Ever since I was young, it was a dream of mine to visit every U.S. National Park. Thus far I’ve only visited 15 out of the 58, but it’s exciting knowing that is already more than most people will visit in their lifetime! This past summer, I did a month-long solo cross-country road trip (yep, by myself!) and was able to cross off seven more. Now that I have some experience under my belt and hundreds of photographs, I’ve decided it’s time to create my personal list of favorites! So without further ado, here is my personal list of Top 10 National Parks!
10. Grand Teton National Park
This spot is one of the most iconic views in the United States and was famously photographed by Ansel Adams in 1942. The tetons are one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the West and you don’t even have to pull over to see them! The park is in northwest Wyoming and is only 7 miles from the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
9. Canyonlands National Park
If sunrises are your thing, then Canyonlands near Moab, UT is the park for you! Mesa Arch (pictured above) is a unique rock formation within the park that sits atop a magnificent canyon and it glows bright orange when the sun rises. Be aware that there will surely be dozens of photographers when you arrive, but if you can get past the distraction it’s a truly incredible sight.
8. Arches National Park
Just 30 minutes from Canyonlands is Arches, which holds one of the most unique landscapes in the country. The park contains over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and is one of the absolute best spots to see the stars! This is unlike any place you’ll ever see and will surely leave you wanting to visit again.
7. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is one of those places I had heard of but never really had a desire to go. However, a photographer friend of mine insisted I had to check it out and I am so glad I did. This is one of the most surreal places I’ve ever been; it truly feels like you’ve been transported to a faraway desert planet. From endless stretches of open road to sand dunes and salt flats, I’m postive that Death Valley will become one of your favorite parks, too (and yes, it’s very hot!)
6. Mount Rainier National Park
I didn’t have any expectations when visiting Mt. Rainier and boy, was I blown away! This is one of my favorite parks not only because it’s home to one of the most beautiful mountain views in the U.S., but also because it’s an amazing park to drive through from start to finish. Many parks have a few “must see” spots scattered about, but the lush forests and tall evergreens of Washington make this park feel like heaven no matter where you are. Best of all, it’s only 2 hours outside Seattle so it’s an easy day trip if you’re in the city!
5. Glacier National Park
Glacier is thought to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in the U.S. and for good reason. The park is located in Northwest Montana just a few hours from Canada, which causes it to have beautiful glacial lakes that are the brightest shade of blue you can imagine! If you like hiking, blue skies, cool weather, and mountains – I highly suggested taking a trip to Glacier!
4. Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon doesn’t have 5 million visitors annually for no reason – it is truly one of the most spectacular sights in the world. I was told by many friends before visiting that pictures do the canyon no justice, and I totally found that to be true! Whether you’re driving through for a quick visit or spending a few days exploring all the park has to offer, it will surely be an unforgettable trip.
3. Zion National Park
Zion is located in southwestern Utah and I mainly visited to cross hiking The Narrows (pictured above) off my bucket list. I saw this place on Pinterest years ago and had dreamed of going, and it was just as amazing as the pictures I saw! The park is filled with massive sandstone cliffs, gorges, rivers, and wildlife. Zion also contains one of the most breathtaking and challenging hikes called Angel’s Landing, which I hope to tackle next time I visit when I’m in better shape!
2. Yosemite National Park
Not only is California my favorite state, but Yosemite was the park that made me fall in love with the outdoors many years ago and set me on my journey to visit many more National Parks! The mountains, valleys, and waterfalls throughout the park are out of this world and Yosemite truly has something for everyone! I highly suggest making Yosemite a priority next time you take a trip to California and make a camping trip out of it if you have a few days to spare.
1. Yellowstone National Park
I didn’t think any park would ever beat Yosemite for the #1 spot until I visited Yellowstone for the first time this past summer. I believe Yellowstone deserves the top spot because of it’s incredible diversity and size. The park is nearly 3,500 square miles and sits over a volcanic hotspot, causing the park to be covered in geysers, geothermal pools (pictured above), and hot springs. Seeing these geological wonders is one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced (or should I say hot, haha!) and I found myself wanting to spend so much time in each part of the park. Yellowstone is also an incredible place to encounter wildlife and you’ll have the opportunity to see tons of bison (they are constantly blocking the road!), moose, elk, bears, bighorn sheep, antelope, and more. Yellowstone is one of the greatest gifts America has and I highly recommend you plan a trip in the near future!
Which National Parks have you been to and which were your favorites? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’re interested in buying prints of my photographs from these parks you can check them out here! And if you are interested in licensing any of these images, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I own the rights to these images and they are not available for distribution.