27 National Parks You Can Drive Through and Be Amazed

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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 27 of the best, grouped by region and selected for their jaw-dropping scenery.

We picked these parks because they’re simply stunning, and each drive tells its own story. Whether it’s towering mountains, serene lakes, or vast canyons, these spots give a taste of America’s diverse and spectacular scenery right from your car window.

1. Acadia (Maine)

Mountain road in Acadia National Park
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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)

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina -
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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)

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA
Image Credit: Maciej Bledowski/Shutterstock

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)

Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
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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)

Going-To-The-Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana
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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)

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
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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, Utah
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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)

Carmel tunnel in Zion National Park
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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)

North Cascades Highway. Highway 20
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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)

Yosemite National Park, California
Image Credit: CK Foto/Shutterstock

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)

Death Valley National Park
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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)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
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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.

13. Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia-North Carolina)

Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock North Carolina
Image Credit: Serge Skiba/Shutterstock

From the southern end of Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway weaves a path through the Blue Ridge and other ranges for 470 miles to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mountain vistas, waterfalls, and more await, and there’s not a single stoplight along the entire trip.

14. Great Smoky Mountains (North Carolina-Tennessee)

Great Smoky Mountains road near Gatlinburg, Tennessee
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The main road through the Smokies connects Gatlinburg (TN) and Cherokee (NC), so it’s open year-round and there are no fees. Views are great, and popular side trips include the spur to Clingmans Dome, the highpoint of Tennessee, and Cades Cove, where there are homesteads inhabited before the park’s creation.

15. Theodore Roosevelt (North Dakota)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
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Both the North and South Units of this park have scenic drives. In the North Unit, the road is an in-and-out trip, while the South Unit has a loop. Both provide opportunities to see badlands and wildlife, including buffalo and wild horses.

16. Wind Cave (South Dakota)

Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota
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Western South Dakota defies the stereotypes of the state being an endless expanse of flat prairie. Wind Cave is in the famous Black Hills region, and above ground, you can drive past lakes, granite outcrops, meadows, and buffalo herds.

17. Guadalupe Mountains (Texas)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park
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Roads don’t penetrate this park much at all, but a U.S. highway parallels the mountain range for several miles on the way to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Along the ways, enjoy views of spectacular El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak, Texas’s highest point.

18. Yellowstone (Idaho-Montana-Wyoming)

Beartooth Highway Wyoming
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It takes a long day to drive all the scenic roads in Yellowstone, but they serve up a variety of incredible scenery. The Hayden and Lamar Valleys are best for wildlife viewing, the western side has most of the geysers and other geothermal features, and the northeastern section is ruggedly mountainous and serves as the gateway to the Beartooth Highway, one of America’s most spectacular byways.

19. Black Canyon of the Gunnison (Colorado)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado
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“The Black” isn’t as wide or deep as the Grand Canyon, but it’s steeper and narrower. Roads along both the north and south rims provide easy access to viewpoints of this dark, rugged canyon.

20. Canyonlands (Utah)

Islands in the Sky District of Canyonlands
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Canyonlands has 4 districts, and the easiest to tour by car is Island in the Sky, which is close to Moab. Up on the mesa there, you can see arches, pinnacles, and canyons. If you have a 4wd vehicle, check out the White Rim, a rugged road that winds around the district for about 100 miles.

21. Capitol Reef (Utah)

Capitol Reef National Park Utah
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Capitol Reef has a little bit of everything Utah’s national parks are known for: desert towers and walls, arches and hoodoos, slot canyons, rock art, and more. If you have 4wd, don’t miss the long loop through Cathedral Valley, one of the most spectacular places you’ll ever see. The loop begins or ends with an exciting ford of the Fremont River.

22. White Sands (New Mexico)

White Sands National Park
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The short road into this park is one of the most unusual in the system; most of it is a track “paved” with the famous white gypsum sands here. At road’s end, you can hike out into the heart of the dunes.

23. Saguaro (Arizona)

Bajada Loop Drive, Saguaro (Arizona)
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There are two drives worth your time when you visit this park filled with mountain views and the namesake cactus. The Tucson Mountain District (west) has a 6-mile gravel Bajada Loop Drive, and the Rincon Mountain District (east) has the 8-mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive. May is the best time to go; that’s when the Saguaro flowers bloom.

24. Mount Rainier (Washington)

Mount Rainier National Park
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Scenic roads run through the southern and eastern portions of this park dominated by a mountain that has more glacial ice than any other Lower 48 peak does. The best places to get up close to Mt. Rainier without climbing it are at Paradise and Sunrise; spurs reach both.

25. Crater Lake (Oregon)

Crater Lake National Park in Oregon
Image Credit: ORCHID LADY/Shutterstock

America’s deepest lake is also one of its bluest. The Rim Drive circumnavigates the lake, so you can appreciate its beauty from every angle and at any time of the day.

26. Joshua Tree (California)

Joshua Tree National Park
Image Credit: Jim Ekstrand/Shutterstock

California’s other desert national park is known for its namesake trees and its granite outcrops that attract rock climbers from all over the country. The main scenic drive through the park goes through different elevation and vegetation zones while revealing many of the park’s best sights.

27. Haleakala (Hawaii)

Haleakala National Park
Image Credit: MH Anderson Photography/Shutterstock

Haleakala Crater, the remnant of a dormant volcano, soars 10,023’ above Maui. A road climbs to the summit from the base, and the mountain is so huge that it takes 37 miles of climbing and curves to get there.

Washington’s 12 Best State and National Parks

mount rainier - DP
Photo Credit: Deposit Photo.

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.

Washington’s 12 Best State and National Parks

13 Best National Parks in Utah to Experience the Wonders of Nature

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/Gerald Corsi

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.

13 Best National Parks in Utah to Experience the Wonders of Nature

This article was published by Our Woven Journey.

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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.