For almost a hundred and fifty years, the United States' national parks have been inspiring visitors.

Comprising a collection of stunningly diverse landscapes, from active volcanoes spewing lava to crystalline glaciers creeping down snow-covered peaks to eerie deserts that look like someone pulled the bathtub stopper on an ancient ocean, US national parks have captured the imagination of millions of park-goers.

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Full of history – both geologic, Indigenous and more recent – and featuring trails that range from ADA-accessible boardwalks to challenging treks that test the hardiest of outdoor athletes, America's national parks are at once culturally significant, approachable and wild.

Want to learn more about national parks in the United States? Here’s a quick look at each one, with links where you can learn more about these incredibly diverse landscapes.

Just looking for the best of the best? Check out our roundup of top experiences in America's national parks.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse at sunset, in Acadia National Park, Maine
Bass Harbor Lighthouse at sunset, in Acadia National Park, Maine © AppalachianViews / Getty Images

1. Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is the only national park in New England encompasses an unspoiled wilderness of undulating coastal mountains, towering sea cliffs, surf-pounding beaches and quiet ponds.

State: Maine
Entrance Fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Beaches, Cycling, Walking
Read more: Acadia National Park is introducing a timed reservation system for visitors
Buy the guide: Maine & Acadia National Park

Glowing Arch
Sunrise at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park © Mark Brodkin Photography / Getty Images

2. Arches National Park

Giant sweeping arcs of sandstone frame snowy peaks and desert landscapes; explore the park’s namesake formations in a red-rock wonderland.

State: Utah
Entrance Fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Family Travel, Photo Op, Walking
Read more: 17 top adventures in and around mighty Moab
Buy the guide: Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks

Scenic View Of Layered Badlands
Layered rock formations and colourful canyons at Badlands National Park © Andrew Nay / EyeEm / Getty Images

3. Badlands National Park

It's easy to understand why the Lakota named this place mako sica (badland) when you look over the rainbow-hued canyons and buttes that sit like an ocean boiled dry.

State: South Dakota
Entrance Fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Scenery, Wildlife, Cycling
Read more: South Dakota's best scenic drives
Buy the guide: Western USA travel guidebook

Mule Ears Peaks at sunset, Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
Mule Ears Peaks at sunset in the Chihuahuan Desert © Witold Skrypczak / Alamy Stock Photo

4. Big Bend National Park

From the moment you enter the national park, there's spectacular scenery everywhere you look. Head to the Chisos Basin for the most dramatic landscape, but any visit should also include time in the Chihuahuan Desert, home to curious creatures and adaptable plants and down along the Rio Grande, the watery dividing line between the US and Mexico.

State: Texas
Entrance Fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Wildlife, Walking, Scenery
Read more: Welcome to the West: discovering Texas' best national parks and reserves
Buy the guide: 

Boca Chita Key Lighthouse
Boca Chita Key Lighthouse on Boca Chita Key in the Biscayne National Park © stockphoto52 / Getty Images

5. Biscayne National Park

A portion of the world’s third-largest reef sits here off the coast of Florida, along with mangrove forests and the northernmost Florida Keys. This is some of the best reef viewing and snorkeling you’ll find in the USA, outside Hawaii and nearby Key Largo.

State: Florida
Entrance Fee: Free
Great for: Family Travel, Wildlife, Scenery
Read more: Aquatic thrills in coastal Florida
Buy the guide: Florida travel guide

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, USA
The Black Canyon of the Gunnsion National Park, Colorado, USA © Patrick Lienin / Getty Images

6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Here a dark, narrow gash above the Gunnison River leads down a 2000ft chasm as eerie as it is spectacular. In just 48 canyon miles, the Gunnison River loses more elevation than the entire 1500-mile Mississippi. No other canyon in America combines the narrow openings, sheer walls and dizzying depths of the Black Canyon.

State: Colorado
Entrance Fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Family Travel, Scenery, Walking
Read more: Where to find the USA's 12 newest national parks
Buy the guide: Colorado travel guide

Dawn over Bryce Canyon
Sunrise over the amphitheater at Bryce Canyon, as seen from Inspiration Point © LordRunar / Getty Images

7. Bryce Canyon National Park

Famous for its otherworldly sunset-colored spires punctuated by tracts of evergreen forest, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the planet's most exquisite geological wonders. Repeated freezes and thaws have eroded the small park's soft sandstone and limestone into sandcastle-like pinnacles known as hoodoos, jutted fins and huge amphitheaters filled with thousands of pastel daggers.

State: Utah
Entrance Fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Wildlife, Photo Op, Scenery
Read more: Utah's best national parks
Buy the guide: Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks

Inside Mesa Arch at Sunrise
Inside Mesa Arch at Sunrise © Jeff R Clow / Getty Images

8. Canyonlands National Park

A forbidding and beautiful maze of red-rock fins, bridges, needles, spires, craters, mesas and buttes, Canyonlands is a crumbling, decaying beauty – a vision of ancient earth.

State: Utah
Entrance Fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Cycling, Scenery, Walking
Read more: How to get around Moab, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Buy the guide: 

Starry sky over butte in Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, Utah, USA
Starry sky over butte at night in Capitol Reef National Park © Scott Barlow / Getty Images

9. Capitol Reef National Park

Giant slabs of chocolate-red rock and sweeping yellow sandstone domes dominate the landscape of Capitol Reef, which Indigenous Freemont people called the ‘Land of the Sleeping Rainbow.’

State: Utah
Entrance Fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $20
Great for: Walking, Photo Op, Scenery
Read more: Best outdoor activities in southern Utah
Buy the guide: 

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Inside the Crystal Spring Dome in Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Doug Meek / Shutterstock

10. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Scores of wondrous caves hide under the hills at this unique national park. The cavern formations are an ethereal wonderland of stalactites and fantastical geological features.

State: New Mexico
Entrance Fee: 3-day pass per adult/child, $15/free
Great for: Family Travel, Photo Op, Scenery 
Read more: See the Southwest USA's most iconic landscapes on this epic road trip
Buy the guide: 

Family Fun
California Sea Lion's frolic underwater around Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park © Douglas Klug / Getty Images

11. Channel Islands National Park

Tossed like lost pearls off the coast, the Channel Islands are California’s last outpost of civilization; the islands have earned themselves the nickname ‘California’s Galápagos’.

State: California
Entrance Fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Scenery, Beaches
Read more: A quick guide to California's Channel Islands
Buy the guide: 

Congaree National Park
Bald cypress trees at Congaree National Park © Getty Images

12. Congaree National Park

Encompassing nearly 27,000 acres, Congaree National Park is the largest expanse of old-growth, bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern US. The lush trees growing here are some of the tallest in the eastern USA, forming one of the highest temperate deciduous forest canopies left in the world.

State: South Carolina
Entrance Fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Family Travel, Walking 
Read more: Coastal leaving: the inland water adventures of South Carolina
Buy the guide: 

View of a snow covered island in Crater Lake, Oregon.
A snow covered island in Crater Lake © Aurora Open / Getty Images

13. Crater Lake National Park

Despite the name, Crater Lake was formed not by an impact from outer space, but from a volcanic eruption so big it blew the top off this mountain almost 8000 years ago. The caldera has since filled with rain and snowmelt, creating a stunningly blue, pure lake – the deepest in the United States at 1943ft to the bottom.

State: Oregon
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle, $20 in the winter, $30 in the summer
Great for: Family Travel, Photo Op, Scenery 
Read more: The 25 best hikes in Oregon past mountains, waterfalls and dunes
Buy the guide: Washington, Oregon & the Pacific Northwest travel guide

Blue Hen Falls, Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio
Blue Hen Falls, Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio © Howard Grill / Getty Images

14. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Like a great, cold snake, the Cuyahoga River worms over a forested valley, earning its Native American name of 'crooked river' (or possibly 'place of the jawbone'). Either name is evocative and hints at the mystical beauty that Ohio's only national park.

State: Ohio
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Cycling, Family Travel, Walking 
Read more: Where to find the USA's 12 newest national parks
Buy the guide: Eastern USA Travel Guide

Teakettle Junction in Death Valley National Park, California
Sign for Teakettle Junction on the way to Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park © miroslav_1 / Getty Images

15. Death Valley National Park

In Death Valley, nature is putting on a truly spectacular show: singing sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons, boulders moving across the desert floor, extinct volcanic craters, palm-shaded oases, stark mountains rising to 11,000ft and plenty of endemic wildlife. This is a land of superlatives, holding the US records for hottest temperature (134°F/57°C), lowest point (Badwater, 282ft below sea level) and largest national park outside Alaska (more than 5000 sq miles).

State: California
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Scenery, Walking, Wildlife 
Read more: Stay in a luxury 'oasis' in California's Death Valley
Buy the guide: Los Angeles, San Diego & Southern California travel guide

500px Photo ID: 123806719 - Denali: the highest peak on the North American Continent on a stormy day.
Denali peak © Philip Kuntz / 500px

16. Denali National Park

Denali, once known as Mt McKinley and to native Athabascans as the Great One, is North America’s highest peak, rightly celebrated as an icon of all that is awesome and wild in a state where those adjectives are ubiquitous. Here, you can peer at a grizzly bear, moose, caribou or even wolves, or trek into 6 million acres of tundra, boreal forest and ice-capped mountains – a space larger than Massachusetts.

State: Alaska
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per adult/child; $15/free
Great for: Wildlife, Scenery, Walking 
Read more: The last wild west: Alaska's Denali National Park
Buy the guide: 

Fort on the ocean
Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park © gnagel / Getty Images

17. Dry Tortugas National Park

Ponce de León named them Las Tortugas (The Turtles) for the sea turtles that roamed here. A lack of freshwater led sailors to add a ‘dry.’ Today the Dry Tortugas are a national park accessible only by boat or plane. The sparkling waters offer excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. Stargazing is mind-blowing any time of the year.

State: Florida
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per person $15
Great for: History, Photo Op, Scenery, Diving 
Read more: Land the perfect outdoor adventure in The Florida Keys
Buy the guide: Florida travel guide

Sunset at Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook, Everglades National Park, Florida
Sunset at Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook in the Everglades National Park © Diana Robinson Photography / Getty Images

18. Everglades National Park

Called the ‘River of Grass’ by Native American inhabitants, this is not just a wetland, or a swamp, or a lake, or a river, or a prairie, or a grassland – it is all of those, twisted together into a series of soft horizons, long vistas, sunsets that stretch across your entire field of vision and the toothy grins of a healthy population of dinosaur-era reptiles.

State: Florida
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Family Travel, Wildlife, Winter Travel 
Read more: Three sustainable ways to experience the Everglades
Buy the guide: Florida travel guide

Morning aerial view of the Alatna River in Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, Arctic Alaska, Winter
Morning aerial view of the Alatna River in Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, Arctic Alaska, Winter © Alamy Stock Photo

19. Gates of the Arctic National Park

Unchanged in four millennia, this massive preserved space protects a contiguous wilderness that stretches for over 27,000 sq miles – the equivalent of nearly two Switzerlands – harboring no roads, no cell-phone coverage and a population of precisely zero.

State: Alaska
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Photo Op, Scenery 
Read more: Top 8 road trips in Alaska
Buy the guide: 

Gateway Arch across the reflection pool
The Gateway Arch in Gateway Arch National Park © Mike Kline (notkalvin) / Getty Images

20. Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch may be one of the smallest national parks in the US (and one of the only urban parks), but its main attraction, the Gateway Arch, is the largest manmade monument in the US. It stands 630ft high and symbolizes St Louis' historical role as 'Gateway to the West.'

State: Missouri
Entrance fee: to enter the monument, adult/child, $3/free; tramp to the top adult/child, from $11/$15
Great for: History, Family Travel, Photo Op 
Read more: Museums and more in Missouri: art, history and culture in St Louis and beyond
Buy the guide: 

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Breaching humpback whale against snow capped mountains seen in the distance in Glacier Bay, Alaska © Betty Wiley / Getty Images

21. Glacier Bay National Park

Seven tidewater glaciers spill out of the mountains and fill the sea with icebergs of all shapes, sizes and shades of blue, making Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve an icy wilderness renowned worldwide.

State: Alaska
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Photo Op, Scenery 
Read more: Introducing Alaska’s national parks
Buy the guide: 

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Vintage red car on a mountainous road in the Glacier National Park © EdwinM / Shutterstock

22. Glacier National Park

The glacially carved remnants of an ancient thrust fault have left us a brilliant landscape of towering snowcapped pinnacles laced with plunging waterfalls and glassy turquoise lakes. The mountains are surrounded by dense forests, which host a virtually intact pre-Columbian ecosystem where grizzly bears still roam in abundance.

State: Montana
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Wildlife, Scenery, Walking 
Read more: Why you should take the train to Glacier National Park
Buy the guide: 

Sunset at Desert View Point, Grand Canyon National Park
Sunset overlooking the Colorado River deep in the Grand Canyon © Dean Fikar / Getty

23. Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon embodies the scale and splendor of the American West, captured in dramatic vistas, dusty trails and stories of exploration, preservation and exploitation. Ancestral Puebloans lived in and near the Grand Canyon for centuries, and their stories echo in the reds, rusts and oranges of the canyon walls and the park's spires and buttes.

State: Arizona
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Scenery, Family Travel, Walking 
Read more: Grand Canyon National Park is geological and human history writ large
Buy the guide: Grand Canyon National Park guidebook

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Rafting tours down the Snake River near Grand Tenton Mountains © Mark Read / Lonely Planet

24. Grand Teton National Park

Some 12 imposing glacier-carved summits frame the singular Grand Teton (13,775ft). And while the view is breathtaking from the valley floor, it only gets more impressive on the trail. This wilderness is home to bear, moose and elk in number and played a fundamental role in the history of American alpine climbing.

State: Wyoming
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Wildlife, Scenery, Winter Travel 
Read more: 5 US ski towns you can enjoy without hitting the slopes
Buy the guide: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks guidebook

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The starry night sky over Great Basin National Park © Under Lucky Stars / Unsplash

25. Great Basin National Park

Rising abruptly from the desert, and dominating Great Basin National Park, 13,063ft Wheeler Peak creates an awesome range of life zones and landscapes, including the richly decorated Lehman Caves, glacial lakes and ancient bristlecone pines.

State: Nevada
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Photo Op, Scenery, Walking 
Read more: What it's like to hike among 5000-year-old trees
Buy the guide: Southwest USA travel guide

Sand dunes and mountain peaks. Great Sand Dune National Park, Alamosa, Colorado.
Sand dunes and mountainous peaks at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado © Dan Ballard / Getty Images

26. Great Sand Dunes National Park

For all of Colorado’s striking natural sights, the surreal Great Sand Dunes National Park, a veritable sea of sand bounded by jagged peaks and scrubby plains, is a place of stirring optical illusions where nature’s magic is on full display.

State: Colorado
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $25
Great for: Cycling, Family Travel, Walking 
Read more: Introducing Colorado's National Parks
Buy the guide: 

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Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee © Amanda McCadams

27. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The sun-dappled forests of the Great Smoky Mountains are a four-season wonderland, from spring's wildflowers to summer's flame azaleas to autumn's quilted hues of orange, burgundy and saffron blanketing the mountain slopes and winter's ice-fringed cascades. This mesmerizing backdrop is also a Unesco World Heritage Site, harboring more biodiversity than any other national park in America.

State: North Carolina & Tennessee
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: History, Wildlife, Walking 
Read more: First-timer's guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Buy the guide: Great Smoky Mountains National Park guidebook

El Capitan, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
El Capitan, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas © Alamy

28. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a Texas high spot, both literally and figuratively. At 8749ft, Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in the Lone Star State. More than half the park is a designated wilderness area, and the park service has curbed development to keep it wild. With no paved roads within the park proper, you're going to have to hike to see its high-country splendor.

State: Texas
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per adult/child, $10/free
Great for: Scenery, Walking, History 
Read more: See the Southwest USA's most iconic landscapes on this epic road trip
Buy the guide: 

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Two hikers going through an area known as Pele's Paint Pot, Haleakala National Park © Monica and Michael Sweet / Getty

29. Haleakalā National Park

To fully experience Maui – or at least peer into its soul – make your way to the summit of Haleakalā. Like a yawning mouth, the huge crater opens beneath you, in all its raw volcanic glory, caressed by mist and, in the experience of a lifetime, bathed in the early light of sunrise.

State: Hawaii
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Wildlife, Scenery, Walking 
Read more: Top 10 Maui travel experiences
Buy the guide: aui travel guide

Hawaii, Big Island, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, tourists standing on lava field
Visitors standing on a glowing lava field in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park © Westend61 / Getty Images

30. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

From the often-snowy summit of Mauna Loa, the world's most massive volcano, to the boiling coast where lava pours into the sea, is a micro-continent of thriving rainforests, volcano-induced deserts, high-mountain meadows, coastal plains and plenty of geological marvels in between.

State: Hawaii
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Family Travel, Photo Op, Scenery 
Read more: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is still a hot destination
Buy the guide: Hawai'i the Big Island guidebook

Image made at Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, in early May of 2017.
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas © Alamy Stock Photo

31. Hot Springs National Park

The healing waters the town is named for have been attracting everyone from Native Americans – for centuries – and early-20th-century health nuts, to a good chunk of the nation's organized-crime leadership. Today the appeal of Hot Springs is less the actual springs than the elaborate, restored Bathhouse Row, which sits behind swaths of shady magnolias.

State: Arkansas
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Family Travel, History, Scenery 
Read more: This US national park is full of hot springs - and it's turning 100 years old
Buy the guide: Eastern USA guidebook

View of Lake Michigan over the dunes at Indiana Dunes National Park
View of Lake Michigan over the dunes at Indiana Dunes National Park © Getty Images / iStockphoto

32. Indiana Dunes National Park

In addition to being home to America's newest national park, sunny beaches, rustling grasses and woodsy campgrounds are the Indiana Dunes’ claim to fame. In addition to its beaches, the area is noted for its biodiversity, hosting over 2000 species of plants and birds.

State: Indiana
Entrance fee: West Beach $6.00 per vehicle per day; Dunewood Campground $25 per night
Great for: Beaches, Wildlife, Scenery 
Read more: Where to find the USA's 12 newest national parks
Buy the guide: Eastern USA guidebook

Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Isle Royale National Park
Rock Harbor Lighthouse in Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, Michigan © StevenSchremp / Getty Images

33. Isle Royale National Park

The island is laced with 165 miles of hiking trails that connect dozens of campgrounds along Superior and inland lakes. Totally free of vehicles and roads, Isle Royale National Park gets fewer visitors in a year than Yellowstone National Park gets in a day, which means the 2000 moose roaming through the forest are all yours.

State: Michigan
Entrance fee: 1-day pass per person $7
Great for: Scenery, Wildlife, Walking
Read more: Experience the Great Lakes on one epic road trip
Buy the guide: Eastern USA guidebook

Male boulderer moving up boulder in Joshua Tree National Park at dusk, California, USA
Bouldering in Joshua Tree National Park at dusk © Manuel Sulzer / Getty Image

34. Joshua Tree National Park

This 794,000-acre park at the transition zone of two deserts: the low and dry Colorado and the higher, moister and slightly cooler Mojave. Rock climbers know ‘JT’ as the best place to climb in California; hikers seek out hidden, shady, desert-fan-palm oases fed by natural springs and small streams; and mountain bikers are hypnotized by the desert vistas.

State: California
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Cycling, Scenery, Wildlife 
Read more: Getting to know Joshua Tree National Park
Buy the guide: Los Angeles, San Diego & Southern California travel guide

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A group of grizzly bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls © oksana.perkins / Shutterstock

35. Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park & Preserve is famous for its wildlife, epic sport-fishing potential and unusual volcanic landscapes. Unconnected to the main Alaskan road network and covering an area the size of Wales, a visit here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a chance to stand spine-tinglingly close to formidable 1000lb brown bears pawing giant salmon out of the river.

State: Alaska
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Photo Op, Scenery 
Read more: National Parks: The best free things to do in the US parks
Buy the guide: 

One man on stand up paddle board (SUP) paddles past hole melted in iceberg on Bear Lake in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.
One man on stand up paddle board (SUP) paddles past hole melted in iceberg on Bear Lake in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska © James + Courtney Forte / Getty Images

36. Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park was created in 1980 to protect 587,000 acres of Alaska’s most awesome, impenetrable wilderness. Crowning the park is the massive Harding Ice Field; from it, countless tidewater glaciers pour down, carving the coast into dizzying fjords.

State: Alaska
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Photo Op, Scenery 
Read more: Experiencing Alaska's glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park
Buy the guide: 

Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park, California © Getty Images

37. Kings Canyon National Park

With a dramatic cleft deeper than the Grand Canyon, rugged Kings Canyon offers true adventure to those who crave seemingly endless verdant trails, rushing streams and gargantuan rock formations. Here you'll find General Grant, the second-largest tree in the world, as well as peaks over 14,000 feet high and some of the most dramatic scenery in California.

State: California
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Family Travel, Wildlife, Walking 
Read more: The best of California's amazing hikes
Buy the guide: Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Caribou bulls swimming across Kobuk River Arctic Alaska Autumn Kobuk Valley National Park
Caribou bulls swimming across Kobuk River Arctic Alaska Autumn Kobuk Valley National Park © Alamy Stock Photo

38. Kobuk Valley National Parks

Kobuk Valley National Park has a desolate, severe beauty and is best known for its Arctic sand dunes – like a Saharan desert in the midst of the tundra – and migrating caribou.

State: Alaska
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Backcountry hiking and camping, boating, flightseeing
Read more: Introducing Alaska’s national parks
Buy the guide: 

Sow Grizzly and three cubs walking along the shore of Crescent Lake, Lake Clark National Park, Southcentral Alaska, Autumn
Sow Grizzly and three cubs walking along the shore of Crescent Lake, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska © Rob Daugherty / Design Pics / Getty Images

39. Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve has an awesome array of tundra-covered hills, mountains, glaciers, coastline, the largest lakes in the state and two active volcanoes.

State: Alaska
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Walking, Scenery 
Read more: Introducing Alaska’s national parks
Buy the guide: 

Landscape of Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, USA
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Stass Gricko / 500px / Getty Images

40. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Anchoring the southernmost link in the Cascades’ chain of volcanoes, this alien landscape bubbles over with roiling mud pots, noxious sulfur vents, steamy fumaroles, colorful cinder cones and crater lakes.

State: California
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30 ($10 in winter)
Great for: Photo Op, Scenery, Walking 
Read more: Four scenic trips on four wheels in Northern California
Buy the guide: Northern California travel guide

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A view of the Green River from a bluff in Mammoth Cave National Park framed by redbud trees © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

41. Mammoth Cave National Park

Home to the longest cave system on earth, Mammoth Cave National Park has more than 400 miles of surveyed passageways. Mammoth is at least three times longer than any other known cave, with vast interior cathedrals, bottomless pits and strange, undulating rock formations. Guided tours delve into the spookily beautiful underworld.

State: Kentucky
Entrance fee: Free; cave tours $6-60
Great for: Walking, Family Travel, Scenery 
Read more: The complete guide to Mammoth Cave National Park
Buy the guide: Eastern USA guidebook

Twilight At Cliff Palace
A twilight image with a half moon in a clear blue sky over the Cliff Palace ruins in Mesa Verde National Park © Rebecca L. Latson / Getty Images

42. Mesa Verde National Park

More than 700 years after its inhabitants disappeared, Mesa Verde retains an air of mystery. No one knows for sure why the Ancestral Puebloans left their elaborate cliff dwellings in the 1300s. What remains is a wonderland for adventurers of all sizes, who can clamber up ladders to carved-out dwellings, see rock art and delve into the mysteries of ancient America.

State: Colorado
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $20-30
Great for: History, Winter Travel, Scenery 
Read more: Gaze at the stars in Colorado's incredible new dark sky park
Buy the guide: Colorado travel guide

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Mt Rainier Looms over Sleepy town of Gig Harbor © GSD Photography / Shutterstock

43. Mount Rainier National Park

The Native Americans called the mountain Tahoma or Tacoma, meaning the 'mother of waters;' George Vancouver named it Rainier in honor of his colleague and friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. As an active stratovolcano that recorded its last eruptive activity as recently as 1854, Rainier harnesses untold destructive powers in addition to reigning as the contiguous USA's fifth-highest peak.

State: Washington
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Wildlife, Photo Op, Walking 
Read more: Introducing Washington's national parks
Buy the guide: Washington, Oregon & the Pacific Northwest travel guide

Pago Pago Harbour
Pago Pago Harbour © David Kirkland / Design Pics / Getty Images

44. National Park of American Samoa

Created in 1988, the territory’s sole national park protects huge swathes of pristine volcanic and marine landscapes across the three Tutuila, Ta'ū and Ofu islands and 4000 acres of ocean. Here you'll find coral reefs, wildlife like fruit bats and king fishers and the rich fa'asamoa – the sacred and ancient culture of the Samoan people.

Location: American Samoa
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Snorkeling, Wildlife, Culture
Read more: American Samoa: an unsung South Pacific paradise
Buy the guide: 

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The New River Gorge Bridge, as seen from Fayette Station Road © ESB Professional / Shutterstock

45. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

The New River is the United States' newest national park but is actually one of the oldest waterways in the world, and the primeval forest gorge it runs through is one of the most breathtaking in the Appalachians. The region is an adventure mecca, with world-class white-water runs and challenging single-track trails. Rim and gorge hiking trails offer beautiful views.

State: West Virginia
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Hiking, paddling, extreme sports
Read more: New vs Gauley: find your river in West Virginia
Buy the guide: Eastern USA guidebook

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Hiker stands at his mountain top camp during sunset in North Cascades National Park © Andrew Bertino / Shutterstock

46. North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park feels like Alaska transplanted into the lower 48, a thousand square miles of dramatic, daunting wild country strafed with mountains furnished with names like Mt Terror, Mt Fury, Mt Despair and Forbidden Peak, lakes, glaciers (over 300 of them) and plenty of wildlife, but only one road.

State: Washington
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Scenery, Walking 
Read more: Top 11 US national parks that are total hidden gems
Buy the guide: Washington, Oregon & the Pacific Northwest travel guide

Shi Shi Beach Washington Coast
Shi Shi Beach on Washington Coast on a cloudy day © Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

47. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park shelters a unique rainforest, copious glaciated mountain peaks and a 57-mile strip of Pacific coastal wilderness relatively untouched by human habitation, with 1000-year-old cedar trees juxtaposed with pristine alpine meadows, clear glacial lakes and a largely roadless interior.

State: Washington
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Family Travel, Wildlife, Scenery 
Read more: 8 US national parks where you can scuba dive
Buy the guide: Washington, Oregon & the Pacific Northwest travel guide

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Petrified logs in the Painted desert and Petrified Forest National Park at dusk, with a full moon © Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock

48. Petrified Forest National Park

The 'trees' of Petrified Forest National Park are fossilized logs scattered over a vast area of semidesert grassland, buried beneath silica-rich volcanic ash before they could decompose. Up to 6ft in diameter, they're strikingly beautiful, with extravagantly patterned cross-sections of wood glinting in ethereal pinks, blues and greens.

State: Arizona
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $25
Great for: Walking, Wildlife, Scenery 
Read more: Explore Arizona's natural beauty beyond the Grand Canyon on this epic road trip
Buy the guide: 

Moon Rise and Condor in Flight at Pinnacles National Park
A condor flies in front of the moon in front of rock formations at the Pinnacles National Park © NickLustPhotography / Getty Images

49. Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles is named for the towering rock spires that rise abruptly out of the chaparral-covered hills east of Salinas Valley. Its famous formations are the eroded remnants of an long-extinct volcano that originated in present-day southern California before getting sheared in two and moved nearly 200 miles north along the San Andreas Fault.

State: California
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Wildlife, Photo Op, Walking
Read more: Where to find the USA's 12 newest national parks
Buy the guide: USA's National Parks

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A couple of tourists walking under a fallen redwood in Redwood National Park © Yaya Ernst / Shutterstock

50. Redwood National Park

Hidden away in the upper reaches of California’s northwestern Pacific coast, Redwood National Park encompasses some of the world’s tallest and most ancient trees, along with a luxuriantly verdant mix of coastal, riverine and prairie wildlands. 

State: California
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Family Travel, Walking, Wildlife
Read more: Majestic California condors to be reintroduced to Redwood National Park
Buy the guide: USA's National Parks

Family hiking on summer vacation in Colorado mountains.
Two girls and their father hike on Emerald Lake Trail through Rocky Mountain National Park © MargaretW / Getty Images

51. Rocky Mountain National Park

The crown jewel of Colorado's national parks, Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 sq miles of granite mountaintops, alpine lakes, wildflower-filled meadows, hiking trails and star-filled nights, not to mention moose, elk, bighorn sheep, black bear and more.

State: Colorado
Entrance fee: 1-day pass per vehicle $25
Great for: Wildlife, Walking, Winter Travel
Read more: Rocky Mountain National Park’s best hikes
Buy the guide: 

Desert Garden
Cacti at Saguaro National Park © ericfltz / Getty Images

52. Saguaro National Park

Saguaros (sah-wah-ros) are icons of the American Southwest, and an entire cactus army of these majestic, ribbed sentinels is protected in this desert playground. Or more precisely, playgrounds: Saguaro National Park is divided into east and west units, separated by 30 miles and the city of Tucson itself. 

State: Arizona
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $25
Great for: Cycling, Wildlife, Walking
Read more: Under the radar USA: Tucson is more than its cactus 
Buy the guide: 

Man Looking At Trees In Forest
Man looking up at a giant redwood in Sequoia National Park © Tomasz Zajda / EyeEm / Getty Images

53. Sequoia National Park

With trees as high as 20-story buildings, Sequoia National Park is an extraordinary park with soul-sustaining forests and vibrant wildflower meadows.

State: California
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Family Travel, Scenery, Walking 
Read more: Visit all of California's national parks on this legendary road trip​​​​​​​
Buy the guide: Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Shenandoah, Virginia sunset
Sunset in the Appalachian mountains of Shenandoah National Park © Pierre Leclerc Photography / Getty Images

54. Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah is like a new smile from nature: in spring and summer, the wildflowers explode, in fall the leaves burn bright red and orange, and in winter a cold, starkly beautiful hibernation period sets in. With the famous 105-mile Skyline Drive and more than 500 miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, there is plenty to do and see.

State: Virginia
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Wildlife, Scenery, Walking 
Read more: Outdoor adventure awaits in Washington, DC
Buy the guide: 

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Sunrise over the hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park © ZakZeinert / Shutterstock

55. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Wildlife abounds in these surreal mounds of striated earth in Theodore Roosevelt National Park; sunset is particularly evocative as shadows dance across the lonely buttes.

State: North Dakota
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $30
Great for: Walking, Wildlife, Scenery 
Read more: National Parks: The best free things to do in the US parks
Buy the guide: USA's National Parks

Overview of Trunk Bay in US Virgin Islands
Trunk Bay in US Virgin Islands © kellyvandellen / Getty Images

56. Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park covers two-thirds of St John, plus 5650 acres underwater. It’s a tremendous resource, offering miles of shoreline, pristine reefs and 26 hiking trails. Green iguanas, geckos, hawksbill turtles and wild donkeys roam the landscape.

Location: US Virgin Islands
Entrance fee: Individual Day Pass $5.00, Annual Individual Pass $20.00
Great for: Walking, Snorkeling, Wildlife
Read more: Surprise! Everyone can explore a more accessible Caribbean
Buy the guide: USA's National Parks

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© Voyageurs Conservancy, Erik Fremstad

57. Voyageurs National Park

Northern Voyageurs National Park, which marks the border between the USA and Canada, is a wet wilderness of some 218,000 acres. It's almost 40% water and only accessible by hiking or motorboat – the waters are mostly too wide and too rough for canoeing. In addition to offering waterborne fun, the park is filled with wildlife, including large populations of deer, moose, black bear and white pelicans.

State: Minnesota
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Scenery, Walking, Winter Travel 
Read more: Gaze at stunning stars in Minnesota's first International Dark Sky Park
Buy the guide: USA's National Parks

Backpackers hiking on the desert dunes, White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Backpackers hiking on sand dunes at White Sands National Monument © ferrantraite / Getty Images

58. White Sands National Park

Undulating through the Tularosa Basin like something out of a dream, these ethereal dunes are a highlight of any trip to New Mexico, and a must on every landscape photographer's itinerary. Try to time a visit to White Sands with sunrise or sunset (or both), when the dazzlingly white sea of sand is at its most magical.

State: New Mexico
Entrance fee: $25 per vehicle or $15 per adult
Great for: Scenery, Walking, Photography
Read more: See the Southwest USA's most iconic landscapes on this epic road trip
Buy the guide: USA's National Parks

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Boxwork rock formation inside a cave in the Wind Cave National Park © Zack Frank / Shutterstock

59. Wind Cave National Park

The cave's foremost feature is its 'boxwork' calcite formations (95% of all that are known exist here), which look like honeycomb and date back 60 to 100 million years. The strong wind gusts, which are felt at the entrance, but not inside, give the cave its name. Inside, there are 148 miles of mapped passages. Outside, there are 44 sq miles of grassland and forest to hike.

State: South Dakota
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Scenery, Walking, Wildlife 
Read more: South Dakota's best scenic drives
Buy the guide: USA's National Parks

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A hiker walking on the Root Glacier Trail in the Wrangell-St.Elias Elias National Park © Pecold / Shutterstock

60. Wrangell-St Elias National Park

Comprising more than 20,000 sq miles of brawny ice-encrusted mountains, this is the second-largest national park in the world.

State: Alaska
Entrance fee: Free
Great for: Wildlife, Scenery, History 
Read more: Introducing Alaska’s national parks
Buy the guide: 

Yellowstone Park: Geyser.
The Sinter Cone Castle Geyser Eruption, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming © Geyser Granger / Shutterstock

61. Yellowstone National Park

The real showstoppers at the first national park in the United States are the geysers and hot springs, but at every turn this land of fire and brimstone breathes, belches and bubbles like a giant kettle on the boil. Winter is prime time for safari-grade wildlife sightings. 

State: Wyoming
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Family Travel, Wildlife, Photo Op 
Read more: The complete guide to Yellowstone National Park
Buy the guide: 

Campervan
Yosemite National Park © Getty Images / Image Source

62. Yosemite National Park

It’s hard to believe so much natural beauty can exist in the one place. The jaw-dropping head-turner of USA national parks, Yosemite garners the devotion of all who enter.

State: California
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Family Travel, Scenery, Walking
Read more: How to spend your first visit to Yosemite National Park
Buy the guide: Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Utah, Zion National Park, Virgin River, Long exposure of flowing river, Canyon narrows.
Long exposure of the Virgin River in the Canyon narrows © Makena Stock Media / Getty Images

63. Zion National Park

From secret oases of trickling water to the hot-pink blooms of a prickly pear cactus, Zion’s treasures turn up in the most unexpected places.

State: Utah
Entrance fee: 7-day pass per vehicle $35
Great for: Scenery, Walking, Family Travel
Read more: Utah's best national parks
Buy the guide: Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks guidebook

This article was first published Aug 23, 2019 and updated Mar 4, 2022.

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