I’m doing something a little bit different today. I usually only post about places I’ve been, but this is going to be a post about places I want to go. More specifically, a list of the U.S. National Parks I most want to visit.
Eventually, I’d love to visit all 59 of the official national parks in the U.S., but there are a few that are calling to me more strongly than the others. I’m lucky enough to have visited a handful in the past, and I’m already planning to visit some more this year. However, the ones on this list will take a little bit more planning on my part.
As of this writing, my absolute favorite national park is Grand Teton National Park. It has a strong hold on my heart for many reasons—something I may write about in the future. Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are probably the most famous national parks I’ve been to, and they are both pretty spectacular. I’ve been to parks out in the desert, and lots of parks up in the mountains.
Of all the beautiful and interesting U.S. national parks out there, these are the top ten parks I most want to visit.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai’i itself is a major bucket list place for me. Who doesn’t want to visit a place made up of islands, sea, sand, and sun, lush forests, and volcanoes? Once I make it to Hawai’i, you know I’m going to hit up the stunning national parks there. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is unlike most other parks because of, you guessed it, the volcanoes. Getting close to an active volcano would be an incredible experience.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas is another unique U.S. national park. Located near Key West in Florida, the park is mostly water, and it’s only accessible by boat or seaplane. That makes it harder to get to than most parks, but it’s definitely doable. I’m not much of a water person, but this park fascinates me. Between the snorkeling opportunities and the historical aspects (like Fort Jefferson), the Dry Tortugas seem like a must-visit.
Denali National Park
There are A LOT of national parks in Alaska, but Denali National Park is probably the most well-known. The park covers six million acres of land, and I imagine every single one of those acres is beautiful. This park is also home to North America’s tallest peak—the namesake of the park—Mount Denali. I’d love to do some hiking here and take advantage of all the wildlife viewing opportunities.
American Samoa National Park
The National Park of American Samoa is the furthest park from the U.S. mainland. American Samoa is located across three main islands in the South Pacific, even further than Hawai’i. Visiting this park is a chance to experience one of Polynesia’s oldest cultures. It’s also a chance to experience a park outside of U.S. proper, although American Samoa is a U.S. territory.
Joshua Tree National Park
There’s something about deserts that really intrigue me. There’s a mystery about them, and something about the open space that makes you think… Joshua Tree National Park is one of the desert parks I most want to see. Exploring the park by day would be great, but what I really want is to camp out in Joshua Tree for a night. I can only imagine how beautiful the night sky must be out there.
Crater Lake National Park
I’ve been through the state of Oregon a couple of times, but never very far south. Crater Lake National Park has been a part of many dream road trip itineraries, but I have yet to make any of them a reality. Sometimes I really have no idea what it is that attracts me to a place other than an image in my head (that may or may not be accurate), and this is one of those places. I mean, look at the picture above and tell me you don’t suddenly want to visit.
Acadia National Park
I think about the state of Maine a lot. I’ve never been there, or even close by. The U.S.’s New England region has never been part of my travel plans. Maine is one of the 50 states I most want to visit because of its remote wilderness and beautiful landscapes. Acadia National Park is just one of those beautiful landscapes I want see. I don’t know much about it admittedly, except that it’s near the water and it’s in Maine… That’s enough to draw me in!
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is one of the top five most-visited national parks. I wouldn’t say it was ever top of my list before now, though. Based on the thousands of Instagram photos I’ve seen of Yosemite, I can’t deny its beauty. It also has some of the best hiking trails, which is one of my favorite national park activities. Someday I’ll head out on an epic California road trip, and Yosemite will absolutely be a part of it.
Grand Canyon National Park
If you read the intro above, you might be totally confused as to why this one is on the list. I have been to the Grand Canyon before, on a family vacation when I was about 12 years old. However, I really don’t remember much of it. I know we saw the canyon. I remember a few vague images. I remember it was hot. That’s it. I really want to re-visit the Grand Canyon as an adult, now that I have more appreciation for nature.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Okay, so it is impossible to only choose one national park from Alaska for this list, and why should I? I shouldn’t, obviously, because Alaska has some of the most gorgeous scenery in the country. I want to visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park because it is Americas LARGEST National Park. According to the NPS website, at 13.2 million acres, it is bigger than Yellowstone National Park and Switzerland combined. That’s a lot of park to explore.
I wrote this post because National Park Week begins in just a few days! It starts on April 15 and runs through April 23. This week is a chance to celebrate America’s national parks all across the country. It’s also a chance to remember why our public lands are so important, and why we need to make sure we protect them.
As a way to celebrate, the National Park Service is offering free admission to ALL national parks and sites on April 15-16 and April 22-23. So get out there and visit your nearest park!
Have you ever been to any of these U.S. national parks? Which parks are on your national park bucket list?
Read Next: 5 Ways to Celebrate National Park Week
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All photos were sourced via Pixaby and are not mine