All-American National Parks - Brownell Travel

All-American National Parks

2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Created on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service manages and preserves the national parks. But the idea of conserving our beautiful country started way before the National Park Service was established. President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law Yellowstone National Park – the first national park – in 1872. Since then, Congress has established 61 other national parks in the states and territories. Learn more about each of our nation’s gems below, and start exploring the beauty of the US from sea to shining sea!

Acadia

  • Location: Maine
  • Established: February 26, 1919
  • About: Acadia National Park is the oldest US national park east of the Mississippi and features the only fjord/fjard (it was downgraded) on the East Coast. It offers beautiful views of the ocean contrasted by the mountains.
  • Why we love it: “You can see the first sunrise in the United States every day!” – Brownell Independent Advisor Rebecca Falkenberry

American Samoa

  • Location: American Samoa (a US territory in the South Pacific)
  • Established: October 31, 1988
  • About: This national park is hard to reach – it’s much closer to Australia than the United States! It spreads across three islands and protects coral reefs, marine life, and fruit bats.
  • Why we love it: Protecting this area is not only important for the flora and fauna but also for the Samoan people. The native culture is important to preserve just like the natural beauty – and this park is gorgeous!
Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Arches

  • Location: Utah
  • Established: April 12, 1929
  • About: This area has been home to people for over 10,000 years, and it holds a fascinating history. The Delicate Arch, a freestanding 65-foot arch, is the most famous arch and is depicted on the Utah license plates.
  • Why we love it: With over 2,000 sandstone arches, this national park is visually mesmerizing and truly awe-inspiring to see in person.

Badlands

  • Location: South Dakota
  • Established: November 10, 1978
  • About: Tucked in the southwest corner of South Dakota, Badlands National Park has a dramatic landscape of eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires. It is home to many animals including bighorn sheep, bobcats, bison, pronghorns, and more.
  • Why we love it: The history is amazing! Archeologists have found fossils of rhinoceros, saber-toothed cat, and other long-gone creatures.
  • Insider Tip: Pair your trip to Badlands National Park with Mount Rushmore.

Big Bend

  • Location: Texas
  • Established: June 12, 1944
  • About: Big Bend National Park stretches along a section of the Rio Grande, the natural border between the United States and Mexico. It covers over 800,000 acres and has a vast landscape filled with wildlife, including 450 species of birds.
  • Why we love it: Between the 200 miles of hiking trails and river trips on the Rio Grande, there is so much to explore in this park.

Biscayne

  • Location: Florida
  • Established: June 28, 1980
  • About: Biscayne features four distinct ecosystems: mangrove forest, coral reef, Biscayne Bay, and the Keys so it is home to a vast array of wildlife and marine life. The park is protects many threatened or endangered species including manatees, the American alligator, and green, hawksbill, and loggerhead sea turtles.
  • Why we love it: This park is 95% water, so you need to climb aboard a kayak or boat to really explore and see the marine life up close.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

  • Location: Colorado
  • Established: October 21, 1999
  • About: With over two million years in the making, this national park was formed by the Gunnison River carving out the canyon. This is a great park to explore by car to take in some of the nearly vertical canyon walls and the river.
  • Why we love it: Author Duane Vandenbusche described it best when he said “Several canyons of the American West are longer and some are deeper, but none combines the depth, sheerness, narrowness, darkness, and dread of the Black Canyon.”
  • Did You Know? Because of the steep cliffs, parts of the gorge see less than an hour of sunlight per day – hence the name Black Canyon!
Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon

  • Location: Utah
  • Established: February 25, 1928
  • About: Bryce Canyon is not as much a canyon as it is amphitheaters sprinkled along the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The red, orange, and white sandstone is striking to see in person – photos don’t do justice.
  • Why we love it: Hoodoos! Bryce Canyon has the largest group of hoodoos (tall spires of rocks) in the world.
  • Insider Tip: The park has one of the darkest night skies in the United States – the naked eye can see over 7000 stars! Talk about “out of this world” views!!
Canyonlands May 2014 086

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands

  • Location: Utah
  • Established: September 12, 1964
  • About: The Colorado and Green Rivers together created the canyons, mesas, and buttes that make up Canyonlands. There are four districts in the park: the Island in the Sky, the Maze, the Needles, and the rivers.
  • Why we love it: The park features rugged trails perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and ATVs.

Capitol Reef

  • Location: Utah
  • Established: December 18, 1971
  • About: Capitol Reef National Park is filled with cliffs, canyons, crevices, domes, and bridges along the Waterpocket Fold, a “wrinkle” in the Earth’s landscape.
  • Why we love it: The Waterpocket Fold is the largest monocline in North America.
  • Insider Tip: Don’t be fooled by the word “reef” in this park! It refers to a barrier for land travel and is not underwater.

Carlsbad Caverns

  • Location: New Mexico
  • Established: May 14, 1930
  • About: Above ground is a desert wilderness, but below is an underground labyrinth of over 100 caves. The network of caves in Carlsbad Caverns is the seventh longest in the world and is home to hundreds of thousands of bats.
  • Why we love it: The “Big Room” is a cave chamber that is almost 4000 feet long and 255 feet high.

Channel Islands

  • Location: California
  • Established: March 5, 1980
  • About: Channel Islands National Park includes five protected islands off the coast of Southern California. The park is only accessible by boat or small aircraft making it one of the least visited.
  • Why we love it: Many say that visiting this park is seeing Southern California as it once was – pristine natural setting filled with an assortment of plants and animals.

Congaree

  • Location: South Carolina
  • Established: November 10, 2003
  • About: Congaree National Park is the largest intact tract of old growth hardwood forest in the US. This swampy park is home to some of the tallest trees in the Eastern United States that create temperate deciduous forest canopy.
  • Why we love it: The Boardwalk Loop is a 2.4-mile walkway through the swamp that allows visitors to really get up close and personal with the park.

Crater Lake

  • Location: Oregon
  • Established: May 22, 1903
  • About: This park includes Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States with a depth of 1,949 feet. The lake was formed by Mount Mazama, a volcano that collapsed over 7000 years ago.
  • Why we love it: The stunning blue water of Crater Lake is something to behold. Visitors can hike around the lake, go on a boat, or swim in it! The water warms to between 55 and 60 degrees in the summer.
  • Did you know? Crater Lake is filled with water from rain and snow and has no streams or rivers flowing into or out of it.

Cuyahoga Valley

  • Location: Ohio
  • Established: October 11, 2000
  • About: Cuyahoga Valley was only recently deemed a national park, but it is filled with hiking and biking trails that visitors enjoy.
  • Why we love it: The park offers a glimpse of early America expansion into the west with well-preserved 19th century villages and bridges.

Death Valley

  • Location: California and Nevada
  • Established: October 31, 1994
  • About: Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in North America, with highs reaching 134 degrees Fahrenheit. But not all parts of the 3 million acres reach those temps, so don’t be afraid to visit. Canyons, sand dunes, and mountains create a diverse landscape to explore.
  • Why we love it: “It is amazingly alive and beautiful, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom.” – Brownell Independent Advisor Rebecca Falkenberry

Denali

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: February 26, 1917
  • About: Denali National Park and Preserve is named after the highest mountain in North America, Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley). The rustic park is located in central Alaska and a single gravel road leads visitors through this expansive park. It is home to many animals including grizzly bears, caribou, gray wolves, and moose.
  • Why we love it: Denali offers a myriad of activities. Adventurers can summit the peak, adrenaline seekers can go dogsledding, explorers can backpack through the land, and relaxed travelers can take in the breathtaking scenery or even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Dry Tortugas

  • Location: Florida
  • Established: October 26, 1992
  • About: Dry Tortugas National Park is located 68 miles west of Key West and is only accessible by boat or sea plane. The park is composed of the seven islands in the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson, a massive unfinished 19th century coastal fortress.
  • Why we love it: This park juxtaposes an abandoned fort with incredible natural beauty both on land and under the sea. From the 16 million bricks at Fort Jefferson to the abundant sea life around the colorful coral reefs, Dry Tortugas offers so much to explore.
  • Did You Know? The Dry Tortugas are actually closer to Cuba than the United States.

Everglades

  • Location: Florida
  • Established: May 30, 1934
  • About: Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and third-largest national park in the contiguous United States. It was created to protect the fragile ecosystem that is home to many threatened or endangered species, like the elusive Florida panther and the American crocodile.
  • Why we love it: This network of wetlands and forests boasts countless activities for visitors. There are hiking trails, boat or kayak adventures, and observation platforms. And with over 350 species of birds, Everglades National Park is a bird-lover’s paradise!
  • Did You Know? The Everglades has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Wetland of International Importance, and an International Biosphere Reserve – one of only three destinations in the world to be on all three lists.

Gates of the Arctic

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: December 2, 1980
  • About: Gates of the Arctic is the northernmost national park with all 7.5 million acres situated north of the Arctic Circle. It has no roads, visitor’s center, or any other park facilities but is home to many animals and Alaska natives.
  • Why we love it: This park is pure wilderness and is the perfect escape for someone who wants to be one with nature. The only changes to the landscape have been natural progressions. In the summer enjoy the Midnight Sun and in the winter the aurora borealis.

Gateway Arch

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Established: February 22, 2018
  • About: The Gateway Arch may be one of the newer attractions to be deemed National Park status, but it is hardly new to the scene of famous American landmarks, attracting over a million visitors each year.
  • Why we love it: Standing 630 feet tall, the architectural anomaly is the best way to take in views of St. Louis and grab an Insta-worthy snap.
Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier

  • Location: Montana
  • Established: May 11, 1910
  • About: Glacier National Park stretches across 1 million acres of land touching the United States and Canadian border. Nature enthusiasts thrive off of this park’s dramatic landscape, with mountain peaks jetting above forests and alpine lakes. The park features 26 glaciers that have been slowly disappearing with climate change.
  • Why we love it: With over 700 miles of hiking trails, Glacier National Park beckons visitors to explore by foot in the summer and by snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.
  • Insider Tip: “The stargazing here is epic, and the old lodges are so quaint. But, our favorite activity was a helicopter ride over the park where we could really appreciate the glaciers from above–so sad to know how much has already been lost. Go now!” – Brownell Independent Advisor Martha Rhodes

Glacier Bay

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: December 2, 1980
  • About: With rugged mountains jutting above the coastline, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage. The landscape is breathtaking and the park has many animals: humpback wales and seals in the sea and grizzly bears, eagles, and mountain goats on the land.
  • Why we love it: Though this park has no roads, have no fear – many visitors experience it from sea during an Alaskan cruise.
Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon

  • Location: Arizona
  • Established: February 26, 1919
  • About: This iconic national park is one of the most popular ones in the system with over 4 million visitors each year. Carved by the Colorado River, the canyon is 277 miles long and at times 1 mile deep. Through years of erosion, colorful layers of the canyon walls create a beautiful landscape in the park.
  • Why we love it: Though we’ve all seen photos of the Grand Canyon, they simply don’t do it justice. View it from the north or south rim or hike into the canyon on one of the 15 trails.

Grand Teton

  • Location: Wyoming
  • Established: February 26, 1929
  • About: Named after the tallest mountain in the Teton range, Grand Teton National Park is not only beautiful but is convenient to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. The Tetons tower above glacial lakes, streams, and wildflower speckled meadows.
  • Why We Love It: Visitors can hike, explore the lakes on a boat or canoe, bike along the base of the mountains, and look for wildlife, like moose or bears. Then they can head to one of the guest ranches or resorts in Jackson to supplement their American West experience.
  • Insider Tip: “Start in Jackson Hole, where there is so much to do: biking, hiking, rafting, rodeo, and sightseeing. From there, you’re at the doorstep to Grand Teton National Park. It encompasses the jagged peaks of the Grand Teton mountain range and is known for its hiking, mountaineering, pristine lakes, and back-country camping and fishing.”– Brownell Independent Advisor Kristen Meckem

Great Basin

  • Location: Nevada
  • Established: October 27, 1986
  • About: This national park sits at the base of Wheeler Peak, the second-tallest mountain in Nevada. It is home to 5000-year-old bristlecone pine trees, caves, and one of the darkest night skies in the United States.
  • Why we love it: During the summer, visitors can take a step back in time and go on a historic candlelight tour of Lehman Cave. And when you’re finished exploring the caves, the expansive night sky speckled with stars in as incredible experience.

Great Sand Dunes

  • Location: Colorado
  • Established: September 13, 2004
  • About: Positioned between grasslands, wetlands, forests, and a lake is Great Sand Dunes National Park. Rising up to 750 feet, these sand dunes are the tallest in North America.
  • Why we love it: From a distance, the sand dunes don’t look like much, but as you approach you realize just how enormous they are. You can hike through the dunes OR try sand sledding!

Great Smoky Mountains

  • Location: Tennessee, North Carolina
  • Established: June 15, 1934
  • About: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the system with over 10 million visitors. There are over 800 miles of hiking trails, including a section of the Appalachian Trail and tons of flora and fauna.
  • Why we love it: “Great hiking and camping, historic structures, and in June the fireflies light in unison…the only place in the world this occurs!” – Dawn Bridges, Brownell Incentives New Business Development Executive

Guadalup Mountains

  • Location: Texas
  • Established: October 15, 1966
  • About: Located in West Texas, Guadalup Mountains National Park is home to the tallest peak in Texas. It has natural elements to explore as well as historic sights, like an old stagecoach station.
  • Why we love it: In the midst of the desert, this park features bigtooth maples, an array of wildlife, and a fossilized coral reef. Fall is a great time to visit to see the colorful foliage.
Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala

  • Location: Hawaii
  • Established: August 1, 1916
  • About: This national park on Maui is named after Haleakala, a massive dormant volcano. It features many tropical plants and the greatest number of endangered species in a US National Park.
  • Why we love it: After hiking through the lush landscape and cloud forests, the view from summit of the volcano is simply breathtaking. (PS – You can drive to the top too!)

Hawaii Volcanoes

  • Location: Hawaii
  • Established: August 1, 1916
  • About: Located on the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Mount Loa and Kilauea. The landscape varies from lush tropical forests to lava fields to beaches, and it is home to endangered species.
  • Why we love it: After learning about volcanoes and lava in school, it’s incredible to see them in person. Plus there are hiking and biking trails to explore.

Hot Springs

  • Location: Arkansas
  • Established: March 4, 1921
  • About: People were drawn to this area to relax in the hot springs long before it was Established as a national park. Today, visitors can still experience the baths and explore the natural hot springs.
  • Why we love it: Hiking and exploring the outdoors is a quintessential part of visiting national parks, but this one offers natural spas and baths to rejuvenate in at the end of it.

Indiana Dunes

  • Location: Indiana
  • Established: February 15, 2019
  • About: With eight beaches and dunes up to 200 feet high, it’s hard to believe Indiana Dunes wasn’t deemed a National Park until 2019.
  • Why we love it: Boasting more biodiversity than Hawaii, Indiana Dunes National Park is home to fifty miles of scenic trails through wetlands, rivers, beaches, forests, and of course – dunes.

Isle Royale

  • Location: Michigan
  • Established: April 3, 1940
  • About: Isle Royale National Park is made of the largest island in Lake Superior plus 400 smaller islands. There are many hiking trails, four lighthouses, and shipwrecks for visitors to explore.
  • Why we love it: There aren’t very many animals on this island, but it is famous for the moose and wolves that inhabit it. Scientists even study the relationship between the two species!

Joshua Tree

  • Location: California
  • Established: October 31, 1994
  • About: The Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert come together in Joshua Tree National Park. The park has a diverse landscape that is filled with a variety of animals and plants.
  • Why we love it: “It has such a unique landscape, and is perfect for those who appreciate National Parks, and who want something a little more off the beaten path than the more famous parks. Plus, for people who don’t really want to rough it, it’s just an hour from dreamy Palm Springs, so you can go from pool to National Park to pool to dinner at Errol Flynn’s old house or where Frank Sinatra had his rehearsal dinner, all in one day!” – Brownell Independent Advisor Louisa Gehring

Katmai

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: December 2, 1980
  • About: Katmai National Park and Preserve is tucked on the Alaska Peninsula across from Kodiak Island. It contains nearly 20 volcanoes including Novarupta, the volcano that erupted in 1912 and created The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. It is famous for its bears, but moose, coyotes, lynxes, and foxes also live in the park.
  • Why we love it: Where do we start?! From the hundreds of brown bears to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes there is so much to see.

Kenai Fjords

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: December 2, 1980
  • About: Tucked near the town of Seward is Kenai Fjords. The park may be the smallest in the system, but it holds the largest ice fields in the US, Harding ice field. Glaciers moved down the mountain from the ice fields to form the fjords.
  • Why we love it: Visitors can access this Alaska national park by road, but you can get an amazing view of it from the many cruise ships that sail into this area. Plus there is a lot of wildlife in the park, including humpback whales, killer whales, seals, bears, moose, and bald eagles!

Kings Canyon

  • Location: California
  • Established: March 4, 1940
  • About: Kings Canyon National Park is located in the southern Sierra Nevada adjacent to Sequoia National Park.
  • Why we love it: Kings Canyon is a great spot for day hikes to see the enormous General Grant Tree, one of the world’s largest living trees!

Kobuk Valley

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: December 2, 1980
  • About: Located entirely above the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley National Park is only accessible by plane, boat, or snowmobile. It has no road or trails, so backcountry camping and hiking is the name of the game. During the summer, temperatures can reach the 80s and for a few days the sun never sets.
  • Why we love it: The park has three sets of sand dunes, the largest in the Arctic. They can reach 100 feet high and 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer! Thousands of caribou (nearly half a million!) migrate through the dunes every year.

Lake Clark

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: December 2, 1980
  • About: Volcanoes, rivers, and glaciers – oh my! Lake Clark National Park features a landscape with diverse geological features. It is situated across three mountain ranges and has a rain forest on one end, a tundra on the other, and the lake in the middle.
  • Why we love it: No other area in Alaska boasts such a variety of geological sites, so visitors get to see so much in one park visit!

Lassen Volcanic

  • Location: California
  • Established: August 9, 1916
  • About: Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to the largest plug dome volcano in the world, Lassen Peak. It also has the three other types of volcanoes, shield, cinder cone, and strato, making it a volcano-fanatic’s dream park.
  • Why we love it: The park has over 150 miles of hiking trails plus the hydrothermal areas and volcanoes.

Mammoth Cave

  • Location: Kentucky
  • Established: July 1, 1941
  • About: Mammoth Cave has the world’s longest cave system with more than 400 miles of caverns and passages. The caves hold thousands of years of history, and new caves have been discovered even in modern times.
  • Why we love it: The caves offer a whole world to explore underground. And when you’re ready to be back in the daylight, there are 70 miles of hiking trails.

Mesa Verde

  • Location: Colorado
  • Established: June 29, 1906
  • About: Mesa Verde National Park takes you back to the time of the Ancestral Pueblo people with over 4,000 archeological sites. The Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America and has over 150 rooms. The park is open year round but some main sites, like the Cliff Palace, are closed in the winter.
  • Why we love it: The ancient cliff dwellings are some of the most well-preserved in the United States so visitors can really get a feel for life 900 years ago.

Mount Rainier

  • Location: Washington
  • Established: March 2, 1899
  • About: Located outside of Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park spreads over 200,000 acres of forest, meadows, glaciers, and waterfalls. The park’s namesake Mount Rainier is a 14,411-foot active stratovolcano that is shrouded in 26 glaciers. It is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.
  • Why we love it: The park has many hiking trails, including the Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates the mountain. Visit the Paradise area in the summer for sweeping views of the blooming wildflowers.

North Cascades

  • Location: Washington
  • Established: October 2, 1968
  • About: As visitors approach North Cascades National Park, they are faced with jagged peaks dotted with alpine forests and glaciers – a truly spectacular site. The park has many geological features like waterfalls, lakes, and more than 300 glaciers.
  • Why we love it: This park is known for exceptional hiking trails through the beautiful setting. And it’s less than 3 hours from Seattle!

Olympic

  • Location: Washington
  • Established: June 29, 1938
  • About: With several different ecosystems all in one park, Olympic National Park offers a diverse experience to visitors. It’s located on the Olympic Peninsula and offers many things to do both on land and on water.
  • Why we love it: From the 70 miles of coastline to the glacier-capped peaks, this park surprises visitors with new features at every turn. Fish, hike, kayak, and climb your way through this beautiful national gem.

Petrified Forest

  • Location: Arizona
  • Established: December 9, 1962
  • About: The history of this national park goes way back. And by way back, we mean tens of millions of years! Archaeologists have discovered plant, reptile, and dinosaur fossils in this park, and the petrified trees date back to 225 million years ago. The park also extends to part of the Painted Desert.
  • Why we love it: It’s incredible to be in an area with such rich history. Take time to explore the parks many features and don’t miss watching the sunset over the Painted Desert.

Pinnacles

  • Location: California
  • Established: January 10, 2013
  • About: Pinnacles National Park emerged from a landscape that was once covered by multiple volcanoes some 23 million years ago. Today, the land is home to thirteen bat species and is a mecca for rock climbers.
  • Why we love it: The park has several trails perfect for day hikes. In the spring, you can see wildflowers blooming throughout the valleys. Some trails also offer views of the San Andreas Fault.

Redwood

  • Location: California
  • Established: October 2, 1968
  • About: Redwood National Park is not only home to the tallest trees in the world but also the diverse ecosystems that allow them to grow. Visitors can find beaches, rivers, prairies, estuaries, and, of course, forests in this park.
  • Why we love it: This park protects redwoods that are quintessential America – just think of the lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land” – gotta love it!

Rocky Mountain

  • Location: Colorado
  • Established: January 26, 1915
  • About: Positioned on the Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular destination for hikers, mountain climbers, wildlife spotting, and skiers. Though this park is only 415 square miles, visitors flock to explore this American treasure.
  • Why we love it: The park has things to do for visitors of all adventure levels – from scenic drives with amazing views to climbing Longs Peak.

Saguaro

  • Location: Arizona
  • Established: October 14, 1994
  • About: Saguaro National Park is located near Tucson, Arizona, with the Rincon Mountains to the east and Tucson Mountains to the west. The park offers miles of hiking to explore the desert scrub and see the park’s namesake, but be careful of the 100+ degree temperatures in the summer.
  • Why we love it: When you think of the desert Southwest, you can’t help but think of cactus, and this park is the place to see the giant saguaro cacti.
  • Did You Know? A giant saguaro cactus can grow to be over 40 feet tall!

Sequoia

  • Location: California
  • Established: September 25, 1890
  • About: The boundaries of Sequoia National Park include the Giant Forest, which is home to some of the world’s largest trees. But beyond the famous trees, the park has caves to explore, trails to hike, and granite rock faces to climb.
  • Why we love it: This park holds a few records: The General Sherman is the largest single stem tree in the world, and Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.

Shenandoah

  • Location: Virginia
  • Established: May 22, 1926
  • About: Shenandoah National Park is located 75 miles outside of Washington DC in the Blue Ridge Mountains. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails and plenty of wildlife, this park is the perfect spot for people to escape city life and enjoy nature.
  • Why we love it: “It’s in my backyard here in Virginia! A hike through the park’s many trails (including the Appalachian Trail) leads visitors through carpets of ferns and native flowers, and past stunning waterfalls and streams. The park’s many rivers are home to native Eastern brook trout and offer some of the best (and most challenging!) fly fishing on the East Coast. Old Rag Mountain is a strenuous and technical hike that will give even the best athletes a challenge! But the 360 degree views at the top are well worth the effort!” – Brownell Independent Advisor Susan Whitson
  • Did You Know? Shenandoah is also home to the original “Camp David.” Rapidan Camp was the rustic retreat for President Hoover which he had built in Shenandoah National Park at the headwaters of the Rapidan so he could trout fish and escape the pressures of DC. Today, visitors can still go inside the “Brown House” where the Hoovers hosted and entertained distinguished guests of the day, including inventor Thomas A. Edison.

Theodore Roosevelt

  • Location: North Dakota
  • Established: November 10, 1978
  • About: Named after President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the most notorious conservationists, this national park protects the badlands that he visited in his youth. The park is open year-round, but some of the roads close in the winter due to snow.
  • Why we love it: The park is home to Roosevelt’s historic cabin and lot of wildlife, including big horn sheep, bison, and wild horses. (Go ahead and blast the Rolling Stone’s Wild Horses while cruising down one of the park’s scenic drives.)
St. John, US Virgin Islands

St. John, US Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands

  • Location: United States Virgin Islands
  • Established: August 2, 1956
  • About: Virgin Islands National Park is a tropical paradise! It covers much of St. John and Hassel Island. Besides the pristine beaches, coral reefs, and gorgeous water, the park has archaeological sites and sugar plantation ruins to explore.
  • Why we love it: Whether you want to relax in the beautiful Caribbean or explore, the park has something for any beach-lover. The beautiful turquoise water against the lush green islands is post-card perfect, and the weather is great just about all year.

Voyageurs

  • Location: Minnesota
  • Established: January 8, 1971
  • About: Voyageurs National Park protects lakes and forests near the Canadian border. It is named for the French fur traders that were the first Europeans to settle in this area. The park has many bird species and is great for fishing.
  • Why we love it: No matter the season, this park has something to do. In the winter, try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing; in the warmer months, hike and camp. And of course, explore the area by boat, kayak, or canoe!

Wind Cave

  • Location: South Dakota
  • Established: January 9, 1903
  • About: This park is home to the third longest cave in the United States. Beneath the forest and the prairie is an intricate cave system. Wind Cave features boxwork, rare calcite formations. Rangers lead visitors through the caves during day tours, and in the summer visitors can see the caves by candlelight.
  • Why we love it: This park really lends meaning to the phrase “there’s more than meets the eye.” While American bison and elk wander through the park’s forests, below the surface there is an extensive network of caves.

Wrangell-St. Elias

  • Location: Alaska
  • Established: December 2, 1980
  • About: Covering more than 13 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest in America’s National Park System. It contains four mountain ranges and a quarter of the park is covered in glaciers. Visitors can backpack, hike, and raft in this vast park.
  • Why we love it: The parks has some of North America’s tallest mountains and volcanoes, and the beautiful vistas will make you stop in your tracks.
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone

  • Location: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
  • Established: March 1, 1872
  • About: Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. With so many diverse geological features like Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, protecting this slice of the country for generations to come is so important. Visitors flock to this park from all over the world, and the summer can be quite crowded.
  • Why we love it: Wildlife and geysers and waterfalls – oh my! Yellowstone has so much to see and do that you can’t just plan a quick trip to this national gem. Hike, drive, fish, camp, backpack, and bike in the park, and experience it from different vantage points.

Yosemite

  • Location: California
  • Established: October 1, 1980
  • About: The natural, breathtaking beauty of Yosemite must be experienced in person. Granite cliffs, huge sequoias, towering waterfalls, and verdant meadows beckon millions to this park every year. Experienced rock climbers flock to the rock formations Half Dome and El Capitan, but the park has low key adventures for visitors as well.
  • Why we love it: In the late 1800s when overgrazing and logging threatened this area, people like John Muir realized the importance of preserving it. Today, visitors can appreciate the beautiful scenery just like the original conservationists.
  • Insider Tip: “Visit in the spring when the waterfalls are strong and loud.” – Brownell Independent Advisor Rebecca Falkenberry
Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion

  • Location: Utah
  • Established: November 19, 1919
  • About: Zion National Park is at the intersection of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert. It features a unique landscape of colorful sandstone cliffs, natural rock arches, and forests. Explore the park on one of the park’s free shuttle buses. Visitors can also backpack through the park – just be sure enroll in the lottery because the protected wilderness limits the number of people.
  • Why we love it: “The geology is just so different from what you see elsewhere.” – Megan Robertson, assistant to Brownell Independent Advisor Louisa Gehring