Not only is the United States of America the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave, but it is also bursting with beautiful National Parks. Join us as we explore the full list, and highlight our favorites! Insider tip - we saved the best (in our opinion) for last!
Let's Explore our 63 National Parks by State!
*If this is your first time visiting, please be respectful of nature and your environment, and ensure you follow all park-specific safety recommendations and policies! A guide is always a good idea, especially if this is your first time.
Choose your State(s)
Since National Parks are all over the U.S., our recommendation is to narrow your trip down by selecting your coast, and then 1-2 states that are home to your most desired destinations. This way, you can weigh your options and plan your itinerary in the most cost-efficient way. As someone who has already experienced this, I know how overwhelming this process can be, but have no fear - we're here to aid in your planning. The hope is that this blog post will offer you a solid plan as you embark on the great National Parks!
For this exercise, we focused on West Coast National Parks!
Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Pheiffer Big Sur State Park.
California / Nevada
Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Death Valley National Park
Washington / Oregon
Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Utah, Arizona, Nevada ☆
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Grand Canyon National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park, a.k.a. The Grand Circle Road Trip.
As travelers who have visited a handful of National Parks, we found that The Grand Circle offered us the most picturesque/scenic drive with breathtaking views. After completing our journey, we fully understand why this is voted one of the most popular National Park Road Trips in America.
Ok, let's do this!
If you do not live close by and require a flight to begin your journey (as we did), we chose to kick off our trip in ever the vibrant, Las Vegas, Nevada. Vegas offers a quick 2.5-hour drive to Zion National Park, which is where we began. Something to note - Zion offers a handful of trails that can be tailored to your expertise, so we recommend you take a look at the National Park Service website to explore your options. For lodging, Zion has a few designated campgrounds; we chose Watchman Campground, which is located about 1/4 mile from the South Entrance of the Park in Utah. Fortunately, a friend of ours tipped us off that reservations can be made up to 6-months in advance, so that's what we did. Definitely recommend this!
Ok, moving on! Next, we drove the short 1-hour, 45-minute drive to Bryce Canyon National Park. Though is it certainly smaller than Zion, it is still loaded with majestic trailheads (ex - Sunrise or Sunset Point) for your viewing pleasure. Our guide recommended we do the Queen's Garden and Navajo Loop Trail, as it's the most popular hike in the park! As a moderate hike, we descended into Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and walked through the Hoodoo rocks. A SIGHT TO SEE!
Knowing our last park/destination was the Grand Canyon, we began researching the best place to stop to break up the 4-5 hour ride. Alas, we landed on Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, which was just shy of 3-hours in the car. Antelope is mostly known for its light shafts and unique angles, so we were thrilled to learn a tour was required to enter. This was so helpful in determining the best path for us, and to have photo-op recommendations during the tour! Since we only had 1-day, we decided to take our time, have a great breakfast, and book the Lower Antelope Canyon Tour. This tour requires about 1 mile worth of walking, with the most difficult part being the initial descent into the canyon. It requires 5-flights of stairs, but is completely doable! Just make sure all members in your group are in good health and you're loaded up on water - especially if you're going in the summer months!
To wrap up our trip, we drove about 2-hours to the Grand Canyon National Park. Though there are two maintained South Rim paths, we decided to take the South Kaibab Trail (we parked at the Visitor Center and took the 9-minute Orange Shuttle to the Trailhead), which begins with switchbacks that lead to a steep and narrow descent. In total, this trail is 6.5 miles and descends roughly 4,820 feet. There is little to no shade, and water is not available on the South Kaibab Trail, so it is essential that you plan ahead.
We felt so fulfilled by the incredibly expansive and panoramic views in the Grand Canyon, that we knew we saved the best for last. To wrap up our trip, we drove back to Las Vegas to stay one night, before our flight home to NJ. Overall, this trip was perfect. We hope that this guide helps you in planning your trip. America truly offers some of the most beautiful and scenic locations for unbelievable photography and lasting memories. We hope you enjoy your time in the great outdoors as much as we did.
NOW, GET OUT THERE AND HAVE SOME FUN!