The Ultimate Guide to North America’s National (And Provincial) Parks
As National Park Week approaches, our daydreams take flight, soaring even higher as we envision the breathtaking landscapes that await across this vast continent. Our yearning for exploration finds form in carefully curated lists of places we’re eager to experience.
From the majestic granite cliffs of Yosemite to the serene slate-blue expanse of the Everglades, we’ve compiled a selection of the finest National Parks to include in your 2023 travel plans. Our collection extends to encompass some of Canada’s most exquisite Provincial and National Parks, spanning the geographical tapestry from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
No matter where your current abode or future explorations lead, chances are a park lies close at hand. If the idea hasn’t crossed your mind yet, contemplate securing an RV or arranging a stay through Outdoorsy—a perfect way to partake in the celebration of National Park Week and beyond.
Canada has more than 1,000 provincial and national parks to explore, spread across 10 million acres of protected land in each of its different territories. See below for the ones we have our eyes on.
Located near the iconic topaz Lake Louise, Yoho National Park is open year-round. In the Indigenous language of Cree spoken in the Canadian Rockies, yoho means “awe” or “wonder.” Activities there include discovering Burgess Shale fossils on a guided hike, cross-country skiing on designated trails, and the usual camping, hiking, birdwatching, and sightseeing.
Points of interest: Natural Bridge, Emerald Lake, and Wapta Falls
Known for its velvety, starry heavens, Jasper National Park is the world’s second-largest dark sky preserve. Winter is especially spectacular in this glacially-shaped region. A dozen miles of trails for biking and hiking are easily accessible from campgrounds. This park is also known for its wildlife traffic, from grizzly bears to bighorn sheep.
Points of interest: Maligne Canyon, Athabasca Falls, and Icefields Parkway
The colors of the foliage and flora in Forillon National Park are a constantly changing rainbow. Located on the northeast tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, visitors can spend all day watching the waves at the end of the Grande-Grave wharf, and if they’re lucky, catch sight of a blue whale swimming through the temperate waters. Activities include kayaking, hiking, and cruising.
Points of interest: Fort Peninsula, Gaspé Bay, and La Chute Trail
Nestled between Bruce Peninsula’s limestone cliffs and the small fishing village of Tobermory, Fathom Five National Marine Park is an idyllic coastal haven. Just off the shore and under the water’s surface, scuba divers can explore a smattering of 24 shipwrecks in the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. This freshwater ecosystem also has ancient rock formations and rare orchid species.
Points of interest: Flowerpot Island, Little Cove Beach, and Big Tub Lighthouse
Geology geeks and general naturalists alike will be in awe at Gros Morne National Park, a diverse landscape that includes a freshwater fjord, a colorful coastal village, and an exposed piece of the Earth’s mantle (the Tablelands). Trek up Gros Morne Mountain to see wildflowers and panoramic views, or settle in for a day cruise to spot waterfalls and birds.
Points of interest: The Tablelands, Western Brook Pond, and Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.
The U.S.’s National Park System includes 424 sites across more than 84 million acres in all 50 states and extends into Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. We picked 5 that combine unbeatable views, plenty of camping possibilities, and access from major metros.
Over two million years, the Gunnison River and other forces of nature carved out this vertical wilderness. The steep canyon walls look intimidating, but Black Canyon of the Gunnison is open for all levels of adventure. Stay on the North and South Rims for easy trails and sweeping scenery. Or head to the canyon’s inner sanctum for a remote challenge. Seriously, it’s no joke.
And if you happen to be headed to points further south, check out Outdoorsy Durango – an RVing and glamping haven that’ll put you at the footsteps of places like The San Juan Mountains, Pagosa Springs, and Mesa Verde National Park. You could also rent an RV in this area for full-on Colorado exploring.
Points of interest: Rim Rock Nature Trail, Curecanti National Recreation Area, and Sunset View
Once a monument and now a National Park, White Sands is 275-square miles of blinding white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. There’s nowhere else like it. Slide down the sparkling sand on a sled, hike into the backcountry, practice your nature photography, drive an 8-mile scenic road, or pedal the pavement for unobstructed views.
Points of interest: Visitor Center, Dune Life Nature Trail, and Dunes Drive
You know it (or of it). You love it. Tucked into a valley of polished granite walls and powerful waterfalls, Yosemite National Park is its own special paradise in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. You could spend a whole month in this valley and not see everything. Hike all day, spend time in the campground, or take a driving tour. Every turn offers something spectacular.
Bonus: Visit Outdoorsy Yosemite, for an unforgettable stay near the park. Outdoorsy Yosemite offers camping, glamping, and RV sites right on Bass Lake – a water rec mecca that’s mere minutes from the national park.
Points of interest: Mirror Lake, Tuolumne Meadows, and Yosemite Falls
A swampy refuge for manatees, crocodiles, turtles, and even panthers, Everglades National Park is a lush green gem on Florida’s southern tip. This internationally-recognized site will surely give any visitor an appreciation for nature’s miracles. Fishing, boating, touring, hiking, and cycling are some of the best ways to see the park.
Points of interest: Shark Valley Tram Tour, Pahayokee Overlook, and Coastal Prairie Trail
Best in the summer when the weather mellows out, Crater Lake National Park is much more than a crater full of rainwater and snow melt. The park is an impressive illustration of the area’s violent volcanic past dating back 7,700 years ago. The blue lake is a shade of its own kind. Other than the scenic rim drive, highlights include hiking trails and ranger-led programs.
Points of interest: Wizard Island, Discovery Point, and Cleetwood Cove Trail
This guide could be a million words longer, but we’ll leave it at those 10 parks. For more National Park exploration, look to these other comprehensive blogs: 10 other parks you just have to visit, the do’s and don’ts of visiting the parks, and the most popular parks for RVs.