of the reasons for its huge number of visitors, and offers great hiking, camping and fishing.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is the only national park in the Northeast. It’s located mostly on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine and is important for both natural and culture-historical reasons. Highlights are the old carriage roads that run through the park, the beautiful coastline and inland mountains.
Yosemite National Park
In terms of scenery, it’s hard to top Yosemite National Park. This is, after all, the place that attracted photography icon Ansel Adams and hiking icon John Muir. The natural beauty of this region is overwhelming – the landscapes are made up of sheer granite cliffs, towering mountains, still lakes, vast woodlands, meadows and wild rivers.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is without question the most famous natural attraction in the United States. This canyon of epic proportions is a real world wonder and the Grand Canyon is visited by 4.5 million people each year. Grand Canyon National Park offers fabulous hiking, horseback riding, camping and even kayaking and white-water rafting.
Yellowstone National Park
The oldest national park on the planet, Yellowstone National Park is well-known for its geysers, bison, waterfalls and mountains. Old Faithful is one of the major attractions, a trusty geyser that erupted roughly every 63 minutes. People who want to see large mammals should definitely go there: the park is home to herds of bison, grizzly bears, elk and wolves.
The best way to get around in the United States and to visit these top 10 US national parks is by renting a car or by RV rental.