Discover the 15 Most Beautiful National Parks in the US

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 19, 2022
Image Credit Lillac/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

The United States is home to 423 national parks and national park sites. All of them are governed and administered by the National Park Service of the US. These parks have a total surface area of over 84 million acres. Do you know what this means?

This translates to more than 84 million acres of astonishing views, serene landscapes, rock formations, caves, lakes, rivers, and many more. It is challenging to make such a short list, but we think we’re up for it.

If you want to add at least one natural wonder of the US to your bucket list, then read more about the 15 most beautiful national parks in the country!

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is located in California and covers an area of more than 700,000 acres.

Robert Bohrer/Shutterstock.com

Yosemite National Park
Size759,620 acres
Animal to spotGreat grey owl
Attraction to seeGiant sequoia groves

Surrounded by the Sierra National Forest and Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park is located in California and covers an area of more than 700,000 acres. Waterfalls, granite cliffs, giant sequoia groves, glaciers, lakes, and meadows are some of the natural treasures visitors can find in Yosemite National Park. 

Since 95% of the park consists of wild areas, there are plenty of animal species you can discover, including willow flycatchers, mountain beavers, deer, and great grey owls.

2. Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in Winter
Glacier National Park encompasses two mountain ranges, over 1,000 species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals.

Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock.com

Glacier National Park
Size1,013,322 acres
Animal to spotCanadian lynx
Attraction to seeContinental Divide National Scenic Trail

Glacier National Park is located in Montana, on the border between Canada and the United States. The park encompasses two mountain ranges, over 1,000 species of plants, hundreds of species of animals, and 130 named lakes that make for spectacular and unforgettable views!

This park is rich in historical facts, as Native Americans initially inhabited the region that eventually became a national park, then by European explorers. 

Rare and endangered species of animals, such as Canadian lynxes and wolverines, can be spotted in Glacier National Park.

3. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park in Winter
Grand Canyon National Park is home to many animal species, including mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, and mountain lions.

Kobby Dagan/Shutterstock.com

Grand Canyon National Park
Size1,217,262 acres
Animal to spotMule deer
Attraction to seeGrand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park became the 15th national park in the United States. It’s situated in northwestern Arizona. Without a single shred of doubt, the Grand Canyon is the most popular attraction of this national park. 

Point Imperial, Roosevelt Point, and Cape Royal are some of the lookout points you can access while driving there. Numerous hiking trails are available for adventurers. On the South Rim, visitors can opt for a 35-mile driving tour and several walking tours.

Grand Canyon National Park is home to many animal species, including mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and various reptiles and birds. 

4. Zion National Park

zion national park
Zion National Park is located in the southwestern part of Utah.

Asif Islam/Shutterstock.com

Zion National Park
Size146,597 acres
Animal to spotPinyon jays
Attraction to seeZion Canyon

Zion National Park is located in the southwestern part of Utah State. The highest peak is 8,726 feet, while the lowest is 3,666 feet. One of the most beautiful places in this national park is Zion Canyon, which stretches over 15 miles. 

The unique landscapes that can be found in Zion National Park are definitely breathtaking! This is because it’s located where the Colorado Plateau, Mojave Desert, and Great Basin regions meet. 

There are nine geological formations in the areas of Zion and Kolob Canyons. These formations are the result of 150 million years of Mesozoic-aged sedimentation.

5. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park hosts the largest supervolcano on the continent called the Yellowstone Caldera.

iStock.com/SL_Photography

Yellowstone National Park
Size2,219,791 acres
Animal to spotbison
Attraction to seeYellowstone Caldera

Yellowstone National Park is an incredibly large park located in the western region of the United States. It consists of lakes, rivers, mountain ranges, canyons, forests, and grasslands extremely rich in plant and animal species. The park hosts the largest supervolcano on the continent called the Yellowstone Caldera. 

Approximately 3,000 bison live in Yellowstone National Park. This is the largest public herd in the United States.

6. Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve is located in Interior Alaska and features the highest mountain in North America.

Santiparp Wattanaporn/Shutterstock.com

Denali National Park and Preserve
Size4,740,911 acres
Animal to spotCaribou
Attraction to seeDenali/McKinley Mountain

Denali National Park and Preserve can easily be called one of the most beautiful places in the United States. It will certainly make for a lasting impression! It is located in Interior Alaska and features the highest mountain in North America. Some tours can take you through boreal forests, rivers, and abrupt cliffs where spectacular views are revealed to visitors.

Denali National Park shelters thousands of animals and a wide variety of species. Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, caribou, coyotes, hoary marmots, beavers, and pikas are only some of them. Many migratory birds, such as waxwings or tundra swans, can be spotted during spring and summer.

7. Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is located southwest of Bar Harbor.

Eric Urquhart/Shutterstock.com

Acadia National Park
Size49,075 acres
Animal to spotWhale
Attraction to seeCobble beaches

Acadia National Park is located southwest of Bar Harbor. Visitors can delight in incredibly diverse views: cobble beaches, shaped valleys, mountains, coastlines, lakes, and forests. 

Acadia National Park’s popularity stems from the special whale-watching tours that start in Bar Harbor and that visitors can take. Just imagine the views you’ll enjoy during such a tour! 

Moreover, there are guided boat trips that you can join to explore the beautiful coastline.

8. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is an excellent destination for any kind of trip, as it features four regions.

kan_khampanya/Shutterstock.com

Olympic National Park
Size922,650 acres
Animal to spotSea lions
Attraction to seeThe Hurricane Ridge viewpoint

Olympic National Park is located in Washington. It is an excellent destination for any kind of trip, as it features four regions: alpine areas, the Pacific coastline, the west-side temperate rainforest, and the east-side forests. 

The park’s network of hiking trails opens up picturesque views that will amaze nature lovers! Beach enthusiasts can take their backpacks and start a multi-day trip along the coastline, thus having the opportunity to spot numerous species of sea animals. 

The Hurricane Ridge viewpoint has the most amazing views of the Olympic National Park! 

9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Winter
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in the southeastern part of the United States.

Shane Shelley/Shutterstock.com

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Size522,419 acres
Animal to spotLungless salamander
Attraction to seeMount Le Conte

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in the southeastern part of the United States and includes some of the highest mountains in the eastern area. Millions of visitors visit the park for its waterfalls, forests, biodiversity, and numerous historical structures. Mount Le Conte, the third highest peak in the park, is one of the most popular attractions there. 

The U.S. Highway 441 is a road that crosses the park, thus revealing absolutely astonishing views! Apart from this, multiple hiking trails take tourists to some of the most beautiful places this national park offers. 

10. Mount Rainier National Park

Best National Parks to Visit in October - Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is home to three stunning major attractions – Paradise, Longmire, and Sunrise.

Vidpen/Shutterstock.com

Mount Rainier National Park
Size236,381 acres
Animal to spotChipmunk
Attraction to seeParadise

Mount Rainier National Park can be seen as a gathering of incredible natural sights. There are over 25 glaciers in this park, as well as old-growth forests, waterfalls, valleys, and subalpine meadows. You can see them all during a trip through the park. All of these are surrounded by Mount Rainier itself, a 14,410-foot high stratovolcano.

Travelers who want to see Mount Rainier can trek the Wonderland Trail from all possible angles. This trail alone can make for a unique experience in this national park as it is webbed with snowfields and glaciers.

Mount Rainier National Park is home to three stunning major attractions – Paradise, Longmire, and Sunrise. Paradise hosts the famous Paradise Inn. Longmire features 173 individual campsites spread throughout the massive forests of fir, red cedar, and hemlock. Sunrise is an elevated area and the highest point in the park – 6,400 feet. It shelters miles of trails ready to be explored!

11. Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park
Visiting Kenai Fjords National Park introduces you to coastal islands, coastal fjords, glaciers, and the Harding Icefield.

Tomasz Wozniak/Shutterstock.com

Kenai Fjords National Park
Size669,984 acres
Animal to spotSnowshoe Hare
Attraction to seeExit Glacier

A trip to the Kenai Fjords National Park will take you to south-central Alaska. This is a must-see national park, and you shouldn’t miss the opportunity! The national park will introduce you to coastal islands, coastal fjords, glaciers, and the Harding Icefield. The park’s only road ends at Exit Glacier. This is the most popular attraction in the Kenai Fjords.

This national park has everything you’d expect an Alaskan landscape to have. You can discover 38 glaciers, plenty of forested lands, and an indented coastline.

12. Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park - John Moulton Barn
Grand Teton National Park is situated in the northwestern part of Wyoming.

anthony heflin/Shutterstock.com

Grand Teton National Park
Size310,000 acres
Animal to spotElk
Attraction to seeTeton Range

Grand Teton National Park is situated in the northwestern part of Wyoming, ten miles south of Yellowstone National Park. The major peaks of the Teton Range can be spotted in this park. 

Plant lovers will certainly be charmed at the view of over thousands of types of plants and trees!

Besides the stunning natural views, the Grand Teton National Park is rich in cultural and historical elements. The first nomadic Paleo-Indians migrated into the region as early as 11,000 years ago. The exhibits and art collections at the visitor’s centers will instantly transport you to the past! 

13. Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park features 12 trails of various lengths.

iStock.com/Allen Allnoch

Great Basin National Park
Size77,810 acres
Animal to spotRock squirrel
Attraction to seeLehman Caves

Great Basin National Park is named after the Great Basin, a dry and mountainous formation located near the Sierra Nevada. The national park’s well-known attraction is the Lehman Caves. These stand at the base of Wheeler Peak. Other notable things you must see are the groves of ancient bristlecone pines and the Wheeler Peak Glacier.

Nature enthusiasts will be amazed at the sight of all the flora in the park. There are over 800 species of plants and 11 conifer trees in and around the park. Explorers can also catch a glimpse of Utah juniper, sagebrush, Englemann spruce, and quaking aspen, among many others.

Great Basin National Park features 12 trails of various lengths. These will take you through the Cypress Swamp, Lexington Arch, Stella Lake, and Wheeler Peak. 

14. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is the home of the highest point in the US, Mount Whitney.

Asif Islam/Shutterstock.com

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
Size404,064 acres
Animal to spotYellow-bellied Marmot
Attraction to seeGeneral Sherman Tree

The Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park truly is one natural wonder of the United States! The designated national park protects over 400,000 acres of forested mountainous terrain, including the largest tree in the world – the General Sherman Tree.

This park is also the home of the highest point in the US, Mount Whitney. It has a total elevation of 14,505 feet. The Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve.

Travelers who want to see things out of this world can start a hike on the Sherman Tree Trail. It is a short (0.8 miles long) trail that explores the General Sherman Tree and a grove of impressive giant sequoia trees. For a cinematographic experience, to say the least, we recommend a trip to Crescent Meadow, often dubbed the Gem of Sierra.

15. Capitol Reef National Park

capitol reef national park
Capitol Reef National Park is located in south-central Utah.

Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock.com

Capitol Reef National Park
Size241,904
Animal to spotBlack Billed Magpie
Attraction to seeSunset Point

Capitol Reef National Park is located in south-central Utah. It preserves 241,904 acres of the desert landscape and is known for its magical sights. The huge area is home to canyons, buttes, monoliths, and ridges, among many other types of formations.

This national park can be scientifically described as a “Waterpocket Fold,” basically a warp of the planet’s outer layer. The so-called fold is over 65 million years old.

Capitol Reef National Park is a natural treasure loaded with arches, cliffs, naturally-emerged towers, and domes. The national park can be discovered through hundreds of trail miles open to the public.

Share this post on:

More from A-Z Animals