Americas 10 must see National Parks

The United States is well renowned for its 58 breathtaking National Parks. This year the National Parks System (NPS) is celebrating 100 years, and in honor of this here are 10 must see National Parks that can’t be missed. 

Observation Point - Zion National Park (Utah)

Observation Point - Zion National Park (Utah)

Zion National Park (Utah)

Quick Facts
Best hikes: Angels Landing, Observation Point, The Narrows
When to visit: The summer months are the most popular and offer the best weather and conditions, however if you want the park to yourself I would suggest visiting in late October and November. 
Do I need a hiking permit? Yes, some of the hikes require a permit including the Subway, these can be applied for through the National Park Service website at a cost of $5 per entry. It is important to book these well ahead of time otherwise you can enter a last minute drawing a week before. 


Zion is one of my favorite National Parks, set in a valley its surrounding mountains and towering cliffs are a sight to behold. When visiting Zion it is important to note that it is an extremely popular and therefore busy National Park. It does however boast some of the most amazing day hikes including Angels Landing, Observation Point, the Narrows and the Subway. Angels Landing is rated as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world due to its steep cliffs and difficulty level. If you are planning on hiking Angels Landing I would recommend being on the first shuttle of the day as the trail becomes very congested in the late morning. That being said it is well worth the 2.5 mile climb to the top. My favorite hike in the park is Observation Point which actually overlooks Angels Landing. Again this hike is quite difficult as it is a steep uphill climb however there is no rock scrambling required and the path is well marked the entire way. 

Angels Landing - Zion National Park (Utah)

Angels Landing - Zion National Park (Utah)

Observation Point - Zion National Park (Utah)

Observation Point - Zion National Park (Utah)

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
 

Quick Facts
Best hikes: Queens Garden Trail & Navajo Loop Trail
When to visit: The summer months are the most popular and offer the best weather and conditions, however if you want to see the park dusted in snow you can visit during the winter months (expect road closures). 
Do I need a hiking permit? No.


Bryce Canyon is a breathtakingly beautiful National Park located a stone’s throw from Zion. While the park is very beautiful it is not one of my favorites, primarily due to the lack of exciting hikes available. The majority of the park can be easily accessed by car and requires minimal walking which is great for those who have mobility restrictions. 

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Arches National Park (Utah)

Best hikes: Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, Tower Arch, Broken Arch Devils Garden
When to visit:  You can visit the park year round but be warned that it will be extremely hot in the summer months and could be frozen in winter. The most ideal times to visit is spring and autumn when the temperate is mild. 
Do I need a hiking permit? Yes for the Fiery Furnace Hike

Arches National Park is a 4 hour, 246 mile drive from the Salt Lake City airport. The park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sand stone arches with over 2,000 arches located within the parks 76,518 acres. The arch that draws the most attention from visitors is Delicate Arch which is a 3 mile round trip hike with moderate difficulty. It will take you around 4 hours to complete this hike at a leisurely pace, accounting time for all the photos you will want to take.

Delicate Arch - Arches National Park (Utah)

Delicate Arch - Arches National Park (Utah)

Window Arch - Arches National Park (Utah)

Window Arch - Arches National Park (Utah)

Death Valley National Park (Nevada) 
 

Quick Facts
Best hikes: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Salt Flats, Golden Canyon Trail
When to visit: During the summer moths the temperatures in the valley soar the best time to visit is early spring, late autumn and winter. 
Do I need a hiking permit? No.


With a name like Death Valley it can be a little off putting to some but if you brave the unknown and visit the park you will not be disappointed. I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting the park but I was truly wowed by the landscape and scenery located in the park. From the rolling sand dunes, huge salt flats, jagged peaks and soaring mountains this park has a little bit of everything.  

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - Death Valley National Park (Nevada)

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - Death Valley National Park (Nevada)

The Devil's Golf Course - Death Valley National Park (Nevada)

The Devil's Golf Course - Death Valley National Park (Nevada)

Sand Dunes - Death Valley National Park (Nevada)

Sand Dunes - Death Valley National Park (Nevada)

Yosemite National Park (California) 
 

Quick Facts
Best hikes: Yosemite Point/Upper Yosemite Falls, Glacier Point, Half Dome
When to visit: Much like Zion the summer months are the most popular and offer the best weather and conditions, however if you want to avoid some of the crowds I would suggest visiting in late May or September. 
Do I need a hiking permit? Yes, you will require a hiking permit for the Cables at Half Dome (one of the most famous hikes in California). 


Yosemite is one of the most famous parks in the National Park system and it’s not hard to see why. From the towering granite cliffs, giant sequoias groves to the beautiful meadows this park has something for everyone. Being one of the most popular parks it is often quite crowded, however if you are willing to get up early and do some long hikes you will be rewarded with less people and amazing views. My favorite hike in the park is Yosemite Point/Upper Yosemite Falls, this 8 mile (round trip) hike with 2,700ft elevation gain is sure to get the heart pumping but the views from the top, worth it. Glacier Point is another intensive hike much like Yosemite Point, however if you are visiting in during the summer months the pass will be open allowing you to drive to the top of Glacier Point and enjoy the views without the grueling hike. 

Yosemite Point - Yosemite National Park (California) 

Yosemite Point - Yosemite National Park (California) 

Yosemite Point - Yosemite National Park (California) 

Yosemite Point - Yosemite National Park (California) 

Glacier Point - Yosemite National Park (California) 

Glacier Point - Yosemite National Park (California) 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park (California)
 

Quick Facts
Best hikes: General Sherman & Congress Trail, Panther Gap via Long Meadow, Moro Rock
When to visit:  This park gets quite a lot of snow and closes a lot of its trails in the winter months, summer is the best time to visit. 
Do I need a hiking permit? No. 


Sequoia is a very picturesque National Park with an abundance of wildlife including black bears, marmots, deer, chipmunks and squirrels. A lot of the popular sites can be viewed by car and require minimal walking, however if you are interested in something more challenging you can take on Panther Gap. This hike weaves its way up the mountain and provides spectacular views of the valley, provided the clouds aren’t low lying like they were the day we went. 

Panther Gap Trail - Sequoia National Park (California)

Panther Gap Trail - Sequoia National Park (California)

Crater Lake National Park (Oregon) 
 

Quick Facts
Best hikes: Garfield Peak
When to visit: This park gets quite a lot of snow and closes a lot of its trails in the winter months, July and August are the best months to visit. 
Do I need a hiking permit? No. 


Cater Lake is one of the most stunningly beautiful parks in the National System. Its crystal clear blue water reflects the surrounding mountains like a perfect mirror. During the summer months you can drive around the entire lake and stop at the view points for different perspectives of the park, however in winter most roads are closed and access is very limited due to the regions immense snowfall. If you are looking for a challenge Garfield Peak is the hike for you, while it is predominantly uphill it offers an amazing birds eye view of the lake. 

Crater Lake - Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

Crater Lake - Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

Garfield Peak - Crater Lake (Oregon)

Garfield Peak - Crater Lake (Oregon)

June - Crater Lake (Oregon)

June - Crater Lake (Oregon)

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) 


Quick Facts
Things to see: 
Old Faithful Geyser/Upper Basin, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, Lamar Valley, Tower Fall, Lower Geyser Basin and the West Thumb Geyser Basin.
When to visit:  Yellowstone shuts down over winter due to the snowfall the best time to visit is during the summer months but be warned its unbelievably busy. If you are looking for a unique experience you can visit the park during the winter by snowmobile, which you have to book it through an authorized tour company. 
Do I need a hiking permit? Only if you want to head into the back country which I would highly recommend to escape the crowds. 

Yellowstone is one of the most famous parks in the National Park System and its not hard to see why. The park offers so many things to see, however be prepared for a lot of driving. The park is very large and getting anywhere during the summer months is bumper to bumper traffic. If you happen to see a unreasonable traffic jam there is most likely some wildlife up ahead that everyone has stopped to take picture of. 

Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) 

Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) 

Backcountry Camping  - Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) 

Backcountry Camping  - Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) 

Black Bear and Cubs - Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) 

Black Bear and Cubs - Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) 

Bad Lands National Park (South Dakota) 

Quick Facts
Best hikes: Door Trail, Notch Trail, Castle Trail, Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, Saddle Pass, and the Medicine Root Loop Trail.
When to visit: The badlands can be quite hot in summer and often has strong winds. The best time to visit is spring and autumn. 
Do I need a hiking permit? No. 

Visiting the Bad Lands National Park is a must, the views are breathtaking and unlike anything you will see in the other National Parks. The geologic deposits within the park contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed the park. When hiking in the park keep an eye out for any interesting fossils and if you find something be sure to tell the parks onsite scientists who can help you identify what the fossil is in the Visitor Center. 

Bad Lands National Park (South Dakota) 

Bad Lands National Park (South Dakota) 

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Quick Facts
Things to see: Estes Park, Emerald Lake, Trail Ridge Road, Adams Falls, Bear Lake and Chasm Lake.
When to visit:  The best time to visit the park is during the summer months when all the pass roads are open and you can explore the entire park.  
Do I need a hiking permit? Only for backcountry hikes. 

The Rocky Mountain National Park features amazing mountain views, a number of lakes, a variety of wildlife, varied environments including wooded forests and mountain tundras as well as a range of interesting hikes for every skill level. Spend a week exploring this amazing park there is so much to see and do here you will be spoiled for choice. 

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Marmot - Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Marmot - Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Chasm Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Chasm Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

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