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The Most Spectacular US National Parks to Visit in Summer (+ Where to Stay)!

Want an unforgettable summer vacation out in nature? Plan a visit to a national park! Keep reading to discover the best US national parks to visit in summer.

The national parks of the United States are some of the most spectacularly beautiful natural areas on the planet. With 60+ parks featuring waterfalls to deserts and mountains to coasts, you are really and truly spoiled for choice.

With diverse environments and climates, some US national parks are just perfect for a summer trip. So if you are looking to do a summer family trip to a national park or a solo trip out in the wilderness, you can find that perfect park that calls out to you.

Top US National Parks to Visit in Summer

We have visited many of the national parks in the USA, but for this article on the very best national parks to visit in summer, we asked fellow travel bloggers for their favorites. I would not hesitate to jump into the car and head to any one of them, so you’ll find lots of inspiration as you plan your summer trip.

Yosemite National Park California USA
Driving Tioga Pass Road to Yosemite National Park in California

Several parks on this list are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their unique natural environments. All are renowned for their unspoiled wild quality, gorgeous photo spots, and opportunities to observe local flora and fauna.

Here, then, are the most spectacular US national parks to visit this summer!

Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii

The towering Haleakala volcano dominates the Maui landscape. Visible from anywhere on the island, the volcanic peak is about 10,000 feet tall and over one million years old. Witnessing a sunrise or sunset from the Haleakala summit is definitely one of the best things to do in Maui.

Haleakala National Park, which includes the volcano, is split into two parts: the area around the summit, and the valley and coastal portion in Kipahulu. The summit makes for a wonderful summer visit, because it’s generally dry and warm, even though temperatures at the top are 20 degrees cooler than at sea level.

Haleakala National Park Maui Hawaii USA
The colors of the Haleakala crater are gorgeous!

Drive the switchback road to the top, or visit on a guided tour. At the top, you can walk the area around the Visitor Center, to admire local flora and fauna, including the rare Haleakala Silversword. Admire the 360-degree views all the way out to the water on a clear day. Visit at night to stargaze from the summit.

If you enjoy hiking, you can pick from a number of trails at the summit, based on length and level of difficulty. You can hike into the crater, but remember that the climb back can be arduous.

The Kipahulu district can be accessed from the Hana Highway and features large expanses of wilderness. You can hike to a couple of waterfalls, but in the summer you’ll find this area hot and humid. I would suggest visiting the summit instead.

The Haleakala summit can be visited for the day, but you can also spend a couple of days here doing longer hikes, exploring the crater, or just enjoying the vistas from the “House of the Sun.”

Where to stay

While you can camp in the park, or rent a cabin, you can visit Haleakala for the day from the resort areas at sea level. We have stayed at the Wailea Beach Villas and at the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua, and either would be a fabulous choice for an upscale place to stay. The drive to Haleakala from either location takes about 90 minutes in normal traffic.

For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Haleakala National Park website.

Redwood National Park, Northern California

Redwood National Park is an absolute must-visit in the summer! The shade of the trees keeps you cool and the ground is no longer super muddy! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Redwood National Park features some of the world’s oldest and tallest trees.

Technically, the area often referred to as Redwood National Park is made up of four parks: Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek State Park, Jedediah Smith State Park, and Del Norte State Park. One of the most popular areas is the Prairie Creek State Park, due to its accessible trails and attractions such as Big Tree Wayside.

Redwood National Park California USA
At Redwood, the trees are the stars of the show!

You can experience most of the top things to do in the area over the course of a couple of days. One of the best things to do is to go on a hike in Redwood National Park. There’s not too much elevation change on any of the popular trails but you’ll get up close with some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world: they are pretty incredible!

One of the best Redwood National Park hikes is the James Irvine Trail. It winds up and down through beautiful redwood forest alongside Godwood Creek. Pack a picnic for the beach at the mid-point of your hike!

Where to stay

The town of Eureka, just 21 miles south of the park, has the biggest choice of places to stay. The Eureka Inn is one of the best hotels in the town. It is included in the National Register of Historic places and has hosted Winston Churchill in the past!

Text and photo by Hannah from That Adventurer Blog
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Redwood National Park website.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Montana’s Glacier National Park is called the “Crown of the Continent,” and for good reason. The park is filled with turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, majestic mountain peaks, and yes, glittering glaciers. In conjunction with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, Glacier National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But for most of the year, the park is covered in snow and its main road, the Going-to-the-Sun-Road, is closed. To enjoy all that the park has to offer, summer is the best time of year to visit.

Glacier National Park Montana USA
Stunning vistas abound at Glacier National Park

For hikers, Glacier National Park an epic destination. There are hundreds of miles of backcountry trails to explore. The Highline Trail is one of the most famous in the country, offering 16 miles of unparalleled vistas. You can also hike directly to the foot of a glacier on the Grinnell Glacier Trail, or see icebergs year-round by taking the Iceberg Lake Trail.

There are plenty of ways for non-hikers to enjoy the park too. The historic red bus tours have been operating for decades and take visitors along the dizzying Going-to-the-Sun Road. You can also canoe or kayak on one of the park’s beautiful lakes, like Lake McDonald or Two Medicine Lake.

Glacier makes for a great weekend trip, but consider spending at least a week here if you have the time.

Where to stay

For the ultimate Glacier experience, book a room in the historic Many Glacier Hotel, located on the banks of picturesque Swiftcurrent Lake in Babb. Summer is the most popular time of year though, and places fill up VERY early, so try to book your reservations a year in advance!
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

Text and photo by Maggie from Pink Caddy Travelogue
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Glacier National Park website.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

One of the most-visited national parks in America, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina attracts several million visitors each year. Families come for the scenic drives and picnic spots, while outdoor adventurers come for the hiking and camping.

The park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is built around the beauty of its forests, which are most vibrant during the summer. The pleasant temperatures and dry hiking trails make summer an ideal time to check out the park.

Great Smoky Mountains NP NC and Tennessee USA
Many hiking trails in the park offer stunning views!

Drive or bike on Cades Cove, an 11-mile loop road that takes visitors past century-old log cabins and open valleys that frequently reveal deer, black bears, and coyotes.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is another popular road for viewing animals and wildflowers. RV and car campers can reserve a spot at one of the park’s 10 developed campgrounds (book early!).

The park has dozens of hiking trails. If you’re up for a moderately strenuous workout with rewarding views, hike 2.2 miles each way to Hen Wallow Falls, a 90-foot-high waterfall on the Gabes Mountain Trail.

Three days is enough time to fully explore the park and visit nearby towns like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. These family-oriented tourist towns have a number of unique attractions, such as Dolly Parton’s famous Dollywood amusement park.

Where to stay

Consider staying at the Riverstone Resort & Spa, a Pigeon Forge resort with an on-site spa and lazy river located about 8 miles from the park. Each spacious condo unit features a full kitchen, balcony, gas fireplace and spa bath. You will love the walking path to the Little Pigeon River!

Text and photo by Scott from Quirky Travel Guy
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website.

Yosemite National Park, California

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park is known for its grand vistas and beautiful waterfalls. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the subject of many of Ansel Adams’ iconic photographs.

While Yosemite is one of the most popular California weekend getaways any time of year, early summer is an ideal time to visit: the roads are all open, wildflowers are in bloom, and waterfalls are in full flow.

Drive through the park to take in the vistas from different overlooks: Tunnel View and Glacier Point are easy-to-access must-stop stops, offering views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. The views from these overlooks will literally make your jaw drop.

Yosemite National Park California USA
A view of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

Go for a hike in Tuolumne Meadows: the Soda Springs Trail through the meadows is just 1.5 miles in length. Walk among the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove. Explore Yosemite Village.

For an essential Yosemite experience, hike the Mist Trail, a staircase that goes up right alongside the Vernal and Nevada waterfalls, spraying you with mist as you walk. Yosemite’s other famous falls, Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Falls, are also at their best this time of year.

Although you could visit Yosemite National Park for the day from San Francisco or on a California road trip, allowing two to three days (or even a week!) will make for a much richer experience. With more time, you can really savor being in the vast wilderness.

Where to stay

Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite in Mather, just one mile from the Hetch Hetchy entrance to Yosemite National Park and about one hour from Yosemite Village, is a great place to stay. Spacious cabin style units are rustic in feel, but clean and comfortable. There is an onsite restaurant with a heated patio. Book early: summer is a popular time to visit Yosemite!

For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Yosemite National Park website.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park is an incredibly fun and unique park to visit, and is an excellent summer destination. While visiting the Great Sand Dunes, you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping views, a ton of hiking options, and the chance to go sand boarding! Yep, you’ve heard of snow boarding, now it is time to try sand boarding!

The number one thing to do at Great Sand Dunes National Park is try out the sand sledding and sand boarding. You can rent a sled or board from a few places near the park’s entrance, and try out this unique activity for yourself. It is a BLAST! Tip: if you haven’t used a skateboard or snowboard before, stick to sledding instead of sand boarding.

After you finished on the sleds, there are a lot of great hiking options in the park also. Hike on trail throughout the dunes, and you’ll be treated to some stupendous views of the enormous dunes with the towering Rocky Mountains behind them.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado USA
The landscapes at Great Sand Dunes are surreal!

When you’re ready to relax, there is also a great picnic area in the park right along a slow moving stream. Take a dip in the river and enjoy some lunch!

The activities, beautiful weather, and awesome scenery make Great Sand Dunes a perfect summer destination. Plan a long weekend here and have a wonderful time exploring this sandy national park!

Where to stay

As for where to stay during your trip, the Great Sand Dunes Lodge has a fabulous location at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and is just under 4 miles from the mark. Comfortable rooms feature patios with views of the dunes.

A bit further out, the Zapata Ranch is an excellent option as well. A cattle and bison ranch bordering the park, the property has a rustic elegance. Bunkhouse rooms are spacious and well appointed, and the onsite dining is highly rated.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

Finally, camping right in the park is a great option as well, if you’ve got a campervan, RV, or a tent! The stargazing in Great Sand Dunes National Park is excellent.

Text and photo by Zach and Julie of Ruhls of the Road
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park website.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

One of the best national parks to visit in the summer is Mount Rainier National Park. This Washington national park is home to the iconic volcano that the park is named after: Mount Rainier.

Washington is notorious for its gloomy rainy winter months, but Washington is also famous for its mild and pleasant summers. This weather makes summers in Washington the perfect time go hiking and exploring at Mount Rainier.

Mount Rainier National Park is located about two hours south of Seattle, making it easily accessible from a city stay. Explore around Paradise (where the visitor center is located) or Sunrise (the highest point you can access in a vehicle).

Mount Rainier National Park Washington USA
A road winds its way through the park

Capture iconic photos at Reflection Lakes, and enjoy a stroll through some giants at the Grove of the Patriarchs. The park features several short hikes suitable for a day trip, but if you stay longer, you can tackle longer hikes for spectacular views, waterfalls, and beautiful alpine gardens.

If you want a truly special trip to Mount Rainier, plan to visit during the months of July or August, when you will find Paradise covered in beautiful wildflowers. Enjoy strolling along the trails surrounded by tall grass, trees, and dashing yellow, pink, and blue flowers with the beautiful Mount Rainier in the backdrop.

Where to stay

Stay at the Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier, one of the historic Great Lodges of the West. Set in the midst of wildflower meadows in Paradise, the lodge offers easy access to hiking trails and a Ranger station. Expect rooms to be on the smaller size, and seize the opportunity to unplug, since the hotel doesn’t offer electronics.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

Text and photo by Amy of Oceans to Alpines
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Mt. Rainier National Park website.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most unique parks in the United States and a delight to visit. We stopped by while on our United States road trip and were thoroughly impressed with the historic sites and great hiking opportunities.

Summer is a great time to visit the park because days are warm and sunny. However, temperatures can get into the high 80s in July, so be sun smart. Bring lots of water and wear a hat and sunscreen. If you arrive in the evening, temperatures drop into the 60s.

On your way into the park stop by the Mesa Verde Visitor Center for a map. Then head to Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum to learn about the history of the Pubela People. Watch a film for an overview of the park and excellent insight into the native peoples who used to live here.

Mesa Verde NP Colorado USA
Ancient dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park

There are over 5,000 archeological sites within the park, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a ranger-led tour to the Long House, one of the few ruins you can enter, or drive the scenic Mesa Verde Loop: it has excellent views of the ancient dwellings.

Whichever area of the park you decide to explore, you will be guaranteed beautiful surroundings. That’s because not only does Mesa Verde National Park play host to ancient ruins but it also offers up some of the most incredible scenery in the state.

Where to stay

The Far View Lodge is located inside the park and offers spectacular views as well as opportunities to see wildlife and stargaze. Rooms feature private baths and private balconies, and you’ll have the chance to unplug, since there are no electronics. Book early, since summer tends to be popular.

Text and photo by Oksana and Max from Drink Tea & Travel
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Mesa Verde National Park website.

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park is one of the best US national parks to visit in the summer because it is peak season and you can see all the glaciers. This park is one of the best girls trip destinations you can hope to find for a fabulous summer trip.

Covering over 3 million acres, Glacier Bay National Park is a spectacular part of Alaska’s Inside Passage, and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With snow-covered mountains, pristine fjords, and a wildly scenic coastline, the park is a must-visit for all nature and outdoor lovers.

Most visitors to Glacier Bay National Park visit via a cruise through Alaska and spend a day within the park. A park ranger comes aboard for the day and gives facts and information about the land, water, glaciers, and the rest of the park, while you admire the beauty from your balcony or the ship’s outdoor areas.

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, USA
Visit Glacier Bay National Park on an Alaska cruise!

The best thing to do in Glacier Bay National Park is to boat out to the end of the water to see Margerie Glacier! The glacier is a 21-mile tidewater glacier and absolutely stunning. Gleaming in white and blue, you can’t miss it. You can hear the glacier calving and see pieces falling into the water.

Where to stay

If you are traveling through Alaska and want to visit on your own, the best place to stay is Glacier Bay Lodge, located in Bartlett Cove, near the town of Gustavus. They have easy access to the park with daily boat tours, and an onsite restaurant.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

Text and photo by Nicole from Eat Live Travel Drink
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Glacier Bay National Park website.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana

Summer is the best time of the year to visit Yellowstone National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wildlife is rampant, the weather is beautiful, and most attractions are open.

Besides being the home to myriad species of animals, birds, and flora, the park contains more than 50 percent of the world’s geysers! There are over 500 active geysers in Yellowstone, the most famous of which is the Old Faithful Geyser.

True to its name, Old Faithful erupts consistently every 60 minutes or so, so it’s a must-visit attraction in Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park’s other notable feature are the hundreds of colorful hot springs.

Unlike typical hot springs where you can step in and soak, Yellowstone’s hot springs are so scorching hot that you would dissolve if you fell into one. Microorganisms, however, thrive in these extremely hot conditions. The variety of temperatures and microbes give off the beautiful vivid colors you can see at hot springs such as the spectacular Grand Prismatic Spring.

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone NP USA
The Grand Prismatic Spring is a must-see attraction in Yellowstone National Park

Drive to see the many attractions in the park, and go hiking, boating, or rafting. At Lamar Valley, known as the Serengeti of North America, you might see large herds of bison, a spectacular sight.

Allow a minimum of three days to cover the main attractions of Yellowstone National Park. If you plan on doing any long hikes, you might want to allot yourself an extra day or two.

Where to stay

Maximize your time at Yellowstone by staying inside the park. There are a total of nine lodges in Yellowstone and one favorite is the Old Faithful Inn. Historic and rustic, the inn is located just steps from the famous geyser. Make sure you book in advance because it can get very busy in the summer!
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

Text and photo by Sean of Living Out Lau
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Yellowstone National Park website.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is not only one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s also quite simply an awe-inspiring place to visit. And if you enjoy hiking, the Grand Canyon is THE place to go.

Grand Canyon NP Arizona USA
Awe-inspiring views at the Grand Canyon

Hiking down to the Colorado River and staying at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon is an incredible experience. As you might expect, some of the hikes here, such as the rim-to-rim hike, are considered difficult. But there are some that are rated moderate as well.

You can also choose to simply walk along the rim and enjoy the views, or, if you’re feeling daring, stroll on the Grand Canyon Skywalk that hangs over the canyon in the Hualapai Reservation at the West Rim.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is very popular, with shuttle buses that run along the viewpoint routes in season. Summer, with its long warm days, is peak season at the park. All facilities and programs are open. Expect crowds though, and plan to start exploring early in the day.

While a day or two is generally enough time to visit, you can spend a few days here enjoying the beauty of the park and attempting some longer hikes with time to recover. The Grand Canyon is a popular day-trip or overnight from Phoenix, Arizona, and worth a spot on your bucket list.

Where to stay

There are a number of hotels in and around the park and the best one is El Tovar Hotel. It’s a grand, historic hotel right near the South Rim, known for its charm. With onsite dining and decks overlooking the canyon, the hotel makes for a great stay in the park. Splurge on a suite with a private balcony, and make sure you book well ahead!
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

Text and photo by Sam from My Flying Leap
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Grand Canyon National Park website.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National park is the perfect park to visit in summer. The Grand Teton mountain range rises straight up out of the plain, making for picture postcard views.

One of the most popular things to do here is visiting the well-known lookouts. Visit Oxbow Bend, where a scenic bend of the Snake River makes for that perfect photo, or Signal Mountain, for a more aerial perspective. The Teton Park Road is a scenic drive through the park.

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming USA
The wall of mountains at Grand Teton is gorgeous!

Grand Teton is also a good place to see moose, black bear, and even river otters in the summer. Enjoy a float or raft trip along the Snake River, or a cruise on Jenny Lake or Jackson Lake. If you enjoy history, you will love visiting the historic districts of Menors Ferry or Mormon Row.

What better way to enjoy the views and see wildlife than on a hike? An iconic Grand Teton hike is Cascade Canyon. The trail climbs into a breathtaking canyon, and then meanders alongside a river. Another shorter trail goes to Moose Pond. The Taggart Lake trail is one of the few easier trails in the park.

Grand Teton is just south of Yellowstone National Park, and it is common to combine a visit to both parks. If you just want to see the highlights, two or three days at Grand Teton are enough. However, you could easily spend a week or two relaxing in the park.

Where to stay

The main access airport is Jackson Airport. A word of advice: some of the campgrounds, such as the popular Jenny Lake Campground, are first come first served, and summer dates book up early.  If you are planning to camp, it is worth overnighting in nearby Jackson Hole and getting up early in the morning to secure a spot at the Jenny Lake campground.

A nice place to stay in Jackson Hole is Hotel Jackson, with an aesthetic of rustic chic and great service. It is located just outside the park. In the park, if you want something more comfortable than camping or a cabin, it is worth splurging on Jenny Lake Lodge or Jackson Lake Lodge.

Text and photo by James from Travel Collecting
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Grand Teton National Park website.

Olympic National Park, Washington

Summer is the best time to visit Olympic National Park in the Pacific Northwest. Summer temperatures are relatively warm, with days in the 60s. Most roads in the park are open, and you’ll have the full range of park programs from which to choose.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Olympic National Park features a number of diverse ecosystems: mountains, valleys, forests, and coast, making it an exciting place to explore. From tidepools to dark skies and wildlife to waterfalls, there is a lot to see here!

Start at the visitor center in Port Angeles: watch the informational film, get information on ranger-led activities, and learn more about the park. Drive to Hurricane Ridge, for spectacular views of the mountains. Big Meadow trail is short and easy and offers great views.

Hurricane Ridge Olympic National Park Washington USA
A young buck poses against the mountains at Hurricane Ridge

Hoh Rain Forest is a rich lush green, true to its name. Walk one or two of the short trails through the temperate rainforest. If you enjoy birding, head to Kalaloch, where you can see numerous species of coastal birds.

In the northwest part of the park, the one-mile forested trail to the Sol Duc Falls Overlook is a must. The falls are gorgeous. Another popular spot in the park is Lake Crescent, where you can hike or go boating.

Considering that there is so much to see and do in Olympic National Park, and you have to drive between sights, plan on spending at least 3 days here, and a week or two if you can afford the time.

Where to stay

There is a variety of accommodation available in the park, including historic hotels and rustic cabins. Kalaloch Lodge is located on the Pacific coast. You can choose the main lodge or standalone cabins. Rooms are spacious, with upscale furnishings and beautiful views. There is a restaurant onsite for convenient dining.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

In Port Angeles, Olympic Lodge has a beautiful location at the base of the mountains, and is just 2 miles from the entrance to the park. Rooms are spacious, some with fireplaces perfect for reading at night, and beds rated very comfortable.

For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Olympic National Park website.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the US, located in the literal middle of nowhere in Nevada. It is a hidden alpine paradise along the loneliest road in America, where you will find alpine lakes, caves, bristlecone trees, and a glacier.

In the park, make sure you do a Lehman Cave tour (and book it in advance if you can, because they routinely sell out). Featuring stunning stalactites, stalagmites, and columns, the caves are gorgeous.

There are lots of hikes of varying length and difficulty in the park. Plan your hiking for early in the day to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. One cool hike is the easy Bristlecone Trail to see the oldest living things on Earth: bristlecone pine trees.

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming USA
Bristlecone pines at Great Basin National Park

A scenic drive takes you up to the higher elevations of the park. From the parking area at the top, you can do the strenuous 5-mile hike to Wheeler Peak, the second highest peak in Nevada, or the long 6-mile loop to see the only glacier in the state.

Great Basin is an International Dark Sky Reserve, so if you visit on clear no-moon or low-moon nights, make sure you do some stargazing, no matter where you’re staying.

Great Basin National Park is best visited in summer because the main road is closed in the winter and most of the park is inaccessible then. With 8,000 feet separating the valley floor from Wheeler Peak, you’ll experience a wide range of temperatures, so dress in layers.

You should allow for at least two days to enjoy the activities and sights in this beautiful desert park, but if you just have one day, you can still see a lot.

Where to stay

The best way to see the park is by camping in it, but there are some hotels down in Baker just outside of the park. Hidden Canyon Retreat is about a 30-minute drive from the park. Located in a secluded canyon off the highway, the hotel features a garden, a hot tub, and barbecue facilities. Rooms are modern and well-appointed.

Text and photo by Megan of Red Around the World
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Great Basin National Park website.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in the entire country. It is also one of the most beautiful, and definitely worth considering for a summer vacation far from the madding crowds.

As the name suggests, the park surrounds Lassen Peak, an active volcano. In fact, all four types of volcanoes in the WORLD can be found in the park. But if you aren’t up for hiking to the summit of a volcano, there are hundreds of other trails that weave through the park’s sprawling forests and hugs its numerous blue lakes.

The Pacific Crest Trail runs through the park, if you want to reenact Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” Lassen Volcanic National Park also has acres of geothermic areas, so you can stroll past fragrant pools of bubbling mud.

Lassen Volcanic National Park California USA
A stunning vista in Lassen Volcanic National Park

But hands down, the best perk of the park – and the reason you would want to visit in the summer – is the total absence of light pollution. Lassen Volcanic National Park has the absolute clearest night skies in California, perfect for stargazing and enjoying summer meteor showers.

Summer is also the season when all trails in the park are likely to be open and you can enjoy the full spectrum of ranger-led programs in the park, as well as special events. Daytime highs are in the high 60s to high 70s, perfect for hiking and being outdoors.

A natural wonder in the most unassuming way, Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in the northeastern corner of California, about four hours from San Francisco. The nearest major city, Redding, is about an hour’s drive away. Allow for at least two days in the park to see the major sites.

Where to stay

If you would like to stay in the park, know that there are no cabins or hotel lodgings. Campsites and RV hookups are available. There is also only one cafe in the park at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, which is only open between spring and fall.

If you would like the comforts of a hotel, base yourself at the Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge in Redding. Rooms are modern and comfortable, and there is a highly rated restaurant adjoining the hotel for a convenient option for breakfast and dinner.

Text and photo by Kay of The Awkward Traveller
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Lassen Volcanic National Park website.

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Covering a mind-boggling 6 million acres in Alaska’s wild interior, Denali National Park and Preserve makes for an epic summer vacation. At 20,310 feet, Mount Denali in the park is the tallest mountain in North America.

With vast expanses of wilderness, abundant wildlife viewing opportunities, and stunning views everywhere you look, Denali National Park definitely deserves a spot in your bucket list.

Drive Denali Park Road up to the Savage River and then ride the bus further into the park. You will want to stop at the various overlooks to enjoy the views and to take umpteen photos, and to look for wildlife. Pick a narrated tour bus to learn as you drive through the park.

Denali national park
Spectacular view from the park shuttle bus in Denali in summer

Hike some of the pretty trails in the park: there are many short trails in the Savage River area from which to choose. If a ranger-led discovery hike is being offered when you visit, join! The Triple Lakes trail is a really long hike (18 miles!), but very beautiful. You can also go backpacking in the park.

Summer is the ideal time to visit Denali, because days are relatively warm with long daylight hours, park roads and trails are open, and ranger-led programs are available for a more enriching experience.

Allow at least 3 days in the park, especially if you wish to do a longer hike. Staying longer is highly recommended, to really savor the unique landscape and the wildlife. If you have less than a day, opt for a Denali flightseeing tour from Talkeetna or Anchorage!

Where to stay

Most visitors stay in a town outside the park: Healy in the north and Cantwell in the south. In Healy, consider the Denali Lakeview Inn, overlooking the beachfront. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, some with great views of Lake Otto.

In Cantwell, the Backwoods Lodge, located about 27 miles from the park, features gorgeous views of Mount Denali. With large rooms and beds rated very comfortable, the lodge is a great place to base yourself during your Denali visit. There are a few restaurants just a short drive from the property.

For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Denali National Park website.

Acadia National Park, Maine

One of the best national parks to visit in the USA is Acadia National Park. Featuring exciting hikes, spectacular viewpoints, as well as epic sunset and sunrise spots, there’s a lot to love about this park!

One of the best things to do at Acadia National Park is to hike the very popular Beehive Trail. You have to climb up ladders to get to the top. It is an exciting and unique trail, a must-do if you enjoy hiking.

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain is another stunning Acadia experience you must not miss. The colors of the sun reflecting off the Atlantic Ocean make for stunning photos, and the views are gorgeous. No wonder driving or hiking to the top of Cadillac Mountain is one of the most popular things to do at Acadia!

Sunset at Bass Harbor Light House is also very popular. Getting the perfect picture of the lighthouse with the sun in the background is on every visitor’s bucket list.

Acadia National Park Maine USA
Sunset is a great time to be in Acadia National Park!

Drive the scenic Park Loop Road, catch the crashing of the waves at Thunder Hole, and walk beautiful Sand Beach. The cute town of Bar Harbor, near the national park, features tons of outstanding restaurants, with some of the best seafood you will ever eat.

One of the best times to visit Acadia National Park is in the summer. The weather is excellent, and the trees are green and alive. Daytime highs tend to be in the low 70s, ideal for hiking and other outdoor activities.

While you can take in most of the major sights in Acadia National Park in one day, plan on staying longer to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the park.

Where to stay

Bar Harbor is less than 5 miles from the park entrance, making it the perfect place to stay when visiting Acadia National Park. Atlantic Eyrie Lodge features panoramic views of Frenchman Bay. Spacious comfortable rooms feature mountain or ocean views, and you’ll love the outdoor swimming pool in the summer.

Text and photo by Michelle of The Wandering Queen
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Acadia National Park website.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Imagine waking up to elk bugling in the distance as the morning mist dissipates in the brightening sunbeams. This can be your reality if you visit Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Rocky Mountain National Park should be at the top of your national park bucket list because of its diverse landscape. In the summer, you’ll be able to still experience the snow-capped mountain peaks as well as frolic in wildflower meadows. A sweet juxtaposition that not many places can offer during the scorching summer months.

Drive the scenic Trail Ridge Road, from where you’ll be able to see the monstrous peaks looming in the distance. Don’t forget to make your way off the road to Bear and Sprague Lake for hikes near the water.

Rocky Mountains National Park Colorado USA
A scenic spot in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you need a brief city break, venture to nearby resort towns that hug the entrances of the park. Estes Park has numerous confectionaries and restaurants ready to serve you Colorado classics like elk and bison burgers or saltwater taffy.

Don’t forget Grand Lake, at the western entrance to the park. The town features a rustic, western-themed downtown with great bars and shops. Make sure to look up while exploring the streets, to see the Rockies looming overhead.

Four days is an ideal amount of time for your first Rocky Mountain National Park visit, giving you ample time to explore and enjoy the park. But if you are on a short visit to the region, you can drive through the park in one long day.

Where to stay

Definitely don’t pass up the chance to camp within the park. Camping is ideal because you can beat the morning rush of visitors and wake up to wildlife right outside your tent flap. You might even wake up to a moose and her young grazing nearby.

But if you want the comforts of a hotel, Estes Park is renowned for its ski resort hotels, especially the Stanley Hotel, made famous by Stephen King’s “The Shining.” With old world charm, spacious rooms with super comfy beds, and a location just 6 miles from the park, this hotel is a great choice for your visit.

Text and photo by Martha of Quirky Globetrotter
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Rocky Mountain National Park website.

Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park is an amazing places to visit in the summer. Featuring the magnificent namesake sequoia trees and miles of hiking trails, the park offers opportunities for camping and a variety of outdoor activities.

Hiking is the number one thing to do in the park. Pick short and family-friendly hikes like Tokopah Falls or the Congress Trail. Or tackle more challenging day hiking trails around the park, like Little Baldy, Marble Falls, Moro Rock Trail, Alta Peak, Sawtooth Pass, or the Franklin Lakes Trail.

Sequoia National Park California USA
Hiking trails at Sequoia offer beautiful views!

Drive through the park to marvel at the giant trees. Pose for a photo by one of the trees in the Giant Forest. Arrive early if you want a photo by the General Sherman Tree! Visit Crystal Cave with its colorful mineral deposits.

Go backpacking at Sequoia! Obtain a permit from the SEKI Wilderness Office ahead of your trip or get a walk-up permit. Whatever you choose to do, Sequoia National Park is a wonderful experience in the mountains.

Summer is the best time to visit Sequoia, as the weather is most stable between June and August. In summer, trails and facilities throughout the park are open, and you can choose from a variety of ranger-led programs.

Allow for at least a couple of days in the park, although you can stay much longer to enjoy its beauty and serenity. Kings Canyon National Park is nearby, and many visitors visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks together.

Where to stay

The park features several campgrounds, and there are also a couple of lodges inside the national park. I recommend camping so you can enjoy the night sky, cook dinner over a campfire, and get the full national park experience.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, Wuksachi Lodge is located within the park. With a fabulous location in the midst of giant sequoias and surrounded by mountains, the lodge makes for a lovely stay. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, and there is onsite dining.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

Text and photo by Jenny of Campsite Vibes
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Sequoia National Park website.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Just 63 miles separate Kings Canyon National Park from Sequoia National Park, making it a breeze to visit both parks on one trip. The scenic Generals Highway connects the two parks.

Kings Canyon National Park boasts the deepest canyon in the United States, at over 1.5 miles deep! With beautiful rock-strewn landscapes, deep valleys, and giant sequoia trees, Kings Canyon National Park is definitely worthy of your bucket list.

Explore Grant Grove, home to the General Grant tree, also known as “the nation’s Christmas Tree.” Step into the visitor center in Grant Grove Village to learn more about the park and its famous trees.

At the bottom of the canyon, in Cedar Grove, marvel at the Kings River, snap photos of the towering North Dome and Grand Sentinel, and enjoy the waterfalls. Numerous hiking trails begin here, so pick one or two that you will enjoy and set off!

A waterfall in Kings Canyon National Park

Admire the beautiful alpine setting of Zumwalt Meadow. The scenic self-guided trail takes you through the meadow, with beautiful views of the surrounding rock walls and the river.

Summer daytime temperatures at the park vary, with Cedar Grove at the bottom of the canyon much warmer than the higher elevations. Plan to visit the canyon floor early in the day and then enjoy the rest of the park.

Where to stay

There are a number of lodges inside Kings Canyon National Park. Reserve early, because summer dates tend to fill up way in advance. John Muir Lodge in Grant Grove features large well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, and free internet access.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor

For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Kings Canyon National Park website.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park in South Oregon is less well known when compared to other national parks in the western US, but it is definitely worth putting on your bucket list.

The lake itself is a crystal clear blue body of water, with striking rocky mountains surrounding its edge. Formed from the eruption of a volcano over eight millennia ago, Crater Lake is one of the country’s deepest lakes, with a maximum depth to the bottom of nearly two thousand feet!

Summer is the best time to visit Crater Lake National Park, when trails are all open and a full spectrum of ranger-led programs is offered. Clouds can sometimes obscure views of the lake, so check weather conditions right before you visit.

Crater Lake National Park Oregon USA
A view of the crystal clear Crater Lake

Do a boat or trolley tour to learn about the geology of the region. Drive the stunning 33-mile Rim Drive: it circles the lake and offers more than two dozen overlooks from which to take photos. Look for wildflowers and wildlife.

If you are camping overnight or staying near the park, don’t forget to view the dark night sky lit with countless stars. Hike one (or more!) of the many forested trails that run through the park, offering views of the lake from higher elevations.

While you can visit Crater Lake National Park as a day trip from Bend or Eugene, you could also choose to stay longer and enjoy the park in greater depth.

Where to stay

There are two lodges inside the park: Crater Lake Lodge and The Cabins at Mazama Village. Both properties are open in the summer and can be booked online. Onsite dining is available.

Bend, about a 90-minute drive north of the park, offers a hip, exciting vibe, with craft breweries and cool restaurants. Stay at Pine Ridge Inn, a boutique property featuring spacious rooms, some with views of the Deschutes River. You’ll be well set to head out first thing in the morning, hitting the lake as dawn breaks across the water, for a sublime experience you will always cherish!

Text and photo by Laura and Charlie of The Travelling Stomach
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Crater Lake National Park website.

Channel Islands National Park, California

Channel Islands National Park is located off the coast of California, about a one hour ferry ride from Ventura or Oxnard Harbors. While many national parks experience spikes in heat and humidity during the summer, Channel Islands offers a mild climate year round. During June, July, and August, visitors can expect temperatures to range from 50 to 77 degrees.

Comprised of five islands – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, San Miguel and Santa Rosa – Channel Islands National Park is among the least visited US national parks. And while it definitely takes some planning to get here, the reward is worth it.

Channel Islands National Park California USA
The Channel Islands National Park is a gem you must visit!

In addition to the land being protected by the National Park Service, the ocean waters surrounding the islands are a National Marine Sanctuary. As a result, the opportunities to enjoy marine life are excellent and visitors should spend some time in the water, kayaking, snorkeling or diving.

Hiking is among the most popular activities in the park, with trails available on all the islands. Distances and levels of difficulty vary, so consult with the volunteers at the Visitor Center in Ventura Harbor for maps and guidance.

The ferry to Channel Island National Park should be reserved in advance through Island Packers. There are no services on the islands so be sure to bring all food and water needed for the day, and to bring trash back to the mainland.

Where to stay

Most people visit the islands as a day trip, but if you want an overnight experience, primitive camping is also available and can be reserved through the National Park Services website. It is conveniently located just a mile from the harbor, and features

If you’d prefer to stay in a hotel, several reasonably priced ones are available on the mainland, including The Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. The hotel is conveniently located just a mile from the harbor, and some rooms feature harbor views.

Text and photo by Wendy of Empty Nesters Hit the Road
For information about park hours and safety guidelines, visit the Channel Islands National Park website.

*****

So there you have it: the most spectacular US national parks to visit this summer! Have you visited any of them yet? I would love to read your thoughts if you have: comment below to respond!

If you’re starting to make plans for a summer trip, I do hope you will consider visiting one of these beautiful national parks. The opportunity to be outdoors and active, to explore and photograph the stunning landscapes, and to observe the flora and fauna is priceless.

Whether you are planning a family vacation, or looking for a romantic couples getaway out in nature, or just some time alone in a beautiful environment, there’s no destination that even comes close to a national park. I hope you have picked yours!

MORE SCENIC PLACES TO VISIT

Alberta: The Best Things to Do in Jasper National Park
British Columbia: One Day in Yoho National Park
California: Exciting Experiences in Death Valley National Park
Nevada: What to Do at Valley of Fire State Park
California: One Day in Joshua Tree National Park
British Columbia: A Day Trip to Mount Robson Provincial Park
Alberta: Things to Do in Lake Louise
California: The Best Stops Along the Pacific Coast Highway

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Discover the most beautiful US National Parks to visit in summer, from classic icons like Yosemite and Yellowstone to lesser known gems like Great Basin and Lassen Volcanic National Park! Stunning natural vistas, great hiking and photo spots, and wildlife viewing await you in these magnificent retreats.

Dhara

Dhara's travel interests are eclectic, spanning everything from natural wonders to history, culture, art and architecture. She has visited 22 countries, many more than once, plus almost all 50 states of the USA, and has amassed a hoard of cherished travel moments.

4 thoughts on “The Most Spectacular US National Parks to Visit in Summer (+ Where to Stay)!”

  1. Great post! I’ve been to most of these parks and the few others are on my to-do list. I would return to any of them too. I think America’s National Parks are one of the best gifts the world has ever received. Thanks for the reminders of how awesome they are.

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