With 58 national parks and 417 sites managed by the National Parks Service throughout the United States, there is a national park vacation for every type of visitor, from big families to adventure enthusiasts. Discover the most beautiful views in the country on the best national park vacations, covering vast mountain ranges, wilderness, canyons and bodies of water. Check out these national park vacation ideas for your next trip:
For Summer Vacationers: Crater Lake National Park
OregonCrater Lake National Park is covered by snow for a large part of the year, but in the summer, it’s worth stopping at the deepest lake in the United States. For city dwellers, the clean water and fresh air is a welcome escape during the warmest months of the year. Hike, bike, watch the sunset, stargaze and camp during your summer national park vacation.
For Skiers and Snowmobilers: Mount Rainer National Park
WashingtonWith an average of 53 feet of snow falling on Mount Rainer every year, this national park is an awesome vacation idea for winter enthusiasts. Mount Rainer itself (part of the Cascade Range) is the most glaciated peak in the continental United States. Ranger-led snowshoe walks, skiing, snowboarding and miles of snowmobiling trails are available within Mount Rainer National Park.
For Lone Wolves: Lake Clark National Park
AlaskaCheck out this remote national park for a backcountry vacation only accessible by foot, small watercraft or plane. With under 18,000 visitors a year (versus 11 million at the most popular national park, Great Smoky Mountains), you likely won’t see another soul during your visit. It may be difficult to reach the Lake Clark National Park, but there are plenty of things to do once you’re there. Mountain-ringed lakes are perfect for kayaking and fishing. There are also miles of tundra trails for hiking and biking.
For Lovers of Luxury: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
CaliforniaThere are three lodges and six types of cabins available for vacationers in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Within the Sequoia National Forest, you can also enjoy glamping-style retreat The Sequoia High Sierra Camp. Getting to the resort requires a mile hike, but upon arrival you’ll be greeted by gorgeous views, tented cabins, a dining pavilion (three meals per day are included) and modern bath house.
For Families: Rocky Mountain National Park
ColoradoFor a great family vacation, choose Rocky Mountain National Park. Hiking, scenic drives, an elk herd and lots of Ranger-led activities make this one of the best national park vacations. You can also fish, camp and horseback ride. Five visitor centers throughout the park offer exhibits, park films and beautiful views the whole family will love. Nearby Denver makes for a great two-part vacation.
For Waterfall Chasers: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
North Carolina and TennesseeWith over 85 inches of rain each year, Great Smoky Mountains’ dozens of popular waterfalls are almost always flowing. Hiking trails lead to most waterfalls throughout the park’s more than half a million acres; three can be driven to. This national park vacation has more to offer: summer wildflowers, biking, historic buildings and biking.
For Paddlers: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
WisconsinWhile not technically a national park, this collection of 21 islands, accessible only by boat, is managed by the National Parks Service. Lake Superior, the cleanest Great Lake, is known for excellent scuba diving, sailing, boating and kayaking. There are also 50 miles of maintained trails throughout the islands.
For Leaf Peepers: Grand Tetons National Park
WyomingBrightly colored aspens, cottonwoods and willows against snowcapped mountains, all reflecting into glassy lakes make for a stunning autumn national park vacation. Leaves usually begin to change in September and fire-hued foliage lasts until mid-October. Elk, moose and bears throughout the park are especially active at this time of year as well. Yellowstone National Park is just a short drive away, the ultimate national park vacation idea.
For All Ages: Yosemite National Park
CaliforniaOne of the most accessible parks for visitors all ages yearround, Yosemite makes for one of the most popular national park vacation destinations. Explore the park’s incredible scenery, spanning waterfalls, Sequoia trees and thousand of plant species. Drive through the Wawona Tunnel to Tunnel View, where you can take in the Yosemite Valley’s most iconic monuments, including El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls. If you’re not feeling a hike, you can rent a bike for the day in Half Dome Village!
For Couples: Acadia National Park
MaineRenowned for its astonishing beauty, Acadia National Park is for romantics that want to bask in the stunning scenery of Maine’s woodland, rocky beaches and granite peaks. Early risers can drive, bike or walk to catch the sunrise alone the beautiful shoreline. In the evening, enjoy a lovely dinner amidst the sunset with your significant other. The bayside town of Bar Harbor offers plenty of accommodation options, restaurants and shops for lovers to explore.