Best National & State Parks In The USA


lush_winding_road,_olympic_national_park,_washingtonThere’s so much to see and do throughout the United States without spending a fortune to enjoy it. Now, more than ever in these leaner times, is the best opportunity to get out and enjoy some of our magnificent park and recreation areas. You don’t even need to plan a cross country trip (even though there is a temptation to plan for a future road trip) to be able to get away for a week or two (or at least a long weekend)  to enjoy the great outdoors with the family. Check out some of the featured parks below within your area. Links (directly to each site) are provided for each listing for more detailed information.

Best National Parks In The USA

 

Acadia National Park  (Maine)

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Acadia National Park was the First National Park East of the Mississippi River. People have been drawn to the rugged coast of Maine throughout history. Awed by its beauty and diversity, early 20th-century visionaries donated the land that became Acadia National Park. The park is home to many plants and animals, and the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast in the US. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery.

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Arches National Park  (Utah)

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Arches National Park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many other unusual rock formations. In some areas, the forces of nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history. The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures that is unlike any other in the world.

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Carlsbad Caverns  (New Mexico)

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As you pass through the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas—filled with prickly pear, chollas, sotols and agaves—you might never guess there are more than 300 known caves beneath the surface. The park contains 113 of these caves, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, creating some of the largest caves in North America.

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park  (Ohio)

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One of America’s newest national parks is the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Though it’s only a short distance from the urban environments of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems worlds away. The winding Cuyahoga—the “crooked river” as named by American Indians—gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. The park currently contains 133,000 acres, and within its borders features the Cuyahoga River and its valley and gorge, the Ohio and Erie Canal and Towpath Trail, city and county parkland, many buildings and historical elements, a railroad, hiking, bridle, and bicycle trails. The park is a refuge for flora and fauna, gives a sense of times past, and provides recreational opportunities and solitude for Ohio’s residents and visitors.

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Death Valley National Park  (California)

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Death Valley National Park is a “Land of Extremes” – The Hottest, The Driest, The Lowest – A superlative desert of streaming sand dunes, snow-capped mountains, multicolored rock layers, water-fluted canyons and 3 million acres of wilderness. Home to the Timbisha Shoshone and to plants and animals unique to the harshest desert. Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and one of the hottest places in the world. It is also a vast geological museum, containing examples of most of the earth’s geological eras. Death Valley National Park includes all of Death Valley, a 130-mile-long north/south-trending trough that formed between two major block-faulted mountain ranges: the Amargosa Range on the east and the Panamint Range on the west. Telescope Peak, the highest peak in the Park and in the Panamint Mountains, rises 11,049 feet above sea level and lies only 15 miles from the lowest point in the United States in the Badwater Basin salt pan, 282 feet below sea level. It’s three million acres of wilderness and rich cultural history make it a lifetime’s work to explore all that the valley has to offer.

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Denali National Park  (Alaska)

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Denali National Park & Preserve features North America’s highest mountain, 20,320-foot tall, Denali (as Alaskans call it) or Mount McKinley. The Alaska Range also includes countless other spectacular mountains and many large glaciers. Denali’s more than 6 million acres also encompass a complete sub-arctic eco-system with large mammals such as grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and moose.

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Everglades National Park  (Florida)

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everglades-national-park-floridaEverglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, boasts rare and endangered species. It has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance, significant to all people of the world. Unlike most other U.S. national parks, Everglades National Park was created to protect a fragile ecosystem instead of safeguarding a geographic feature. Thirty-six species designated as threatened or protected live in the park, including the Florida Panther, the American Crocodile, and the West Indian Manatee. Protecting the largest U.S. wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, the park is the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America, and contains the largest mangrove eco-system in the western hemisphere. More than 350 species of birds, 300 species of fresh and saltwater fish, 40 species of mammals, and 50 species of reptiles live within Everglades National Park.

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Glacier National Park  (Montana)

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Bordering Alberta, Canada, come and experience Glacier’s pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, waterfalls and spectacular lakes. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a hiker’s paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude. Relive the days of old through historic chalets, lodges, transportation, and stories of Native Americans. Coniferous forest is the predominant eco-system, although the forest is visibly different on the east and west sides of the Continental Divide. Trails wind through sub-alpine meadows full of wildflowers and alpine tundras. The park is one of the largest remaining natural grizzly habitats. In addition, the park is also home to two other endangered species – the Canadian Lynx and the Bull Trout. 23 species of fish live in park waters. Birdwatchers will find many species of waterfowl in addition to larger birds of prey, including bald eagles. Coniferous forest is the predominant ecosystem, although the forest is visibly different on the east and west sides of the Continental Divide. Trails wind through sub-alpine meadows full of wildflowers and alpine tundras.

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Grand Canyon National Park  (Arizona)

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grand-canyonGrand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage Site, encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwest. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins.

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Grand Teton National Park  (Wyoming)

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Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park preserves a spectacular landscape rich with majestic mountains, pristine lakes and extraordinary wildlife. The abrupt vertical rise of the jagged Teton Range contrasts with the horizontal sage-covered valley and glacial lakes at their base, creating world-renowned scenery that attracts nearly four million visitors per year.

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park  (Hawaii) 

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kilaueaHawaii Volcanoes, located on the “Big Island” of Hawaii, encompasses 209,695 acres and an astoundingly diverse landscape. The park highlights two of the world’s most active volcanoes. The altitude in the park ranges from sea level to the summit of the earth’s most massive volcano, 13,677-foot Mauna Loa. Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, offers insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and views of dramatic volcanic landscapes. Arid deserts exist within a few miles of lush rainforests and tropical wildlife. Breathtaking views abound in natural splendor and glory and beckon the adventurous explorer.

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Mesa Verde National  Park  (Colorado)

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Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 spectacular cliff dwellings – structures built within caves and under outcroppings in cliffs, including Cliff Palace, which is thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

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Mount Rushmore National Monument  (South Dakota)

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial is host to almost three million visitors a year from across the country and around the world. They come to marvel at the majestic beauty of the Black Hills and to learn about the ideals of democracy and freedom represented by the granite portraits of Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, and Lincoln. Over the decades, Mount Rushmore has grown in fame as a symbol of America-a symbol of freedom and democracy and a hope for people from all cultures and backgrounds.

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Olympic National Park  (Washington)

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Olympic_NPA Land of Contrasts and Variety – Here you will find Pacific Ocean beaches, rain forest valleys, glacier-capped peaks and a stunning variety of plants and animals. Roads provide access to the outer edges of the park, but the heart of Olympic is wilderness – a primeval sanctuary for humans and wild creatures alike. It provides habitat for many species, like the Roosevelt Elk, that are native only to the Pacific Northwest coast. Enormous Sitka spruce and Douglas fir, hundreds of feet high, can be found in the Hoh and Queets rain forest valleys on the west side of the park. Thick, furry, epiphyte moss and dense, vibrant vegetation give a beautiful environment in these unique temperate rain forests, which receive fifteen feet of rain per year on average from the nearby Pacific Ocean.

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Rocky Mountain National Park  (Colorado)

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This park is a living showcase of the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. The elevations range from 8,000′ in the wet, grassy valleys to 14,259′ at the weather-ravaged top of Longs Peak. This provides visitors with opportunities for breathtaking adventures.The park is split by the Continental Divide, which gives the eastern and western portions of the park a different character. The east side of the park tends to be drier, with heavily glaciated peaks and cirques. The west side of the park is wetter and more lush.

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Smoky Mountains National Park  (Tennessee/North Carolina)

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Smoky_Mountain_NPGreat Smoky Mountains National Park preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years—from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century. This park strives to protect the historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts that tell the varied stories of people who once called these mountains home.

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Yellowstone National Park  (Wyoming/Montana/Idaho)

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Old_Faithful_YellowstoneEstablished in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

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Yosemite National Park  (California)

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yosemite-np-half-domeYosemite is home to nearly 2,000 varieties of plants and animals, including giant sequoias. Yosemite’s geology is world renowned for its tall waterfalls and granite rocks. American Indians also have called Yosemite home for perhaps 8,000 years, and along with early pioneers and guardians, have left behind a rich history.

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Zion National Park  (Utah)

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In 1909, U.S. President  Taft named the area a National monument  under the name of Mukuntuweap National Monument. However, in 1918, the changed the park’s name to Zion. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the Virgin River. Located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions, this unique geography and variety of life zones allow for unusual plant and animal diversity.

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Best State Parks In The USA

 

Alaska – Chugach State Park

Chugach State Park and Beaver PondBeyond the foothills at Anchorage’s edge lies the third largest state park in USA.  A 500,000 acres of some of the most accessible hiking, skiing, camping, wildlife viewing, snowmachining, rafting, and climbing in Alaska. Those of us lucky enough to live here feel the influence of Chugach State Park almost daily. The mountainous backdrop to Anchorage reminds us that, although we live in an urban setting, we really reside in the middle of a vast wilderness. The Chugach foothills are a beacon for changing weather and resident wildlife have been known to wander into town.

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Florida – St Joseph Peninsula State Park

St_Joseph_Peninsula_state_parkSt. Joseph Peninsula Park has  striking dune formations, miles of virgin white sand beaches, and a heavily forested interior. Dr. Beach once rated this beach as the best beach in America. This 2,516-acre park is bounded by the waters of St. Joe Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Dynamic and dramatic views abound for miles.

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California Big Basin Redwoods State Park

BIg_Basin_Redwoods_State_ParkEstablished in 1902, Big Basin is California’s oldest State Park. Home to the largest continuous stand of Ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco, the park consists of over 18,000 acres of Old Growth and recovering Redwood Forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral, and riparian habitats. Elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet. The climate ranges from foggy and damp near the ocean to sunny, warm ridge tops.

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Oregon Sunset Bay State Park

Sunset_Bay_State_ParkSituated in one of the most scenic areas on the Oregon coast, Sunset Bay State Park features beautiful sandy beaches protected by towering sea cliffs. Only a short walk from the beach, the campground has sites for tent camping and RV’s, as well as cozy and comfortable yurts. Day-use and picnic facilities are located along the bay to allow easy access for beachcombing, fishing, swimming, and boating.

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Florida John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Coral_Reef_State_Park_FloridaJohn Pennekamp  is the nation’s first underwater park. Formed in the 1960’s, Pennekamp Park represents over hundred square miles of mangrove shoreline, grass flats, and of course our famous coral reef. Adjacent to Pennekamp is the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary.

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Utah Wasatch Mountain State Park

wasatch_mountain_utahWasatch Mountain State Park is in beautiful Heber Valley and is Utah’s most developed state park. Tucked away in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, the park is both a summer and winter destination. One of Utah’s finest and affordable 36-hole golf courses is found here.  Soldier Hollow at Wasatch Mountain State Park was the 2002 Olympic Winter venue biathlon and cross-country events. Soldier Hollow is open year-round to the public for cross-country skiing, tubing, biathlon, snowshoeing,  and many more events.

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New Hampshire – Franconia Notch State Park

Franconia_Notch_State_ParkFranconia Notch State Park is located in the heart of the popular White Mountain National Forest. Franconia Notch is a spectacular mountain pass traversed by a unique parkway which extends from the Flume Gorge at the south to Echo Lake at the north.  Franconia Notch was once the home of the famous Old Man of the Mountain, the same “Great Stone Face” immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Daniel Webster. While you are here, visit the Flume Gorge Visitor Center and walk through Flume Gorge, ride the aerial tramway at Cannon Mountain, and explore the New England Ski Museum. Also, you can swim at Echo Lake, net a trout while fly fishing at Profile Lake, ride your bike on the Recreational Trail, watch for rock climbers, hawks, and falcons on Cannon Cliffs, or hike on the Appalachian Trail.

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Tennessee – Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park

Fall_Creek_FallsFall Creek Falls State Resort Park is one of the most scenic and spectacular recreation areas in America. Its waterfalls, cascades, sparkling streams,  timberland, gorges and an unmatched variety of recreation facilities. Fall Creek Falls is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies, plunging 256 feet into a shaded pool at the base of its gorge.

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Texas – Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo_Duro_Canyon_State_Park_TexasLocated about an hour’s drive from Amarillo lies the grandeur of Palo Duro Canyon, a  sixty mile-long and eight hundred foot-deep canyon carved out of the Texas High Plains. Visitors to 16,402-acre Palo Duro Canyon State Park are treated to towering cliffs layered with bands of red, yellow, purple and white. Patches of juniper, mesquite, sunflower and prickly pear cacti adorn the canyon slopes, while red clay and veins of white gypsum blanket the ground.

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Michigan – Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

porcupine-wilderness-parkPorcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is over 60,000 acres  and is  one of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest. Towering virgin timber, secluded lakes, and miles of wild rivers and streams make a visit to the “Porkies” a trip to remember.  This park Park was established in 1945. Since then, many changes have taken place in the way we live; however, the Porcupine Mountains are almost unchanged. The remote interior with its towering pine and hemlock seems to defy time, and the solitude of the park is mysterious and exciting.

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Check out more travel-related posts (all within this website):

►50 Most Popular Tourist Attractions In The World

►Most Popular US Attractions: State By State

►Remembering Lost & Forgotten Roadside Tourist Attractions & Amusement Parks On The West Coast


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