List of National Parks By State: An Epic Guide to “America’s Best Idea” originally appeared on Green Global Travel.
As we began to compile a list of National Parks by state for this piece to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, I was shocked and dismayed to realize how few of the 59 officially designated parks we’ve visited.
Fortunately, we’re already planning a future family road trip to visit some of the many parks still on our bucket list.
The NPS was originally created by Congress through the National Parks Service Organic Act on August 25, 1916.
Run by the US Department of the Interior, the agency was designed “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
This century-old concept has since been applied to more than 6,ooo national parks in nearly 100 different countries around the world.
To honor the idea that helped give birth to ecotourism and conservation, we’ve gathered 50 of our travel blogging friends to write mini-guides and create an all encompassing list of US National Parks by state. Simply click on the jump links below to navigate to the states you are interested in.
We hope our list of USA National Parks will prove to be an evergreen resource, paying tribute to what documentarian Ken Burns called “America’s best idea.”
MAP OF US NATIONAL PARKS
LIST OF NATIONAL PARKS BY STATE
- Denali National Park and Preserve
- Gates of the Arctic National Park
- Glacier Bay National Park
- Katmai National Park and Preserve
- Kenai Fjords National Park
- Kobuk Valley National Park
- Lake Clark National Park
- National Park of American Samoa
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Petrified Forest National Park
- Saguaro National Park
- Hot Springs National Park
- Channel Islands National Park
- Death Valley National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Kings Canyon National Park
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Redwood National Park
- Sequoia National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Biscayne National Park
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Haleakalā National Park
- Mammoth Cave National Park
- Acadia National Park
- Isle Royale National Park
- Voyageurs National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Great Basin National Park
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Crater Lake National Park
- Congaree National Park
- Badlands National Park
- Wind Cave National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Big Bend National Park
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park
United States Virgin Islands
- Virgin Islands National Park
- Arches National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Zion National Park
- Shenandoah National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Grand Teton National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
ALASKA NATIONAL PARKS
DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE
With over six million acres of wild, rugged sub-arctic terrain, Denali is home to North America’s largest peak, Mount Denali. Only 30% of visitors actually get to see the peak, so I’m grateful for clear skies during my two days there in August 2014.
We got an amazing view from the Eielson Visitor Center. In addition to big mountains, Denali has major megafauna, including Grizzly Bears, Caribou, Dall Sheep, Wolves and Moose.
I was hoping to see a few big Grizzlies: We saw 18 in ONE DAY! Denali is also the only National Park with a kennel of (super-cute) working sled dogs.
I highly recommend visiting the kennels, watching a free demo and learning about the important role the dogs played in Denali’s history. -Kirsten Thompson of Kookytraveller.com
READ MORE: Denali National Park- America’s Last Great Frontier
GATES OF THE ARCTIC NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE
Encompassing part of Alaska’s dynamic Brooks Range, this 8,472,506-acre park is both the northernmost and second largest national park in the country.
Together with the neighboring Noatak Wilderness Area, it comprises the largest contiguous wilderness in the United States.
Due to its remote location north of the Arctic Circle and the fact that there are no roads in the park, Gates of the Arctic attracts very few visitors– around 11,000 per year.
But what it lacks in people it more than makes up for in gorgeous scenery (including myriad mountains and six Wild & Scenic Rivers) and wildlife, including Black Bears, Polar Bears, Alaskan Moose, Lynxes, Timberwolves, Foxes, Beavers, and numerous birds of prey. –Bret Love
GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK
At the end of high school, my family took an adventurous two-week road trip to Alaska.
We drove though many beautiful landscapes, but what stood out to me the most to me was Glacier Bay National Park.
The park covers approximately 3.3 million acres that are packed with majestic mountains, glistening glaciers, lush rainforest, wild coastlines and gorgeous fjords.
It’s a major highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage, and part of one of the biggest protected natural areas in the world.
We only got to see the tip of the iceberg (get it?!), but kayaking through freezing waters past jagged blue formations of ice and rock was utterly unforgettable.
We spotted a few bears, too! -Eileen Cotter Wright of PureWander
READ MORE: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
KATMAI NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE
Located in southern Alaska, Katmai is one of the hardest US national parks to get to. But boy, is it worth it once you arrive!
After taking a flight from Anchorage to King Salmon, then a float plane that landed on Naknek Lake, we had to go to Bear school.
Katmai is considered one of the best places to view Grizzly Bears in the wild, so the National Park Service makes sure that each visitor is well-prepared and safe.
We camped for four days at Brooks Camp, where we enjoyed the natural beauty of the Valley of 10,000 Smokes as well as watching the Bears.
We counted a whopping 14 Grizzlies– from big boars to adorable babies– on our very first day! –Corinne Vail of Reflections Enroute
KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK
Located 2.5 hours south of Anchorage, Kenai Fjords features the best of Alaska’s natural beauty within its rugged 669,984-acre expanse.
The park is crowned by the Harding Icefield, which gives rise to 38 glaciers that carve out bowl-shaped, forested valleys on one side and slowly crashes into the bays feeding the Gulf of Alaska on the other.
Head out on one of the ranger-led glacier and wildlife day cruises, which depart from the town of Seward.
Along the way you can spot Sea Lions, Bald Eagles and Puffins nesting along the rocky islands and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of a Humpback Whale or pods of Orcas swimming through the water.
On the land side of the park, be sure to hike up to Exit Glacier, where you can view the power and fragility of the landscape, which is retreating at an average rate of 43 feet per year. –Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist
KOBUK VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Located in northwest Alaska 25 miles above the Arctic Circle, this remote 1,750,716-acre park has no roads and can only be reached via foot, dogsled, snowmobile, or air taxi out of Nome.
As a result, it ranks among the least visited places in the entire U.S. National Park System.
Those willing to make the arduous trek will be rewarded with natural attractions such as the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, lush wetlands surrounding the Kobuk River and its tributaries, and the Baird and Waring Mountains.
These form a ring that encloses the valley, which is home to Black Bears, Alaskan Moose, Lynxes, Wolves, and a huge herd of around 400,000 Caribou. –Bret Love
LAKE CLARK NATIONAL PARK
If you’ve made it this far in our list of National Parks, you’ve probably realized that most Alaskan parks are remote, uncrowded, and inaccessible by car.
The 4,030,015-acre Lake Clark is no exception: Located 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, it’s accessible only by boat or seaplane.
But it is unique in that it’s the only park in Alaska that boasts three mountain ranges, coastal rainforests, alpine tundra, glaciers, glacial lakes, major salmon-bearing rivers, and two volcanoes.
This remarkably diverse array of ecosystems means that you can find virtually all the major Alaskan land and marine species within the preserve’s boundaries.
Thanks to salmon spawning in the Kijik River and Silver Salmon Creek, it’s a fantastic place to see brown bears in action. –Bret Love
WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE
The largest park in the US at 13,175,799 acres, Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias is one of those places that leaves visitors speechless and aching to come back for more.
It has some of the highest mountains in Northern America, and is covered by one of the largest ice fields outside the polar regions.
The best way to spend your time in Wrangell-St. Elias is hiking up in the mountains or on the ice of the Root and Kennecott Glaciers.
Last time I visited I went ice climbing, which proved to be the experience of a lifetime.
It’s scary, yet thrilling, being lowered into a Moulin and then climbing back out, knowing that if you disappear into the depths you will not make it back alive! -Antonette Spaan of We12travel
AMERICAN SAMOA NATIONAL PARK
AMERICAN SAMOA NATIONAL PARK
Located 1,615 miles from Hawaii, American Samoa is a tiny speck in the middle of the Southern Pacific best known for its US Naval base and prominent role in the Tuna industry.
But it’s also an incredibly rugged place, with sharp escarpments reaching down to the sea, low-hanging rain clouds, and lush vegetation.
The most beautiful place in this 3-island conservation area is the reefs and beaches of Fagatele Bay, where you can often see Sharks, Whales, Sea Turtles and Giant Clams.
Take the short trail to Pola Island and you’ll likely find yourself alone, watching waves crash on the rocky beach. There are well-marked trails all over the rainforest, and you can get a map from the Tourism Office.
When I was there the officer in charge had not seen a tourist in 5 days, and she even lent me her car!
Talk about the kindness of strangers… –Mar Pages of Once in a Lifetime Journey
ARIZONA NATIONAL PARKS
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
No photo can capture what it’s like to look out over the rocky ledge, down into the vastness of this deep gully carved into the landscape over thousands of years.
The Grand Canyon is the very definition of the word “awesome.”
Start at the Visitor Center: The rangers can give you insight on where to go and what to do.
The north rim is more seasonal than other entry points: Even at the beginning of the season, it can be closed off due to wild weather.
One of my favorite things about the Grand Canyon is that you aren’t confined.
A few spots have guardrails, but a quick walk down the path leads you to a number of lookout points where you’re allowed to climb out onto the rocky ledges (at your own risk) to drink in the view.
Despite the park’s massive popularity, it’s much easier to get away from the crowds and into nature than you might expect. -Dani Blanchette of Going Nomadic
PETRIFIED FOREST NATIONAL PARK
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK
Arizona’s 91,442-acre Saguaro National Park, which is named for the giant cacti that grow in the Sonoran Desert, is actually two parks in one.
Rincon Mountain District (east) and Tucson Mountain District (west) are 35 miles apart.
The high desert Rincon offers a paved loop that visitors can bike or drive, hiking trails, backcountry camping, as well as expansive mountain and sunset views.
Tucson Mountain, with its lower elevation, offers a desert-like environment with more saguaros– a whole forest full of them.
Visitors can also access ancient petroglyphs from the Signal Mountain Trail.
One admission (good for seven days) gets you into both parks. -Steve Collins of Santa Fe Travelers
ARKANSAS NATIONAL PARKS
HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK
Located in Arkansas, Hot Springs is both the smallest national park in the country (at 8.67 square miles) and the first piece of land set aside by the federal government for preservation (in 1832).
It’s also not your routine, get-back-to-nature national park.
True to its name, the park centers around a collection of hot springs that drew thousands to the area in the 19th century to take advantage of the perceived healing waters.
Today you can tour the Fordyce bathhouse, which serves as the park’s visitor center, along Bathhouse Row.
Behind it you’ll find 26 miles of hiking trails that criss-cross Hot Springs Mountain. You also can drive up the mountain, and take in the scenic view from the Mountain Tower. –Karon Warren of This Girl Travels
CALIFORNIA NATIONAL PARKS
CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK
As its name suggests, this 249,561-acre park encompasses five of the eight Channel Islands off the southern coast of California.
The largest of these, Santa Cruz Island, is mostly owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy.
The six nautical miles around the park are also protected as a National Marine Sanctuary.
As such, water sports such as Scuba diving, spearfishing and kayaking are popular draws, as are tours to see the endangered Blue Whale.
The islands also serve as home to over 2,000 species of plants and animals, including endemic wildlife such as the Deer Mouse, Spotted Skunk, Channel Islands Fox and Island Fence Lizard.
Around 145 of these species aren’t found anywhere else in the world. –Bret Love
READ MORE: Best National Parks for Wildlife
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Straddling the border of California and Nevada, Death Valley is a park of vast spaces and big titles.
Anyone who visits will want to see the vast expanses of Zabriskie Point and Badwater, which (at 282 feet below sea level) is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.
One of my favorite things in the park is swimming in the natural hot springs water, which is pumped into the pool at The Inn at Furnace Creek.
The Inn is also a superb spot to be at dusk, when most people have gone for the day. The park becomes quiet and peaceful, and you can see across the valley floor forever.
Then the stars come out, and it’s so dark that you feel as if you can see every star in the Milky Way. -Carole Terwilliger Meyers of Berkeley and Beyond
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Located in the southern Sierra Nevada, King’s Canyon gets far less visitors than Seqouia (its neighbor to the south) or Yosemite National Park.
This is partly by design: Post-WWII debate over preservation vs. progress was won by the conservation enthusiasts. As a result, the park has limited accommodations and services, and most of the 462,000-acre wilderness has limited road access.
Thus the park’s rugged natural beauty remains relatively pristine. The glacier-carved valley for which it’s named is surrounded by stunning 14,000-foot peaks, raging rapids, gorgeous mountain meadows, and some of the largest stands of Giant Sequoia trees in the world.
The most popular section of the park is Grant Grove, which is home to the second largest tree in the world, General Grant. (When the park was established in 1890, it was originally known as General Grant National Park.)
Cedar Grove is the only other commercially developed area, boasting a Visitor Center, the Cedar Grove Lodge, a market, and campgrounds.
For a taste of the park as it was when legendary naturalist John Muir visited, trek the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail, which traverse King’s Canyon from north to south. But mind the weather: The backcountry is covered in snow a good portion of the year. –Bret Love
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK
There are many attractive aspects to Lassen, but two stand out: First, the comically named Bumpass Hell, and second, the Cinder Cone.
You reach Bumpass Hell via a one-mile trail which starts near the park’s southwest entrance. This active hydrothermal area features geysers, fumaroles, and highly acidic ponds.
It was named for an early explorer who severely burned his leg when he fell through the geothermal crust. Stay on the well-marked paths and boardwalks so you don’t do the same.
Cinder Cone is the remnant of a recently active volcano. As the name suggests, it’s a big pile of volcanic material, and you can climb it to enjoy the view of a crater that’s only a few hundred years old.
The climb is slightly strenuous, mostly due to the 8000-foot altitude rather than difficulty. You reach Cinder Cone by driving all the way around the park to the northeast entrance, then taking six miles of bad road to the parking lot.
From there, it’s a one-mile hike through fine black volcanic sand to the base of the cone. -Tom Bartel of Travel Past 50
PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK
Located 80 miles southeast of San Jose near California’s Salinas Valley, this 26,606-acre park is named after its distinctive geological formations– the eroded remains of an extinct volcano that originated on the famed San Andreas Fault (which is 200 miles away).
Established as a National Monument in 1908, it became the nation’s newest national park in 2013, when it was signed into law by President Obama.
Archaeological surveys of the area found 13 sites once inhabited by Native Americans (primarily the Ohlone people), one of which has been dated to around 2000 years ago.
The park offers camping, caves, hiking trails and challenging rock climbing routes, as well as an active California Condor conservation program. –Bret Love
REDWOOD NATIONAL & STATE PARKS
Northern California’s 112,618-acre Redwood National and State Parks is home to the tallest trees on Earth.
These old-growth coastal redwoods can grow up to 375 feet tall–about the same size as the Statue of Liberty.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is spread out among the national park and three state parks, which include prairies, woodlands and 40 miles of rugged coastline.
We especially loved the hiking trails at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Don’t miss seeing the Roosevelt Elk herds and making a visit to Fern Canyon at Prairie Creek State Park.
The canyon walls there are completely covered with varied ferns and mosses dating back to prehistoric times. -Mary Solio of The World is a Book
READ MORE: Avenue Of The Giants: Scenic Drive Through the Redwoods
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
COLORADO NATIONAL PARKS
BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
The views of the near 2,000-foot vertical drop to the Gunnison River had me clutching the sturdy rails of the overlooks.
This lesser-known Colorado canyon holds a few treasures over its more popular (and “Grand”) counter-park. There are virtually no crowds and zero poisonous snakes here.
Plus you get t0 enjoy the Milky Way in all of its glory, due to Black Canyon’s designation as an International Dark Sky Park.
There are also ranger-guided boat tours into the Canyon (via the Curecanti Recreation Area).
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison offers many adventures for any hiker, fisher, climber, camper, and all around outdoor enthusiast. Add it to your must-see list of National Parks! -Dawn Engler of Dawn Engler.com
GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of our absolute favorite places in Colorado. The 265,761- acre park offers trails for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
There’s also a lot of wildlife to view, including Big Horn Sheep (the park’s official symbol) in late spring and early summer and Elk during the fall mating season, when crowds come to hear the bulls “bugle.”
It’s a haunting sound you’ll never forget! Other critters you may spot include Black Bears, Beavers, Mountain Lions and Coyotes.
Don’t miss the spectacular drive over Trail Ridge Road (aka U.S Highway 34), which is open from Memorial Day to the first significant snowfall. –Billie Frank, photo by Steve Collins of Santa Fe Travelers
READ MORE: 10 Best US National Parks for your World Bucket List
FLORIDA NATIONAL PARKS
BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK
As a native New Yorker, I didn’t discover America’s National Park System until my post-collegiate adventure took me out west.
Now that I’ve relocated to the Florida Keys, the park system is not too far away.
Inside 172,971-acre Biscayne National Park (which is located just south of Miami), the trail maps are for canoes and kayaks instead of hikes.