Some of the world’s most beautiful diverse landscapes and natural environments are located in national parks land regions. There are a number of extraordinary parks throughout all parts of the globe; however, you will find several parks to be unique and located in off the beaten path places within the United States. I put together a list of the parks I’ve visited recently. I based my top choice of parks on particular characteristics, diversity, and captivating landscapes. Here are my top 11 U.S. national park favorites! As we continue our goal to visit all US national parks, stay tuned for an updated list in the future.
Disclosure: We may be an affiliate for products/services/brands that we use or recommend. If you purchase those items through our links, we will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my links.
Grand Canyon National Park
One of the most scenic and grandest parks in the world might be considered Grand Canyon National Park. This amazing place is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and about one mile deep. We can attest to this as we went on a trekking journey down into the canyon to Havasupai Falls in 2008.
We finally finished the day after completing approximately 21 miles round trip. This includes one mile plus to where we parked our car and the trails all in one day. I will never forget how difficult that last mile incline in 100 degree plus temps while the sun beating down on our backs was. But it was worth every bead of sweat! Directions.
Saguaro National Park
This incredible park is full of history and a desert jewel, Saguaro National Park is a little bit different than other parks. There are two different areas that are separated of which the areas are about 33 miles apart. We spent most of our time in the east section of the park. This park consists of approximately 92,000 acres of desert landscapes and endless saguaro cactus!
One of the most interesting areas of the park I think is the historical lime kilns and origins of the city of Tuscan. In the 1880s, the demand for mortar is quite high, which means the kilns were busy and there were plenty of hard labor jobs. The kilns helped fuel the growth of the city of Tuscan in those days. Directions.
Channel Islands National Park
If you are looking for a very unique and adventurous experience, then this national park is it! In order to reach these islands, you will need to be transported on a catamaran.
There are at least eight islands that make the Channel Islands of which only four are designated as the national Park. We chose to explore Santa Cruz Island.
Highlights of Santa Cruz Island
Painted Cave: One of the largest sea caves in the world!
Channel Islands National Park is one adventure filled experience you won’t soon forget. Directions to the Marina in Ventura, California.
Death Valley National Park
One of the hottest places on earth is in Death Valley National Park. With nearly 1.7 million visitors a year, there is definitely something special in this uniquely diverse and outta this world topography and landscape. Directions to the park.
Joshua Tree National Park
You will find nothing but peaceful, serene, mysterious, calming landscapes and hiking trails. This strangely beautiful park is known as Joshua Tree National Park. From the uniquely mystical cactus garden to skull rock, this topography will leave you in awe! Take a drive along the scenic road and indulge yourself in the majestic desert landscape.
As you wander throughout the park, you may notice rock climbers at a few stops. Hiking up Ryan Mountain is a fun, short but intense trail or take a moment and walk through history in the Ryan Ranch ruins. Directions to the park.
Pinnacles National Park
Probably one of the least visited parks in the national system, this park actually quite amazing. Do not let the lack of visitors imply that the park isn’t worth a visit. Pinnacles National Park is so cool with its colorful tones embedded in the rock pinnacles and endless interesting hiking trails make for a perfect wandering wonderland. You might even run into a bobcat or other wildlife.
One of the coolest features of this park is Balconies Cave. This incredible adventure has you scrambling over boulders in the dark and finding your way to the exit of the cave. Directions to the park.
Yosemite National Park
The diamond of the national parks! If you truly want to be wow’d by so much diversity and majestic beauty in a park, then Yosemite will surely tickle your fancy! With its towering granite mountains, massive waterfalls, and flowering meadows, Yosemite is a sparking gem. Located near and around the Sierra Nevada region in the central California area, this park is overflowing with adventure and exploration opportunities.
If you are really into intense and challenging hiking, you will enjoy some of the trails that Yosemite offers. Here are a few: Half Dome, Mist Trail, John Muir Trail, Upper Yosemite Falls Hike, Eagle Peak, Nevada Falls Trail, and several others. Directions to the park. Rock climbing is another activity with El Capitan awaiting for you to venture up!
Badlands National Park
South Dakota offers more than just amazing beauty, incredible history, and Mount Rushmore. It is known as the land of fossils. Badlands National Park is so vast, desolate, interestingly beautiful. There are fossil beds in the Badlands that date back to Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals time. Fossils are still being recovered to this day. The beauty of these landscapes are indescribable. The Yellow Mounds as seen below, is some of the oldest soil in the park. Directions to the park.
Haleakalā National Park
Enjoy the 52 mile journey on the Road to Hana to reach the beautiful and majestic Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii. Primarily, Haleakalā is a dormant volcano as the park covers an area of 33,265 acres, of which 24,719 acres is a wilderness lands. One of the most unique experiences here is to watch the sunrise at the volcano site; however, you will need a permit for this activity. The Seven Sacred Pools is nothing short of spectacular. This particular section of the park was recently added to the national park region. Directions to the park.
Yellowstone National Park
Fascinating phenomenon is continuously happening in Yellowstone National Park these days. The earth is alive and moving! This park is a geological wonderland. Designated the first national park in 1872, Yellowstone is a land of brilliant beauty full of waterfalls, unique rock formations, and wildlife galore!
You will most likely see and encounter wildlife, so please keep your distance and do not disturb the animals.
Zion National Park
Utah is an incredible state offering the Mighty 5 national parks of beauty! Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring places that you can experience! You will find yourself looking up at all times while exploring Zion.
From its towering red rock formations of Angels Landing to the amazing canyon views from Observation Point, Zion National Park is a playground of outdoor adventure like no other. And I’ve said it many times, it will definitely leave you speechless!
Although this is not a list of all national parks, it is one that includes many of my favorites. National parks are a nations treasure. Please do your part when visiting these special places where you are and visit responsibly. Incorporate the Leave No Trace principles, be courteous to others and minimize noise, be a mindful photographer, and leave the drones and pets at home. What is your favorite national park where you are? Why is it your favorite and what are the characteristics of the park? Do you plan on visiting a national park for your upcoming travels? Tell me in the comments!