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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We asked about your favorite national parks, and Travel Channel Facebook fans responded. First up: Acadia National Park in Maine where you can be one of the first people in the US to see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. 960 1280

Oscar Gutierrez  

Badlands National Park in South Dakota is partly managed by the Oglala Lokata tribe and includes 'Red Shirt Table,' the park's highest point at 3,340 feet. 960 1280

  

Zion National Park in Utah is known for canyons, wildlife, rivers and natural arches like the one pictured here. 960 1280

  

Rim Trail's elevation varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet leading to Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. 960 1280

  

Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon in Arizona was one of the first national parks in the United States. 960 1280

  

View from Clingman's Dome, the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Despite being at 6,643 feet, it offers a relatively easy, paved path to the observation tower. 960 1280

  

Sunrise view of Long's Peak from Trail Ridge Road, which runs through the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. 960 1280

  

Wild Goose Island in Saint Mary Lake, the second-largest lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. The park ranges from prairie to tundra, but only 25 active glaciers remain of the estimated 150 that existed in the mid-19th century. 960 1280

  

The second runner-up? Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Valley makes up only 1% of the park area, but this is where most visitors arrive and stay. 960 1280

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Known for its wildlife and geysers such as Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park was the fan favorite by far. Here the Great Fountain Geyser erupts on a perfect, sunny day. 960 1280

  

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

  

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

  

Yellowstone National Park has 2.2 million steamy acres that include the well renowned Old Faithful geyser. 960 1280

  

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

  

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. 960 1280

  

Colorado's Great Sand Dunes, 10-to-100-thousands of years old, are said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. 960 1280

  

This $10,000 UFO watchtower looks over the Great Sand Dunes National Park. There have been allegedly 54 UFO sightings since the watchtower was built in 2000. 960 1280

  

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

  

Bigfoot has been rumored to walk through the majestic Yosemite National Park, but Dr. Jeffery Meldrum says there's proof, including his casts of the mythical monster's footprints. 960 1280

  

Check out this collection of skulls, including a human, bear and Gigantopithecus, a scientifically recognized species, but not body has ever been found, like Bigfoot. 960 1280

  

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

  

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

  

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

  

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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