U.S. National Parks Must-See Locations: How and Where to See The Jaw-Dropping Sites

by Halle Ames

The United States is home to many breathtaking national parks, from the mountains out West to the reefs in Florida. Here is our list of the places you should definitely add to your bucket list.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA

To start the list, every person should take the time to travel over to California. Roughly an hour to the west of Fresno, California, or a little over four hours north of Los Angeles, you will find the beautiful Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

This park is home to a vast forest of giant sequoias which tower over you. In fact, the largest tree on earth makes it home here. The General Sherman Tree stands at 275 feet tall and is over 36 feet wide. Believe it or not, this sequoia is still growing.

The living tree is thought to be roughly 2,200 years old. Just think if this tree was like Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas, what it would say. That’s a lot of history.

We suggest visiting the park during the summer month, as snow and ice can make the trials slick and more paths are open to explore. The National Park Service recommends checking the weather before visiting from October to June, as snow has been known to fall in these times.

Haleakalā National Park, HI

Next, we head across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. On the island of Maui, you will find the gorgeous Haleakalā National Park that is home to waterfalls, mountains, cliffs, and volcanoes.

For the more experienced hiker, we recommend the Halemauu Trail or the Sliding Sands Trail, which both offer breathtaking views. Both trails cover nearly 11 miles, so be prepared with water and snacks.

One spot you will not want to miss is Waimoku Falls. It is part of the Pipiwai Stream, which is a four-mile round-trip hike. Water cascades nearly 400 feet onto lava rock and into a small pool, making Waimoku one of Maui’s tallest waterfalls.

Any time of the year is great to visit this National Park due to its amazing weather. However, there is more rain during the winter months. If you want to miss the crowds, go to the park early in the morning or after 3 p.m.

Voyageurs National Park, MN

Now to the tippy top of the United States, right on the border of Minnesota and Canada, we find Voyageurs National Park. It stretches over 200,000 acres of waterways, forests, and a beautiful sky.

The biggest draw we have to this park doesn’t lie in the water or trees, but above. In the night sky, the Aurora Borealis, or northern light, dance in beautiful colors for the park goers to look at in awe.

A few things must happen to heighten your chances of seeing the light display. First, the National Park Service recommends visiting in the winter due to more hours of darkness.

In addition, the aurora must be active. You can check that at the Alaska Geophysical Institute’s Aurora Forecast up to a month in advance to see if you might get a glimpse at the northern lights.

It might go without saying, but the night must be clear so that no clouds will obstruct your view.

Aurora Borealis might be in the sky at any point throughout the day but is only visible at night. Human-made light pollution may also affect your ability to see it.

The Park Service recommends these places for the best, unobstructed view. They include Rainy Lake Visitor Center, Ash River Visitor Center, Voyageurs Forest Overlook Parking Lot, Woodenfrog Beach, or almost any lakeside campsite or houseboat site.

The colors vary between green, red, blue, and purple depending on the collision of oxygen and nitrogen atoms and at what altitude.

VOYAGEURS 8K from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

Glacier National Park, MT

Glacier National Park has our heart as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Located in northwest Montana, right below the Canadian border, sits this gem. Typically overshadowed by its more famous cousin in Wyoming, we think Glacier is just as good, if not better than Yellowstone. Not to mention way less crowded.

We have some hikes that we’ve personally done, and 10/10 recommend. The first one would be to take the Going-to-the-Sun Road up to Hidden Lake. Half of the beauty you will see is on your trip to the top of the mountain. Don’t worry. There are plenty of places to pull your car off to the side to take pictures.

Once parked at the visitors center, follow the path up the mountain–or when we made the hike, through the snow and follow the crowd of people. It isn’t a very long hike at roughly three-miles round trip, but the views are 100 percent worth it. Wild mountain goats also live here and carelessly walk on the paths near visitors. Other animals to keep an eye out for include bighorn sheep, marmots, wolverines, and grizzly bears.

The next hike every person must visit in their lifetime is Avalanche Lake. We make this trip every time we visit Glacier National Park. Along this trail, you will see waterfalls, streams, and cliffs while being surrounded by thick forests. Although this hike isn’t challenging, it is farther than Hidden Lake at roughly five miles round trip.

Once you get to the lake, you will see stunning views of forests and mountains that surround the lake, along with a waterfall in the distance. If you venture to the far side of the lake, which we recommend because it is less crowded, you are looking at seven-ish miles. Once at the lake, we dare you to take a plunge in the water. While it isn’t frozen, it will surely take your breath away. This is another must-do for my family. Just make sure to pack a set of dry, warm clothes for after.

Biscayne National Park, FL

For our last must-see national park, you are going to have to trade in your hiking boots for some flippers. Under the blue waves at Florida’s Biscayne National Park lies coral reefs and shipwrecks. A park like none of the others we have referenced. The park includes nearly 172,900 acres of subtropical wetlands in the Florida Keys and just 45 minutes south of the Miami Airport.

The park is open to both divers and snorkelers, depending on your comfort level and experience. A boat is also necessary to access all parts of the Biscayne reef. Tourists may also enjoy other activities that include fishing, boating, paddling, and swimming.

The reef has six wrecks that vary in size and vessel type. It also boasts a variety of nearly 500 species of different fish and marine animals such as sea turtle, dolphin, shark, manatee, and eels. In addition, there are about 50 threatened and endangered species that call the Biscayne National Park home.

The best time of the year to visit this underwater oasis is June and July due to weather and water temperature. On clear days underwater visibility is up to 100 feet. However, if you go on a windier day, you may only be able to see ten feet in front of you.

[H/T Travel + Leisure]