Covering large areas of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and the Little San Bernardino Mountains, Joshua Tree National Park gets its name from the vast stands of Joshua trees. The terrain varies greatly, from bleached sand dunes, dry lakes, rugged mountains, and scattered clusters of monzogranite monoliths.
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – TN
The Great Smoky Mountains, home to the Appalachian Mountains, spans over a wide range of elevation. The Appalachian Trail winds through the park for roughly 70 miles, and hiking is the park’s main attraction. Hiking is the park’s main attraction. Other activities include fishing, horseback riding, and touring nearly 80 historic structures.
3. Zion National Park – UT
Zion National Park is located near Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert. The park features sandstone landmarks such as mesas, rock towers, and canyons, including the Virgin River Narrows. They are divided into four ecosystems: desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest.
4. Redwoods National Park – CA
Redwood National Park protects almost half of all remaining coastal redwoods, the tallest trees on earth. There are three large river systems in the area, and 37 miles of protected coastline reveal tide pools and seastacks. The park contains several forest ecosystems that contain a wide variety of animal and plant species.
5. Glacier National Park – MT
Glacier National Park includes 26 glaciers and 130 named lakes surrounded by Rocky Mountain peaks. The local mountains, formed by an overthrust, reveal many Paleozoic fossils that include trilobites, mollusks, giant ferns and dinosaurs.
6. North Cascades National Park – WA
North Cascades National Park includes two geographically distinct units of the national park, including Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. Popular hiking and climbing areas include Cascade Pass, Mount Shuksan, Mount Triumph, and Eldorado Peak.
7. Acadia National Park – ME
Acadia National Park covers the majority of Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park features the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast of the United States. With granite peaks, ocean shoreline, woodlands, and large lakes. The summit of Cadillac Mountain is also known for its impeccable sunrise view on the East Coast, with hiking or driving options.
8. Grand Canyon National Park – AZ
Grand Canyon National Park, outlined by the Colorado River, is 277 miles long, roughly 1 mile deep, and up to 15 miles miles wide. Years of erosion have exposed the rock formation and the colors of the Colorado Plateau in mesas and canyon walls. The Grand Canyon sees roughly 6.5 million visitors per year.
9. Bryce Canyon National Park – UT
Bryce Canyon National Park is a geological amphitheater on the Paunsaugunt Plateau with tall, multicolored sandstone hoodoos formed by many years of erosion. The region was originally settled by Native Americans and later by Mormon pioneers.
10. Death Valley National Park – CA / NV
Death Valley National Park is the hottest, lowest, and driest place in the entire country. The temps during the day have exceeded 130 degrees. The park protects canyons, badlands, sand dunes, mountain ranges, historic mines, springs, and more than 1000 species of plants which grow in the surrounding area.
11. Canyonlands National Park – UT
Canyonlands National Park contains eroded into plethora of canyons, buttes, and mesas formed by the Colorado River, Green River, which divide the park into three distinct sections. The park also includes rock pinnacles and arches.
12. Grand Teton National Park – WY
Grand Teton National Park contains the tallest mountain in the Teton Range. The park includes Jackson Hole and lakes with endemic wildlife. The safe-covered valley is cloaked with a backdrop of craggy, tall mountains.
13. Denali National Park – AK
Denali National Park is a serviced by a single road leading to Wonder Lake. Denali is the tallest mountain in North America and is covered with long glaciers and boreal forest. The park contains wildlife including grizzly bears, dall sheep, caribou, and gray wolves.
14. Badlands National Park – SD
Badlands National Park is a large collection of buttes, pinnacles, spires, and mixed-grass prairies. The White River Badlands contain the largest supply known of Eocene and Oligocene mammal fossils. There is a variety of wildlife in the park including bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets.
15. Rocky Mountain National Park – CO
Rocky Mountain National Park has ecosystems varying from riparian lakes to montane and subalpine forests to alpine tundra. The Continental Divide Trail crosses through the park as well. There is a vast variety of wildlife in the park, including mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, and cougars. Longs Peak is a very highly popular place to visit, reaching over 12,000 feet.
16. Arches National Park – UT
The area features over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. Millions of years of erosion have created these structures located in a desert climate where they serve as water collecting basins. Other formations in this area include stone pinnacles, fins, and balancing rocks.
17. Yellowstone National Park – MT / ID / WY
The park has an expansive number of geothermal areas including boiling mud pots, bright colored hot springs, and erupting geyser. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River contains several high waterfalls, and four mountain ranges traverse the park. Yellowstone is best known for its high wildlife presence.
18. Sequoia National Park – CA
The park protects the Giant Forest, home to some of the world’s largest trees. Other features include over 200 caves, a segment of the Sierra Nevada including the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, and Moro Rock, a large granite dome.
19. Saguaro National Park – AZ
Split between the Rincon Mountain and Tucson Mountains, this park is filled the giant saguaro cacti. There are barrel cacti, chollas, and prickly pears, as well as lesser long-nosed bats, spotted owls, and javelinas.
20. Great Sand Dunes National Park – CO
The tallest sand dunes in North America, up to 750 feet tall, are located within this park. There is a variety of grasslands, shrublands, and wetlands, along with several alpine lakes, six 13,000-foot mountains, and old-growth forests.