Spectacular photos of America’s national parks
There are 62 national parks in the United States, each beautiful in its own right. And while it would be great to visit all of them, chances are you don’t have the time or resources. Lucky for you, we’ve got the next best thing.
Here are some of the most spectacular photos of America’s national parks.
The best time to see this 40,000-acre (162 sq. km) Maine recreation area just outside of Bar Harbor is in October, after the summer crowds have died down but before it gets too cold. Best of all, you’ll be just in time to see the colourful fall foliage.
As the only American national park in the southern hemisphere, there’s really nothing quite like the National Park of American Samoa, which spans three islands (Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta‘ū). It’s the only place in the country where you can immerse yourself in a 3,000-year-old Polynesian culture and enjoy pristine beaches and lush rainforests.
Of the two thousand or so natural sandstone arches that make up this stunning national park in eastern Utah, the most famous is the Delicate Arch, which stands 52 feet (16 m) tall and can be found on the state’s licence plate. Arches welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors each year.
Though technically not a national park, Adirondack is the largest protected park in the contiguous United States, made up of more than six million acres (24,280 sq. km) of land (that’s bigger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains combined). Located in northeastern New York, the park is made up of more than 10,000 lakes and 30,000 miles (48,280 km) of rivers and streams.
Made up of “heavily eroded, intricate mazes of narrow ravines, v-shaped gullies, knife-sharp ridges, buttes, and colorful pinnacles,” it’s no wonder it’s called Badlands. Good thing you can enjoy a peek at this beautiful South Dakota park from a safe distance.
The largest chamber in Carlsbad Caverns, located in Eddy County, New Mexico, is the Big Room, which has a floor space of 357,469 square feet (33,210 sq. m) and was described by comedian Will Rogers as “the Grand Canyon with a roof over it.”
It’s hard to believe that something called Death Valley could be so beautiful. For the best sight line in the park, be sure to check out Dante’s View. It looks out onto the Owlshead Mountains to the south, the Funeral Mountains to the north, and the salt flats below. Be sure to have your camera ready.
There’s not a bad view to be had in all of Denali, a park in the northern boreal forest biome that boasts a heavily forested landscape flanked by distant snow-capped mountains.
Everglades National Park in Florida is the country’s largest subtropical wilderness. It is home to many species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and marine creatures, including alligators and crocodiles, over a dozen species of turtle, the critically endangered Florida panther, bottlenose dolphins, and, perhaps most famous of all, the West Indian manatee, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
Gates of the Arctic
Gates of the Arctic is the least-visited national park in the country—not for lack of natural beauty, but because, as its name suggests, it is extremely remote. Located north of the Arctic Circle, the park is unreachable by road or trail. If you do manage to make your way up there, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning views in Alaska.
At less than 200 acres (0.8 sq. km), the Gateway Arch National Park is the smallest national park in the country, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with its spectacular views of St. Louis’s iconic landmark. Built in 1965 to represent the city’s role in westward expansion, the Gateway Arch is the tallest arch in the world, standing 630 feet (192 m) high.
The best way to see Glacier National Park is on foot, and with over 700 miles (1,127 km) of hiking trails, you’ll never run out of places to go or things to see. One place you won’t want to miss is Lake McDonald, which is 10 miles (16 km) long and 472 feet (144 m) deep. The water is so calm and peaceful that you can make out the colourful pebbles just below the surface.
This landmark is a sight to behold at any time, but few places in America are as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon at sunset and sunrise, when the rocks casts unusual shadows and the sky resembles a watercolour painting.
Just down the road from Yellowstone is Grand Teton, which offers striking views of the Teton Mountain Range and makes a strong case for being Wyoming’s most visually arresting national park. The park contains eight peaks with elevations above 12,000 feet (3,658 m); the highest, the Grand Teton, has a summit 13,770 feet (4,197 m) above sea level.
Matador Network named Nevada’s Great Basin America’s most underrated national park. What makes it so special? For starters, it offers some of the best views not just in the universe, but of the universe, thanks to its pitch-black night skies. You won’t need a telescope to spot the Milky Way.
Great Sand Dunes
The tallest sand dunes in North America can be found in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park, with some reaching as high as 750 feet (229 m) above the San Luis Valley. To put that into perspective, that’s roughly half the height of the Empire State Building.
Great Smoky Mountains
Tallying more than 11.4 million visitors in 2018, Great Smoky Mountains, split between North Carolina to Tennessee, is the most-visited national park in the United States. With breathtaking views like this one of the seemingly endless Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to see why.
Located in Northwestern Indiana along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is one of America’s newest national parks. It earned the designation on February 15, 2019, and is the first national park in Indiana’s history. Though it gets its name from the many sand dunes in the area (including Mount Baldy, a 126-foot-tall [38 m] moveable dune), the park also contains forests and prairies.
With its seemingly barren landscape, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city, Joshua Tree is a great place to get away. And upon closer inspection, you’ll find “a thriving ecosystem of plants and animals perfectly adapted to the harsh desert environment.”
There’s nothing quite like Mount Rainier in the summer, when the meadows are covered with wildflowers (everything from avalanche lilies and asters to cinquefoil and purple shooting stars). One of the most popular locations to view these colourful blooms is an area aptly named Paradise.
No need to adjust your screens. The waters of Diablo Lake in Washington’s North Cascades National Park really are that vibrant, a phenomenon caused by rocks that have been ground to powder by the surrounding glaciers. Diablo Dam Overlook off Hwy 20 offers some of the best views of the emerald-green lake.
Washington’s Olympic National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The park is home to four rainforests: Bogchiel, Hoh, Queets, and Quinault.
California surpassed Alaska as the state with the most national parks (nine) with the addition of Pinnacles in 2013. The park’s landscape, known for its namesake pinnacle rock formations, was formed as a result of multiple volcanic eruptions 23 million years ago.
While summer is the busiest time of year for Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, there’s something to be said about the way it looks in the winter, when the entire landscape is covered in snow. The cold months are also a great time to catch a glimpse of some of the area’s large mammals, including elk, mule deer, and moose.
Dating back 2,300 to 2,700 years, the General Sherman in California’s Sequoia National Park is the largest living tree on the planet, standing 275 feet (84 m) tall and with a diameter of 25 feet (8 m). Standing at the base and looking up at the top of this giant sequoia will leave you feeling dizzy.
This Minnesota park’s location along the Canadian border makes it one of the best spots in the lower 48 states to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring northern lights. Montana may be Big Sky Country, but Voyageurs is clear sky country, “free of the excessive, misdirected, and obtrusive artificial light produced by the large urban cities across America.”
White Sands is the newest national park in the U.S., having seen its status upgraded at the end of 2019. With its dreamlike landscape, this New Mexico destination is popular among filmmakers, serving as the backdrop in Western, sci-fi, and apocalyptic films, including 2007’s Transformers.
America’s oldest national park, Yellowstone is famous for its wildlife. It boasts the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48, including black bears, Canadian lynx, gray wolves, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, and many more. In this photo, an American bison can be seen standing by a geothermal hot pool in the winter.
El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park is roughly 3,000 feet (914 m) from base to summit along its tallest face (or 2.5 times the height of the Empire State Building), making it one of the most popular—and challenging—climbs in the country.
One of Zion’s most popular attractions, the Checkerboard Mesa gets its name from the checkerboard-like pattern of cracks in its sandstone hills. Although it saw a decline in visitors between 2017 and 2018—a first in five years—this Utah park is one of the most-visited in the country, welcoming more than four million sightseers each year.
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