13 Favorite National Parks

categories: USA Travel

We asked some prominent travel bloggers what their favorite U.S. National Parks were. We received 14 responses and surprisingly the same park was only mentioned twice. Also surprisingly two of the parks are not U.S. National Parks. Can you spot the impostors?

Yellowstone National Park

 

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone was the first park, one of the largest and the best place to observe mega fauna in North America. Also, it has the greatest display of geothermal activity in the world.

Death Valley in Summer

Denali National Park

Dave and Deb
ThePlanetD
 

Denali National Park

How can you not love the national park that houses the highest Mountain in North America? Mount McKinley aka Denali stands proudly overlooking over 6 million acres of land. Home to grizzly bears and caribou, grey wolves and the golden eagle, Denali National Park is the last frontier of America. Take a great adventure to Alaska and make sure the Denali is part of your itinerary.

Death Valley National Park

David Thompson
Dave’s Travel Corner
 

Death%20Valley%20National%20ParkDeath Valley is a unique and fascinating park. It is big (the largest National Park in the lower 48 states)! I love its stark contrasts and immense natural extremes. I’ve camped at Furnace Creek in the middle of July when the night time temperature did not fall below 100 degrees and the day time temperature at the official park thermometer reached 129 degrees. There are not that many places in the world that can satisfy the “itch” of extreme heat lovers like this park. Historically the hottest temperatures in Death Valley are found during the latter few weeks of July.

But Death Valley is not only about the heat and the grimness that its name portrays. Badwater is the lowest point in North America, Racetrack Playa features large rocks that mysteriously wind their way across a lake-bed leaving their tracks behind, some of the countries’ tallest sand dunes and miles of uninhabited terrain to explore.

Yosemite National Park

 

Half Dome - Yosemite National Park

As a photographer, when I look at Half-Dome I recall the incredible black and white images of Ansel Adams, who made this park so famous with his photography. Yosemite is indeed a feast for any photographer, but it is so much more. From the naked majesty of Half-Dome, to wildflower-sprinkled chartreuse meadows, to the silent sanctuaries of statuesque Redwoods, this park offers something for everyone. Though it draws thousands of tourists each year, with myriad trails and nearly 1,200 acres, much of it still wilderness, it’s fairly easy to escape the crowds and commune with nature. Though I’ve traveled the world, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place more beautiful on the face of the earth than Yosemite National Park.

National Park of American Samoa

 

Hike to Mt Alava

The protected areas on these islands are without a doubt some of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever seen on this planet during my 12 years of travel. I was repeatedly left speechless and in complete awe as I visited the mountains, rain forests and beaches that make up this National Park during a visit when I was working on board cruise ships. If there’s one National Park that I would love to return to and spend more time exploring, it’s easily this one!

Yosemite

 

Yosemite National Park

When I was a child, my family spent a week camping in Yosemite National Park each summer. I have wonderful memories of hiking around the basin and, as I got older, into the mountains.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Matt Kepnes
nomadicmatt.com
 

Colorado - Rocky Mountain National Park: Moraine Park - Elk Rut

I like the park because there are amazing hiking trails, incredible wildlife, and in the fall time when the leaves are changing, it’s absolutely stunning. Then again, sadly, I haven’t been to many national parks so there are probably even better!

Niagara Falls 

Beth Blair
The Vacation Gals
 

Niagara Top of Horseshoe Falls

Niagara Falls is my favorite park because it puts the grandness of nature into perspective. Plus, this park appeals to all types of travelers whether you’re a traveling family or on your honeymoon.

Arches National Park

Kara Williams
The Vacation Gals
 

Arches National Park, UT. Double Arch.

I adore Arches because of its awe-inspiring rock formations — and their colors ranging from sandstone tan to deep red. Hiking trails are ideal for all ages — easy, flat trails for young children, to more rugged day-long adventures (Best Hikes for Kids in Arches National Park).

Olympic National Park

Jennifer Miner
The Vacation Gals
 

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is in the Pacific Northwest, so pack a raincoat. Unless you explore the Olympic Peninsula in the summer, you’re going to get rained on (and there’s a good chance of rain in the summer, too). All that rain pays off, though; this is the GREENEST, most lush US National Park.

It’s incredibly diverse, too; while you won’t find dry desert land, practically every other landscape is here. Rivers, lakes, snow-capped mountains (Mount Olympus ring a bell?), rugged coastline with tidepools, cruciferous forest and of course, the temperate rainforest that is so vividly green, you’ll see orange when you close your eyes. It’s a primordial experience, traveling in Olympic National Park, and the more spiritually-minded among us may feel a deeper connection with our place in natural history here.

Then again, for the teenager girls being dragged on a family vacation to Olympic National Park, its biggest appeal may be seeing sites from Twilight books and movies! Hey, whatever gets your family happily at a US National Park, it’s all good.

Mt. Rainier National Park

 

Mt Rainier National Park

I can see Mt. Rainier from my living room window – so it is near and dear to me. In the winter, you can snow shoe many of the trails and in the summer there is hI also love the accommodations that are located just outside of the park. There’s nothing better than snuggling up to a fireplace in a cabin in the woods after a day of hiking or jumping into an outdoor hot tub for a good soak.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Andy Hayes
Sharing Travel Experiences
 

Mammoth Cave Stalactites #1

Mammoth is more than twice as big as the world’s 2nd and 3rd largest caves in the world put together. The “Broadway” tunnel in the cave is so incredible – it’s so big you can hardly figure out how humans would have made it, let alone Mother Nature.

Antelope Canyon

Mark Wiens
Migrationology
 

Upper Antelope Canyon

It’s my favorite park because it is a slot canyon carved straight into rock. The colors and the natural sunlight peeking its way into the depths of the canyon is an unbelievable site.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

 

Saguaros in the early morning at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Arizona

This national monument, which shares a border with Mexico, is one of the first to expriement with the idea of international park zones, to protect species and habitat which do not share our borders. The park is rugged, wild and filled with a surreal landscape of lemon-lime colored cactuses, and brilliant spring wildflowers.

Impostors

All 14 bloggers recommended great parks, but 2 of them did not recommend U.S. National Parks. Did you spot our two impostors?

If you were thinking I was going to disqualify something that is a National Monument not a National Park, you were incorrect. Niagara Falls is not a National Park but a New York State Park, although there is a Niagara Falls National Heritage Area near by. Antelope Canyon is a National Park inside the U.S. perhaps, but it is a National Park of the Navajo Nation. Both are still excellent choices of parks to see which is why I left them in the list. But so you still get the 13 recommended U.S. National Parks let me add in 2 more.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Chris Christensen
Amateur Traveler
 

Volcano National Park Active Lava Flow Skylight

If your timing is right you might be at this park on the Big Island of Hawaii when there is surface lava flow from an active volcano. I have stood close enough to burning lava to touch it. I did not touch it, but it still left quite an impression

Bryce Canyon National Park

Chris Christensen
Amateur Traveler
 

For my money Bryce is the most beautiful of all the National Parks. I understand if you would vote instead for Yosemite the Grand Canyon, Zion or one of the many other parks. But, stand on the rim of Bryce Canyon at sunrise and see if it does not at least make your short list. Then pack your canteen and hike Navajo Trail down into the park.

13 Favorite National Parks

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

10 Responses to “13 Favorite National Parks”

Barbara Weibel

Says:

Thanks so much for including me in this roundup, Chris. It really amazed me when I counted up and found I had not been to seven of the parks listed. Maybe I need to do some traveling around the U.S.for a change!

chris2x

Says:

I know what you mean. I love international travel, but there is so much to see in the USA and the National Parks top my list.

Richard Sharpe

Says:

Surely you asked what THEIR favorites were!!!!

Mark Wiens

Says:

Like others have mentioned, I really haven’t explored many National Parks in the US, despite their amazing beauty. I guess I have that attitude that (being an American) I can always go back to the US and see these places. I do love hiking / backpacking and probably my most memorable hikes have been through parts of Arizona. This list makes me we want to get back to the States now for some outdoor expeditions!

Donna Hull

Says:

All of the National Parks listed here are good choices. But, I can’t believe that none of the travel bloggers chose Glacier National Park in Montana. It’s spectacular!

chris2x

Says:

Richard, I did, but please don’t call me Shirley.

chris2x

Says:

Donna, I know what you mean. There are a number of parks we did not add. Zion would be another near the top of my list. Hiking the Virgin River in Zion was an awesome experience.

Erik

Says:

I’ve been to a few of them… and I’d agree that Yosemite and Yellowstone have to right at the top of the list.

Two great things about National Park, though,
1-Everyone’s opinion about which is best is correct
2-If it has ‘National Park’ attached to it, it must be pretty good.

Great post!

circekdopp

Says:

So many good ones!  I love Bryce and Zion’s, but for a place to go back to every year, Yellowstone is classic.

Chris Christensen

Says:

Agreed, you can’t go wrong with Yellowstone

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