The Most Popular National Parks in the U.S.

The best 10 places in the country to get your great outdoors on.

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iStock Photo/HaizhanZheng

Looking for an alternative to the beach for your next vacation? Try one of the nation’s national parks. They’ll add some excitement and adventure in your life, and might just convince your kids to put down the electronics.

Based on the number of visitors that attended last year, here are the top 10 most popular national parks to visit:

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the most visited national park in 2014 with over 10 million visitors. When you go, spend the day admiring the rolling hills and crisp mountain air, then head to Gatlinburg,TN, a tourist town whose bright, flashing lights and mini-golf around every corner make you love being a tourist.

2. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park’s one million acres has Pacific coastline, rivers cascading from glacier peaks, acres of sprawling forest and much more. After the park, you’ll want to check out Port Angeles, WA, where you can expect to find a rich artistic scene, marine life center and whale watching tours.

3. Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is one of the U.S.’ most iconic national landmarks and features miles of deep ravines. Take a river trip, or hike inside a ravine, then stop off at Flagstaff, AZ, where you can get your adrenaline pumping with whitewater rafting or guided horseback rides. 

4. Yosemite National Park

At Yosemite National Park, you can hike through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and stumble upon some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the country. Then continue your outdoor adventure in Fresno, CA, located roughly an hour away from Yosemite. 

Jim Horton rides the Dark Mountain Biking Trail at W. Karr Scott Dam.
Ian Curcio

Places for Outdoor Adventure

Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest, Stone Mountain State Park, W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir provide outdoor recreation in Wilkesboro, NC.

Fresno boasts a family-friendly zoo and the Forestiere Underground Gardens, which were dug out by hand over a 40-year period.

5. Yellowstone National Park

The world’s largest collection of geysers makes Yellowstone National Park unlike anywhere else. Watch Old Faithful erupt 135 feet in the air, or swim in the hot spring water of Yellowstone’s Boiling River. But a Yellowstone visit isn’t complete without a trip to Cody, WY, named after William Frederick Cody, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill.

6. Rocky Mountain National Park

A lifestyle of leisure waits in Boulder, CO. Nestled at the base of the Rockies, you can see the legendary mountain range as you stroll around the city. Or, if you want a closer look, travel to the Rocky Mountain National Park to see peaks over 12,000 feet - making you feel like you are on top of the world.

7. Zion National Park

It’s daunting to stand next to Zion National Park’s massive sandstone cliffs. Part of it is their size. But it’s the rich red, pink and cream tones radiating from the cliffs that make them breathtaking. 

Wildwood Park and Zoo Walking Trail in Marshfield, WI
Todd Bennett

10 Best Hiking Trails

We've singled out 10 great hikes across all ability levels. Some let you simply take in the scenery, while others will put your stamina to the test. Regardless of the route, it's a sure way to fully take advantage of the spring season.

Utah’s beauty doesn’t end there - next to Zion is Springdale, UT, named by Forbes as one of the top 20 prettiest towns in the country.

8. Grand Teton National Park

Take a trip back to the Wild West with a visit to Jackson Hole, WY, and Grand Teton National Park. With the beautiful mountains as a backdrop, Jackson Hole is energetic with lively bars, fine dining and good ole’ cowboy charm. Only 45 minutes away is Grand Teton National Park, where you’ll discover pristine lakes, exotic wildlife and mountains piercing the sky. 

9. Acadia National Park

From its historic downtown to the peaceful waterfront, there’s a reason why the nation’s wealthiest families like the Vanderbilts, Rockerfellers and Carnegies call Bar Harbor, ME, home. It’s also the perfect place to explore Acadia National Park, one of the state’s top tourist attractions. The park boasts Cadillac Mountain, one of the first places in the U.S. to see the sunrise.

10. Glacier National Park

Charm and elegance make Whitefish, MT, a great ski town. Its family-friendly atmosphere makes it perfect for those looking to explore Glacier National Park. Open year round, the park is a winter wonderland that transports hikers back to the days when wildlife roamed free and land was a treasured commodity.


Marc Acton is a magazine writer out of Nashville, Tenn., who’s written for Journal Communications since 2013, flown helicopters for the Army since 2005, and played central midfield... more

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Sat, 03/02/2019 - 19:22