Summer is here. Which means it’s time to lace up your hiking boots and enjoy some of the best trails and breathtaking sights the old US of A has to offer. Some of the best American national parks, such as those located in the northern states, have short opening seasons. Which means – if they happen to fall on your adventure travel radar, you definitely want to make the trip while the sun is shining and the access roads are drivable.
Whether you are from the States and planning out the most worthwhile weekend road trips or are backpacking in the US this summer and on a quest to hike America’s favorite trails, these ten national parks are a must for everyone who loves the great outdoors.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
An active volcano, Mt. Rainier is a definite must-see for adventure lovers. All year-round, the glaciated peak is covered in snow but in the summer you’ll trek through one of the most unique and awe-inspiring terrains anywhere in the world. The landscape is covered in colorful sub alpine wildflower meadows. The peak time to visit is mid-July to early August when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
In southern Oregon, discover sapphire blue Crater Lake, formed by a violent volcano known as Mount Mazama. When the volcano erupted, about 7,700 years ago, it collapsed, forming what is today the deepest lake in the country. You can visit Crater Lake outside of the summer season, just bring your snowshoes.
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion has some great hikes, including the Narrows and the Subway. Wading through the Virgin River’s cool waters in Utah’s heat while surrounded by towering red rocks is one experience everyone should savor.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
North Cascades is located a three-hour drive northeast of Seattle. While the sparkling blue waters fed by mountaintop glaciers (which means plenty of pristine waterfalls) are fantastic, this is not always the easiest destination to reach. There are no roads leading to the actual park entrance. You’ll have to hike. Always check the park's website before making the journey to ensure the trails aren’t covered in snow.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park is a well-loved destination for backpacking, biking, fishing and more. If you can spend a few days camping at Glacier, it’s well worth it. There is so much to explore. And, for budget travelers, it’s a great way to take in some of the most stunning mountains in the US while having a little adventure and saving on accommodation. Be sure to check before visiting and to find out if any areas of the park are still closed – not unusual, even in June or July.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
With snow covered peaks, ice-blue mountain lakes, hydrothermal pools, geysers, bubbling mud, and, of course, volcanoes, this national park is a true gem for adventurers who love an otherworldly landscape. Some areas are accessible in the spring, such as Manzanita Lake, while others are closed well into the summer.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
For star watchers, this is the ultimate camping destination. Enjoy the trails winding through the ancient bristlecone pine forests, explore the caves, and at night, peer up at the Milky Way and see what the stars are supposed to look like. Great Basin offers some of the darkest skies in the US.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Have you ever sandboarded? For adventure travel lovers, Great Sand Dunes boasts the tallest sand dunes in the country. Just to make your visit more fun, splash around in the cool waters of Medano Creek after hiking around the park and riding the dunes.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Hiking along the steep cliffs and ancient rocks of Black Canyon is amazing. You may also witness (or partake in) some extreme rock climbing on your visit. This is a top choice if you want to avoid the crowds.
Sequoia National Park, California
No summer national park best-of list is complete without a visit to see the giant sequoia trees near the Sierra Nevada mountains. You can enjoy this park all year round, although summer is best as everything is in bloom, including the California sunshine.
Hiking the national parks is one of the most rewarding ways to spend the beautiful days of summer. Which one will you visit?