Enjoying a nice family vacation at one of the best national parks in North America can be a memorable and enjoyable trip that everyone will cherish forever. There is much to explore at these national gems, from the breathtaking Yellowstone National Park to the Canadian Auyuittuq National Park, with activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, camping, and kayaking. These best national parks have everything you need for a fun and memorable family vacation.
Best National Parks In North America
Yellowstone National Park is gigantic (3,468 square miles) and spans across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It’s recognized as the first and one of the best national parks globally. The park is well known for its wildlife and the renowned Old Faithful geyser. Half of the entire world’s geothermal features are in the park. Unfortunately, some sections may be closed during the offseason for repair due to its vast size. Nevertheless, its many attractions, including Old Faithful, its own Grand Canyon, and Mammoth Hot Springs – are hugely popular throughout the summertime.
Banff National Park spans 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) and is Canada’s oldest national park, situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Known as one of the best national parks to visit on the continent, it boasts almost unparalleled levels of natural beauty in the form of snow-capped peaks, coniferous forests, alpine meadows, and pristine lakes. It’s not uncommon for visitors to make the trek to experience the majestic mountain scenery and to engage in endless outdoor adventures, including hiking, biking, and canoeing. Explore strings of glaciers and lakes, each more spectacular than the last, travel along the picturesque Icefield Parkway, and experience Banff’s lively atmosphere with its world-class resorts, restaurants, and breweries.
Lake Louise is a small village widely renowned as the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies. The village can get crowded, but the sheer majesty of the setting is remarkable, as it encompasses turquoise waters and towering mountains.
Interesting Facts: Banff National Park is the third oldest national park in the world.
Sequoia National Park is one of the best national parks to visit with the entire family. The park is about 80 miles east of Fresno, California, in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range. It was founded as a national park in 1890 to prevent the logging of trees. Although Kings Canyon National Park was formed in 1940, the two parks were eventually linked.
Highlights of the park are the trees, and this site is home to some of the tallest trees in the world. Perhaps the most notable is the General Sherman Tree, which has rightfully earned the world’s largest tree title! The General Sherman Tree is 275 feet tall, and its base measures more than 36 feet in diameter. But there is plenty more to explore, including the caves, hiking, and snowshoeing.
Insider Tip: During the summer, visitors can take guided horseback rides at two horseback riding stables.
Wapusk National Park, located in northeastern Manitoba, is one of the best national parks, but it’s only accessible by plane or train. Wapusk’s remote location and harsh terrain make it best to visit with a licensed tour operator. Polar bear viewing is a popular activity in Wapusk due to its tundra wilderness that provides dens for mother polar bears. Licensed tour operators run polar bear-themed tours in November, February, and March. In June, locals & tourists enjoy canoeing down the Owl River.
Interesting Facts: In the summer, Wapusk National Park is bursting with rare birds, purple saxifrage, and small butterwort flowers usually found farther north.
The gorgeous Haleakalā National Park is on the Hawaiian island of Maui. It’s home to the inactive but legendary Haleakalā Volcano. Native Hawaiians consider the point Pōhaku Pālaha sacred, calling it “wao akua,” or the wilderness of the gods. Tropical rainforests shelter native Hawaiian plants and animals such as the endangered Hawaiian geese that are not found anywhere else on earth. The Kīpahulu Biological Reserve is so precious that there is very restricted access. As a result, more endangered species are found at Kīpahulu than anywhere else.
Interesting Facts: Visitors enjoy the Kīpahulu for its Oheʻo Pools, often called the “Seven Sacred Pools.” It’s also a perfect place for camping and hiking, and the night skies are perfect for viewing planets, stars, and moons.
The Auyuittuq National Park is named in Inuktitut, with Auyuittuq meaning “The land that never melts.” This is one of the best national parks located on Baffin Island. This beautiful place is filled with arctic wildlife and wilderness consisting of fjords, glaciers, and massive ice fields. Among Auyuittuq’s most famous features is the mighty Mount Thor. At 1250 m, Mt Thor is the highest continuous vertical drop on earth, measuring 1675 meters high!
The Auyuittuq Park supports a diverse range of animals such as lemmings, arctic foxes, arctic hares, narwhals, red foxes, snowy owls, peregrine falcons, ermines, rough-legged hawks, gyrfalcons, beluga whales, snow geese, polar bears, wolves, and Canada geese.
The breathtaking Gates of the Arctic National Park is the northernmost park in the United States, protecting an area of Alaska’s Brooks Range where people have lived for over 13,000 years. There are countless archeological sites around this land indicating the deep ties between its inhabitants, including Athapaskans and Inupiats. This land has remained untouched due to the lack of roads, trails, and facilities. Arctic terns fly from Antarctic waters to arrive here every year, the longest migration of any bird in the world. Many bird gazers join the tern to watch other birds and wildlife as they backpack, camp, and cruise the rivers.
Interesting Facts: The Gates of the Arctic is home to many animals, including grizzly bears, wolves, muskox, caribou, moose, wolverines, foxes, and dall sheep. There are also several fish species found in this area, including grayling, dolly varden trout, Arctic char, and chum salmon.
Torngat Park is one of the best national parks to visit in Canada. Torngat Mountains National Park is a place of myths and legends. Remote, isolated, and stunning, this park is one you won’t soon forget. In the local Inuktitut language, Torngat means “places of spirits” and is located on the northern tip of Labrador. This subarctic park is situated on Inuit land and has a rich history! Get ready to explore ancient glacier-carved fjords and see icebergs float by on the bluest of waters on the planet. Tourists have to stay sharp as many polar bears and caribou are known to roam the area.
This beautiful park is so remote that it’s only accessible by air and water during the summer months. The Torngat Mountain Base Camp runs from mid-July through the end of August. Most visitors choose a 3-7 day package at the base camp. This base camp is surrounded by a bear fence and offers guides who double as polar bear guards. Despite the lack of official campsites or facilities, independent campers can almost camp anywhere within the park.
There is no doubt that the Great Sand Dunes National is one of the best national parks in the country. Rio Grande sand deposits have sculpted some of North America’s largest dunes, which stand up to 750 feet high. Great Sand Dunes Park is one of the more biologically and geologically diverse parks in the United States due to its grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, alpine lakes, and ancient forests surrounding it. Visitors tend to visit during the spring or fall because sand surfaces can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer or drop to 20 degrees below zero in the winter.
Medano Creek is best known as one of Colorado’s most unique beaches, with activities like wading, skimboarding, tubing, and sand sculpting in spring. Besides sandboarding and sand sledding, hikers and backpackers will find plenty of opportunities for photography, astronomy, camping, and horseback riding.
Read More: Take an Epic 8-Day National Park Road Trip
Gaspesie is a spectacular location known for its incredible hiking trails and jaw-dropping fjords that make this one of the best national parks. This park is 80 years old & was created to protect the salmon populations that call Riviere Saint-Anne home and woodland caribou. The mountains of this beautiful region can reach heights over 1000 m, and you’ll find a wide variety of arctic-alpine flora & fauna along with a large population of moose.
Locals & tourists would agree that Gaspesie is one of the best national parks in Canada. So many people enjoy the popular activities that this magnificent park has to offer, including fishing, snowshoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, and skiing.
With so many activities such as skiing, fishing, camping and much more, it’s no surprise that the best national parks are constantly full of visitors! So prepare for some of the most memorable family vacations when visiting any of the sites listed in this guide and some amazing Instagram-worthy photos. For lasting memories that help you reconnect with the great outdoors and with your loved ones, there is nothing better than trips to the best national parks!
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