Grand Prismatic Springs, Yellowstone National Park
The Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the many incredible geothermal attractions you can visit at Yellowstone.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

9 National Parks in the US You Should Visit This Year

Stunning Scenery & a Cheap Price Tag

No matter where you live in the United States, you don’t have to leave the country to get a taste of something different. The US is home to a plethora of landscapes, from lush lakes to towering mountains to dazzling deserts to uninterrupted prairies.

The 58 national parks scattered throughout the country are the perfect way to experience these diverse areas full of natural wonders. While most people think of “roughing it” when they picture national parks, there’s a lot more going on at the parks than you might think.

Plus they are a great choice for budget travelers who have a thirst for incredible sights. Instead of heading to the lake or a theme park like you’ve done year after year, think about exploring some of the best national parks in the country.

Yellowstone National Park

This nearly 4,000-square-mile park is home to more geothermal features — including geysers, mud pots and hot springs — than any other spot on Earth. Kids will not only be mesmerized by its most famous, Old Faithful, which skyrockets steam as high as 185 feet every 90 minutes, they’ll be getting a fascinating geology lesson.

Kids can have even more fun by stopping at the Old Faithful Visitor Center to pick up an infrared thermometer gun that takes readings of the thermal pools, such as the rainbow-hued Grand Prismatic Spring, when pointed at the water.

Everyone will love watching the wildlife, too. The park is one of the best places to see animals such as elk, bison and bighorn sheep along with the occasional bear and wolf. For an even more adventurous trip, book a stay at a nearby dude ranch — there are a range of options in the area, from relaxing retreats to working vacations. Plus horseback is a unique and exciting way to tour the park!

Grand Canyon National Park, ArizonaThere are many ways to explore the incredible rock formations in the Grand Canyon.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Grand Canyon National Park

Standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon is a humbling experience. Peering at the layers of the canyon below is another great way for children to understand the geology of our planet. But there’s a lot more to do here than just look — a variety of hikes are available for all ages and abilities in order to get a closer look at both the layers of the canyon and the wildlife that lives there.

The immense gorge is 277 miles long and 6,000 feet deep in some places, with rocks that are millions of years old. For an especially unforgettable experience, explore it by mule. Just be sure to plan well in advance as the three-hour treks need to be booked a year or more before your trip.

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Elk Rocky Mountain National ParkImpressive mountain scenery and stunning wildlife await in Rocky Mountain National Park.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park offers a wealth of things to do, with plenty of activities to satisfy all ages and tastes. Horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing and more await in the warmer months, while winter brings the opportunity for snowshoeing through the fresh powder.

No matter what season you’re here you can expect to do it all among some of the country’s most impressive mountain scenery.

Be sure to base your stay in the eastern gateway town of Estes Park to enjoy easy access to all sorts of restaurants and shops, golfing and even a small amusement park in between adventures in the national park.

Yosemite ValleyPick one of the many hikes to waterfalls for an incredibly experience.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yosemite National Park

One of the most scenic national parks, Yosemite is renowned for its wealth of breathtaking waterfalls and steep granite cliffs that attract rock climbers from across the globe. Simply watching them makes for mesmerizing entertainment.

The free park shuttle takes passengers to many of the most popular Yosemite attractions, such as Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. You’ll also find lots of great hikes that allow you to view waterfalls up close, such as the Mist Trail which runs alongside Vernal Falls.

It climbs 600 granite steps to the top of the falls where you can enjoy the natural air conditioning of the gentle mist that rises from the thundering waters splashing down below.

Meanwhile, the scenic 39-mile drive to Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows will allow you to enjoy spectacular scenery without the crowds in a vast wilderness area that boasts granite domes, tranquil rivers, glistening lakes and lush meadows.

Redwood National And State ParksFind yourself dwarfed by sequoia trees.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Redwood National and State Parks

Farther north in the Golden State, Redwood National Park features some of the tallest, most majestic trees on earth. Stand next to one and you’re sure to feel incredibly small.

Embark on the easy one-mile trek through Lady Bird Johnson Grove, where you’ll pass through a jungle of towering moss-draped sequoias, some of which are 2,000 years old, and where kids can crawl through some of the hollowed giants.

After you’ve had your fill of ancient sequoias, you can check out the marine life on the coast. Here, budding biologists can scramble around the rocks and look for underwater creatures in the tide pools, like the colorful anemones, purple and orange starfish and hermit crabs.

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Lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkEven if you don't see Kilauea erupt, there is usually steam rising out of the volcano and an eerie glow after dark.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Vacationing in Hawaii equals lots of good times in the water and on the beach. Plus, if you visit the Big Island, you’ll be able to explore one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea. Many kids find the most memorable part of their trip is visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. While eruptions aren’t guaranteed, when the lava is flowing, it makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to witness that, you’ll at least see steam, and after dark it glows an eerie red hue. Other highlights include visiting Thurston Lava Tube, an underground tunnel where lava once flowed, a variety of hikes and ranger-led walks.

Grizzly bear in river at Denali National Park.This diverse park lends itself to an abundance of wildlife.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Denali National Park

Set within the Alaskan Interior, Denali National Park and Preserve is home to the highest mountain in North America, Denali, which has a summit elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level. The park features a diverse habitat, including forest in the lower elevations, tundra in the middle, and glaciers, snow and rock in the highest elevations.

This diversity lends itself as the ideal place for a nearly endless number of animal species to reside. Moose can frequently be seen munching on aquatic plants in small lakes and swamps, while Dall sheep climb the steep mountainsides. Caribou, grizzly bears, black bears, gray wolves and many smaller animals can be spotted here too.

Great Smoky Mountain National ParkDrive along the road and take in incredible vistas or hike into the backcountry.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Appalachians, spanning a wide range of elevations. Over 65 mammal species, more than 200 varieties of birds, nearly 70 native fish species and over 80 types of amphibians and reptiles reside here.

The black bear is the area’s most famous inhabitant as the park provides the largest protected bear habitat in the east with some 1,500 bears residing inside its borders today.

The most popular thing to do in the park is to hike — there are over 800 miles of trails, though you can also see quite a bit, including sweeping mountain vistas, weathered historic structures and endless forest, from the nearly 300 miles of roads.

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Alligators in Everglades National Park14 rare and endangered species call the Everglades home. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Everglades National Park

Spread across the southern tip of Florida, the Everglades are sure to thrill young and old alike. There are 14 rare and endangered species that live here, including the Florida panther, West Indian manatee and the American crocodile. Take the 26-mile loop drive and you can see alligators right alongside the road.

Meanwhile, a walk on one of the trails provides a unique perspective on the park’s diverse ecosystem. Rent a canoe or kayak for the day and paddle around, or take a boat tour of the 10,000 islands.

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