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12 Best National Parks to Visit

Updated: Jan 12

"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks."

One of the many things on my bucket list includes touring the National Parks in the U.S. With over 60 to explore, which ones should you make a point of visiting? Here are some of the most popular and beautiful National Parks in the U.S. Why should you visit? The National Parks offer a variety of activities and experiences for visitors of all ages including hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, scenic drives, historical/educational tours, and more. It also supports the conservation and preservation of the national parks and their resources. A visit to the parks also contributes to the economic and social well-being of the local communities and the nation. I will cover places to stay, but you can always rent an RV and sleep at one of the many campgrounds (this is what my husband and I have discussed). Either way, I hope you get the chance to visit these natural wonders. The first 7 parks I list can be achieved in one long road trip, as they are fairly close together.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana

Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the world and is located in the United States. It was established on March 1, 1872. The park is situated in the northwest corner of Wyoming and extends into Montana and Idaho. The park covers an area of 2.2 million acres and is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk. The park is also known for its geothermal features, such as geysers, hot springs, and mud pots.

Best time to visit:

June to August - best time for camping

September and October - best for fall photography

November to March - best for avoiding crowds

April to June - best for wildlife viewing

Where to stay:

Under Canvas West Yellowstone, Montana

Voted by Conde' Nast Traveler’s Top 20 Resort in the U.S. – Pacific Northwest & West. Under Canvas West Yellowstone is located just 10 minutes from the primary Yellowstone National Park West Entrance, serving as gateway to Montana’s unique hydrothermal and geologic wonders, diverse wildlife, and boundless options for thrilling outdoor recreation. With uninterrupted views of Montana’s picturesque landscape, Under Canvas offers a one-of-a-kind outdoor glamping experience near America’s oldest national park.

Offering tent types to accommodate any group size, ranging from couples to large families and everything in-between, these upscale canvas tents provide the perfect respite surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Montage Big Sky, Montana

5-Star Hotel

Located within Big Sky's Spanish Peaks enclave, Montage Big Sky features ski-in, ski-out access to Big Sky Resort. Montage Big Sky is located 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park. Hiking and mountain biking abound and it has three fly-fishing rivers. Montage Big Sky features a mountain modern design with aesthetics inspired by its natural setting and a timeless palette of materials of regional woods and stone. Resort facilities include a locally inspired restaurant, a lobby bar and lounge, a market, gastropub and a bowling alley, an indoor lap pool,a family swimming pool, a fitness center, Spa Montage and a children's program. Ski equipment, lockers and skier services for world-class skiing are also available. Montage Big Sky offers 139 accommodations that include 70 guestrooms - 30 suites and 39 residences. Available views include panoramas of the Spanish Peaks and mountains, views of the valleys and mountains or views of the mountains and trails.

Things to do at Yellowstone:

  • Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin

  • Mammoth Hot Springs

  • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

  • Hike Mt. Washburn and Fairy Falls

  • Norris Geyser Basin

  • Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin

  • Observe Wildlife at Lamar and Hayden valleys

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Just north (about 1 1/2 hours), you can drive to Grand Teton National Park. Grand Teton National Park is an American national park in northwestern Wyoming. The park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. The park boasts 310,000 acres of lush valley floors, mountain meadows, alpine lakes and the rising peaks of the Grand Teton Mountain Range

Best time to visit: Mid May to late September

Where to stay: Jackson Hole (about a 10 minute drive from Grand Teton)

The Cloudveil, Wyoming

4-Star Hotel

The Tetons have long been a source of self-discovery, inspiring all who encounter them. Something happens in Jackson Hole: nature shapes the person as people shape the place. The Cloudveil, Autograph Collection understands this elemental balance and incorporates it into this singular setting. That's why your first visit is likely to be the first of many. Experience this unique location from the luxury hotel in Jackson, Wyoming, rooted in the valley at the gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Year-round adventures await at Town Square, where majestic mountain ranges serve as the backdrop to famed restaurants and boutique shops. Discover local haunts and authentic sites in Jackson Hole before you rediscover yourself through soul-fulfilling activities in Jackson, Wyoming. The hotel features outdoor dining, ornate meeting spaces with mountain views and spacious hotel suites with fireplaces.

Four Seasons Jackson Hole

5-Star Hotel

High in the Rockies, on the doorstep of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, the jagged peaks of Wyoming s Teton Range rise abruptly over pristine forests, fast-running rivers and the broad, flat valley known as Jackson Hole. Winter's deep snows offer powder skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and dog sledding for all skill levels. Spring and summer activities range from fly-fishing and river rafting to rock climbing, horseback riding, kayaking, mountain biking, golfing and tennis. This inspirational setting supports a thriving theatre, art and music scene, while countless films have made the most of Jackson Hole's magnificent alpine vistas.

Things to do in Grand Teton:

  • Drive the 42-mile scenic drive

  • Capture the view at Schwabacher Landing

  • Visit Signal Mountain and Jackson Lake Overlook

  • Visit the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve

  • Drive the Jenny Lake scenic drive

  • Visit Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls

  • Canoe or Kayak

  • Stroll around Teton Village

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah near the town of Springdale (about 8 hours from Grand Teton). It is home to Zion Canyon, which features steep red rock cliffs, trails, river, hanging garden, climbing, camping, and more. The park has a unique geography and a variety of life zones that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity. Its crown jewel, Zion Canyon, is a photographer's dream with its towering red cliffs, lush emerald pools, and cascading waterfalls.

Best time to visit: Spring or Summer

Where to stay:

Cliffrose Springdale

4-Star Hotel

Escape to the high desert at Cliffrose Springdale Curio Collection by Hilton. Nestled along the Virgin River and bordering Zion National Park, this historic Springdale lodge and spa lets you relax amid lush desert foliage and breathtaking canyon views. Established in 1988, Cliffrose is a sanctuary of peace and a place to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. Enjoy a five-minute walk to the main park entrance or take the complimentary Zion Canyon shuttle into and through the park. Unwind in cozy guest rooms and suites with fresh modern decor. Take in the views from your private patio or balcony. Discover fresh and delicious meals at Anthera, open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service. Dine indoors or al fresco with incredible views of Zion's cliffs and pure blue skies. Enjoy the fresh air in the natural setting of lush desert gardens, take a dip in the heated outdoor pool or play in the Virgin River. Enjoy the outdoors with fire pits, outdoor grills, lawn games and two hot tubs.

Zion Mountain Ranch

3-Star Hotel

In the mountains of Zion National Park, sits an authentic western destination that features not only premier Zion National Park lodging, but is the unique home of a roaming herd of buffalo. The ranch features cabins, lodges and farm to table dining. There are many activities available including horseback riding, jeep tours, bike tours, canyoneering, and guided hikes.

Things to do in Zion:

  • Explore Mormon Row Historic District

  • See the Chapel of the Transfiguration

  • Visit the Zion Human History Museum

  • Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

  • Hike the trails

  • Drive the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway

  • Watch the sunset from the Canyon Junction Bridge

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park is located in southeastern Utah near the town of Moab (about 4 1/2 hours from Zion). The park offers a breathtaking landscape sculpted by millions of years of erosion from the Colorado and Green Rivers and their tributaries. You can explore canyons, mesas, and buttes. The park is divided into three major districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. There are no roads within the park that cross the rivers to directly link any of Canyonlands’ districts. The park's diversity lies not only in its stunning scenery but also in its structure.

Best time to visit: Spring or Fall

Where to stay: Moab (about a 30-minute drive from Canyonlands)

Hoodoo Moab

4-Star Hotel

Welcome to Hoodoo Moab Curio Collection by Hilton, just minutes from Arches National Park and a block from Main Street. Modern luxury meets Western style at this new hotel in Moab Utah where you can enjoy a relaxing stay and outdoor adventure. A tucked away gem in eastern Utah, the hotel is your destination for a desert escape. Hoodoo Moab guest rooms blend upscale amenities with Western flair. Admire views of the red rocks and dramatic landscape surrounding Moab from your room and order room service for a cozy evening meal. Dine on delectable steak and sample handcrafted cocktails and fine wine at Josie Wyatt's Restaurant and Bar. The beautiful outdoor pool is heated for year-round use and a fully equipped fitness center lets you work out while away. Relax with a massage or facial at the full-service day spa perfect for couples or personal pampering.

Gravity Haus

3-Star Hotel

Gravity Haus Moab is nestled in the heart of downtown Moab with unparalleled access to vibrant culture, beloved restaurants, bars, shops and just minutes from adventure in Moab’s outdoor playground. Enjoy an outdoor pool and hot tub surrounded by iconic red rock views, spacious hotel rooms, convenient gear storage, and dog friendly accommodations.

Things to do in Canyonlands:

  • Drive the White Rim Road

  • Kayak, canoe or whitewater raft the rivers

  • View the Horseshoe Canyon

  • Take an ATV in the Maze

  • Hike the Needles

  • Visit the Islands in the Sky Overlooks

  • Watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch

Grand Canyon, Arizona (about a 5.5 hour drive from Canyonlands)

The Grand Canyon is a truly awe-inspiring natural wonder, and its sheer scale and beauty are unmatched. Its steep-sided canyon is carved by the Colorado River in Arizona. At over 275 miles long and ranging in width from about 500 feet to 18 miles, The Grand Canyon encompasses 278 miles of the Colorado River and adjacent uplands. The park is one of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world—unmatched in the incomparable vistas it offers visitors from the rims.

Best time to visit: Spring or Fall

Where to stay:

The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon

3-Star Hotel

Guests of The Grand Hotel enjoy gateway access to Grand Canyon National Park and a variety of recreational activities. The lodge built in 1998 features the classic architecture and decor of Americas great lodges with rustic timber western ironwork and immense log beams. A central lobby with a towering stone fireplace invites good books lively games of checkers and inquisitive conversations with travelers from around the world. The nearby grand piano inspires guests to play their favorite tunes and sing along. You might even enjoy a spontaneous guitar and fiddle jam session going on in the lobby.

Under Canvas

3-Star Resort

Set upon one hundred sixty acres of secluded pinon and juniper forest, Under Canvas Grand Canyon is located just twenty-five minutes from the South Rim entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Recognized in Top twenty five Resorts in the US Midwest and West by Conde Nast Traveler, Under Canvas Grand Canyon offers upscale accommodations near one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Come explore Arizona's vast landscape and the grandeur of the Grand Canyon with safari inspired glamping accommodations in Valle AZ.

Things to do in Grand Canyon:

  • Take in the views at Grand Canyon East

  • Hike a trail in the North Rim

  • Visit the South Rim Overlooks

  • Walk the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West

  • Bike Hermit Road

  • Take a Grand Canyon helicopter flight

  • Visit the Yavapai Museum

  • Walk the Trail of Time

  • Take in the sunrise, sunset and stargazing

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is a spectacular natural wonder (about 11 hours to drive from Grand Canyon). Covering approximately 1,187 square miles, it has amazing features including awe-inspiring waterfalls, beautiful valleys and meadows and towering granite cliffs. Within the park, you’ll also find ancient giant sequoias, pristine alpine lakes, and rugged mountain vistas.

Best time to visit: Spring or Fall

Where to stay:

Tenaya at Yosemite

3-Star Hotel

Experience the breathtaking splendor of Yosemite National Park from the award-winning Tenaya Lodge. Awarded with the prestigious AAA Four Diamond award every year since opening Tenaya Lodge proudly features luxurious accommodations services and a relaxing mountain resort ambiance. Discover beautiful panoramic forest views from this secluded location adjacent to the spectacular Yosemite National Park.

Château du Sureau

5-Star Hotel

Château du Sureau is an elegant nine-acre castle resort tucked away among the green foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, just 16 miles from the majestic Yosemite National Park. This welcoming sanctuary features 10 graciously appointed guest accommodations and the private two-bedroom Villa du Sureau. With its enchanting gardens, towering pines, and bubbling fountains, this hidden gem’s storybook setting is a haven of tranquility and splendor.

Things to do in Yosemite:

  • View the Half Dome and El Capitan

  • See the waterfalls

  • Visit Toulomne Meadows

  • Visit Tenaya Lake

  • Stop at the major viewpoints

  • Hike the John Muir Trail near Clark Point

  • Visit the Amsel Adams Gallery

  • Drive the loop in Yosemite Valley

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree is a stunning 1,242 square mile expanse of rugged rock formations, twisted Joshua trees, and stark desert landscapes in southern California (about 6.5 hours from Yosemite). It is named after the Joshua tree, a yucca plant that is native to the Mojave Desert. The park is known for its unique rock formations and diverse desert ecosystems, where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet. The park is open year-round, and visitors can enjoy hiking, rock climbing, stargazing, and more.

Best time to visit: Spring or Fall

Where to stay: Palm Springs (about an hour drive from Joshua Tree)

Arrive Hotel

4-Star Hotel

At this adults-only resort, check in at the bar, grab a drink, and let your vacation begin. Float in the heated pool, read by the firepits, and play some ping pong. Poolside bites, delicious coffee, and ice cream sundaes are yours for the taking. The hotel also happens to be steps away from some of Palm Spring’s best restaurants, too.

JW Marriott Desert Springs

5-Star Hotel

Experience the beauty of the desert at JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa. This refreshed, luxury hotel features superb service, redesigned venues and family-friendly amenities. From the moment you arrive on the lush resort grounds, you will feel yourself relaxing. Recharge in reimagined hotel rooms and suites which benefit from modular furniture, hardwood floors, indulgent bathrooms, workspaces with built-in USB ports and balconies. Enjoy entertaining space and views of the pool or lake in the Suites. Take a dip in one of the outdoor pools, test your swing on the golf courses or play a set on the tennis courts. Pamper yourself at the day spa and indulge at one of the resort's popular restaurants.

Things to do in Joshua Tree:

  • Hike the trails

  • Wander the Hidden Valley

  • Drive to Eureka Peak

  • Take a 4x4 to Geology Tour Road

  • Explore the Cholla Cactus Garden

  • Rock Climb or Horseback Ride

  • Visit Cottonwood Springs Oasis

  • Check out Keys View

  • Find the slot canyons and Arch Rock

  • Stargaze or visit the Observatory

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park is nestled in the Crown of the Continent along the Montana-Canada border and is adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. The park is known for its rugged and breathtaking landscapes, glacial-carved valleys, alpine meadows, and sparkling lakes. Established in 1910, the park has over 700 miles of trails, making it a paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness steeped in human history. The park is home to more than a dozen glaciers, and even more impressive are the massive U-shaped valleys and hulking granite peaks carved by long-ago ice flows.  Whether you're a seasoned adventurer or a nature enthusiast seeking pristine beauty, Glacier has something to offer everyone.

Best time to visit: Spring or Summer

Where to stay: Whitefish, Montana (about 40 minutes from Glacier National Park)

The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

4-Star Hotel

Nestled on the pristine shores of Whitefish Lake, the Lodge at Whitefish Lake provides the perfect location to enjoy northwest Montana. The lodge is located just minutes from downtown Whitefish and the Amtrak station. Built in the style of the grand lodges of the national parks, natural materials were used throughout the property to bring the beauty of nature indoors. The two-story lobby features large wood beams and columns and a massive hammered wrought iron chandelier. Luxurious fabrics, aged leather, distressed alder and copper were used to create the furnishings facing the massive stone fireplace. Guests have a selection of dining experiences including a lakefront dining room for breakfast and dinner, the bar for lunch and casual dinner, the waterfront Tiki Bar & Grill for summertime fare, and the Coffee Dock Cafe for grab & go items. There is also a spa for therapeutic sessions.

The Firebrand Hotel

5-Star Hotel

The Firebrand Hotel brings urban sophistication and service combined with the atmosphere and adventurous style of Northwest Montana’s rugged landscapes. The Firebrand’s premier location in downtown Whitefish positions you steps away from world-class dining and nightlife options and within easy access to golfing, Whitefish Lake, trails, and skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and it's a short drive to the West Glacier entrance to Glacier National Park. The Firebrand restaurants showcase a variety of flavorful entrées and internationally influenced small plates. There is also a spa in which to indulge your senses.

Things to do in Glacier National Park:

  • Drive the scenic Going-to-the-sun Road and view the highest point

  • Hike the trails

  • See St. Mary Falls

  • Visit Swiftcurrent Lake

  • See Lake Mcdonald Valley

  • Explore Wild Goose Island

  • Ride the Red Bus Tour

  • Take a boat tour or kayak on one of the Glacier's lakes

Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park, a crown jewel of Alaska, is a land of towering peaks, vast tundra, and untamed wilderness. Its centerpiece, Denali (formerly Mount McKinley), rises an awe-inspiring 20,310 feet above sea level, the highest mountain peak in North America. More than 6 million acres make up the park and its surrounding reserves. The national preserve has a total area of 1,334,200 acres. Denali’s terrain is a combination of woodland and deciduous taiga at its lowest elevations. Tundra may be found at moderate elevations, whereas glaciers, rock, and snow can be found at higher elevations. The Kahiltna Glacier is the world’s longest glacier.

Best time to visit: Spring or Fall

Where to stay:

Denali Lakeview Inn (10 miles north of about 15 minute drive from National Park)

4-Star Hotel

Denali Lakeview Inn is a locally owned family retreat nestled on tranquil Otto Lake. This is a relaxing lodging choice for Denali National Park guests. Enjoy spectacular views of Otto Lake, Mt. Healy and Mt. Dora from every suite. Watch beautiful views of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) dance across the Arctic sky on a clear winter night. Each individually decorated suite in this lovely Inn has a deck with spectacular views. Within walking distance is a 9-hole golf course and restaurant. If you like adventure, you might want to bring your cross-country skis, ice skates or snowshoes to trek around the lake.

Sheldon Chalet

Perched on a nunatak in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater of Denali's magnificent Ruth Glacier, just 10 miles from the summit, Sheldon Chalet is more than a place to stay, it's an exclusive experience of grand proportion. Fine dining, luxury accommodations and exquisite service are a commitment to the property’s distinctive environment. If you are the adventuring type, there is a glacier school where you can learn mountaineering or go on guided glacial adventures. Or you can experience adventure in place on deck around the fire pit surrounded by grandeur, in the relaxing sauna with views of Denali’s summit, or inside with your favorite book.

Things to do in Denali National Park:

  • Drive Denali Park Road

  • Take a tour bus

  • See Wonder Lake

  • Visit Eielson

  • Hike the Savage River area or one of many other trails

  • See Katishna via Helicopter

  • Enjoy Wildlife viewing (wolf, Dall sheep, bear, moose and, caribou)

  • Backpacking and off-trail hiking

  • Whitewater rafting on the river

  • Visit the dog sled kennels

  • Climb the Denali Mountain

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Prepare to be transported to a world of jagged peaks, emerald valleys, cascading waterfalls, and glaciers galore. Nestled in the North Cascades mountain range of Washington state, this stunning park encompasses over 500,000 acres of protected wilderness. The park was established in 1968 to preserve majestic mountain scenery, snowfields, glaciers, alpine meadows, waterfalls, and other unique natural features in the North Cascade Range. The park is the largest of the three National Park Service units that comprise the North Cascades National Park Complex.

Best time to visit: Summer or Fall

Where to stay: Winthrop Washington (adjacent to North Cascades scenic drive)

Sun Mountain Lodge

4-Star Hotel

With more than 1,500 acres of magnificent wilderness as your private playground and Patterson Lake adjacent to thousands of acres of national forest and the North Cascades National Park, Sun Mountain Lodge offers year-round, fun-filled adventures for anyone.

The Dining Room offers delicious cuisine and an unparalleled view of the vista, while the Wolf Creek Bar & Grill offers a more casual dining experience. Guests can also indulge in the Spa at the Lodge. There are lodge rooms and cabins, in which to stay.

Freestone Inn and Cabins

5-Star Resort

Located just 15 miles West of Winthrop in Mazama, Washington, the Freestone Inn offers a quiet setting in a casual atmosphere. Surrounded by the North Cascades Forest and just steps away from a lake and creeks, enjoy the peaceful solitude while warming up by the fire in your accommodations. The resort also features two dining options and plenty of summer/winter activities to choose from.

Things to do in North Cascades:

  • Visit Ross Lake Recreational Area

  • See Lake Chelan

  • Hike the trails

  • Visit Stehekin

  • See the Gorge Lake Overlook

  • Visit Diablo Lake Vista Point

  • View the wildlife (elk, moose, marmots, pika, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote, lynx, bobcats and otters)

  • Drive the scenic North Cascades Highway

  • Walk the Sterling Munro Trail

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. It's known for its dramatic coastline, rocky shores, forested interior, and granite peaks like Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. It is the second-most visited national park in the United States, with over 4 million visits per year. Visitors can enjoy 27 miles of historic motor roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including moose, bear, whales, and seabirds. The bayside town of Bar Harbor, with restaurants and shops, is a popular gateway to the park.

Best time to visit: Fall

Where to stay: Bar Harbor, Maine

Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor

3-Star Hotel

A stunning vista overlooking the marina and the dazzling blue water of Frenchman’s Bay awaits you when you visit the Bar Harbor Regency Holiday Inn. With over 1000 feet of ocean frontage, this multi-level resort offers luxuriously appointed guest rooms and suites, recreational facilities, two restaurants, a tiki bar, and meeting facilities, including a ballroom, for up to 200 guests. The hotel features two restaurants and a pool bar.

Harborside Hotel

4-Star Hotel

Understated, comfortable luxury abounds at Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina. Each of the 211 guest rooms and suites reflects the serenity and beauty of coastal Maine, with many offering stunning views of the island or Frenchman Bay. Among the unique lodging options, you’ll find elegantly appointed rooms and suites with semi-private or private balconies, while others feature full kitchens, hot tubs, and gas fireplaces. Treat your taste buds to a world of mouth-watering flavors at Harborside’s on-site restaurants and bars. Each showcases classic Bar Harbor dining, with stunning oceanfront views. Inventive tapas and bespoke wines await you at Enoteca Wine Bar. Feast on Italian delicacies straight out of the old country at La Bella Vita. Indulge in a handcrafted cocktail at Splash Pool Bar. Or get the quintessential Maine lobster experience at Stewman’s. Relax and recover at the Spa at Bar Harbor, a full-service spa that offers an extensive menu of head-to-toe treatments.

Things to do in Acadia National Park:

  • Hike the trails

  • Watch the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

  • Visit Sand Beach

  • See Echo Lake

  • Watch the waves at Thunder Hole

  • Walk or hike the Carriage Roads

  • Take a tour boat

  • Explore the town of Bar Harbor

  • Drive Park Loop Road

  • Explore Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains are a majestic mountain range straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Whether you're looking for breathtaking scenery, diverse wildlife, rich history, or outdoor adventures, the Smokies have it all.

Majestic scenery, rolling hills covered in lush forests, misty mornings draped over valleys,

cascading waterfalls, and panoramic views showcase the power of nature.

Best time to visit: Summer or Fall

Where to stay:

Under Canvas

Most of the camps from the Montana-based purveyors of tented luxury are set out west, but Tennessee’s only full-scale national park has one of its own. Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains lies just outside of Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood, and is surrounded by a spectacularly forested mountain range that reaches clear across the North Carolina border.

Camp in style with king beds, wood-burning stoves, proper ensuite bathrooms, and hotel-quality comforts and furnishings. Tents sleep two to four, and include private decks with lounge chairs and, in the Stargazer tents, a skylight for viewing the constellations overhead. The idea is to combine luxury-boutique hospitality with tent-camping adventure. Additional features include a proper restaurant, plus a fire pit for evening s’mores, as well as live music and beer, wine, and canned cocktails. Meanwhile the resort’s Experience Coordinators are on hand to help you plan your daytime activities in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Swag

4-Star Hotel

Perched almost a mile above sea level-at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, The Swag is a high-altitude retreat boasting breathtaking views of North Carolina's highest peaks. Located near Asheville, a stay here is the ideal change of scenery to leave you feeling refreshed and renewed, especially after one of the many memorable hikes. Nestled deep in the woods, it is the epitome of a romantic getaway. Delicious traditional cuisine only adds to its rustic charm.

Things to do in the Smoky Mountain National Park:

• Take in the panoramic views from atop Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the eastern United States.

• Hike or bike the trails (there are over 800 to choose from)

• Drive through the park and stop at the overlooks

• Ride the Gatlinburg Chairlift

• View the wildlife

• Visit museums and cultural centers

• Go fishing

• Visit Cades Cove

Additional Note:

The following parks now require reservations in advance:

  • Acadia National Park in Maine (for Cadillac Summit Road)

  • Glacier National Park in Montana (for Going-to-the-Sun Road, North Fork, and Many Glacier scenic drives)

  • Yosemite National Park in California (entire park)

  • Zion National Park in Utah (for Angels Landing Trail)

What's next on your bucket list?


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