Visiting National Parks are my favorite things to do when I travel around the United States, and I definitely favor some, for all various reasons. In no particular order, here are my top 6 favorite National Parks that I’ve visited, and a few honorable mentions.
1) Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, California
I’ve combined Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks because they’re right next to each other and I think that you should see them in conjunction. Yosemite is a very beautiful place to go hiking and explore the natural landscape of northern California, and Sequoia National Park is where you can see the biggest trees in the entire world. Sequoia trees are my favorite trees of all time, so I might be a bit biased, but these landscapes will take your breath away regardless! They’ve made Yosemite and Sequoia pretty accessible to where you can just drive into the landscape and take easy hikes, but there are trails for adventurers too. Half Dome is one of the riskiest and most daring hikes, where you can climb up a rock face using cables. Yosemite is very busy, so plan accordingly and perhaps go during the off-seasons. Additionally, many backpacking trips are on a lottery basis, so keep that in mind if you want to go backpacking in Yosemite.
2) Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Speaking of biased, I am extremely biased towards Saguaro National Park. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, so I grew up in the beautiful desert landscape with all of our unique cactus. I’ve always loved hiking in Saguaro, but be sure to visit in the spring, fall or winter and bring tons of water. It’s very dry in the desert and every year, there are dozens of rescues for people who went hiking in the desert under-prepared. Saguaro National Park is split into East and West, and both have varying levels of hikes. Not too many people frequent Saguaro National Park, especially the West park, so it’s a nice place to go and enjoy the desert landscape.
3) White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Welcome to the list, White Sands! White Sands National Park used to be a national monument and was recently reclassified as a national park. White Sands is definitely a national park that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. It’s so unique. It’s in the middle of nearly nowhere in New Mexico, and it’s just hill upon hill of pure white sand. At the visitor center, you can buy or rent a sled and some wax, and go sledding in the white sand! It’s so fun yet exhausting because walking in the sand is a good workout, especially if you climb the hills to sled. I loved being able to take my shoes off and feel the sand in my toes – it’s so relaxing. Because it’s just a field of sand dunes, it’s really easy to drive up to a dune or picnic area, so it’s easily accessible to anyone and the only challenge is being able to walk in the sand. White Sands isn’t super popular (yet) and it’s easy to find your own patch of dune where you can’t see anyone else and feel lost in the sand. Make sure that you bring lots of water and sunscreen, especially if you visit in the summertime because the sand absorbs heat from the sun and also reflects it back into your face.
4) Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
How could I not have the Grand Canyon on my list, especially as someone from Arizona? It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World! The Grand Canyon is one of the most awe-inspiring places on this list. It reminds you how beautiful our planet is and how little we ae in perspective. It was slowly carved out by the Colorado River over thousands of years and you can see the beautiful strips of rock. It’s very accessible to anyone because you can drive right up to lookouts and many of the trails on the rim are paved. If you want to hike a bit, you can hike down to the bottom and back up in a day trip, or go multi-day backpacking, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous. Or, even more adventurous, you can go white water rafting in the river or walk along the glass bridge. If you go hiking, be sure to bring lots of water and be weary because it does snow in the wintertime.
5) Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Oh, Hawaii. My beautiful Hawaii. Haleakala National Park is on the island of Maui, Hawaii, and at its core, is the volcano and its crater that created the island. Many people take sunrise or sunset tours of the volcano crater and say that it is life-changing. I, unfortunately, didn’t get to take one of these tours, but instead went hiking at one of the many hikes inside the park. I went to the Pools at ‘Ohe’o, or “Seven Sacred Pools,” and the Pipiwai Trail to the Waimoku Falls, You walk through a bamboo forest before reaching the falls and it’s absolutely beautiful. The hike I did was probably a 2/5, so you need mobility but it’s primarily just walking. If you go to the summit, I think that you can drive up so it’s fairly accessible to reach the top. If you’re ever in Hawaii, absolutely go to Haleakala National Park!
6) Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch is a man-made structure surrounded by a city. Essentially, it’s a giant man-made archway that was built in the 1900’s and was once the biggest man-made structure and feat of engineering of it’s time. However, you wouldn’t go to the Gateway Arch to be surrounded by nature because it’s in the center of St. Louis, Missouri, but it’s still really cool and something that you should definitely visit! And if you visit, I would highly recommend going inside! The ride is really cool and the views of St. Louis are amazing.
And because I can’t pick just 6 of my favorite national parks, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Joshua Tree National Park, California
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
- Death Valley National Park, California
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to any of these national parks? Which ones are your favorite? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!