- Yosemite National Park, California
Soaring redwoods, imposing granite cliffs, icy glaciers. This spectacular park has been the highlight of the Netflix documentary Free Solo when professional rock climber Alex Honnold scaled the storied face of El Capitan, and the name of a Travis Scott song on Astroworld. There’s no wonder that this National Park has attracted athletes and artists alike as the beautiful views and striking terrain are among the best in the world. Most of the traffic here comes from campers nestled under the sheer cliff faces of the Sierra Nevada mountains and in between the ancient Sequoia trees. People are not the only visitors, as there are over 400 species of animals that travel through and reside in the park. Everything from slippery trout to hulking black bears call this place home.
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana & Idaho
3,500 square miles of wilderness on top of a volcanic hot spot? Yes, please! Yellowstone is home to Old Faithful, a world-famous geyser that spews 4-8,000 gallons of water up to 185 feet every 90 minutes. Numerous hot springs dot the landscape, like Mammoth Hot Springs and the Grand Prismatic Spring. Hiking between the geothermal activity is the main pastime here, as well as camping and living in the wilderness with the 200 other animal species that call the park home. Annual bison migrations and grizzly bears waking from hibernation are some of the animal-specific spectacles that very few other places can boast.
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
One of the greatest naturally occurring spectacles on the entire world, the Grand Canyon. While this park boasts mainly one attraction, it is one of the best on this list. The plunging canyon spans over 1,000 square miles and in places is 6,000 feet deep. Choosing between the North and South Rims is the only difficult decision to make here. The Southern Rim has Hopi Point, which sticks farther into the canyon than any other viewpoint on the Southern Rim and more amenities for travelers. The North Rim is almost 800 feet higher than the South Rim and has a noticeably cooler temperature year-round, making it perfect for summer visits.
- Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada
At 282 feet below sea level, Death Valley has the lowest point in the entire western hemisphere. The name might sound forboding to you, but contrary to the name this park hosts some of the most spectacular wildflower blooms available in the United States. In the Spring this desert transforms into a Leonid Afremov (google him) painting, vibrant colors scattered against a stark landscape seem almost too good to be true. Death Valley is also home to the incredible sailing stones, large rocks that have been pulled across the desert by natural forces that are almost otherworldly. There are rocks that don’t move, and those are some of the most impressive formations that Mother Nature has ever created. Erosion has caused bizarre rock formations that seem ready to topple over at a moment’s notice, but don’t worry they won’t. Traveling here is like taking a rocket to Mars, and for only a fraction of the cost, you can see a similar landscape to the one Elon Musk longs to live in.
- Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Contrary to what the name would suggest the Badlands National Park boasts beautiful mountain ranges and grassy prairie valleys. Covering over 64,000 acres this park boasts endangered animal species, mountains showing their sedimentary layers, and dinosaur fossils. Fossils have been found and studied here since the 1800s and new ones are always being uncovered. The views from the top of the hiking trails here are can’t-miss and you definitely won’t regret taking this trip to South Dakota.
There are over 400 other national parks in America to check out too. If you can't make it to these parks, find the one closest to you and get into nature!