Insider's Guides to Every National Park

Mother grizzly with cubs on the edge of Naknek Lake. Katmai National Park, Alaska.
Mother grizzly with cubs on the edge of Naknek Lake. Katmai National Park, Alaska. Paxson Woelber
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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

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.

Congaree National Park.
Congaree National Park. Scott Oves




Dry Tortugas


Great Smoky Mountains

Mammoth Cave


Midwestern Parks

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.

Voyageurs National Park.
Voyageurs National Park. US National Park Service


Cuyahoga Valley

Hot Springs

Isle Royale

Theodore Roosevelt


Wind Cave

Southwestern Parks

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.

Saguaro National Park.
Saguaro National Park. National Park Service Digital Image Archives


Big Bend

Carlsbad Caverns

Grand Canyon

Guadalupe Mountains

Petrified Forest


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.

The park offers numerous recreational opportunities for hikers, kayakers, snorkelers, and more.
The park offers numerous recreational opportunities for hikers, kayakers, snorkelers, and more. John Fellner

Channel Islands

Crater Lake

Death Valley

Joshua Tree

Lassen Volcanic

North Cascades





Sequoia & Kings Canyon


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.

Traversing Navajo Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Traversing Navajo Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. Andrew Smith

Bryce Canyon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison


Capitol Reef

Grand Teton

Great Basin

Great Sand Dunes


Mesa Verde

Rocky Mountain National Park



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.

Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali National Park, Alaska Nic McPhee

American Samoa


Gates of the Arctic

Glacier Bay


Hawaii Volcanoes

Kenai Fjords


Kobuk Valley

Lake Clark

Wrangell-St. Elias

Virgin Islands

Hopefully these guides inspire your next road trip.

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