The Ultimate National Park Bucket List
Whether you’re a nature lover, an aspiring photographer or you just like to try new things, visiting national parks can be a great way to check off a fun experience in nature. We’re big nature lovers here at QALO because we know the importance of getting out there, seeing the world and recognizing the importance of natural habitats in sustaining our Earth. After traveling to some of the most amazing parks across the United States, we’ve put together the ultimate bucket list of national parks that will have you packing up and planning your next adventure.
Before You Go
Make sure you bring only the appropriate things on your trips to various national parks. Each one has its own unique climate and terrain, and you don’t want to be stuck trying to navigate it in the wrong footwear or hiking gear.
You’ll also want to leave all your valuables at home. Swap out your metal wedding bands for our durable silicone rings that will last through all your trips to the various nature parks. Keep your valuables locked away in a safe in your closet or under your bed to ensure that no one can access them. in case your home gets broken into while you’re away.
Board Your Dog
While it might seem tempting to bring your dog with you everywhere you go, there are some parks that are too far away for comfortable car travel. Putting your pet in cargo storage on a plane can endanger them, so it’s better for them to either stay with a relative or a friend than to go with you everywhere. Plus, not all hotels offer the option to bring your pet along, and some of the parks’ climates aren’t good for certain dog breeds. Keep your fur baby safe and healthy by having them stay at a local dog boarding service or letting them stay with grandma. Just make sure you pack your pet up with all the essentials: food, medicine and your silicone dog ID tag that includes all your contact information.
Make Plans Ahead of Time
Make sure you take off from work early enough in advance, reserve your hotel rooms and book your flights in order to successfully travel! As with any travel experience, you might run into delays, so it’s important to be prepared in case your time away gets extended. There’s nothing worse than having to reschedule a doctor’s appointment from the airport because your flight was delayed for a third time!
Break In Your Shoes
If you recently purchased new athletic shoes to hike in, you’ll want to break them in before heading to the park. This way, you won’t struggle with blisters while going up and down hills or traveling on any paths. Your feet will thank you—and so will your shoes!
Check for Closings and Restrictions
Depending on the time of year, each park will have different operating hours. Weather and wildfires are two of the biggest concerns for nature parks. Since the national parks are typically hundreds of miles wide, you can always find an alternative route to get there. However, some stores and activities might not be available, and you also might not be able to camp there.
You should always check the National Park Service’s website to find the most updated operating information for each national park! Be prepared that the site might say one thing before you depart and another thing the day of your visit.
Parks to Visit
There are plenty of parks across the nation that are not only beautiful but relatively easy to get to. A few popular ones will tend to be busier all year round, but each is unique in its own right and has qualities that you will only understand once you experience it in person! Here are some of our favorite national parks to visit.
One of the most infamous valleys in the United States, Death Valley gets its name from the record temperatures that occur. One of the largest deserts in the country, it is surrounded by other deserts, making it one of the deadliest places to get stuck! However, Death Valley sports beautiful views of mountain ranges in the distance, plus a large array of plants, flowers and other wildlife that somehow thrive in this extreme location. Rich in stories about struggle and perseverance during the Gold Rush, Death Valley has some interesting tales to help you fully enjoy your experience at the park.
Yosemite National Park
Probably the most popular national park in the nation, Yosemite spans over 1000 miles! Filled with glaciers, granite and waterfalls, the park typically sees thousands of visitors a year. Even still, you can explore the place without feeling like you’re cramped on a trail with hundreds of other people. With so many things to do, places to stay and culture to explore, you’ll end up extending your trip to Yosemite in no time!
Great Smoky Mountains
A wonder of the east coast, this mountain range is situated within the North Carolina and Tennessee mountain ranges. Beautiful through all the seasons, the Great Smoky Mountains are perfect for anyone who is looking to enjoy the southern Appalachians. Since it’s one of the oldest mountain ranges in the U.S., it’s steeped in stories and culture and great for families! You can learn about the Native Americans who lived in the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as other interesting facets of the Smoky Mountains.
Canyonlands National Park
In Utah, the Canyonlands National Park features picturesque canyons, thanks to the Colorado River. You’ll have fun in the four districts of the park with so much to do! You can even spend time there after dark staring at the stars. Grab your friends and a tent or two and spend the night outside as you stargaze.
Grand Canyon National Park
If Yosemite is one of the biggest national parks in the U.S., then the Grand Canyon has to be number one on everyone’s bucket list. Almost 300 miles long, the Grand Canyon features many outdoor activities fun for you and the family. There are also lots of shops and restaurants you can visit to get the full Grand Canyon experience. Learn about nature, explore the canyon and take a river tour to round out your trip! The views in the morning and evening and during the day are breathtaking.
Mount Rainier National Park
Interested in visiting an active volcano? Mount Rainier is the place for you! Nestled in Washington State, Mount Rainier National Park features the enormous Mount Rainier—a 14-thousand-foot-high volcano located over 50 miles away from Seattle. A beautiful snowy landscape in the winter, it stands tall as a glacier mountain. Complete with a wildflower meadow, the mountain provides the opportunity for taking beautiful pictures all year long.
It’s the ultimate mountain to conquer in the winter—experienced hikers rejoice! A word of caution, though: Depending on the time of year, the mountain might be closed because of wildfires. And, since it’s an active volcano, there’s always the somewhat slim chance it could erupt again.
Zion National Park
In Utah, Zion National Park features a fantastic shuttle service that will take you through trails both the pioneers and indigenous Native Americans walked during their time. Check out beautiful canyons, trees and wildlife to fully recognize the pristine nature of Utah. The best part? You don’t even have to get out of the shuttle to enjoy it all! Stay dry and comfortable aboard the shuttle without breaking a sweat.
The Historic Triangle Park
If you’re big into history, military battles and coastal living, the Historic Triangle in Virginia is perfect for you! Featuring three big historical cities—Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg—these sites have a variety of archaeological digs, history lessons and beautiful flatlands that show off America’s early heritage.
Whether you want to learn about the early settlers in Jamestown, take a ghostly tour of the Yorktown battlefield or learn about early American government in Williamsburg, there’s something for everyone. With so many taverns and unique shops, you’ll make it an annual vacation spot!
While there aren’t many mountains around, it’s perfect for families with small children or those who like to be outdoors but who want to learn a bit and enjoy the beach in their downtime.
Acadia National Park
Another east coast adventure, Acadia National Park is perfect for those who want some seaside fun. Get your beautiful pictures of the rocky North Atlantic coastline by visiting Acadia National Park in Maine! You can drive through most of the park instead of walking it, so you can get a driving view of some of the highest headlands in the Atlantic region of the United States. Take fun pictures, learn about the wildlife and enjoy a lobster roll or two while visiting the most northeastern state in the nation!
Haleakala National Park
In Maui, Hawaii sits a beautiful volcano with stellar views. A home to many endangered species, Haleakala National Park has the perfect mixture of fun and spirituality. View the world’s most beautiful sunrise from the top peak and learn about Polynesian culture, all within the volcano’s borders. If you’re planning an elopement or destination wedding to Hawaii this year, then make sure to book a visit to Haleakala National Park for an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life!
Glacier National Park
Set in the Big Sky state of Montana, Glacier National Park is perfect to take a new wallpaper photo for all your electronic devices. Each season features unique opportunities to experience the park in action. From icy and snow-dusted peaks in the winter to lush green hiking trails in the summer, Glacier National Park has everything the most avid hiker would need to enjoy a few days in the wilderness.
Bring a travel bag to store all your jewelry and accessories so you can travel around the park without worrying about your items getting damaged.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Visit the park named for a former president known for his conservation policies by going to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota! Learn about astronomy, spend time at Roosevelt’s famous Elkhorn Ranch and engage with the history of the Wild West. The park named after former President Roosevelt is one of the many examples of how nature can be inspirational!
Other Places to Consider
When determining where you want to go, keep in mind that there are also lots of fun places that aren’t labeled as parks! While traveling between parks, consider checking out some of these types of attractions:
Historical sites have some level of historical significance. Whether it’s the scene of a document being signed or a home of a significant person in that locality’s history, these sites are perfect to cool down in between visiting national parks. They have a lot of education behind them, and they typically have gift shops attached where you can purchase items created by local artists!
Perfect for all the military buffs out there, battlefield sites are also fun to explore. Many have museums on site to walk you through the battle and talk about the key players. Others have trails available where you can walk and see historic military weapons and equipment. They’re perfect for anyone who wants to take a brief walk to learn about the military history of the nation between hiking mountains.
There’s just something about visiting a space and digging a hole to find bones and tools. The history is an added bonus! You can learn about historic civilizations while visiting an archeological dig. From arrowheads to silverware, there’s lots of cool things you can dig up!
Modern architecture is a wonder. Make sure you stop and take lots of photos of all the different unique architecture you come across on your travels. Stop to learn a bit about the architecture, who created it and what their inspiration was. Make sure to send a postcard or two back home! Write a message to yourself with a memory from your trip that you can reminisce about on your return.
Wherever you plan on going, we encourage you to get out there! Before your next adventure, make sure to wear a silicone ring and be prepared for everything nature has to offer.
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