America's National Parks are road trip heaven. They preserve the unique landscapes that make our country so special, and with so many different and individual parks, it can be hard to choose just one to visit. Why not, then, take the Greatest American Road Trip, stopping off at the country's most iconic National Parks, from the Everglades to Olympic, and everything in between? It's the adventure of a lifetime!
From its Wild West history (Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch roamed the park) to its stunning red rocks, Capitol Reef might not be Utah's most famous National Park, but it's still pretty rad. Hike through the striking desert landscape, and take in the unique views and history of this fascinating and lovely park.
A favorite of adrenaline junkies and outdoor enthusiasts, Canyonlands National Park is filled with heart-stopping activities and beauty. Native American ruins, hidden canyons, sandstone hoodoos, and more can keep even the most extreme adventurer's pulse up. The park also features some intense scenic drives, for those who want a thrill without getting too physical.
It's not hard to see why ancient Pueblo Indians built their settlement into the cliffs of Mesa Verde: The views are stunning. A visit here gives you the chance to walk in the footsteps of the Pueblo people. The park features several complexes, some that you can visit on your own and others that you must visit on a guided tour. It's also worth it to take a drive through the park and see the structures from a distance; it's incredible that the Pueblo people were able to build such homes into the side of a cliff, and that the buildings have lasted so long!
The Black Hills is a remarkable place, but hidden below the prairies and forests of South Dakota lies even more beauty in the form of Wind Cave National Park. You can experience the unique beauty of these dense caverns, with their one-of-a-kind boxwork formations, through one of several guided tours.
25216 Ben Reifel Rd, Interior, SD, US
The ancient, rough, and rocky landscape of Badlands National Park might not initially appear as appealing as one of the country's more famed parks, but everyone who visits Badlands comes away speechless. Describing the park, though, can't compare to actually walking among the colorful, rolling rocks.
3131 Hwy 53, International Falls, MN, US
Named for early French-Canadian settlers, Voyageurs National Park is so filled with unspoiled natural views that it's not hard to imagine yourself as a 17th century explorer! The park is mostly lakes and streams. Rent a canoe and paddle out to the various islands for a quick hike, or even to camp out.
315 2nd Avenue, Medora, ND, US
Follow in the footsteps of one of our most spirited presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. TR had a special love for the American West-- North Dakota in particular. Part of this park protects one of his old vacation retreats, and the rest encompasses the landscape he loved so much. Scrubby and scrappy, with wild rivers, prairies, and badlands landscapes and loads of wildlife, the park is a fitting tribute to Teddy.
64 Grinnell Drive, West Glacier, MT, US
Glacier is often called the "Crown Jewel of the Continent", so it makes for a great spot to end your trip. Bright blue lakes made of glacial melt, soaring snowcapped mountains, alpine valleys filled with stands of evergreens and wildflowers, adorable bighorn sheep, forests loaded with huckleberry bushes ripe for the picking, lush waterfalls, and adorable Swiss Alps-inspired lodges where you can unwind. Even after all of the amazing parks you've seen, driving Going-to-the-Sun Road will remain one of the top most memorable experiences!
Grand Loop Rd, Mammoth, WY, US
Yellowstone is a completely iconic road trip stop, and one of the most popular National Parks... but with good reason. Of course, there's Old Faithful, but take time to explore the other features here, like the multihued Grand Prismatic Spring, the bubbling mudpots, the majestic waterfall in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the wildlife-strewn Lamar Valley, and the Old Faithful Inn, one of the oldest and biggest log cabin lodges in the country.
Grand Teton National Park is right next to Yellowstone, and highlights the mountain beauty of the region. It's tiny in size compared to Yellowstone, but it's jam-packed with historic ranches and cabins, clear lakes set in alpine-forested valleys, and hiking trails and scenic drives through the jaw-dropping landscapes.
America's most impressive sand dunes are nowhere near the water... they're in Colorado! The massive, 750-foot tall mountains of breezy sand are perfect for climbing up and sledding down. The park also has a river that you can tube in, and offers primo stargazing.
Carlsbad Caverns is an incredible stop for any National Parks fan. From the controversial Underground Lunchroom, where you can mail a letter from 750 feet below the Earth, to the switchbacks that you can hike down into the cave itself, to the tours and guided walks, to the historic district above ground, you can easily spend a few full days exploring the history, geology, and sheer wonder of this special park.
Big Bend National Park is very hot, very remote, and very beautiful. It's one of the least-visited parks, which means you'll have the trails, like the ones to The Window, Cattail Falls, the hot springs, and Balanced Rock all to yourself. And definitely plan to spend at least one night here... it's an International Dark Sky Park famed for its insane stargazing!
Sandwiching the city of Tucson, AZ, is Saguaro National Park, named for the cactus species that grows in abundance here. Saguaros only can grow in a very limited habitat, and you won't find any better views of this famed cactus than here at the park. They can grow to be 20 feet tall and more than 100 years old... proof that life can thrive in the harsh desert climate.
Petrified Forest National Park might be the smallest National Park, but it protects a one-of-a-kind sight: a forest of sparkly, gemstone logs in the middle of the Painted Desert! Petrified wood occurs when minerals replace the organic material in the wood, fossilizing it into stone. Take a day to explore the desert and examine these interesting specimens!
One of the most underrated National Parks in the country, Great Basin National Park definitely doesn't seem like the kind of place you'd stumble upon in the middle of Nevada. Glacier-capped mountain peaks, stands of ancient pines, serene lakes, and dark caves make Great Basin a park that can provide days of outdoor entertainment.
Home to gnarled Joshua trees, enchantingly strange rock formations, and endless desert views, Joshua Tree National Park is probably one of America's quirkiest parks. It's a perfect spot for boulder scrambling, rock climbing, and hiking. Also, some of the most scenic campsites in the country can be found here, and the park's SoCal location puts it near all kinds of roadside attractions worth visiting.
Set adjacent to Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon is home to some rugged Sierra Nevada landscapes and (of course) massive sequoia trees. Nestled within the glacial valley is the roaring, crystal clear Kings River, soaring cliffs, lush stands of trees, and boundless wilderness waiting to be explored.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a science enthusiast's dream come true. The many geothermal features in addition to the fact that it's home to all four kinds of volcano (shield, lava dome, cinder cone, and composite, also known as stratovolcanoes) mean that there's tons to learn about and observe here. See geothermal power at work in the steaming geysers, bubbling mudpots, and strangely pigmented features across the park.
For a more serene experience, head to Northern California's Redwood National Park. Home to stands of massive, stately redwood trees, the forests here are unlike anything anywhere else in the world. Trails take you through mossy, fern-covered woodland and past some of the country's tallest, thickest, and most majestic trees.
Each National Park provides its own unique American landscape and its own unique view of the United States. America is truly a melting pot of different landscapes and different cultures, and it's part of what makes America such an exciting, road-trip-worthy place!