Every summer, millions of people from all over the world flock to United States National Parks. More people are off school and on vacation, so it makes sense why summer is the busiest season for the majority of national parks here in the U.S. Summer beckons with beautiful landscapes of wondrous colors, plenty of wild animal sightings, moderate weather, and memorable cabin adventures with our families. Visiting all 63 parks in one summer is a big undertaking, that’s why this list will help narrow down the top 6 places to visit during this 2023 summer season.
Top U.S. National Parks to Visit
Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado
Rocky Mountain, named “Land of the Extremes!” by the National Park Service, gets its name from its diverse and distinct topography. You can visit glistening alpine lakes, wooded forests, towering mountain peaks, and rolling tundra. The weather during the summer is the best because of the access to sunshine and clear blue skies. However, due to its topography, the park can experience extreme weather patterns. Visitors note that this park has an ethereal and whimsical atmosphere. Visit Rocky Mountain for just a day, or several, and you’ll surely fall in love.
- Wildlife watching and photography
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
One can’t forget about Alaska. Given that it has a short summer season and 24-hour daylight, Denali is clearly the park you need to visit this summer. The name “Denali” actually comes from Koyukon native language which means “The Great One.” This park, which encompasses a preserve area, is one of the country’s largest national parks at about 6 million acres. It also holds a claim to fame for being home to North America’s tallest mountain, also known as Denali. You will discover not only sheer solitude in this national park from the largely untouched areas, but many animals that are unique to the area. If you visit this summer, take advantage of the bus options to access the more secluded parts.
- Wide expanses of solitude and unique animals to witness
Crater Lake National Park – Oregon
Crater Lake gets its name because it was previously formed by a volcano that erupted and then collapsed. What is now left leaves visitors awe-struck by the magnitude of the emptiness from that collapsing. Crater Lake has the country’s deepest lake, which is popular for diving. Boat tours are also popular here, as well as other warm-weather activities for the water. The stark contrast between the changing landscapes tends to leave visitors dazed by the sheer beauty of this Oregon gem. It’s definitely a sight that you don’t want to miss.
- Epic dives and jaw-dropping scenery
Acadia National Park, Maine
The history of Acadia began long ago with the Wabanaki people, who co-existed with their surroundings and shared the spirit of interconnectedness with the land. Acadia to this day holds a rich cultural heritage that drives preservation efforts. With striking scenery, from dreamy coastal waters to cobble beaches and granite domes, there’s a lot to see at this park. Acadia has the longest coastline in the country, as well as the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline in the U.S. It also covers about 50,000 acres of land. The best time to visit is during the summer to take advantage of all the water activities like kayaking and sailing.
- Lots of biking trails and hosts an annual “Night Sky Festival”
Glacier National Park – Montana
Although Glacier is arguably the busiest national park during summer, it’s a park that one must visit during the summer. Glacier National Park aptly derives its name from the mountains that were carved into their present forms by glaciers of the last ice age. There is significant snowfall in winter, and since snow needs time to melt, most of the park doesn’t come “alive” until summer when more of the landscapes can be seen. With that being said, summer itself is a shorter season because of all the snow. Upon visiting Glacier National Park you’ll come across drives and hikes full of wildflowers, waterfalls, rivers, and mountain ranges. Going-to-the-Sun road is a must for every visitor, but remember to plan ahead since it requires vehicle registrations, which are different from park passes.
- Has over 700 miles of hiking trails and home to the endangered bull trout
Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming
This park is just south of Yellowstone and is often overshadowed by its neighbor’s popularity. Grand Teton National Park is named after the mountain range that divides Wyoming from Idaho. It is a peaceful and tranquil park that isn’t as crowded as Yellowstone. It has such a pristine ecosystem that the same species of flora and fauna that existed since prehistoric times can still be found in the park. You will also find crystal-clear lakes and stunning views from all areas. Summer brings with it moderate temps, with occasional thunderstorms, and abundant wildlife. Bask in the beauty of the Teton Mountains and find yourself meandering through the thickets of forests at this national park.
- Home to cougars and bison, also great for mountaineering
Life is short, and so is summer. So take advantage of the lovely weather and visit some of these national parks while you still can. Make sure you and your adventure buddies pack adequate hydration, sunscreen, bug spray, camping gear, and bear spray. Go to the National Park Service’s website for more information on weather, reservations, and park-related alerts. It’s always a great idea to plan ahead, especially for camping reservations during these busy months. They say the best adventurer is the one that’s most prepared.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Caleb Fisher, Stephen Meyers, Ryo Chiba, Harold Wainwright, Vlad Shapochnikov, Dave Herring, and Brady Stoeltzing on Unsplash