AND WHICH ARE AT THE TOP OF MY BUCKET LIST?
There are 58 national parks in the United States, and it’s a life goal of mine to visit every single one! It’s a huge proud-mama moment to know that my hometown, the Indiana Dunes, has finally been promoted to national park status. I’ve also spent a few summers traveling around to national parks, so I thought I’d reflect over my time there and determine which is my favorite, and which are at the top of my bucket list!
This summer when Paige and I went out west, we bought a National Parks Pass to save some money, and now we have an entire year with free entrance into national parks across the country! It’s a great deal if you’re planning to visit at least 3 national parks, because an annual pass is $80, and some of the parks cost $30-$35 to enter. I highly recommend it for anyone heading out west because you can also get into national monuments, lakeshores and recreational areas. The possibilities are endless!
It’s no surprise the Indiana Dunes National Park was the first park I ever visited. I’ve been multiple times every year since 1995! This is my home and it will always have a special place in my heart. There is so much to see here, from the historic Bailly Homestead and the Maple Sugar Festival to hiking the dunes, swimming in Lake Michigan and spotting Chicago across the water.
Read More: Your Guide to the Indiana Dunes of the 4th of July
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- Arches National Park
- Badlands National Park
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Gateway Arch National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Indiana Dunes National Park
- Mammoth Cave National Park
- Rocky Mountains National Park
- Zion National Park
Let’s break this down state-by-state.
We all know this was one of my travel goals this year. I’m so happy to have seen the Grand Canyon! The purple colors of the canyon walls are just breath-taking. Next time I’m going to train so I can hike a ways into the canyon. Only 20% of people actually do that!
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is unlike any other canyon I’ve ever seen. As hinted at in the name, the canyon walls are black! They are incredible steep and hundreds of feet above the river below.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is close to my heart because it reminds me of home. It’s such a crazy park because you’re driving through Colorado and it’s a pretty bare grassland… there’s not much around and then all of a sudden there is this golden spot in the distance. As you drive closer you realize it’s the sand dunes! They are just in the middle of the state. It’s the best place to bring a sand board and slide down the dunes.
Read More: Gleaming Great Sand Dunes National Park
The last park I visited in Colorado is probably the most famous for this state: Rocky Mountain National Park. This is an unbelievable park. You drive through the mountains, climbing well over 2 miles above sea level and you can look out at one of the most magnificent mountain ranges in the world.
The only park in Colorado I haven’t been to yet is Mesa Verde, but I’ll get there one day!
Mammoth Caves is such a unique park because it’s all underground! You get to hike down into a massive cave system and see all of the natural features formed by natural elements. It’s very cool because you can visit year round. I went in the winter and you couldn’t tell once you were inside the caves because it’s temperate all year round! However, I was terrified of the cave spiders.
Read More: Visiting Mammoth Caves National Park
I’ve actually been to Gateway National Park twice! I went once on a family vacation 10 years ago, and I went again two years ago with Alyssa. Going up in the Arch is a bit scary if you’re claustrophobic or afraid of heights, but I think it’s worth it for the view over St. Louis. It’s such a cool landmark!
Badlands National Park is one I visited on a family vacation which also included Mt Rushmore. It was very cool! I wish I could give more details, but my 6-year-old mind doesn’t remember a lot. I think that means it’s time to go back! Instead enjoy this throw back to 2001!
This was a big accomplishment in 2019 because I have now been to all five national parks in Utah. They’re pretty spectacular! Don’t miss my Ultimate Travel Guide to all five of Utah’s National Parks.
Arches National Park is truly amazing. There are so many hiking trails here, and seemingly endless natural rock structures that you’ll never get bored. You could easily spend 3-4 days in this park alone!
Read More: Alluring Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is very cool. It is my favorite national park of all time! I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t think there’s another canyon like this in the entire world. The famous orange and white striped hoodoos that poke out of the ground tower over you as you hike down into the canyon. There are many cool hiking trails here, and even horse riding trails into the canyon!
Read More: 15 Pictures to Inspire You to Visit Bryce Canyon
Read More: The Best Hike at Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park is an underrated park in my opinion. Visiting this park was the first time I had ever seen a canyon, and I was just amazed by how different the canyons looked as you made your way around the park. There are gorgeous colors in the rock and great overlooks for picnics.
Read More: Colorful Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is another underrated park, coming in second place in my list of favorite parks in Utah. There are some amazing hiking trails and lookouts here, as well as history from an 1800’s settlement that you don’t find in other parks. This park is also free to enter!
Read More: One Day at Capitol Reef National Park
Zion National Park is Utah’s first and most popular park, and I agree that it’s just stunning. It’s definitely worth visiting if you’re planning to hike Angel’s Landing. I also think the drive into the park through the canyon is one of the most stunning aspects of Zion. You can’t go to Utah without hitting this ‘little’ oasis in the desert.
The more parks I visit, the more I feel the need to see even more. It sparks my wander lust every time! So the big question is, which parks am I most dying to get to? Here are my Top 5 Bucket List Parks:
- North Cascades National Park, Washington
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
- Joshua Tree National Park, California
- Denali National Park, Alaska
I want to visit each of these parks for different reasons. Washington State is at the top of my list because of it’s amazing snow-capped mountains, glacier water lakes and serene beauty. This park is just calling to me! Hopefully you’ll see me here very soon!
Which national park is your favorite? And which are at the top of your bucket list? Comment below!