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A Quick Guide to US National Parks

Visiting a national park is something we should all do at least once in our lifetime. National parks preserve some of the most incredible and awe-inspiring natural wonders in the world and host countless wildlife for us to visit.

When you take the time to step outside your day-to-day life and step into nature, you will find something igniting within you. Spending time in nature is proven to benefit our mental and emotional health. So, next time you need a “mental health day,” what better way to spend it than at a national park?

No matter your lifestyle or interests, there is something for everyone to enjoy in a national park.


These are the most popular and well-known US national parks.

Yellowstone National Park was the original national park, founded in 1972. It spans over 2.2 million acres and covers parts of Wyoming and Montana. Visitors can explore unique wildlife in their natural habitat. As well as discover the geothermal area that holds around half of the world’s active geysers. Visitors can explore natural hot springs, thermal pools, and bubbling mud pots throughout the park. They can enjoy the multiple hiking trails and stunning waterfalls.

When you visit, check out Old Faithful, one of the most active geysers in the world. If you want to see Bison and other wildlife, visit Lamar or Hayden Valleys. Take one of the many trails that lead to Mammoth Hot Spring or Norris Geyser Basin. Check out the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone for incredible views and waterfalls.

Location: Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana

Best time to visit: June - October

Who is it for? EVERYONE

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited parks in the US. It is the most incredible example of erosion you will ever witness. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With unmatched vistas that reveal the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets, the Grand Canyon provides an experience unlike anything you will ever see.

When you visit, check out the North and South Rim viewpoints. You can also hike below the rim or the rim-to-rim trail. The park also offers guided tours both on land and in the air.

*note: Do not confuse Grand Canyon National Park with the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. They are very different despite having nearly identical names.

Location: Northern Arizona

Best time to visit: Year-round, but the weather is the mildest in spring and fall

Who is it for? EVERYONE

Located in the High Sierra of Central California, Yosemite is home to some of the most iconic landscapes in the US. It is known for its stunning waterfalls, glacier cliffs, and legendary hiking trails. However, within the 1,200 square miles of the park, you will discover gorgeous valleys, sprawling meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and so much more!

When you visit, check out the Bridalveil Falls, Taft Point, Mariposa Grove, or Tuolumne Meadows. If you are up for a big hike, you can hike the Yosemite Falls Trail or the top of Half Dome. For a stunning view, check out Glacier Point or Tunnel View.

Location: California

Best time to visit: Mid-May - September is when all park roads are open and when waterfalls are at their peak.

Who is it for? Families, avid hikers, mountain climbers, or campers.

Zion National Park is a hiker's paradise! This relatively small park is jam-packed with some of the most incredible trails in the US. You can follow the same paths native people and pioneers walked or stare up at the towering colorful sandstone cliffs. Even if you aren't a hiker, you can experience the wilderness and array of wildlife unique to the region. You can go horseback riding, rock climbing, or canyoneering. If you are a photographer, there are plenty of photography opportunities.

When you visit, check out Angels Landing, Observation Point, Hidden Canyon, Riverside Trail, Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, or Canyon Overlook. For the best hike, try Zion Narrows.

Location: Utah

Best time to visit: Best weather is in Spring and Summer. Winter is fine if you want to avoid lower crowds.

Who is it for? Everyone but especially HIKERS

Death Valley is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park. This below-sea-level basin is a land of extremes with record-breaking summer heat and towering peaks impacted by winter snow. It is a grand and expansive desert with lush oases and sand dunes. The clear sky at night is perfect for amateur and professional astronomers or photographers.

When you go, check out Dante’s Peak, the Mesquite Flate Sand Dunes, Furnace Creek, or Racetrack Playa. You can also explore Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, Ubehebe Crater, and Telescope Peak.

Location: California

The Best Time to Go: is November through March - avoid summer!

Who is it for? Photographers, explorers, astronomers and desert lovers!

The Artists Palette, Death Valley National Park

A Few "Hidden Gem" National Parks

They are less well-known but incredibly beautiful and worth checking out!

Take a short hike through over 2000 beautiful natural arches and rock formations.

Location: Utah

Best time to visit: Spring and Fall

The best way to explore these 3 million acres of protected fjords, glaciers, and temperate rainforest is via boat or plane. Cruises allow you to drift past glaciers and explore seaside towns and hiking trails.

Location: Alaska

Best time to visit: Summer months

One of the most accessible national parks in the US, Hot Spring National Park preserves the natural hot springs, which were believed to have healing properties.

Location: Arkansas

Founded: October 1, 1890

Best time to visit: The weather is best in May-October

A diverse park where you can climb an 8,000-foot mountain peak, walk through temperate rainforests, or stroll beaches full of driftwood.

Location: Washington

Best time to go: June - September

Walk among towering sequoias and see the largest tree in the world, General Sherman.

*note: for a similar experience, check out the Redwood National and State Parks. It is a complex of parks that protect 45% of the remaining coastal redwoods. They are home to redwoods that are more than 2000 years old.

Location: California

Best time to visit: May - October

Don’t hesitate!

Next time you need to get away, visit a national park!

Let us know which national parks you want to visit and how your trip went. Is there anything you recommend to our readers?


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