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Unterwegs im Great-Smoky-Mountains-Nationalpark, Bild: Weidman Photography / shutterstock

The most popular national parks in the USA

The USA is the country of the oldest, largest and best-known national parks in the world. Almost all of the USA’s legendary landscapes and natural areas can be found in its national parks. The combination of nature and well-developed tourist infrastructure is unrivalled in the world. It is not without reason that many national parks in the USA are popular destinations for locals and tourists from all over the world. Some national parks are particularly legendary and worth seeing. The following parks are definitely worth considering when planning a trip to the United States.

1. Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone Park
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone Park, Image: Anders Riishede / shutterstock

Yellowstone National Park was founded in 1872, making it the world’s oldest national park. With annual visitors of over 4 million, the park is extremely popular, especially considering its location far from the population centers of the USA. The majority of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are home to smaller parts of the park.

The sights include numerous geological sights. Yellowstone National Park is located in a volcanically extremely active region. Hot springs, geysers and spectacular rock formations can be admired.
The second main attraction is the fauna of the region. Through conservation and reintroduction measures, there is a chance of sightings of grizzly bears, black bears and wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The imposing bison and elk deer are probably seen by most visitors.

2. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, Image: cb_travel / shutterstock

Yosemite National Park captivates with its absolutely breathtaking landscape. Due to its location about 300 km east of San Francisco , it is an accessible and worthwhile destination for many California vacationers. The core of the park is a wide valley, which is lined with impressive rock formations.

Yosemite National Park is particularly interesting for hikers and adventure athletes. The network of paths is particularly well developed. The park played a central role in the development of modern climbing and in the history of base jumping. Of course, the landscape of the park can also be enjoyed without a penchant for adrenaline. The forests, rocks and waterfalls invite you to relax. The park was one of the favorite subjects of Ansel Adams, one of the most famous landscape photographers of all time.

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

With well over 10 million visitors per year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the USA. The park is located in the U.S. states of Tennessee and North Carolina. The landscape of the park consists of rolling mountains that are covered with one of the most intact virgin forests east of the Mississippi . In the valleys there are untouched mountain streams.

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Visitors can expect a large network of hiking trails on which the masses of visitors are well distributed. The views from the park’s streets are legendary. A section of the Appalachian Trail, the world’s most famous long-distance hiking trail, runs through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitor centers also inform park visitors about the long history of Native American settlement in the national park’s lands. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is particularly popular with Americans, but for many tourists it remains more of an insider tip.

4. Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park, Image: GagliardiPhotography / shutterstock

In terms of climate and landscape, Everglades National Park is a big leap from the parks described earlier. However, due to its location in Florida , it is within easy reach of many popular vacation destinations and is undoubtedly worth a visit. The Everglades National Park includes a tropical swamp area that drains Florida’s interior towards the coast. There are numerous watercourses, dense reeds and dry, wooded islands. Visitors see alligators, tropical birds and an impressive landscape in its own way. Exploring the national park on your own is difficult, as you have to rely on special watercraft. There is a wide range of guided tours through the Everglades National Park.

The ecosystem of the Everglades is more threatened by human intervention than most other national parks in the USA.

5. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park, Image: Ernst Prettenthaler / shutterstock

In Death Valley National Park, visitors get an insight into the desert landscape of California and Nevada. The park is a place of superlatives: the highest air temperature ever was measured here and the lowest place in the USA is located here.
Death Valley National Park is easily accessible from popular destinations Las Vegas and Los Angeles . The best way to explore is from the air-conditioned car. Tourists who underestimate the dangers of the heat cause elaborate rescue operations every year.

The desert landscape of Death Valley National Park is a unique experience. Tourists see an alternation of rugged rocks and huge dune landscapes. The park is characterized by the interplay of relentless sun and dry winds.

6. Denali National Park

Denali National Park in Alaska
Denali National Park in Alaska, Image: Marc Cappelletti / shutterstock

In the middle of the Alaskan wilderness is Denali National Park. The park is as large as the state of Brandenburg and is only accessible by one road. The landscape of the national park is dominated by its namesake, Mount Denali. Around the highest mountain in North America are coniferous forests and steppe-like grasslands.

Visitors should definitely have experience in the wilderness before exploring the park on their own. The remoteness and high density of grizzly bears make hiking in Denali National Park not entirely without danger. However, the National Park Service also offers guided hikes and other events for tourists. For Alaska travelers, Denali National Park is a must.

7. Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park, Image: Bitter Buffalo Photo / shutterstock

Grand Teton National Park is located in Wyoming, south of Yellowstone National Park. Compared to its big brother, this park does not have to hide at all. Grand Teton National Park includes the Tetons, which ruggedly overlooks the typical prairie of the western United States. Grand Teton National Park is much quieter than Yellowstone National Park. The same animal species can be observed: grizzly bears, wolves, bison, moose and elk. In addition, pronghorns, the second fastest land animals in the world, can also be seen.

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The park is accessed by a large network of hiking trails. In addition, the immediately adjacent mountain town of Jackson is well worth seeing.

8. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park, Image: Galyna Andrushko / shutterstock

Olympic National Park is located directly on the Canadian border in the US state of Washington. Here, the Pacific coast, mountains and rainforests meet directly. Especially from Seattle, the park is worth a detour.

The park’s forests are part of the unique temperate rainforest ecosystem. Due to the Pacific climate, a very large amount of precipitation falls in Olympic National Park, with mild temperatures all year round. In the center of the park are the rugged, glacier-covered peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Visitors to the park can take advantage of the full spectrum of nature-based activities. Hiking, mountain biking and fishing are particularly popular.

9. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia Trees in Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park, Image: Jeison Jaramillo / shutterstock

The world-famous images of the huge sequoia trees come from Sequoia National Park in California . The ancient forests of these trees form the main attraction of the park. Some of the trees are over 80 m high and reach diameters of over 10 m.

It is also directly adjacent to King’s Canyon National Park, which is administered jointly with Sequoia National Park. This is where desert landscapes and mountain landscapes of the Sierra Nevada meet. The areas of the two parks were among the centers of the California Gold Rush, which drove the settlement of the region. From Los Angeles and San Francisco , the parks can be reached in half a day.

10. Zion National Park

Zion National Park
Zion National Park, Image: Kris Wiktor / shutterstock

Zion National Park is one of the lesser-known national parks outside the USA. It is located in southwestern Utah and is in close proximity to the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park. For travelers in the southwest of the USA, Zion National Park is one of the best destinations.

The core of Zion National Park is a deep gorge lined with sandstone cliffs. Here, a green meadow landscape meets the surrounding desert in the sole of the escape. In the valley, it is surprisingly cool even in summer. A highlight is the “Narrows”, a particularly narrow section of the gorge that can only be reached on foot by hiking in the river.

The diversity of national parks in the USA corresponds to the cultural and scenic diversity of the country. Each national park is worth seeing in its own right, but unfortunately a normal life is usually too short to visit them all. These ten parks reflect the spectrum of natural landscapes in the USA particularly well and are therefore particularly interesting for visitors.