Best National Parks to Visit, According to Tripadvisor
"America the Beautiful," the song says, and the country truly deserves the nickname with its national parks. Spanning vast lands that protect mountain ranges, valleys, canyons, volcanoes, rivers, prairies and more, all 63 national parks are worth visiting.
But for those of us who don’t have time to visit each one, Tripadvisor has its 2021 rankings of the top 10 national parks in the U.S. Learn about each park that made the cut, so you can start thinking about your next outdoor adventure.
10. Yosemite National Park
Year incorporated: 1890
Number of visitors: 4,422,861
Iconic animals: Black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain lion
*Visitor numbers are from 2019 data, as reported by the NPS. We have used the 2019 numbers given that 2020 caused unprecedented dips in worldwide tourism and the numbers would not be representative of an average year.
Best Things to Do: Yosemite
- See giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove.
- Hike to the summit of Half Dome. (Permit needed.)
- Visit Yosemite Falls.
Bottom Line: Yosemite
Yosemite is one of the oldest and most well-known national parks in the U.S. Its breathtaking landscape is made up of granite formations like the famous El Capitan and Half Dome formations.
The park brings in millions of visitors with its tall mountains, powerful waterfalls and incredible giant sequoias, which are the largest single-unit organism by volume in the world.
9. Bryce Canyon National Park
Year incorporated: 1928
Number of Visitors: 2,594,904
Iconic animals: Rocky Mountain elk, prairie dog, pronghorn
Best Things to Do: Bryce Canyon
- Hike the Rim Trail.
- Watch a sunset over Sunset Point.
- Take a horseback ride to Bryce Amphitheater.
Bottom Line: Bryce Canyon
Sharp drops and deep valleys make up the panorama of Bryce Canyon.
Its spiral clay-colored hoodoos make it a one-of-a-kind place and give it an otherworldly look that makes for incredible pictures and memories.
The park was once unappreciated because of its arid landscape but is now recognized for its uniqueness.
8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Location: Tennessee and North Carolina
Year incorporated: 1934
Number of Visitors: 12,547,743
Iconic animal: Coyote, bobcat, elk
Best Things to Do: Great Smoky Mountains
- Hike part of the Appalachian Trail.
- Climb to the top of Clingmans Dome.
- Swim at Abrams Falls.
Bottom Line: Great Smoky Mountains
Hundreds of miles of trails, numerous waterfalls, rivers and caves make Great Smoky Mountains National Park incredibly popular. So much so, that it was the most visited national park in 2019.
Besides enjoying nature, the park also has 90 historic pioneer buildings within its land, which you can visit for a fun experience.
7. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Location: Big Island, Hawaii
Year incorporated: 1916
Number of Visitors: 1,368,376
Iconic animals: Hawksbill turtle, nene (Hawaiian goose)
Best Things to Do: Hawaii Volcanoes
- See the Halemaumau crater within the Kilauea volcano caldera.
- Hike Kilauea Iki crater trail.
- Walk through the Thurston Lava Tube cave.
Bottom Line: Hawaii Volcanoes
No other place in the U.S. offers you the chance to visit two active volcanoes and stare at hot lava.
The park’s main attractions are its Manua Loa and Kilauea volcanoes, which are among the most active in the entire world. This makes for an incredibly interesting landscape that is constantly changing — you never step into the same Hawaii Volcanoes National Park twice.
Just one word of advice: Prepare to go with the (literal) flow, as your plans may change depending on when and where lava decides to go.
6. Glacier National Park
Year incorporated: 1910
Number of Visitors: 3,049,839
Iconic animals: Grizzly bear, moose, wolverine, lynx, wolf, bighorn sheep
Best Things to Do: Glacier National Park
- Hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail.
- Bike the trails along Lake McDonald.
- Drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to see many of the park's most iconic features.
Bottom Line: Glacier National Park
With more than 700 lakes, two mountain ranges and 25 remaining glaciers, the appropriately named Glacier National Park is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the U.S.
You’ll have hundreds of miles of trails that you can walk or bike, and several bodies of water to traverse by boat, canoe or kayak.
5. Yellowstone National Park
Location: Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
Year incorporated: 1872
Number of Visitors: 4,020,288
Iconic animal: Bison, wolf, otter, moose
Best Thing to Do: Yellowstone
- See the Old Faithful geyser erupt.
- Witness the majesty of the Grand Prismatic Spring.
- Drive through Lamar Valley to see bisons.
Bottom Line: Yellowstone
Yellowstone is not just the first official national park in the U.S., but also in the entire world. Anyone who visits immediately understands why this land prompted lawmakers to try to protect it.
With geysers that shoot up boiling water, some of the planet’s largest and most colorful natural springs, canyons, lakes, and valleys where wild bison roam freely, it is truly a wondrous place.
4. Denali National Park and Preserve
Year incorporated: 1917
Number of Visitors: 601,152
Iconic animal: Caribou, wolf, grizzly bear, Dall sheep, moose
Best Things to Do: Denali
- Fly above the snow-peaked mountains on a helicopter tour.
- Go whitewater rafting in Nenana River.
- See the northern lights.
Bottom Line: Denali
Due to its remoteness, Denali National Park and Preserve does not get as many visitors as other entries on Tripadvisor’s rankings. But that just means that you get the vast expanse of this protected land mostly to yourself.
The park is larger than all of Massachusetts and is home to Mount McKinley, or Denali, which is the highest peak in all of North America.
With pristine ponds, glaciers, tundras, and forests, along with wildlife like caribou and grizzly bears, the park is perfect for a rugged adventure.
3. Zion National Park
Year incorporated: 1919
Number of Visitors: 4,488,268
Iconic animal: Bighorn sheep, mule deer, kangaroo rat
Best Things to Do: Zion
- Hike through the Narrows, the slimmest part of Zion Canyon.
- Ride along the 57-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
- Get sweeping views of the park at Observation Point.
Bottom Line: Zion
Rising sandstone formations contrast the deep canyons at Zion National Park. The result is a somewhat menacing, yet enticing scenery that appeals to outdoors enthusiasts willing to work for spectacular experiences.
The soft orange of the cliffs is complemented by blue rivers and the Emerald Pools, whose hanging garden also brings a splash of green to the terrain.
2.Grand Canyon National Park
Year incorporated: 1919
Number of Visitors: 5,974,411
Iconic animal: Condor, rattlesnake, bighorn sheep, coyote, mule deer
Best Things to Do: Grand Canyon
- Raft along the Colorado River.
- Hike to the famous Havasu Falls.
- Take a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon.
Bottom Line: Grand Canyon
Millions of years ago, the Colorado River carved the magnificent Grand Canyon as an unintended gift to humanity.
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the park is gigantic and can be explored in various ways. Visitors take to the skies on helicopter tours, ride a train through it, hop on mules to explore its deep valleys, raft along its river, mountain bike its trails and, of course, simply walk it.
However you choose to see it, the Grand Canyon will blow your mind.
1. Grand Teton National Park
Year incorporated: 1929
Number of Visitors: 3,405,614
Iconic animal: Elk, bison, black bear, cougar, pronghorn
Best Things to Do: Grand Teton
- Climb the Signal Mountain Summit Road for sweeping views of the Tetons and Jackson Hole Valley.
- Canoe or kayak in Jenny Lake.
- Drive through the 42-mile Scenic Loop Drive.
Bottom Line: Grand Teton
Tripadvisor deemed Grand Teton National Park the best out of all 63 national parks in the U.S., and we don’t think anyone is wondering why.
Marked by the cold gray peaks of the Teton Range and crossed by the winding Snake River, this national park offers astonishingly jagged views at every point.
Visit in the summer and early fall to partake in a range of water sports.
Related: National Park Rankings l More From Tripadvisor