Top 10 National Park Activities

Our national park system invites visitors to choose their own adventures in the most beautiful spots in the U.S. Here's our selection for the most exciting and unusual national park activities including sandboarding, spelunking and more.

Photos

Alaska Railroad's Coastal Classic

Alaska Railroad's Coastal Classic

Hop aboard the Coastal Classic in Anchorage for a scenic four-hour ride to Kenai Fjords National Park. Along the coast you'll pass a stretch of Cook Inlet known as the Turnagain Arm, before greeting the snow-capped Kenai Mountains. 960 1280

By Frank Kovalchek from Anchorage, Alaska, USA (Our Alaska Railroad train to Spencer Glacier) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Alaska Railroad's Coastal Classic

Alaska Railroad's Coastal Classic

After a series of tunnels and a harrowing single-track switch, it's onward through the land of glassy lakes, waterfalls and glaciers to the end of the line in Seward. 960 1280

By Nils Öberg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway

Your 65-mile, two-hour journey to the Grand Canyon on this vintage steam train starts in Williams, Ariz. 960 1280

By DXR (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway

Coach seats are bench style in Pullman cars from the roaring 1920s, the club car has a mahogany bar, first class enjoys captain-style seats, and a double-decker dome car offers passengers a bird's-eye view. 960 1280

By Drew Jacksich [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Amtrak's Empire Builder

Amtrak's Empire Builder

This giant diesel-engine locomotive begins its journey at Chicago's Union Station and runs west along the original route of the Great Northern Railway to Glacier National Park in Montana. 960 1280

Douglas Rahden [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons  

Amtrak's Empire Builder

Amtrak's Empire Builder

During the next two days, you'll stop at the Glacier Park Lodge & Resort, the  Historic Belton Chalet and the Izaak Walton Inn. 960 1280

By Andrew Balet (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Coast Starlight

Coast Starlight

The Coast Starlight travels the coast between Los Angeles' and Seattle. The first park on the route is the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area with over 153,000 acres of beaches, mountains and a working movie set, Paramount Ranch. Klamath Falls, Ore., is the jumping off point to visit Crater Lake National Park. The train stops at Portland's historic Union Station before ending in Seattle, an hour and 45-minute drive to Mt. Rainier National Park 960 1280
Coast Starlight

Coast Starlight

First-class ticket holders can enjoy the luxurious Parlor Car, and there's also a car designated just for kids. 960 1280

By donielle (Flickr: pacific parlour car) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Alaska Railroad's Denali Star

Alaska Railroad's Denali Star

Your 7 1/2-hour trip to Denali National Park on this refurbished blue-and-yellow train begins in Anchorage. 960 1280

By Nils Öberg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Alaska Railroad's Denali Star

Alaska Railroad's Denali Star

Equipped with a dome car, a fine dining car and student tour guides, the Denali Star travels through seven tunnels and over 8 miles of bridges. Other stops include Wasilla, Talkeetna, Nenana and Fairbanks. 960 1280

By Len Turner from Lufkin, TX, USA (Alaska 02-013Uploaded by Arsenikk) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

Just 35 miles northwest of San Francisco, Point Reyes is a popular escape for hiking one of its many trails and kayaking the shores of Tomales Bay and the coast. It's also known for wildlife -- making it one of the best places for bird watching and spotting Northern Elephant Seals (during winter months). 960 1280

Getty Images   

Juan Bautista de Anza Trail

Juan Bautista de Anza Trail

The Mission San Antonio de Padua was founded in 1771 and is a designated stop on the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail. In 1775, Anza led more than 240 men, women and children from Nogales, AZ, to settle in San Francisco. 960 1280

Ed Bierman, flickr  

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Sunlight shines through 240 acres of Coastal Redwood trees at Muir Woods, 12 miles north of San Francisco, and one of the few remaining forests in the Bay Area. 960 1280

Justin Kern, flickr  

Fort Point

Fort Point

Constructed during the height of the California Gold Rush, Fort Point's master masonry has been called "the pride of the Pacific." Overlooking the majestic Golden Gate, Fort Point protected the San Francisco harbor from attack during and after the Civil War. 960 1280

California Bear, flickr  

Port Chicago Naval Magazine

Port Chicago Naval Magazine

WWII's worst homefront disaster took place on the evening of July 17, 1944, when 320 Americans were instantly killed by an explosion of 2 ships loaded with ammunition. Reservations are required to visit the site and must be made at least 2 weeks before your visit to the Memorial. 960 1280

Bruce C. Johnson Jr.  

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

The infamous federal prison often overshadows the natural side of "The Rock," but whether you go for the fort's storied history, the West Coast's oldest operating lighthouse or unmatched Bay views -- it's worth the ferry ride. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Golden Gate National Rec Area

Golden Gate National Rec Area

How's this for impressive statistics: The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the largest urban parks in the world with nearly 60 miles of California coastline, over 13 million visitors a year and no access fees. Of course, the crown jewel of the Bay area's "backyard" -- and its most beautiful and recognizable landmark -- is the bridge itself. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site

Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site

Tao House, located in Danville, CA, is the Monterey Colonial hillside home of America's only Nobel Prize winning playwright, Eugene O'Neill. While O'Neill and his wife only lived in the home for 7 years, it was where he wrote his final and most memorable plays: The Iceman Cometh, Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten. 960 1280

Eugene O’Neill Foundation  

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

“Moraine Lake – known as one of the most photographed places in Canada – is a glacially-fed lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. I took this photo during a production shoot for a Shaw TV segment where I chatted with them about my passion for the Great Outdoors.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

“Moraine Lake reflects a very distinct shade of blue because of the refraction of light off the rock flour that is continuously deposited in the lake.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park

Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park

Lake Minnewanka, which means ‘water of the spirits,’ is a glacial lake and is the longest in the mountain parks of the Canadian Rockies. 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park

Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park

“Located in Banff National Park, Two Jack Lake is my favorite place in Alberta to capture the vast number of colors seen along the horizon at sunrise.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Vermillion Lakes, Banff National Park

Vermillion Lakes, Banff National Park

“With Mount Rundle as its backdrop, Vermillion Lakes offer some of the most picturesque views in all of Alberta. It is a short jaunt from my home town of Calgary.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Johnson Canyon, Banff National Park

Johnson Canyon, Banff National Park

“This photo was taken at Johnson Canyon – one of the most popular places for ice climbers in the winter.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Johnson Canyon, Banff National Park

Johnson Canyon, Banff National Park

“When the water began freezing at Johnson Canyon, I was able to capture some of the most spectacular views the Canadian Rockies.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park

Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park

“I learned that there’s nothing better than a serene kayaking experience on the calm waters of Patricia Lake.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park

Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park

“I've heard about the mind-blowing the beauty of Athabasca Falls, but seeing it in person is better than I expected. I have a very deep respect for this place.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Whistlers Mountain, Jasper National Park

Whistlers Mountain, Jasper National Park

“A rainbow breaks through the clouds just as I got to the top of Whistlers Mountain. Jasper National Park has the SkyTram that takes visitors up – approximately 4278 feet – to see the entire countryside, which includes the town of Jasper.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park

Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park

“Waking up at 5 am to catch Sunrise at Patricia Lake in Jasper National Park never looked so good.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Athabasca Glacier Ice Cave, Jasper National Park

Athabasca Glacier Ice Cave, Jasper National Park

“While on the Columbia Icefield, I hiked to the Athabasca Glacier to see my first ice cave. Due to warmer temperatures over the past decade, the glacier is melting, which meant visiting the ice cave was on the top of my must-see list.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park

In Jasper National Park, Maligne Lake is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy fishing, hiking, canoeing or kayaking. 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Waterton Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park

“While on my Badlands Expedition during the past summer (2015), I had the opportunity to visit Waterton Lake and I felt like I was in Jurassic Park.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park

Built in the late 1920s, the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel is overlooks the Waterton Lake. Named after the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), the hotel was built to lure American tourists north of the border during the prohibition era. 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

“One day I drove past Lake Louise and randomly stumbled upon this stunning reflection on Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.” 960 1280

Dax Justin  

Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park

"On my Columbia Valley Expedition, I skied off the summit of 8,000-foot-tall Panorama Mountain and para-glided down to the base. This was one of the best moments of my life and the snow-dusted trees below were a sight I will never forget." 960 1280

Dax Justin  

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