Jul 13, 2022Travel Inspiration

The 10 Best National Parks in the US

Fora Author Tori Petry

Fora Advisor

Tori Petry

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Ah, the great outdoors. Nothing is better than wide-open-spaces, and the United States has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world, from Wyoming to Maine. Rife for hiking, biking, white-water rafting and more, each of these national parks are bucket-list destinations in their own right. Read on for the best national parks in the US, some pro tips for planning and a few hotels within driving distance of each.

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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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This national park in Wyoming borders the southern side of Yellowstone, and oftentimes, visitors will hit both parks in one trip. With the Yellowstone closures in mind, however, a trip to the Tetons alone is well worth the visit. Base yourself in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for your Tetons adventures. It's a great town, with a Western personality all its own, and features great nightlife and restaurants. Be sure to make a stop at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar! Serious mountaineers can climb the Grand Teton, but for the more tame traveler, you can take in the views at Jenny Lake inside the park and visit the picturesque barns at Mormon Row.

Where to stay near Grand Teton National Park: The Four Seasons Jackson Hole offers all the style and service you’d expect, plus knockout Rocky Mountain views.

Fora Perks:

  • $100 food / beverage credit. 

  • Breakfast daily. 

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible. 

Glacier National Park, Montana

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An alternative to Yellowstone, Glacier National Park in northwest Montana is known for its stunning mountain landscapes, lush green valleys and lots of wildlife. Glacier is a great place to go if you have Banff National Park in Canada on your bucket list but you aren't quite ready to leave the country. One of the best things to do in Glacier National Park is Going-to-the-Sun Road. It's one of the most beautiful drives you could ever take, but it is precariously perched along the edges of steep mountains. 

Pro tip for Glacier National Park: If you’re hesitant to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road yourself, take a bus trip to experience the thrill in a more comfortable setting. 

Where to stay near Glacier National Park: Just over two hours from Glacier National Park is Paws Up, a storied resort on 37,000 wild acres of Montana wilderness.

Fora Perks:

  • $300 activity credit. 

  • Breakfast daily. 

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

  • Bottle of wine in room on arrival. 

  • Complimentary round-trip private airport transfer.

Yosemite National Park, California

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As far as national parks in the US go, Yosemite National Park in California is at the top of the proverbial bucket-list – and for good reason. Renowned for its rock climbing and awe-inspiring views, this park is a favorite of both seasoned adventurers and travelers simply looking to get outside. Hike the coveted Clouds Rest trail, which lives up to its name by putting summiters in the clouds. Or, if you can get a permit, try the adrenaline-pumping Half Dome climb. 

Pro tip for Yosemite National Park: Remember, this park is on a timed-entry permit system through September. 

Where to stay near Yosemite National Park: Rush Creek Lodge and Spa is a relaxed lodge for family time and adventures in nature, in a prime spot near the National Park’s northwest entrance.

Fora Perks:

  • $300 activity credit. 

  • Breakfast daily. 

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

  • Bottle of wine in room on arrival. 

  • Complimentary round-trip private airport transfer.

Zion National Park, Utah

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One of the most beautiful national parks in the US, Utah’s red rocks tower over a lush green valley and offer hikes for all skill levels. The Narrows is one of the most unique hikes you'll ever come across, as it takes you through the Virgin River (yes, you're hiking in water!). Be sure to check the water levels before you go. Angel's Landing is the most iconic hike in the park, but it is not for the faint of heart. Steep switchbacks lead to a mountain spine climb known as "the chains" where you have to quite literally hold onto metal chains staked into the rockface to reach the peak. This hike requires a permit which is awarded via a lottery. Pair your trip to Zion with a stop in Bryce Canyon, about two hours to its north. These parks WILL be crowded (and hot!) in the summertime!

Pro tip for Zion National Park: Drive into the park via the east entrance rather than the entrance in Springdale. The views coming out of the Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel on this side of the park will give you chills. It's the perfect way to start your Zion trip.

Where to stay near Zion National Park: Zion National Park Lodge is a sophisticated retreat with an unbeatable location. 

For more on Zion, read the adventuring and hiking in Zion guide by Fora Advisor Cherryl Cannon.

Or, check out exploring the outdoors surrounding Salt Lake City from Fora Advisor Sarah Entwistle.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

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Moab, Utah is an outdoor paradise. The closest national park is Arches, but they've implemented a permit entry system since it has gotten so crowded. So, we recommend driving a little further out of town to Canyonlands National Park, a less crowded but equally as stunning collection of vibrant red rock landscapes. The trail to Mesa Arch is an easy hike with rewarding views everyone should try. If you're feeling bold and have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, drive Shafer Trail down into the canyon. The serious off-roaders will continue on to the White Rim Trail in the canyon below, but I do not recommend this if you don't have prior off-roading experience and aren't prepared for overnight truck camping!

Pro tip for Canyonlands National Park: For a totally epic road trip, plan a full tour of Utah's Mighty Five: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches.

Where to stay near Canyonlands National Park: Sorrel River Ranch is a destination in and of itself, with amazing views, its own farm, horseback riding and more. 

Check out Fora Advisor Gaya Vinay's family adventure guide to Moab for more.

Acadia National Park, Maine 

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One of the best national parks in the US, Acadia is tucked in America's northeast corner and offers adventures both in summer and fall. In summertime, you can enjoy scents of wild blueberries mixed with the scent of ocean spray on the rocks. In the fall, the vibrant foliage alone makes it worth a trip. Make sure to make a stop at the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Cadillac Mountain Road in the park also happens to be one of the most scenic drives in the US, and the nearby town of Bar Harbor is a quintessential New England coastal town.

Where to stay near Acadia National Park: If you’re passing through Bar Harbor, Bluenose Inn is a classic Maine retreat.

For more Maine, check out Fora Advisor Amy Barraclough's girls getaway guide to Portland.

North Cascades and Olympic National Park, Washington

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North of Seattle, North Cascades is one of the best national parks in the US, and a well-kept secret. It's among the least visited national parks in the contiguous US, yet provides all of the awe and beauty that the heavy hitters do! The mountains stay snowcapped even in the summertime and the weather never gets too hot. Glacial lakes radiate gorgeous teal colors thanks to "rock flour" that's produced by glaciers moving through the mountains. Even closer to Seattle, Olympic National Park has everything: beaches, snow-capped mountains and even a rainforest! It's well worth a couple of days to be able to hit all the highlights and wildly variable terrain. Be sure to check out the mountains on Hurricane ridge, the beach on Ruby Beach and the rainforest in Hoh Rain Forest, as well.

Where to stay near North Cascades and Olympic National Park, Washington: In Seattle, stay at the Kimpton Hotel Vintage. Upscale interiors, personalized service and a smack-dab central location make this a longtime favorite for visitors and staycationers alike.

For more Washington, check out activities in nearby town of Leavenworth in Fora Advisor Erinn Maher Shaw's guide.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

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For your Instagram moment, head to Joshua Tree National Park outside of LA, California. Sure, everyone from LA will be going there too, but when you get there, you'll understand why! The unique trees in this park are incredible to see, and the strangely round rock formations are great for some amateur rock scrambling. Plus, you have Palm Springs nearby, which is a desert oasis for chic hotels and great food. Eat at Tac/Quila! Pioneertown Motel is a one-of-a-kind stay in the Joshua Tree area, and Joshua Tree Coffee is absolutely worth a stop on your way into the park. 

Pro tip for Joshua Tree National Park: After a day of hiking, make a reservation at Kitchen in the Desert for some amazing food and totally hip vibes.

Where to stay near Joshua Tree National Park: If you’re headed to Palm Springs, we love the Ace Hotel, with a big pool, organic spa and throwback restaurant.

Check out Fora Advisor Dan Howarth's guide to Palm Springs.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

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Big Bend is one of the most underrated national parks in the US. Tucked away along the southern border of Texas and Mexico along the bend in the Rio Grande (hence the name), this park may not be the easiest to access, but once you're there, the views are incredibly rewarding. Fly into El Paso and make the four-hour drive to Terlingua, where you'll base your adventures. Make a stop in Marfa, Texas along the way to see the iconic Prada store in the desert. The mountains here are totally majestic – it's amazing this park doesn't get more love. Let's just keep the secret between us, ok?! 

Pro tip for Big Bend National Park: Don't plan an all-day hiking trip here during summer though, as temperatures are dangerously high. Opt to go during the spring or fall instead. 

Where to stay around Big Bend National Park: About an hour from Big Bend, stay in Marfa at the ultra-bohemian retreat El Cosmico. This quirky campground of yurts, airstreams and trailers plays host to year-round spiritual workshops.

Check out road trip to Marfa from Fora Advisor Wendy Wallace.

Or, learn more about exploring Columbia River Gorge in Oregon with Fora Advisor Tammy Bux.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Author - Tori Petry

    Tori Petry

    Tori Petry is a sports broadcaster and outdoors enthusiast. She uses her years of traveling to sports cities and marking national parks off her list to plan epic adventures.