To celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, RootsRated's editors assembled an Insider's Guide to every park in the system. We hope you enjoy reading them, but we really hope you get out and enjoy them! Show us where you go, and use our hashtag #RootsRated. Also, support the National Park Foundation. These parks wouldn't be the same without their work.
Eastern parks span craggy coastlines, beautiful beaches, and mountainous woodlands. Outdoor enthusiasts love hiking, skiing, paddling, and camping in these parks. The Appalachian Trail passes through both the Smokies and Shenandoah, and the proximity of these parks to so many major metropolitan areas make them some of the most-frequented. In fact, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by far the most-visited park in the country.
Midwestern National Parks span a variety of climates and boast a number of historical and cultural interest points, from fossil beds to a resort town built around natural hot springs. Often seen as little more than flyover territory, this region has some amazing secrets to reveal to travelers who take the time to visit.
The word "desert" strikes many as empty, dead and forbidding, but a little time and attention in these Southwestern parks can reveal an unseen world teeming with life. If you're lucky, you can catch the superbloom in Death Valley National Park, which comes around only about once a decade. Stay up at night in Saguaro and you might meet a number of species of lizards, as well as coyotes, fox, and snakes. You'd be lucky to see a bobcat or mountain lion, although they've probably seen you.
West Coast Parks
States just don't play fair when it comes to the outdoors. With six (or seven, depending on how you count the co-managed Sequoia and Kings Canyon) National Parks, California also has some of the most beautiful parks -- but don't ignore the Pacific Northwest, where there are plenty of amazing places to explore within NPS boundaries.
Mountain West Parks
With gems like Utah's "Mighty Five" as well as lesser-known parks like Mesa Verde, the Mountain West lays claim to some of the grandest and greatest destinations in the United States. In fact, there are two parks with "Great" and one "Grand" in the name.
Non-Contiguous US Parks
Sometimes the continental parks get all the credit, but you won't want to miss these far-flung National Parks, from the Samoan islands to Alaska and Hawaii. Whether you're exploring beautiful beaches in the South Pacific or watching bears hunting for salmon, you'll love these parks.
Hopefully these guides inspire your next road trip.