Top 10 National Park Activties

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

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Deer are among the many animals you can spot in Washington's Olympic National Park. 960 1280

  

Owls may also give you a long look in Olympic National Park. 960 1280

  

Bighorn sheep are among the largest animals in Montana's Glacier National Park. 960 1280

  

Watch out! In Florida's Everglades National Park, the crocodiles have big mouths. 960 1280

  

For elk-watching, you can't go wrong at Glacier, Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park. 960 1280

  

There are many places to see moose. Try Yellowstone, Katmai, King Salmon, Grand Teton, Isle Royale or Denali National Park 960 1280

  

Golden Eagles soar at Olympic National Park. 960 1280

  

Go north to Glacier Bay or Katmai National Park in Alaska for a sea otter fix. 960 1280

  

Grizzly bears and their cubs hang out in Denali, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks. 960 1280

  

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are the places to go for bison-watching. 960 1280

  

Caribou roam at Katmai and Denali National Parks. 960 1280

  

Crater Lake Lodge reclines along the edge of the caldera in Oregon's Crater Lake National Park. 960 1280

  

A coat of snow surrounds the almost 4,000-foot-deep Crater Lake. 960 1280

Crater Lake Lodge  

The Furnace Creek Inn offers a refuge from the extremes of Death Valley National Park. 960 1280

Furnace Creek Inn  

The harsh but beautiful landscape of Furnace Creek. 960 1280

Furnace Creek Inn  

The view from the lobby of the Furnace Creek Inn. 960 1280

Furnace Creek Inn  

The spacious lobby of the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park. 960 1280

NPS Photo by Jim Peaco  

Guests at the Old Faithful Inn take in the view from the roof. 960 1280

NPS Photo by Jim Peaco  

Old Faithful herself puts on a show every 80 minutes. 960 1280

  

The Ahwahnee Hotel makes a good home base for visitors of Yosemite National Park. 960 1280

Delaware North Companies  

The inviting lounge at the Ahwahnee Hotel. 960 1280

Delaware North Companies  

Photos

Bass Head Lighthouse

Bass Head Lighthouse

Acadia National Park is the first US National Park built east of the Mississippi River. Bass Harbor Lighthouse (pictured), located on Mount Desert Island, was built in 1858. Head here for a quiet getaway with picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean. 960 1280

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Acadia's Islands

Acadia's Islands

More than 2 million people visit Acadia National Park each year. According to the US National Park Service, the average visitor spends 3 to 4 days in the area, which allows some time to visit some of the small islands that are also part of majestic national park. 960 1280

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Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Travel like the President, and visit Bar Harbor, ME. Put on your best walking shoes, and take a hike up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. 960 1280

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Biking Near Somes Sound

Biking Near Somes Sound

Go biking on a scenic park road by Somes Sound, a body of water that runs deep into Mount Desert Island. The sound almost splits the island in 2, and is often described as the “only fjord on the East Coast.” 960 1280

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Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond

As beautiful as it might seem, outdoor enthusiasts and their pets are not allowed to wade in the clear waters of Jordon Pond. Some types of boating are permitted in the pond, which sits between the Penobscot Mountain and 2 mountains known as the “Bubbles.” 960 1280

Maine Office of Tourism  

Bass Harbor

Bass Harbor

Visit Bass Harbor, ME, a serene fishing village located on the southwest section of Mount Desert Island. And if you’re looking for lobster, you’ve hit a goldmine. This well-protected natural harbor ranks as one of the most lucrative lobster-producing ports in Maine. 960 1280

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Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole

Experience the crack of the waves as they slam into the rocky shores of a small inlet called Thunder Hole. Water is forced out of the end of the inlet -- a small cavern -- which creates a water spout as high as 40 feet and thunderous roar. 960 1280

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Carriage Road Bridges

Carriage Road Bridges

This is just one of Acadia National Park’s Carriage Road stone bridges. Don’t look for any car traffic on these bridges. The 57-mile network are free of motor vehicles, but hikers, bikers, horseback riders, cross-country skiers, and limited snowmobile activities are allowed. The bridges are made from the granite found on Mount Desert Island. 960 1280

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Kayaking on Long Pond

Kayaking on Long Pond

Go kayaking, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along on Long Pond. There are 2 Long Ponds. “Little” Long Pond is located west of the Seal Harbor. This area is located outside of the park, and it is great place for a scenic walk. The larger Long Pond -- sometimes referred to as “Great” Long Pond -- is further west of Somes Sound and Echo Lake. 960 1280

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Acadia's Luxury Homes

Acadia's Luxury Homes

Explore the area near and around Arcadia National Park. Take a short road trip, and gawk at some of the amazing luxury home along the road. 960 1280

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Rocky Cliff Climbing

Rocky Cliff Climbing

Climb to new heights! Visit Acadia National Park for awe-inspiring sea-cliff climbing. Experienced climbers must register in logbooks at Otter Cliffs’ South Wall of the Precipice and Canada Cliffs. Great Head offers some incredible and generally hard climbing over the ocean. But for beginners, we suggest you head to South Bubble. 960 1280

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Sand Beach

Sand Beach

Nestled in a small inlet between the granite mountains and rocky shores of Mount Desert Island, Sandy Beach’s water temperature rarely exceeds 55 degrees in the summer. Visitors can access the beach via the Park Loop Road -- just after the park fee entrance station on the northeastern side of the island. And if you don’t have wheels, the Island Explorer Shuttle Bus has a pickup and drop-off point at the beach, and it stops every half hour during the summer peak season. 960 1280

Maine Office of Tourism  

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

It's not likely you'll plan a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Gates of the Arctic National Park: It requires serious planning to venture into this wild Alaskan spot above the Arctic Circle. 960 1280

By National Park Service, Alaska Region (Remote river in Gates of the Arctic) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

The remote park is accessible by bush plane, air taxi and, for the truly hardcore, on foot. Hikers may approach the park from Dalton Highway, but there are multiple river crossings along the way and no trails. 960 1280
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Once in the park, visitors are rewarded with sweeping valleys and rugged mountains, the tallest rising 8,510 feet at Mount Igikpak at the headwaters of the Noatak River. 960 1280

By National Park Service, Alaska Region (Noatak River) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

Washington state has its share of glaciers with more than 300 mountain glaciers in North Cascades National Park. Get your bearings at any of the park's 6 visitor or service centers where maps and exhibit rooms can help you plan excursions.  960 1280

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

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

The Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a popular starting point for the 400 miles of trails that meander through the valleys and cut through the mountains with switchbacks and rocky terrain. 960 1280
North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

The mountains are dotted with the glaciers as well as more than 127 alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls. The most popular waterfalls can be found at Gorge Falls along State Route 20 in between Newhalem and Diablo and Rainbow Falls in Stehekin Valley. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park is a diverse spot with quiet deserts, caves and dense forests filled with 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. It's remarkable that this is one of the least-visited national parks, often dismissed as a wasteland. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Go underground at Lehman Caves, an ornate marble cave filled with stalactites, stalagmites and over 300 rare shield formations. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Stargazers will delight in the view from Great Basin, one of the darkest spots in the country after the sun goes down. You'll want to spend the night so you can marvel at the Milky Way and constellations in the deep night sky, a rare treat as light pollution blocks the view from many cities around the country. 960 1280
Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

The state of Florida gets hordes of visitors each year, but somehow Dry Tortugas plays host to only a small fraction of them. This cluster of 7 islands is just 70 miles west of Key West, but its quiet island pace sets it apart from its nearest neighbors. 960 1280

By Joe Parks from Berkeley, CA (Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

The waters around the islands are filled with coral reefs teeming with interesting marine life that are perfect for a snorkeling trip.  960 1280
Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

Scuba divers explore the Windjammer Wreck, a complete wreck site featuring an impressive sailing ship that sank in 1907. Back on the beach, sea turtles build nests in the sand where they lay their eggs along these protected sandy shores. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

Michigan's remote Isle Royale National Park is accessible only by boat or seaplane, so leave your car behind, and set sail from Houghton or Cooper Harbor in Michigan or Grand Portage in Minnesota. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

Once there, get ready for a day of backcountry hiking or navigating the lakes, bays and islands in a kayak or canoe. If you're not an experienced paddler, avoid the frigid water and possible squalls on a guided boat tour. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

To extend your trip, spend the night at the Rock Harbor Lodge, found in the island's northeast corner, with simple rooms and cottages overlooking the lake. 960 1280
Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Get lost exploring Point Reyes's narrow stretches of sand and over 1,500 protected species of plants and animals. 960 1280

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Golden Gate National Rec Area, California

Golden Gate National Rec Area, California

Go for the majestic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, stay for the people watching. Surfers, dog walkers, fishermen and moms with jogging strollers are all drawn to the beach at former airfield Crissy Field. 960 1280

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Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

Float down the Merced River when temps soar in the summer and pull off for a picnic at one of the 2 main beaches, Cathedral or Sentinel. 960 1280

  

Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands

Turquoise water and gleaming white beaches at a national park? That's what you'll find if you venture outside of the US. The Virgin Islands National Park is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Trunk Bay. 960 1280

Ben Whitney, Wikimedia Commons  

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

It's not easy to get to most Colorado River beaches, but consider a several-day rafting trip the highlight of your trip. Before you dive in you should know the water rarely gets above 60 degrees, but you probably won't mind in 100-degree heat. 960 1280

Al_HikesAZ, flickr  

Santa Monica Mountains National Rec Area, California

Santa Monica Mountains National Rec Area, California

Just 10 miles up the coast from Malibu, you'll find surfers, sunbathers and sea caves tucked along the rocky coasts and sandstone cliffs. 960 1280

Doug Dolde, Wikimedia Commons  

Glen Canyon National Rec Area, Utah/Arizona

Glen Canyon National Rec Area, Utah/Arizona

Set among the red rocks, Lake Powell is perfect for water sports and cruising around coves in your boat. 960 1280

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Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park, Washington

If you're not blown away by the rocky sea stacks at the Point of Arches, at low tide check out the glowing tidal pools full of neon pink anemones and orange sea stars. 960 1280

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Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Filled with lighthouses, quaint towns and picturesque beaches, Cape Cod is postcard-ready -- the only thing missing is you. 960 1280

Anne Homyak, flickr  

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

Home to the tallest US mountain on the Atlantic, the rocky coast of Maine lures people to hike granite peaks, observe the wildlife, bike historic carriage roads or simply relax in the resort town of Bar Harbor. 960 1280

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Assateague Island, Maryland

Assateague Island, Maryland

Assateague Island conjures up images of wild horses, salt marshes and sandy beaches -- and because it's a protected national seashore that's exactly what you'll find. 960 1280

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Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Most of Hawaii's national parks protect volcanoes, but Haleakala or "House of the Sun" also features a beach of basalt stones and breathtaking waterfalls. 960 1280

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Redwood National Park, California

Redwood National Park, California

A herd of Roosevelt elk is often seen in the meadow near the Gold Bluffs Beach campground in a 10-mile stretch of northwestern California beach and sand dunes. 960 1280

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Biscayne National Park, Florida

Biscayne National Park, Florida

Biscayne is for serious water lovers since it is made up of only 5% land -- mostly coral reefs and shoreline. 960 1280

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Channel Islands National Park, California

Channel Islands National Park, California

Getting away from it all will take roughly an hour on a catamaran from the Southern California mainland, but then you'll be free to kayak, snorkel or swim to your heart’s content. 960 1280

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Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cumberland Island is the largest sea island and home to the ruins of Dungeness Manor, originally constructed in 1803. 960 1280

Jon Dawson, flickr  

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