Our national parks are some of our greatest treasures. Although the best way to experience them is to get some hiking boots and a backpack and hit the trail, many are amazing just from the road. Here are 12 of the best, grouped by region and selected for their jaw-dropping scenery.
1. Acadia (Maine)
The roads on Mount Desert Island in this park let you view cliffs pounded by the ocean, beaches and bays, glacier-carved lakes, and majestic forests. You can also drive up Cadillac Mountain; it’s the highest point in the park and the first place in the Lower 48 touched by sunrise each day.
2. Shenandoah (Virginia)
For over 100 miles, Skyline Drive winds along the crest of the storied Blue Ridge in this park. Views of peaks and valleys abound, and there are many short trails leading to mountaintops and waterfalls.
3. Badlands (South Dakota)
Dramatic spires carved by the forces of erosion line the main highway through this park. They’re best viewed early and late in the day when the low light brings out intense colors. If you’re up for a little more, drive the first road through Sage Creek Basin, where you’re likely to spot Buffalo roaming.
4. Big Bend (Texas)
There’s a lot to see in this huge desert park. Probably the best drives are the road up into Chisos Basin, ringed by towering, rugged peaks, and the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. The latter passes through many miles of changing desert landscapes, ultimately leading to the spectacular Santa Elena Canyon.
5. Glacier (Montana)
Between West Glacier and St. Mary, Going-to-the-Sun Road winds and climbs through one of the most dramatic and colorful mountain landscapes in America, sometimes called the Crown of the Continent. Along the way, there are mountain views and lakes, waterfalls, rushing streams, and massive redwood-like cedars. Logan Pass is a place you’ll never forget, and as you drive, be on the lookout for bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats.
6. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)
The main way to tour this park by car is to drive Trail Ridge Road, which for several miles, rolls through alpine tundra where there are no trees to restrict the mountain views. Another nice drive is Bear Lake Road, which culminates at trailheads that can take you deep into the mountain wilderness.
7. Arches (Utah)
Arches National Park has the highest known concentration of natural arches in the world. The main park road features views of towering sandstone cliffs and pinnacles as well as of several arches and petrified ancient sand dunes. Don’t miss the turnoff to the Windows area, where several huge arches are visible from the road and just a short walk away.
8. Zion (Utah)
The Yosemite of the Southwest, Zion Canyon is one of nature’s most awesome sights. For all but the winter months, you can’t drive cars in the canyon and have to take a shuttle bus. However, you can drive through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel to enjoy the scenic and much quieter East Entrance Road.
9. North Cascades (Washington)
Mount Rainier gets most of the attention in Washington but there are a lot more mountains to see in North Cascades National Park. Over dozens of miles, Washington Highway 20 carves a path through these rugged, heavily glaciated mountains. On a clear day, you’ll be awestruck.
10. Yosemite (California)
Everyone should see Yosemite Valley at least once, and you can view its world-famous cliffs and waterfalls by car. However, don’t miss out on Tioga Pass Road, which climbs into the dorms and meadows of the High Sierra, yielding vistas of the mountains that inspired John Muir and Ansel Adams.
11. Death Valley (California)
The hottest place in the world and the lowest place in North America, Death Valley has over 300 miles of paved roads, 300 of improved dirt roads, and several hundred of unmaintained four-wheel drive roads that allow you to explore a vast variety of scenery. It includes often-snowcapped Telescope Peak rising more than 11,000 vertical feet above the salt pool at Badwater Basin, sand dunes, badlands, Joshua trees, colorful canyons, and so much more.
12. Hawaii Volcanoes (Hawaii)
One of the most unique national parks in the system, Hawaii Volcanoes requires a lot of logistics, but it’s worth it. From Crater Rim Drive, you can get out and view a lake of lava. Chain of Craters Road takes you from the plateaus down to the ocean. Highlights include (cooled) lava flows, ancient petroglyphs, and a sea arch.
Washington’s 12 Best State and National Parks
Are you ready to get out and experience Washington’s beautiful landscapes? Is mountaineering or hiking at the top of your list this summer? There are 124 Washington State parks. Whether you’re a native Washingtonian or on vacation, here are eight state parks that will leave you longing for more time in the great Pacific Northwest wilderness.
13 Best National Parks in Utah to Experience the Wonders of Nature
From breathtaking landscapes to unspoiled wilderness, Utah is a popular destination for travelers looking for a fun and memorable family vacation. Utah’s national parks provide a remarkable opportunity to connect with nature and disconnect from the stress of everyday life.
Here is a list of national parks in Utah that you don’t want to miss.
Most Popular Historic Sites in America
How many of these most popular sites have you visited or planned to visit? From an important military outpost from the 1800s to colonial-era sites in the Caribbean, something on this wide-ranging list is sure to spark some educational inspiration, a memory, or an upcoming road trip. Read on to see the 50 most popular historic sites in the country.
This article was published by Our Woven Journey.
Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.