Discover the 10 Best National Parks to Visit in the West

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 28, 2022
Image Credit TheBigMK/Shutterstock.com
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With 13 states in total; the western United States is certainly one of the most beautiful regions in America. Yet, its national parks tend to slip under the international travel radar. Millions of visitors worldwide travel to the west each year to explore the rocky mountains, battlefield history, rolling plains, stark desert landscapes, steamy beaches, and an incredible array of flora and fauna.

The United States boasts 63 amazing national parks in total, and 40 of them are located in the west and span all 13 states. Each park offers a unique experience throughout the year. 

Here are the 10 best national parks in the western United States.

1. Grand Teton National Park

Best National Parks to Visit in August - Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park covers 310,000 acres of land.

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Grand Teton National Park
LocationTeton County, Wyoming
Size310,000 acres
Animals to SeePronghorns, Elks, Moose, Grizzly Bears, and Black Bears
Attractions to SeeHidden Falls, Inspiration Point, Jackson Lake overlook, Signal Mountain, Mormon Row Historic District, and Jenny Lake Overlook

You can’t beat the views at this world-famous Wyoming national park. People who visit Grand Teton National Park are always amazed by its jagged mountain peaks, many historical sites, beautiful alpine terrain, lush meadows, pristine lakes, and amazing wildlife.

Whether you’re kayaking in Snake River, boat riding across Jenny Lake, or simply exploring the park through hiking, biking, or scenic drives, the majesty of the Grand Teton is guaranteed to leave you completely breathless.

You can get the panoramic views of Jackson Lake and the Teton Range from Signal Mountain. It takes around 15 minutes to drive up to Signal Mountain, and there’s a chance you might spot different animals while on your way.

2. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is famous for its fascinating geothermal wonders and diverse ecosystems.

Susanne Pommer/Shutterstock.com

Yellowstone National Park
LocationTeton and Gallatin Counties, Wyoming
Size2,219,791 acres
Animals to SeeCoyotes, Canada Lynx, Black Bears, Mountain Goats, Pronghorns, Mule Deer, Moose, Elks, Bisons, Bighorn Sheep, and White-Tailed Deer
Attractions to SeeOld Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin & Morning Glory pool, Grand Prismatic Spring, Lower Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Mount Washburn

Rising above a scene rich with gushing geysers, dramatic canyons, hot springs, lush forests, and alpine lakes, Yellowstone National Park stands as a monument for the people who fought to protect it in 1872. Despite being the oldest national park in the United States, its magnificent beauty continues to awe visitors worldwide.

Yellowstone is famous for its fascinating geothermal wonders and diverse ecosystems. There are a lot of activities one can engage in to fully explore the park, including hiking, riding, and biking. You can take some of the easy hikes through the hissing lunar-like landscapes, canyons, or green valleys.

Visit some of the less crowded areas, like Hayden Valley, to view different species of animals. Yellowstone Lake is also a perfect place for boating activities.

3. Zion National Park

Zion National Park - Canyon
Zion National Park is Utah’s first national park.

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Zion National Park
LocationIron County, Utah 
Size146,597 acres 
Animals to SeeDesert Tortoise, Ringtail Cat, Mule Deer, Mountain Lion, and Desert Bighorn Sheep
Attractions to SeeAngels Landing, The Narrows, Observation Point, Canyon Overlook Trail, and Emerald Pools Trail

Zion National Park is Utah’s first national park. It’s famous for death-defying hikes along very steep red cliffs. You don’t have to hike these massive sandstone cliffs to get the best views; you can just gaze at their varying colors that soar into the sky. 

Learn more about Zion National Park by joining a ranger team. Take a river trip to the Virgin River and hike the many trails within the park that range from short walks to strenuous adventures. Guided horseback ridings are also available at the park. Make sure you experience some wilderness in a narrow slot canyon.

4. Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park - Anacapa island
Channel Islands National Park offers a wide range of activities, including bird-watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, and remote camping.

Felix Lipov/Shutterstock.com

Channel Islands National Park
LocationSanta Barbara and Ventura Counties in California
Size249,561 acres
Animals to SeeIsland Night Lizards, Island Foxes, Skunks, Orchids, Red Squirrels, and different species of Birds
Attractions to SeeSan Miguel Island, Anacapa Island, Santa Barbara Island, Santa Rosa Island, and Santa Cruz Island

A world-class outdoor escape, Channel Islands National Park offers a wide range of activities, including bird-watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, and remote camping. The park encompasses five remarkable islands, protecting and preserving diverse cultural and natural resources.

Visit Channel Islands National Park for a delightful break from the city’s congestion. The place is ideal for a tranquil moment with friends or family. Island Packers Cruises will take you to the island of your choice. Each of the islands has numerous trails with spectacular views, but Santa Cruz is bigger than the other four islands.

5. Glacier National Park

Best National parks to Visit in July - Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is filled with natural beauties and is one of the best places in Montana for photography.

TheBigMK/Shutterstock.com

Glacier National Park
LocationFlathead & Glacier Counties, Montana
Size1,013,322 acres
Animals to SeePikas, Beavers, Coyotes, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Marmots, and Grizzly Bears
Attractions to SeeGoing-to-the-Sun Road, Apgar Village, Lake McDonald, Logan Pass, St. Mary Lake, and The Many Glacier Region

Also known as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier National Park is filled with natural beauties and is one of the best places in Montana for photography. The park is home to spectacular lakes, carved valleys, snow-crusted mountain peaks, shimmering alpine meadows, and melting glaciers. It’s a paradise for visitors seeking a real adventure in the wilderness.

Explore the vast expanse of beautiful natural space at Glacier by driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Expect to encounter bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bears, and marmots along this road. Other popular recreational activities include biking, stargazing, hiking, camping, fishing, and boating.

6. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Joshua Tree National Park is home to Coyotes, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep, White-tailed Antelope, Foxes, and Bats.

Gary C. Tognoni/Shutterstock.com

Joshua Tree National Park
LocationSan Bernardino County, California
Size795,156 acres
Animals to SeeCoyotes, Kangaroo Rats, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep, White-tailed Antelope, Bobcats, Foxes, and Bats 
Attractions to SeeCholla Cactus Garden, Keys View, Skull Rock, Barker Dam, Hidden Valley, and Keys Ranch

Home to rolling mountains, two distinct ecosystems, and giant granite fragments, Joshua Tree National Park is full of natural wonders. This park has absolutely everything for everyone to explore- from hiking the Hidden Valley Nature Trail and driving up to Keys Views to taking a short walk along Barker Dam and spending a night under a star-filled sky at Jumbo Rocks.

Whether you choose to drive, walk, hike, camp, or ride a bicycle, you’ll be graced with spectacular views of this park. The bizarre rock formations, numerous bird and wildlife species, ancient palm groves, and other surreal geological features present perfect photography opportunities. Watch for birds at the Oasis of Mara, Cottonwood Spring, and Barker Dam.

7. Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent
Olympic National Park is the world-renowned home of temperate rainforests, rugged Pacific coastlines, and glacier-capped mountains.

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Olympic National Park
LocationGrays Harbor, Mason, Clallam, and Jefferson Counties in Washington
Size922,650 acres
Animals to SeeBald Eagle, Whales, Sea Otters, Mountain Lions, Black Bears, and Roosevelt Elks
Attractions to SeeHurricane Ridge, Olympic Peninsula, Lake Crescent, Ruby Beach, Sol Duc River, and Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Centre

Olympic National Park is the world-renowned home of temperate rainforests, rugged Pacific coastlines, and glacier-capped mountains. The park exhibits an incredible range of elevation and precipitation.

From the magical Hurricane Ridge to the spectacular Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park offers several attractions for visitors to enjoy. The park has approximately 135 trails that lead to magnificent views of wide sandy beaches, pristine lakes, wildlife, temperate rain forests, and glacier-capped mountains.

8. Bryce Canyon National Park

bryce canyon national park
Bryce Canyon National Park is the only place on the planet with the largest concentration of hoodoos (spire-shaped rock formations).

silky/Shutterstock.com

Bryce Canyon National Park
LocationGarfield County, Utah
Size35,835 acres
Animals to SeeShort-horned Lizard, Green Basin Rattlesnake, Utah Prairie dog, Pronghorn, Mule deer, Rocky Mountain Elk, and North American Porcupine
Attractions to SeeNavajo/Queens Garden Loop, Fairyland troop, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, and Mossy Cave Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park is the only place on the planet with the largest concentration of hoodoos (spire-shaped rock formations). It’s not a single canyon you will see at Bryce Canyon, but a series of them carved into the edge of a high plateau.

There are many ways to tour Bryce Canyon. You can take a scenic drive, hike the trails, or ride a bike through the geological voodoo of hoodoos. You may need to attend a ranger program to deepen your understanding of the park.

Spend your night at one of the park’s campgrounds for an excellent stargazing experience under one of the darkest skies in the country.

9. Arches National Park

arches national park
Arches National Park offers visitors a plethora of impressive wonders to behold.

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Arches National Park
LocationGrand County, Utah
Size76,679 acres
Animals to SeeMountain Lions, Bobcats, Foxes, Ringtails, Skunks, Woodrats, Kangaroo Rats, and numerous species of Birds
Attractions to SeeBalanced Rock, The Windows & Turret Arch, Double Arch, Garden of Eden, and the Fiery Furnace

Home to natural sandstone arches, hundreds of soaring pinnacles, and rugged rock formations, Arches National Park offers visitors a plethora of impressive wonders to behold. Scenic landscapes in the Devil’s Garden and renowned landmarks like Fiery Furnace and Balanced Rock are just a few of Arches’ most fantastic attractions.

You can explore the park through scenic drives, biking, or hiking. Park Avenue is the shortest and easiest hike you can take if you want a quick view of the giant rock formations like the Courthouse Towers and the Three Gossips.

10. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National park
Mount Rainier National Park is home to diverse species of wildlife.

iStock.com/RomanKhomlyak

Mount Rainier National Park
LocationPierce & Lewis County, Washington
Size236,381 acres
Animals to SeeMountain Goats, Deer, Elks, Black-tailed Deer, Chipmunks, and Ground Squirrels
Attractions to SeeMyrtle Falls, Mount Rainier, Reflection Lake, Carbon River, Paradise, Narada Falls, Longmire,

With numerous attractions scattered throughout the place, Mount Rainier National Park, is a national treasure. In addition to being an active volcano, Mount Rainier has the most glaciated peak that you can spot from far.

A lifetime of discovery awaits you at Mount Rainier. Make sure you spend some time at Paradise. It’s a must-see spot in the park. Paradise offers the most beautiful views of the park in any season. For instance, during summer, you will be able to see the stunning wildflower meadows together with the ancient forests on the slopes of Mount Rainier.

Mount Rainier is home to diverse species of wildlife. You may spot elks, deer, chipmunks, and many other animals while exploring the park.

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