Acadia National Park
Located off Maine's Atlantic coast, Acadia National Park is an outstanding place to see coastal wildlife. If you like to hike, bike, or ride horses, the park's varied landscape of coastline, mountains, and forest will give you plenty to see.
Climb Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the East Coast, or check out the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse for beautiful views. Learn about local history at the Islesford Historical Museum, a kid-friendly museum that brings history to life with its exhibits.
If you're a gardener, a botanist, or just an appreciator of natural flora, the Wild Gardens of Acadia is a great place to study local plant life. Maine's wild beauty is at its peak in summer and fall, and a vacation rental home near Acadia is the perfect place to relax.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon offers visitors incredible views in an astonishingly unique landscape. With its expanses of hoodoo rock formations and weathered cliff faces, it provides a totally different hiking experience than at greener parks. If you're not up to the walk, you can see most of the canyon's beauty along an 18-mile drive with viewpoints along the way.
Bryce Canyon is an especially good choice for astronomy buffs and stargazers, since the view of the stars here is exceptionally clear. Spend the night in the area at a Utah vacation home and make reservations for a full moon hike. In the winter, you can cross-country ski along the plateau top.
Everglades National Park
Also known as the "River of Grass," the Everglades is one of the wildest places you can visit. A huge expanse of swampy wetland, teeming with plant life and exotic animals, it's the perfect setting for a hands-on vacation you'll never forget. Take a guided boat tour, or explore the wilds yourself from a rental canoe.
The best time to visit is during the drier winter season, December through April. The Everglades gets 80 percent of its rainfall during the wet summer months, and some trails and ranger-led activities close when water is high and mosquitos are at their worst. See tropical trees, like cypress and mangroves, and wildlife, like egrets and alligators, from water trails and hikes through the Everglades diverse and unique ecosystems.
Glacier National Park
The rugged landscapes of Montana form more than just a backdrop for adventure. With its crisp weather, remote setting, and over 700 miles of trails, Glacier National Park is perfect for hikers.
Experience the views on Going-to-the-Sun Road from your car or from one of the park's shuttles. You can also learn about the park from the Blackfeet perspective by taking a guided shuttle tour, led by locals who teach about the cultural significance of the park and the mountains.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon's massive scale and vibrant colors make it one of nature's most impressive wonders. The South Rim visitor center is open year-round. Park here and walk or rent bikes to explore the rim's lookout points. Take the free shuttle for a guided tour, or day hike into the canyon. Overnight backpacking is allowed with a back country permit, and applications for permits can be requested up to three months in advance. A limited number of walk-up permits are available at the South Rim center.
Driving access to the North Rim is only open from mid-May to mid-October, but you can snowshoe or cross-country ski on the North Rim in winter with a backcountry permit. Flagstaff, AZ, and the surrounding area make a great home base for exploring the park.
Grand Teton National Park
Rugged and stunning, the peaks of Grand Teton National Park provide a scenic backdrop for hikers, snowsports enthusiasts and paddlers. Just outside of Jackson, WY, the park features over 100 miles of trails, horseback tours and rafting adventures on the Snake River.
Boating and paddling, as well as boat rentals, are available on Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake, and the park is a favorite for anglers. Winter snows are heavy here and may close parts of the park seasonally. And, remember, this is bear country – keep food packed away and keep your distance.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains are known around the world for their vibrancy and biodiversity. With lush greenery and spectacular waterfalls, trails and scenic drives, the park offers plenty to see and explore. Hike to the Look Rock observation tower for an unbeatable view of the park.
Great Smoky Mountains is one of the most horse-friendly places you can find with over 500 miles of equestrian trails. However you explore, you'll likely see white-tailed deer, elk, and maybe even black bears.
History is preserved beautifully in the park at places like the Cataloochee Valley and Cades Cove, where a collection of historical buildings, like churches, log cabins and schools recollect 19th Century mountain life.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is a hiker's paradise. Over 750 miles of trails offer some of the most spectacular hiking or snowshoeing through the Yosemite Valley, along the John Muir Trail, through the giant sequoias of the Tuolumne Grove, and many other trails through the park. Note that some trails and backcountry overnight trips require getting backcourntry permits.
Yosemite is a magical place to be outside. From picnicking to rock climbing, you'll find the view and the experience to be something truly special.
Yellowstone National Park
From its famous Old Faithful geyser to its bubbling geological secrets to its expannsive backcountry, Yellowstone National Park is America's oldest national park for many reasons. Explore the wonders for yourself from hiking and snowshoeing trails, a bicycle, a boat on Yellowstone lake, or with a ranger-led tour group.
Yellowstone is vast - plan on spending some time in the car to get to sights like the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a climber's paradise of sandstone cliffs and slot canyons. With stark beauty rather than lush vegetation, this park showcases its amazing geographic canyons and mesas, surrounded by forests on one end and desert on the other.
Explore the park on horseback from March to October, or anytime from a mountain bike. Zion has miles of bike trails to explore, and its free shuttles have bike racks to help you go further.