You are currently viewing 10 most visited national parks in the United States

The United States has precisely 61 beautiful national parks to explore; however, some stand out among the rest. With their unrelenting mystery, abundant wildlife, and peaceful atmosphere, you won’t want to miss them on your next trip to the US.

Did you know that the United States was the 1st country to create and recognize a national park? Yep, Yellowstone National Park is considered the 1st in the world (it’s the one pictured above, because yes, that iconic park is among the most visited). Preserving the natural beauty and wildlife in this world has since become an important mindset. 

While the US pioneered this idea of having national parks, other countries like Canada have followed suit, as Flytrippers’ other co-founder Kevin showed you in his post about the 10 most visited national parks in Canada.

On your next trip to the United States, you should consider visiting one (or more!) of the national parks in the country. I was surprised to realize that I’ve only been to 10 of the 61, despite having been to 46 States, so there’s still a lot more to see even for me!

To help you with your planning, I have compiled the list of the 10 most visited national parks in the US, why they’re at the top of the list, and what you can do in each one.


1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina/Tennessee)

As America’s #1 most visited National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains are synonymous with endless hiking trails, breathtaking scenic outlooks, crisp colors in every season, and so much more. 

View from Mount Le Conte (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


If you find it a bit surprising that this is the most visited, keep in mind that many of the more famous ones are out West, while a majority of Americans live on the East Coast. And if you choose to join the millions of people who visit this park every year, you’ll have no trouble finding something to do. 

One must-see is Clingman’s Dome, which rises to 2025 meters! It offers its visitors beautiful views of the valley below and starry skies at night. When the leaves start changing color in the fall, one of the main attractions of this national park is, in fact, its gorgeous autumn colors with orange, yellow, and reddish hues for miles upon miles.

There are also over 100 waterfalls found here. You should see Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls, and Rainbow Falls. Avid hikers could get their adventure fix on the Appalachian Trail. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a months-long hike that will lead you from Georgia up to Maine.

Lastly, history is rich in these parts because many pioneers settled here in the early days of the United States becoming its own nation. Explore old farms, barns, mills, and churches in Cades Coves for a day.

If you want to combine it with other attractions, a city I loved visiting is relatively close: Nashville, the Music City. Or on the other side, you can take advantage of the North Carolina coast and visit the famous Outer Banks.

Nearest airports: Knoxville (TYS) and Asheville (AVL)


2. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Reigning as one of the largest canyons on Earth, the 1.6-kilometer deep and 365-kilometers long Grand Canyon is beautiful at every turn and corner.

The many valleys of the Grand Canyon (photo credit: Jason Thompson) 


I was expecting the Grand Canyon to be very beautiful, but seeing it with my own eyes was so much more impressive than the pictures. Just keep in mind that it gets cold up there (that’ll be a funny travel story for another post).

Unsurprisingly, the Grand Canyon has a lot of breathtaking views and hidden paradises that only the adventurous may find. A prime example is Havasu Falls — a surreal desert oasis with roaring waterfalls of turquoise waters. The catch is that you must hike 16 kilometers to experience its beauty.

Fret not, though; there are more easily accessible sights to see.

The Skywalk, which has transparent glass floors, juts out at 1219 meters from the bottom of the canyon; in short, you’ll be amazed (or terrified, depending on your level of comfort with heights!). 

You could go rafting in the rapids of the Colorado River, even as a beginner. The park offers various options for calmer or more intense waters for experienced and inexperienced rafters. 

Lastly, it’s worth the time to check out the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in northern Arizona to connect deeply with nature. No crowds, no cellphone service, just pristine beauty and starry night skies above when you camp.

You can read my post about my Arizona roadtrip, it’s really one of the best states to visit. You can easily combine the Grand Canyon with a more relaxed vacation in the southern part of the state, or with a trip to neighboring Utah with its own amazing national parks, or with a trip to Vegas for a very different experience.

Nearest airports: Phoenix (PHX) and Las Vegas (LAS)


3. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

In Colorado, you can’t miss the epic mountain range around you: the Rockies. With timeless vistas, hundreds of miles of streams, pine forests, and snowy tundra, you’ll happily be lost within.

most visited US National Parks
Cub Lake in the Rockies (photo credit: Debra Miller/Wikipedia Commons)


This national park is perfect for viewing wildlife, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and, of course, hiking!

The Rockies have over 571 kilometers of trails to explore for beginners and long-time hikers. You may also see plenty of wildlife along the way, such as elk and bighorn sheep. Horseback riding within this gorgeous scenery is also a possibility to give you a unique experience.

There’s a reason Colorado is considered one of the very best states for those who love the outdoors and nature. It’s stunning and even though I’ve only been to Denver, even from the city you can enjoy the view of the massive mountains around you.

Nearest airports: Denver (DEN) and Northern Colorado (FNL)


4. Zion National Park (Utah)

Utah is arguably the best state for outdoorsy travelers. It has a whopping 5 national parks (they call them the “Mighty Five”). Zion is the most visited, and you’ll be enamored by its rock towers, sandstone canyons, and sharp cliffs.

Zion National Park (photo credit: Alex Donnachie)


The high mountains fall into craggy canyons flowing into beautiful rivers. Zion, like the other parks, has a ton of beauty and adventure to offer its visitors, so much so that it’s difficult to tell you all about it here. (Go see for yourself!)

By the way, you can take a look at this content about Utah:

First and foremost, the Zion-Mt. Carmel Scenic Highway is a must-do, maybe even a few times over. You’ll love the towering cliffs around you, undoubtedly. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to see Checkerboard Mesa — the beautiful scenic overlook from atop is gorgeous, and the view will explain how it got its name.

The Narrows is next as you follow the Virgin River through a canyon of cliffs around you. Keep in mind that this trail is 16 kilometers long, so it takes a while. Plan to either do it all responsibly or go only halfway and then turn around.

Lastly, visitors would be remiss without seeing the Weeping Rock and the Grotto. The 1st is an overhang with a constant supply of spring water that allows for the growth of lush hanging gardens in the summer and spring. The 2nd has an epic view for any aspiring photographers. The hike is 4.3 kilometers long, which might seem easy, but it’s quite strenuous with steep hills and dangerous heights — be alert and responsible.

Nearest airports: Las Vegas (LAS) and Salt Lake City (SLC)


5. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming/Montana/Idaho)

As the world’s 1st-ever national park, Yellowstone remains in the heart of many Americans and citizens of the world.

And there’s no doubt why. 

The Rainbow Pools of Yellowstone (photo credit: Siegfried Poepperl)


Teeming with wildlife, geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, valleys, and splashes of color, the incredible Yellowstone is something to write home about. I’ve only had a short glimpse by driving through on one of my roadtrips, and I can’t wait to go back.

The biggest attractions are surely Old Faithful Geyser, the Grand Prismatic Spring with its exuberant colors, the steamy hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with scenic points and the Upper and Lower Falls. Each has a distinct quality, which together, make this park special.

Another attraction is the Yellowstone Caldera, aka the Super Volcano. Not far under the earth is a pocket of magma that makes up this natural sight. You’ll feel its intense heat and notice the constant steam released from the soil.

Lastly, you should visit Yellowstone Lake, Lamar Valley for bison, and Hayden Valley. Be on the lookout for bears, sheep, moose, and wolves as they are this area’s main animals.

Nearest airports: Yellowstone (COD) and Jackson Hole (JAC)


6. Yosemite National Park (California)

A Californian wonder and natural “temple,” according to famed naturalist John Muir, Yosemite National Park is unique and compares to no other. 

Yosemite Falls (photo credit: Mick Haupt)


In this national park, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to scale heights and walk through low valleys. This park isn’t the largest; however, its scenery of evergreens, stark grey stone façades, and jagged cliffs attract visitors year-round.

Starting with Yosemite Valley, this is where most of the park’s visitors go. You can then visit Yosemite Falls and the Glacier Point Overlook from there.

You can also enjoy watching the wildlife that lives there, go backcountry camping, go rock climbing (but be safe), and visit Half Dome village.

The famous Death Valley is nearby too, if you want to combine. There’s also Vegas which is relatively close, as is the California coast.

Nearest airports: Mammoth Lakes (MMH), Fresno (FAT), Merced (MCE), or even Oakland (OAK) and San Francisco (SFO)


7. Acadia National Park (Maine)

This is probably my favorite, if only because it’s so close and accessible (I’ve been many times). Found on Mount Desert Island, this mountainous park meets the frigid Atlantic. Located in eastern Maine on the coast, Acadia National Park attracts many visitors for its hiking paths, history, and rocky shores.

Jordan Pond on Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


The most famous mountain in the park is Mount Cadillac, where all hiking is open to the public. 

Jordan Pond is another must-see where you can stroll under evergreen trees, on the shore lined with stones, and next to crystal-clear waters.

The very pretty small town of Bar Harbor nearby has a typically “New England” feel and can also warm you up in the colder months with cozy restaurants with fresh seafood and tea rooms. I highly recommend the Bar Harbor Inn, the iconic waterfront hotel (detailed review to come too).

Then, there’s the 19th-century Bass Lighthouse built on a cliff’s edge and Schoodic Point where visitors can climb the rocks, feel the fresh mist, and hear the waves come crashing down.

Nearest airports: Portland (PWM) and Bangor (BGR)


8. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

In Wyoming, the Teton Range scales nearly 2100 meters, making them some of the tallest mountains in the Rockies. They were impressive from afar across the state line when I was roadtripping in Idaho, so I can only imagine how beautiful they are from up close.

Grand Teton (photo credit: Toan Chu)


Just south of Yellowstone (#5), you can definitely visit both parks during the same trip. You’ll experience immense beauty at Taggert Lake and Grand Teton Mountain. Grand Teton National Park is perfect for climbing and hiking, especially around this gigantic monument of natural power.

The park is also notable for its jewel-like lakes and bluish-white glaciers. Jackson Hole is a city within the park where, in winter, visitors can ski among the wilderness and get some epic views at the same time. Then, Jackson Lake is a prime example of the park’s gems, which is perfect for kayaking and capturing your reflection in its pristine, calm waters.

Nearest airports: Jackson Hole (JAC) and Yellowstone (COD)


9. Olympic National Park (Washington)

Olympic National Park is composed of 3 distinct ecosystems: a temperate rainforest, a subalpine forest, and a wildflower meadow with a jagged shoreline. I found it absolutely beautiful, as I love national parks that are near the ocean.

Olympic’s rocky shoreline (photo credit: Zetong Li)


I only spent a short time in the park, but I hope to go back, and I definitely recommend visiting this stunning peninsula west of Seattle, just across BC’s Vancouver Island.

Olympic National Park has a lovely mix of coastal views and deep wilderness. What stands out is its lack of roads. Whether you’re looking to camp in the backcountry or lounge in the warmth of a rustic lodge, Olympic has perfect opportunities awaiting you.

Crescent Lake is one of many stunning lakes. You can step back in time by staying at the Lake Crescent Lodge, built in 1915. Then within the Sol Duc Valley, take some time to discover Sol Duc Falls and its hot springs. It has plenty of hiking trails and wilderness to explore. 

Towards the coast, definitely pay a visit to Ruby Beach, which stretches for 217 kilometers. The area serves as a sanctuary for marine life like the bird species of common murres and tufted puffins. My favorite part, however, is the rugged shoreline with pine trees galore and stand-alone stone towers that have been battered by endless waves. 

Another well-known beach in the area is in La Push; it was made famous by the Twilight movies, in case you care about that unlike me.

Nearest airports: Seattle (SEA), Everett (PAE), and even Victoria (YYJ) or Vancouver (YVR) 


10. Glacier National Park (Montana)

Its name says it all: a park full of gorgeously frigid glaciers. Found in Montana, many people go specifically to drive aimlessly along Going-to-the-Sun Road. That drive was one of my favorites ever.

Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park (photo credit: Dylan Taylor)


This road, which traverses the entire park, was paved in 1932 and has attracted many visitors ever since. It’s the only road in the US to cross a national park in its entirety. It highlights the park’s mountainous peaks and low-lying valleys, but be prepared to drive for at least 2 hours. Also, have a full tank of gas because there aren’t any gas stations along the way!

Glacier National Park also has lovely lakes to hike around and go boating, like St. Mary Lake, Grinnell Lake, and Avalanche Lake

Also, if you want to see an actual glacier while in Glacier National Park, some famous ones to visit would be Jackson Glacier on Mount Jackson, which you can see from Going-to-the-Sun Road and Grinnell Glacier at Grinnell Lake. 

Sadly, only about 35 of the original 150 glaciers remain. Plus, many scientists predict that by 2030, only a few will remain that can be classified as glaciers. So, if you want to see them, it’s best to go very soon!

Lastly, if you are a hiker, the Highline Trail, or “Crown of the Continent” is a must-do! Like the road, this trail offers spectacular views of the park. It’s about 18 kilometers long and known to be a bit strenuous, so be prepared and make sure you have the appropriate fitness level.

By the way, this park is not to be confused with Glacier National Park in Canada, which is in BC. The US Glacier National Park is, however, one of the only bi-national parks in the world, as it continues into Canada as Waterton Lakes National Park, as we explained in the post about Canadian parks.

Nearest airports: Kalispell (FCA) and Calgary (YYC)


Want to get more content to discover awesome destinations?

Sign up for our free newsletter



Breathtaking, right? The US National Park Service does a fantastic job of mitigating human impact on these places: they preserve and protect wildlife and create marked paths for hikers to avoid disturbing the surroundings. Keep in mind that you’re a guest in nature’s household and that you should respect it.

I don’t doubt that whichever park you decide to go to, you’ll have an unforgettable experience. And, we’re here to make it easier for you by offering cheap flight deals to nearby cities in the US. So keep an eye for low prices that could make your next trip just that much cheaper! Once you get there, you can rent a car and check out some of these stunning national parks.

What would you like to know about national parks in the US? Tell us in the comments below.


See the deals we spot: Cheap flights

Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: Travel tips

Discover free travel: Travel rewards


Featured image: Yellowstone National Park (photo credit: Stephen Walker)

Share this post to help us help more people travel more for less:

Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

Leave a Reply