You could visit a new national park every month and it would still take years to see them all. There are 59 vast areas currently preserved as National Parks across the US, not to mention the hundreds of other recreation sites, state parks, and national monuments. Take some time in 2018 to mark these ten amazing parks off your bucket list.
10. Glacier National Park, Montana
Take this hike: Hidden Lake (pictured above)
Camp here: Many Glacier Campground
Glacier National Park spans over a million acres in northwest Montana along the Canadian border. The massive park encompasses mountains, glacier-carved valleys, surrounding forest, and strikingly blue alpine lakes.
Over 700 miles of trails extend across the park varying in length and difficulty. It’s home to diverse wildlife like mountain goats and grizzly bears, as well as over a thousand types of plants.
Going-to-the-Sun Road provides a scenic 50 mile drive across the park, with the highest point at Logan Pass (an elevation of 6,646 feet). Keep in mind the road is narrow with hairpin curves, and has vehicle size restrictions.
9. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Hike this trail: Medicine Root Loop Trail
Park your RV here: Cedar Pass RV Park & Campground
Badlands National Park has Mars-like scenery only an hour and a half east of Mount Rushmore. Nearly half of the 244,000 acres protect ancient geologic formations and deep canyons, and the other half is mixed-grass prairie.
The park has a variety of hiking trails from easy nature walks through flat prairie to more challenging climbs up the formations. Another way to experience the park is by driving the scenic Badlands Loop Road. The 31 mile stretch takes you past fourteen scenic overlooks where you can get views of the buttes, cliffs, and spires.
8. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Take this hike: Navajo Trail
The best camping spot: Sunset Campground
Bryce Canyon has an otherworldly landscape filled with colorful hoodoo rock formations. Shaped from years of erosion, the pillars stand in a massive, natural amphitheater along the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah.
7. Arches National Park, Utah
The best hike: Delicate Arch
Camp here: Devil’s Garden Campground
This park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone arches in eastern Utah. You can take trails to see arches like the enormous Delicate Arch (pictured above), Turret Arch, and Landscape Arch in the Devil’s Garden area.
By night, Arches National Park also has some of the darkest skies in the nation for stargazing. Devil’s Garden is the only campground in the park, but just south in the Moab area there are several more RV parks and campgrounds with hookups available.
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Don’t miss: Hiking down the Natural Entrance
This park in southern New Mexico has a massive network of cave passages filled with stalagmites, stalactites and other formations. The largest chamber, “The Big Room” is 8.2 acres and the largest accessible cave chamber in North America.
Most people like to explore at their own pace on the Self-Guided Tours, but if you prefer having a guide with more information, consider taking one of their ranger-guided tours. From May-October, the park also has a Bat Flight Program, and in the summer they host several Night Sky Events for stargazers.
The park does not allow overnight camping, but you can find RV parks and campgrounds nearby.
5. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
What to see: Taggart Lake
Stay here: Signal Mountain Campground
Grand Teton National Park is directly south of Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming. The park protects the jagged Grand Teton mountain range and surrounding pristine wilderness.
Jackson Lake is a highlight in the park and popular among boaters, swimmers, and kayakers. You can also go rafting and fishing on the Snake River which winds its way through the park and empties into the lake.
4. Olympic National Park, Washington
For ocean views, camp here: South Beach Campground
Olympic National Park has mountain, coast, and rainforest to wander. You could easily spend days exploring the Quinault and Hoh rainforests, and seeing the offshore sea stacks at Ruby Beach and Shi Shi Beach. Further in the park, you can hike through the lush green ancient woods to hidden waterfalls like Sol Duc Falls.
Near Port Angeles, drive up Hurricane Ridge Road for the best views of the Olympic Mountains. The road also leads to several hiking trailheads where you can get out and venture further into the wilderness. Occasionally you can spot wildlife like deer and native Olympic marmots, and in the spring you can see wild rhododendrons blooming.
3. North Cascades National Park, Washington
Our favorite campground: Newhalem Creek
Being so quiet and peaceful, it’s hard to believe North Cascades Park is less than three hours from Seattle. Within its boundaries are the glacier-capped North Cascade Mountains, evergreen forest, and beautiful lakes (like the vibrant Diablo Lake pictured above) that are ideal for swimming and kayaking in the summer. Take a small vehicle up the narrow, twisting road to Artist Point for up-close views of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker.
The hiking paths vary from easy ADA-accessible routes to multi-day backpacking trails. North Cascades Highway (SR-20) provides a scenic route through the park and passes several viewpoints where you can find great photo ops.
2. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
For beautiful views: Hike to Sprague Lake (pictured above)
Camp here: Moraine Campground
Rocky Mountain National Park is only an hour and a half from Denver in north-central Colorado. Within its 415 square miles are the Rocky Mountains, surrounding forests, and a variety of wildlife. The park has miles of hiking trails, and lakes and rivers for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.
You can also go for a scenic drive up Trail Ridge Road—aka the “Highway To The Sky”—between Estes Park and Grand Lake. The route spans for 48 miles, reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation, and passes several overlooks and trailheads.
1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Take this hike: Lone Star Geyser Trail—it erupts about 30 to 45 feet every three hours
Where to camp: Lewis Lake Campground
Yellowstone sits on top of a volcanic hot spot with erupting geysers, hot springs, and waterfalls. It was established in 1872 as the world’s first national park and is still one of the most visited in the national park system.
There are twelve campgrounds (some RV-friendly) across the park and over a thousand miles of trails. A diverse variety of mammals also roam the park including elk, moose, and bison.