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Acadia National Park

The USA’s 5 best national parks, according to reviews

Acadia National Park

Clusters of red-rock towers like cathedral spires, forest-draped mountains wreathed in fog, and mirrorlike lakes that draw in the resident wildlife — the USA’s national parks showcase the very best of the country’s diverse landscapes and ecosystems. But which are the best national parks to visit? We’ve taken a look at data from Google Reviews to find out.

Below, we share the top national parks in the USA according to review ratings and explain why they’re so popular. We’ve also gathered insights from our USA specialists to show how you can explore each park in your very own way.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Earning their name from the thick morning mist that settles upon the treetops, the Great Smoky Mountains unsurprisingly take pride of place in this national park. Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in the American South, the park sprawls out across dense hardwood forests, veil-like waterfalls, and rock-strewn streams, making it ideal for scenic hikes. There’s an abundance of wildlife to spot here, too, like white-tailed deer, elk, raccoons, and black bears.

Not only is Great Smoky Mountains National Park one of the best parks in North America, but it’s also one the most visited. That said, you can escape the crowds by visiting outside of the summer months (June to August). We suggest autumn, from late October to early November, when the canopy turns into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and greens.

The park is vast, so we can arrange for you to explore with a guide, who’ll take you to places you might not find on your own and steer you away from the busier areas. They’ll also help you gain a deeper appreciation for the park’s history, fauna, and flora. Head out on a 4x4 tour to cover more ground, or go out on foot to venture deeper into the forests.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park black bear
Black bear, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Hundreds of red-rock spires, called ‘hoodoos’, huddle together in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, forming a Mars-like landscape that’s far removed from the rest of the USA. Even within the Southwest, where burnt orange scenery is commonplace, there’s no other park where you can see so many hoodoos in one place.

There are myriad ways to explore, from a fast-paced ATV tour that takes you along rolling dirt tracks through ponderosa pine forests to a gentle horse ride that culminates with sweeping views of the striped sandstone cliffs from a lofty lookout point. You can also head out on foot for a privately guided hike that’s tailored to suit your pace and what you want to see. Along the way, you might spot elk, prairie dogs, and mule deer.

Then, at night, we recommend making the most of the park’s ultra-dark skies with a private telescope experience beneath the stars.

Red Arch road tunnel near Bryce Canyon National Park
Red Arch Road Bridge, Bryce Canyon National Park
Peekaboo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
Peekaboo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Alpine meadows, glassy lakes, and snow-sprinkled peaks that abound in the USA’s most quintessential wildlife — it’s no wonder that Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the country’s best national parks. The park’s location, under two hours’ drive from Denver, also makes it easy to fit into any trip to the wider Rockies region.

We can arrange for you to explore it on foot with a private guide or as part of a small group. As you hike through open meadows and past lakes that perfectly reflect the forest-fringed Colorado mountains, you might see bighorn sheep, elk, moose, golden eagles, and — occasionally —black bears. All the while, your guide will tell stories that slowly reveal the park’s history and significance as you walk and pause to enjoy a picnic lunch.

Rocky Mountain National Park Hallett Peak
Hallett Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park
Denver skyline
Denver skyline

Grand Teton National Park

Another exemplar Rockies hiking destination, Grand Teton National Park is more than worthy of its glowing reviews. Here, serrated peaks cut into crisp, blue skies, forming a dramatic backdrop for the emerald meadows and conifer forests below. This Wyoming park shelters a variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, bison, and elk, as well as smaller creatures like otters, beavers, and yellow-bellied marmots.

If you’d like to focus on the Grand Teton’s animals, we suggest heading out on a wildlife safari with an eagle-eyed naturalist guide who’ll take you to the spots that have played host to the most recent sightings. Or, if you’d like to soak up the mountain views while you relax, you could try a gentle rafting experience along Snake River — the rocky jaws of the Tetons ever-present in the background.

Alternatively, if you go during the winter, we suggest some backcountry snowshoeing, where your guide will help you interpret animal tracks in the snow as you hike past trees draped in their winter finery.

Buffalo herd in Jackson, Wyoming
Bison, Grand Teton National Park
Snowshoeing in winter, Grand Teton National Park

Acadia National Park

In complete contrast to the other top national parks on our list, Acadia lies on the coast, along Maine’s wild Atlantic shoreline. Spruce forests and wave-weathered beaches make for peaceful walks, while clifftop hiking trails give you a vantage point from which to spot whales, otters, eagles, and puffins.

Acadia National Park is perhaps the quaintest location on our list, too, with lighthouses dotting the oceanfront and carriage roads originally built for horse-drawn buggies winding their way through the park. This makes it one of our top recommendations for a trip to New England.

As with many of the best parks in North America, we can arrange for you to go hiking with a guide. But we think one of the best ways to see the park is from the water. On a cruise around the coastline, you can take in views of nesting osprey and playful seals, soaring cliffs, and the Bear Island Lighthouse with its large gambrel-roofed dwelling. Then, you’ll stop off at a 200-year-old lobster-fishing village to learn how its 120-or-so residents live.

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park
Portland Head Lighthouse In Maine, USA
Portland Head Light, Maine