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In Yosemite National Park with El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls behind Merced River
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Americans and those who visit the USA from abroad have access to 59 national parks, whose characteristics and opportunities, taken together, are more diverse than those of anywhere else in the world.

From the frigid peaks of Gates of the Arctic’s Brooks Range, to the subtropical wetlands of Florida’s Everglades. From the below-sea-level simmer of California’s Death Valley, to the mist lifting off the ridges of Shenandoah in Virginia. From glaciers to mangroves to waterfalls to canyons to towering forests. If you visited all 59 of the USA’s national parks, you would have a good understanding of our planet’s geology and ecology. Many of these park names may be familiar to you. Some you may be hearing for the first time. But whether they see 10 million annual visitors (Great Smoky Mountains) or barely a 1,000 (Kobuk Valley), all are worth a trip. Here’s some inspiration to get you planning.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

The largest park in the country, Wrangell-St. Elias lies in a corner of southern Alaska, adjacent to the Yukon's Kluane National Park just over the border. Its 52,000 square kilometers make for a whole lot of potential exploration. Go on a hike along the Skookum Volcano Trail.

Aerial view of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Aerial view of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
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National Parks Service/Neal Herbert

Canyonlands National Park

Just south of Moab and the more recognized Arches National Park, Canyonlands also features some impressive sandstone arch formations, as well as canyons of monumental scale, carved by the Colorado and Green rivers.

Striking landscape in Canyonlands National Park

Striking landscape in Canyonlands National Park
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John Fowler
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Shenandoah National Park

Encompassing a long strip of both the Blue Ridge Mountains and adjacent Shenandoah River Valley, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia gets super popular during the fall, when leaf peepers arrive to complete the 169-kilometer Skyline Drive.

Cascading waterfall in Shenandoah National Park

Cascading waterfall in Shenandoah National Park
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Josh Grenier
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Yellowstone National Park

The world's first national park is also one of its most unique and well visited. The 8,806 square kilometers of Yellowstone hold geysers, mountain lakes, forests, river canyons, waterfalls, and many threatened species. The park's Grand Prismatic Spring is the third-largest hot spring in the world.

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Congaree National Park

Congaree protects a vast tract of marshy hardwood forest along the river of the same name just southeast of Columbia, South Carolina. Its old-growth cypress trees are some of the tallest in the eastern USA.

Cypress trees in a marsh at Congaree National Park

Cypress trees in a marsh at Congaree National Park
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Death Valley National Park

Low and hot – Death Valley is home to both the lowest elevations and hottest temperatures in the USA, but the landscape in this part of California is actually incredibly diverse, ranging from saltpans like the Devil's Racetrack to snow-capped mountains reaching 3,353 meters.

Mountains and desert terrain in Death Valley National Park

Mountains and desert terrain in Death Valley National Park
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