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

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Founded in 1890 as one of the first federal parks, Rock Creek is an oasis of natural solace and beauty within our nation's capital, in the northwest part of the district. 960 1280

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Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Less than a hundred miles from the city, visitors can begin their trip to Shenandoah by cruising on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains along Skyline Drive. 960 1280

Jon Bilous / iStock  

Shenandoah's Old Rag Mountain

Shenandoah's Old Rag Mountain

One of the Shenandoah'€™s most popular day hikes is summiting Old Rag Mountain. Old Rag's exposed rocky summit beckons outdoor photography, though some may be more inclined after hiking it to just enjoy the view. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

Shenandoah for Fall Color

Shenandoah for Fall Color

The best time to visit Shenandoah is during fall when the leaves of the forests turn red, brown and gold. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay

Traveling through the largest estuary in North America can take visitors through significant cities, colonial towns, farms, and fishing villages where they can kayak, fish, sample seafood or simply slow down to take in the scenery. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

Vital Waters

Vital Waters

Traveling through the largest estuary in North America can take visitors through significant cities, colonial towns, farms, and fishing villages where they can kayak, fish, sample seafood or simply slow down to take in the scenery. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

A kayak or canoe is the best way to explore Blackwater's wetlands and to glimpse the bald eagle in its natural habitat. This protected area southeast of D.C. and across the Chesapeake Bay is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 960 1280

iStock  

Colonial Parkway

Colonial Parkway

This 23-mile scenic byway connects Jamestowne, Williamsburg and Yorktown, the three points which make up Virginia's Historic Triangle. 960 1280

iStock  

George Washington National Forest

George Washington National Forest

Managed by the National Forest Service, this forest and the Jefferson National Forest together form one of the largest stretches of public land in the Eastern U.S. Vast tracts of forested mountain terrain make the trails of this national forest a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, and especially trail running. 960 1280

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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

Getty Images  

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  

Gem Hunter's Paradise

Gem Hunter's Paradise

Covering over 275 square miles, White Sands National Monument is the world’s largest gypsum dune field. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is a paradise for stargazers. The park is so remote that light pollution is among the lowest in the entire US. Here, you can clearly see the Milky Way and a shooting star! Visit photographer Nick Parisse’s website to see more of his photos. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Chisos Mountains

Chisos Mountains

High in the Chisos Mountains, a hiker surveys the land as he decides which trail to take. Big Bend is often referred to as “3 parks in one” because of its size and diverse environments -- mountains, desert and river. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Chihuahuan Desert

Chihuahuan Desert

The Chihuahuan Desert, one of the wettest in North America, has dense shrubbery that blankets the Chisos Basin. Here, the sun begins to set behind the mountains as a cold front moves in. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Backcountry Critter

Backcountry Critter

A tarantula makes its way across a backcountry trail in Big Bend National Park, TX. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Pinnacles Trail

Pinnacles Trail

Cacti cover a meadow along the Pinnacles trail in Big Bend National Park. Fall temperatures are mild, and colorful flora is still blooming in the winter. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Rio Grande

Rio Grande

A narrow stretch of the Rio Grande acts as a natural border between the US and Mexico. This view from Santa Elena Canyon, located in the southern region of the park, shows the US on the left and Mexico on the right. The Chisos Mountains are also visible in the distance. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Even on an overcast day, the sun still finds a way to illuminate the mountains. This photo was taken on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

The Big Room

The Big Room

A cluster of stalactites hang from the ceiling of “The Big Room” in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Cozy Home for Bats

Cozy Home for Bats

With a little natural light, this is a view from inside Carlsbad Caverns. In the summer months the caverns are home to thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Stunning Stalagmites

Stunning Stalagmites

Light shines on the cavern floor and ceiling, providing visitors with a view of huge stalagmites that can take thousands of years to form. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Scenic Walkway

Scenic Walkway

Visitors get an amazing view of this scenery along a walkway that turns into the entrance of the deepest part of Carlsbad Caverns -- nearly 750 feet deep. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Mineral Deposits

Mineral Deposits

Massive mineral deposits mushroom up from the floor of the caverns. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Natural Cavern Entrance

Natural Cavern Entrance

The natural entrance to the caverns is a paved switchback trail leading visitors underground to discover numerous geological wonders. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Stargazer's Heaven

Stargazer's Heaven

Even the light from a full moon and a few passing clouds couldn’t diminish the clarity of the stars in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in Salt Flat, TX. Stargazers should add this park to their must-see list. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of America’s least-visited parks. It’s hard to understand why with unobstructed views like this. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Tejas Trail

Tejas Trail

Visible on the left, the sun lights up the switchbacks along the mountainside on Tejas Trail. The strenuous 10-mile, round-trip hike offers visitors some of the most beautiful views in the park. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Devil's Hall Hike

Devil's Hall Hike

The spectacular hike into “Devil’s Hall” brings visitors around mountains and through a dry river channel. In an effort not to unnecessarily detract from the natural views, rock cairns act as trail markers. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Devil's Hall

Devil's Hall

Here’s a view from “Devil’s Hall” as the path narrows. “Hiker’s Staircase” is visible in the foreground. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Epic Mountain View

Epic Mountain View

This is one of many mountain views visitors will encounter while on a backcountry hike through Guadalupe Mountains National Park. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument offers visitors several recreational activities, including picnicking, hiking, camping, scenic drives and sledding. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Morning at Monument

Morning at Monument

The sun breaks through the clouds on an early morning in White Sands National Monument. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Capoeira on a Dune

Capoeira on a Dune

A well-traversed dune is the perfect place for this traveler to occupy his time and practice the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

National Park Camping

National Park Camping

It’s time to pack up camp and move along as the sun rises. White Sands offers backcountry camping for guests who want to sleep under the stars. Visit Nick Parisse’s website to see more of his photos. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

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