Visiting the US national parks is a favorite pastime shared by many.  However, you may be wondering what are the best national park experiences? This post will cover the most popular tours and experiences for many of the most popular national parks.  

It will also include links to some of the best tours to help you easily check these fantastic items off your bucket list.  

Know someone else who would love to join you on your adventures?  Consider giving one of the experiences mentioned as a present.  They make fantastic gifts for national park lovers.

Best National Park Experiences and Tours

1. Guided Tour of Acadia National Park with Cadillac MountainAcadia National Park

Acadia National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks with plenty of diverse scenery.  However, driving through the park can be a bit of a nightmare in peak season.  Traffic and parking can quickly ruin your day.

Instead of dealing with this hassle, take a guided tour!  This way everyone can focus on enjoying the sights around them while seeing the most popular spots within the park, including Cadillac Mountain (which requires a reservation to visit the summit if going on your own).

This tour will help you see the highlights of the park and is a good value if you’re short on time or just want to avoid driving.

2. Grand Teton and Native American Petroglyph TourGrand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park has numerous things to enjoy within the park including, Mormon Row, hiking, and Jenny Lake. But did you know that you can also see petroglyphs?  

This tour will help you discover this hidden gem while learning about its history and significance.  In addition, you’ll also make a stop at the National Big Horn Sheep Center where you can spot wildlife.

3. Yellowstone Snowshoe Safari from BozemanYellowstone National Park

Avoid the summer crowds by experiencing Yellowstone National Park in the winter.  As you snowshoe through the park, guided by a naturalist, look for animal tracks, wildlife, and geothermal features.

During this tour, you will get a better understanding of the flora, fauna, and landscapes that make this park so special.

4. Morning Kayak on Yellowstone Lake with Lunch Yellowstone with Kids

While Yellowstone is often known for its famous geysers, the beautiful and grand Yellowstone Lake offers visitors a chance to relax along its shores.  See the park from a different angle when you get out on the lake with this kayaking tour.

RELATED  A Guide to All 9 National Parks in California

As you paddle towards the West Thumb area (full of geothermal features) make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife such as bear and elk along the shores.  

Whether you are an experienced kayaker or just a beginner, you’re sure to have a blast on this scenic tour,

5. Jackson Hole Summer Aerial Tram Sightseeing

The Grand Tetons offer a plethora of hiking opportunities, but if you don’t have the strength or stamina to summit one of the mountains on your own, this tram ride is a fantastic alternative.  

Soar high above the valley as the tram escorts you up to the summit of a mountain. Once at the top, you can enjoy hiking opportunities or some delicious waffles as you enjoy the 360-degree views.   

6. Rocky Mountain National Park Sunset and Night Photography Tour

One of the amazing things to do in the national parks is to star gaze. Many of the parks are designated as dark sky areas, where there is little to no light pollution. This makes for incredible opportunities to see the wonders of the night sky.  

This tour will help you capture these wonderful views with your camera so you can remember the moment for years to come. It’s perfect for those new to night photography or photography in general as the tour guide will help you with your settings so you can get the best shots;

Travel Tip: Combine a stop at Rocky Mountain National Park as part of a Colorado National Parks road trip. It’s a fantastic way to experience Colorado’s four national parks in a week’s time.

7. Kenai Fjords National Park Glacier & Wildlife CruiseKenai NP 

Kenai Fjords is one of the best national parks for wildlife spotting. Board this cruise and sail by picturesque rock formations and incredible glaciers as you look for Stellar Sea Lions, Puffin, seals, Humpback, and Orca whales.

During this 6-hour tour, you’ll explore this national park by water and be delighted by the variety of wildlife and scenery that you see.  Lunch will be served onboard and drinks and other refreshments are also available.  

Best National Park Experiences and Tours for Adventure Lovers

8. Smoky Mountain Valley Adventure by HelicopterGreat Smoky Mountains National Park

Taking a helicopter tour in Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a breathtaking and entirely unique perspective on one of America’s most cherished natural wonders.  This tour allows you to soar above the dense canopy and capture panoramic views that are simply unattainable from the ground. 

You’ll witness the grandeur of the Smokies’ rolling peaks and ancient forests in a way that evokes a profound sense of awe and appreciation.  Have your camera ready to capture this incredible scenery.

9. Half-Day Glacier National Park Whitewater Rafting AdventureGlacier National Park

Take on class 2 and 3 rapids (including the famous “bone crusher” as you paddle the raft through one of the best and most popular national parks.  You’ll travel 8 miles along this 3.5 hour tour.  

RELATED  Best Lake Vacations in the United States

This is a must-do activity for any adrenaline junky who wants to get the most out of their visit to Glacier National Park.  The best part is, no prior experience is required to participate in this thrilling tour.

10. Arizona Highlights – Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell Flight with River RaftingAntelope Canyon

Don’t have a lot of time but want to experience some of the best that Arizona has to offer?  Then this tour is perfect.  It includes a helicopter ride of the East Rim of the Grand Canyon, a guided tour of the famous Antelope Canyon, and a boat trip down the Colorado River.

Whether you just want an action packed day trip or only have one day and want to see as much as possible, this tour will fulfill the adventurous part of your soul.  So get up early and make sure to bring your camera for this incredible tour.

11. New River Gorge Side by Side Family TourNew River Gorge National Park

Traveling with kids but still want a thrill?  Then this UTV tour is the perfect option.  Tackle almost any terrain as you explore New River Gorge National Park in places most regular vehicles just cannot go.

The tour is designed for people ages 12 and older and aims to provide a fun and thrilling experience so you can experience the park from a different perspective. Be prepared to get dirty on this tour.

12. Lower New River Gorge Full Day Climb and Rappel

Rappelling in New River Gorge National Park offers an exhilarating chance to descend sheer sandstone cliffs and navigate the breathtaking gorge. What sets this experience apart is the sheer diversity of routes available, catering to both beginners and seasoned climbers.

The stunning landscape, with its dramatic rock formations and lush forests, provides a spectacular backdrop for your adventure. As you descend the cliffs, you’ll not only get an adrenaline rush but also immerse yourself in the natural beauty and rich biodiversity of the region.

This tour is a great option no matter what your experience as there are several routes to choose from and vary in difficulty.

13. 8-Hour Denali Mountainous Hiking ActivityDenali

Escape the crowds as you challenge yourself to hike the wonderous mountains that surround Denali National Park.  During your trek, be on the lookout for dall sheep, eagles, and other wildlife.

Your guide will help you navigate the less defined trails so you can focus on the joys of hiking and the gorgeous scenery around you.  You will experience the park in a whole new way that few people ever experience.

14. Denali Peak Sightseeing by Plane

Taking a sightseeing plane tour to Mount Denali in Denali National Park and Preserve is undoubtedly one of the top national park experiences for those seeking awe-inspiring vistas and a deeper connection to the wilderness.

Denali, the highest peak in North America, is known for its imposing stature and stunning beauty, but it’s often shrouded in clouds and elusive to ground-based observers. A plane tour offers a privileged perspective, soaring above the park’s vast wilderness and glaciers to reveal the iconic mountain’s towering presence.

While the flight pattern is dependent on weather, you’re sure to have an incredible journey above the clouds.  You’ll also have onboard commentary to help you get the most out of your trip.

RELATED  14 Best Places for Women to Travel Alone in the United States

What Activities Can People Do When Visiting the National Parks?joshua tree national park

One of the primary draws of national parks is the opportunity to immerse yourself in some of the most breathtaking and diverse landscapes on the planet. Activities within these parks can include hiking along scenic trails, from easy strolls to challenging backcountry treks, providing a chance to witness pristine wilderness, waterfalls, and wildlife up close.

For those interested in wildlife and nature photography, national parks are a paradise. You can capture stunning shots of wildlife like bison, elk, and bears, as well as dramatic landscapes and night skies filled with stars. Birdwatching enthusiasts can spot diverse avian species, making each park a unique birding destination.

If you’re into water activities, kayaking, canoeing, and rafting are often possible in parks with rivers and lakes. Some parks have superb opportunities for fishing, allowing you to try your hand at catching native fish species.

Additionally, for history buffs, national parks offer a wealth of cultural and historical sites, from ancient Native American dwellings to historic forts and battlefields. You can learn about the cultural heritage of these places and the people who shaped their history.

Finally, the parks provide a serene backdrop for relaxation and reflection. Whether you’re enjoying a picnic by a serene lake, taking in a ranger talk, or simply sitting in the midst of the wilderness, these parks offer a chance to connect with nature and find solace away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

How Long Should You Spend at a National Park?Zion National Park

The ideal duration for a visit to the US national parks can vary widely depending on several factors, including your interests, the specific parks you plan to visit, and your travel goals. As a general guideline, it’s recommended to spend at least 2 to 3 days in each national park to fully immerse yourself in its unique beauty and activities. This allows time for exploring key landmarks, hiking some trails, and enjoying ranger-led programs.

When is the Best Time to Visit the National Parks?Arches-National-Park

As a general guideline, the ideal time to visit most national parks is during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to early June) and fall (September to early October). During these periods, you can typically enjoy pleasant weather, smaller crowds, and the opportunity to witness the beauty of changing seasons. Spring brings blooming wildflowers and rejuvenated landscapes, while fall dazzles with vibrant foliage and milder temperatures.

Ultimately, however, deciding when to visit the national parks will depend on the experience you want to have and what activities you would like to participate in.  Obviously, you can’t go snowshoeing in the summer.  

How Do You Avoid Crowds at National Parks?The Narrows in Zion National Park

First and foremost, consider visiting the parks during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall when the weather is still pleasant, but the visitor numbers have significantly diminished compared to the busy summer months. Weekdays also tend to be quieter than weekends, allowing for a more peaceful and less congested visit.

Furthermore, opt for lesser-known or less-visited national parks and off-the-beaten-path trails within popular parks. Research and choose parks that are not typically on the top of everyone’s list but still offer exceptional natural beauty and outdoor activities. 

Additionally, explore the park during non-peak hours, such as early morning or late afternoon, to experience the tranquil serenity and stunning views with fewer people around.

Lastly, be flexible with your itinerary and open to exploring less advertised trails and viewpoints. Sometimes the hidden gems and less-popular areas can offer equally, if not more, stunning scenery and a chance to appreciate the beauty of the natural world without the hustle and bustle of larger crowds.

Final Thoughts on the Best National Park Experiences and Tours

Hopefully, this post has given you an idea of some of the incredible national park experiences that you can have at various parks within the United States.  No matter which tour you choose, it is sure to help create memories to last a lifetime.  So go ahead and get planning your next trip!

Read Next:

A Guide to All 9 National Parks in California

One Week Itinerary for Utah National Parks

Best Experiences and tours in the National Parks