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

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 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  

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Four million tourists flock to Yosemite National Park every year.  Tenaya Canyon is the park's spookiest spot. In 1851, American soldiers fought with Native Americans. Chief Tenaya cursed the canyon after his son will killed in combat. Check out California's Olmstead Point, a rock cliff with a beautiful vantage point over the dangerous Tenaya Canyon and Half Dome. 960 1280

Tim Messick, iStock  

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Bridalveil Falls, located in Wyoming's Yosemite National Park, is 1 of the only waterfalls that run all year. A Native American legend claims that whispers from the waterfall draw people in; so, they drop over the edge of the falls. 960 1280

GomezDavid, iStock  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Several tourists claim to hear eerie whispers from the Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.  Find out whether the lake really gives up its dead. Stay at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel, the oldest building in the park, and the only hotel situated around the lake. 960 1280

1001gece, iStock  

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Looking for adventure? Head to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Alamosa, CO. It's the largest natural sand dune in the US, with a surprising array of wilderness and wild animals. 960 1280

zrfphoto, iStock  

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

A UFO Watchtower, started by Judy Messoline, was built near The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, in Hooper, CO. Some psychics claim that the area has 2 large vortexes, portals to a parallel universe. There have been allegedly 54 UFO sightings since the watchtower was built in 2000. 960 1280

Shelley Dennis, chapin31, iStock  

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Colorado's Great Sand Dunes, 10-to-100-thousands of years old, are said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. Government officials say military equipment testing may be the real explanation behind the unexplained UFO sightings seen near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. 960 1280

zrfphoto, iStock  

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Bigfoot has been rumored to walk through the majestic Yosemite National Park. 960 1280

shyflygirl, iStock  

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is 1 of the 7 natural wonders of the world, drawing 5 million visitors a year.  This photo, taken from Desert View Watchtower, is a great vantage point to watch the sun rise and set. Maverick Helicopter Tour Company provides tourists with a bird's-eye-view of the canyon for $125 to $250 per person. 960 1280

egument, iStock  

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Some tourists, visiting Grand Canyon National Park, think ghosts of the 128 passengers killed in a multiple commercial flight crash in June 1956, still haunt the park. The unfortunate crash did spark the start of flight safety measures, including the formation of the FAA, a national radar system and the invention of the cockpit voice recorder. 960 1280

miralex, iStock  

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Budding naturalists feel right at home at Rocky Mountain National Park where the kids can join in on short, family-friendly hikes around the park. Bring along a magnifying glass to explore the plants, leaves and bugs during a stroll around Bear Lake. 960 1280
Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Pack binoculars to get a close-up of Albert’s squirrels scurrying around the ponderosa pine forests or bighorn sheep spending a summer day at Sheep Lakes. Kids can scramble up rocks along the trail to Gem Lake or search the water under the bridge for beavers along the Beaver Boardwalk. 960 1280

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

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

Young adventurers travel deep underground to explore one of the many caves at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Children must be 4 or older to participate in a basic cave tour of the Big Room. Brave souls over 12 can shimmy and crawl through a maze of narrow entryways and tunnels at Spider Cave. 960 1280
Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

Check out the resident wildlife outside of the cave during the Bat Flight program, a free summertime special when nearly 400,000 Brazilian free-tail bats fly from Carlsbad Cavern at sunset to search for an insect-filled dinner. 960 1280
Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park caters to 8- to 12-year-olds with daily Junior Ranger programs throughout the park. Rangers keep kids busy with stories, artwork, kid-friendly hikes and scavenger hunts to uncover secrets around the park. 960 1280
Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

The whole gang can enjoy family-friendly activities including the fire and ice cruise around Colter Bay to learn about the park’s ecology, including the glaciers and towering mountains. 960 1280

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

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park has laid down the law on the many ways that kids should enjoy themselves in the park, summarized in the Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights. Take note of this decree, and plan for family fun in every corner of the park. Pack the bikes and helmets for a ride along the carriage road system -- flat scenic paths that are made for a 2-wheeler (training wheels optional) or the chubby tires of a jogging stroller. 960 1280

By heipei from Deutschland (Acadia National Park, ME) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Head to the shore to enjoy a cool ocean breeze and search for marine life in the shallow tide pools. Set sail on a ranger-narrated cruise including the Dive-In Theater Cruise from May through October where real-time video technology allows passengers to watch scuba divers search the ocean floor for marine life that is then brought onboard for impromptu touch-tank experiences. 960 1280

By Erin McDaniel Erinmcd (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

America’s first national park welcomes visitors to check out the hot springs, steaming geysers and extraordinary wildlife, including grizzlies, bison and elk. With the park spread out over a sprawling 2.2 million acres, it’s impossible to experience all the fun at once. 960 1280

Michael H Spivak/Moment/Getty Images  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

As a family, decide on the highlights to experience, like the legendary geyser Old Faithful and the wildlife-viewing at Lamar Valley. Families with children over 8 can enjoy a 2-hour horseback ride to the cookout while families with little ones can ride into the sunset aboard a horse-drawn covered wagon. 960 1280

Adam Long Sculpture / iStock / Thinkstock  

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Don’t worry if you’re more of a beach person than a woodsy type: There’s a national park experience waiting for your family at the national seashore at Cape Hatteras. This protected seashore is made up of narrow barrier islands along the beloved Outer Banks. Celebrate the past with a climb up a lighthouse or an evening of pirate tales with a park ranger. 960 1280

By Madhatter987 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

There are miles of beaches for swimming, shelling, kite-flying or just chilling out and reading a book. Cruise the beach on foot or in an off-road vehicle that allows cars to leave behind the paved roads and drive the sandy shores. 960 1280
Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Biscayne welcomes families with the free Family Fun Fest program, a celebration of the park’s wonders with stories, superheroes and cool park activities. The festivities take place on the second Saturday of each month from December to April. But don’t fret if you miss the fest as there are still plenty of opportunities for family-bonding in the park. 960 1280
Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Look for some of the park’s cool creatures, including manatees, sea turtles and fish galore, during a snorkeling adventure or kid-friendly ride on a glass-bottom boat. 960 1280

By John Brooks, National Park Service photographer (http://www.nps.gov/bisc/images/20060905140916.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  

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