Updated: May 26, 2022
The world finally returns to some sort of normalcy. As it does, many of us are still flocking to the great outdoors, trying to experience everything it has to offer all at once!
And what better place to experience the glory of the great outdoors than exploring your own backyard, visiting one of the amazing national parks right here at home in the US?
Well, you might find the choice a bit of a challenge.
There are 63 national parks in the US, so picking the ones you want to see can be tricky unless you've got all the time in the world. Even then, you might want to start with some of the best ones to get the momentum going.
Still not sure where to start? Here are my recommendations for 5 of the best US national parks to visit this year or next!
Grand Teton National Park
We're going to start in northwestern Wyoming with Grand Teton National Park. This national park has been around since the 1920s. Ever since it has always been one of the most popular ones, and that's for a good reason! As a visitor you'll be able to go cycling, hiking, and fishing.
And if you're looking for something more adventurous, this is the right place. You can go rock climbing, rafting, and even backcountry skiing if you're brave enough! Although that's not the most exciting part about Grand Teton. That's the fact that it's a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
That means that all of the wildlife that was in the mountains before the area was considered a national park still exists! Real wildlife, animals great and small in their natural habitat, just doing their own thing.
Seeing all that wildlife makes for an amazing experience. So even if you don't participate in all of the super adventurous activities, wildlife watching alone will make your whole trip worth it.
Bryce Canyon National Park
While the typical "image" of a national park is just lush green mountains all over the place, Bryce Canyon National Park has a very specific look, covered in the hoodoos which define this whole region of Utah.
If you're someone who loves horseback riding and hiking and just want to take in some amazing views, this is the place to be.
Hit the 5.5 mile Rim Trail, you'll go through some of the most popular spots like Sunrise and Sunset points and Inspiration. As the name implies, watching the sunrise or set from any of these spots will make you feel like you're watching it for the first time. What's great about Bryce Canyon is that you could visit it in the summer and in the winter and feel like you're seeing two very different places.
The summer has the golden hour shine all day long, and the winter is snow-capped hoodoos that make for a breathtaking sight. One that everyone needs to see at least once!
Zion National Park
Utah is pretty much on a roll with national parks because Zion National Park is a total hidden gem. Well, at least it used to be a hidden gem. The park sees 4 million visitors every single year because there's just so much going on here that people just can't get enough!
If you want several days of adventure, this is the place you visit because there's just so much to do here. The park has a hop-on hop-off bus that's functional through most of the year. Relaxing on the bus you can explore the park's main areas without having to get on your feet. You can see Angels Landing, the Narrows, and the caramel highway that way.
Once you've seen the main attractions, hop off the bus and spend a day hiking through the mountains on any of the several trails available. Some of the must see places here would be the weeping rock and the riverside walk, both of which will be the perfect setting for quite the walk to remember.
One of the things that everyone loves about Zion National Park is that things are super quiet at night. You should definitely make an effort to get outside at night, you'll be in for an insane stargazing experience. So if you're into astronomy, you might want to pack your telescope because the stars here shine brighter than you might've ever seen.
Rocky Mountain National Park
If you're on the look-out for some serious views, look no further than the Rocky Mountain National Park. This Colorado Park looks like it's straight out of a painting. This park has around 300 miles of trails, some that are right beside the 147 lakes on the grounds overlooking the 118 peaks that are all over 5,000 feet high!
When you're there, start off with Trail Ridge Road. This road stretches across 48 miles, and the very end is at the 12,000 foot mark. So even if you're not the hiking type, the scenic drive up this road will serve up views of a lifetime.
Plus, much of the wildlife in the area lives around this road. You might just pass by a couple of elk or a moose or two on your way, without ever stepping foot out of your car. Although the real fun of being here is by getting out there and going on a trek or a hike through the park. There are such drastically different trials that can go up so high you may need to acclimate to the change in altitude. Thankfully it is possible to spend several days here to really experience everything this park has to offer.
What's best about this national park is that you don't need to be a pro hiker to make your way around to some of the best spots. Sure, some do require some skill, but places like Bear Lake and Alberta Falls are far friendly for new or inexperienced hikers, and the views are still fantastic.
If you are a bit adventurous, though, don't miss mountaineering here. Those who visit around Christmas would even get to go skiing in the incredible mountains because a lot of the park gets covered in snow.
Grand Canyon National Park
We can't have a list of the best national parks in the US without mentioning the Grand Canyon, can we? Surely you've seen a postcard inviting you to gaze upon its majesty at some point! There's a reason for this, it's stunning.
Even if you're someone that isn't into the whole idea of going to a national park for fun or just doesn't see how a canyon of all places could be interesting, the Grand Canyon is bound to change your mind.
Almost everyone loves to start their journey off at the South Rim. It pretty much allows you to go through most of the canyon's main attractions all in one route. What's really great here is that you can choose to walk through the entire route or take a mule ride. The majority of this route is also wheelchair accessible. Even if you're differently-abled, you'll still be able to enjoy a lot of the best parts of the park.
After you've been through most of the scenic route, you can amp things up by going river rafting down the Colorado River. To have an adventure and relax at the same time, hit up the Havasu Falls. It is a little trek, but once you get there, it's going to be well worth the effort.
If you're short on time, add the Skywalk to your must-see list. The circular bridge is almost 5,000 feet above sea level and the floor is entirely made out of glass. It allows visitors to feel like they're literally floating above the Grand Canyon! The entire experience is one that just can't be replicated anywhere else.
Visit US National Parks the Right Way!
Now that you've got the list you should be starting with, do it right. Pass on roaming aimlessly in these huge parks all by yourself. Join an arranged group so you can see all the hidden gems and have an organized, grand ol time in some of the grandest national parks in the US! We often secure space with a trusted tour operator such as Trafalgar Tours many months in advance, that means great pricing or availabilty you won't find elsewhere.