The Best National Parks to Visit in the United States

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Yellowstone National Park

There are tons of national parks to visit in the United States – 424 of them, according to the National Park Foundation. That means there’s almost no limit to how many sights you can see, especially if you set your mind to it this summer. So here’s a great, comprehensive list of some of the best national parks to visit in the United States.

Please note that national parks on this list have fee-free days on the following days in 2023:

  • 01/16/2023
  • 04/22/2023
  • 08/04/2023
  • 09/23/2023
  • 11/11/2023

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, located in Montana, spans over 700 miles of streams featuring glaciers, meadows, valleys, and gorgeous lakes. Open year-round, you can visit it any time, but businesses and services peak during Glacier’s summer season, which usually runs from late May through September.

Their fees are fairly straightforward and not terrible, either. Standard entrance passes are $20-$35, depending on the vehicle. They also offer an annual entrance pass for $70, which can save you money depending on how often you want to go visit the park.

Please note that they do require a vehicle registration for four areas of the park: Going-to-the-Sun Road, the North Fork, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier. Each location requires a separate reservation, so if you plan on visiting more than one area, please keep in mind that you may need to have multiple reservations. You can buy passes online in regards to their site-specific passes, making for a painless online reservation process.

To get the most out of your trip, you can factor in camping, as well, with the option of choosing either first-come, first-reserve campgrounds or reserved campgrounds. You can also opt into the wilderness camping in Glacier experience if you’re looking for a more rough-and-ready type of adventure. This park features free ranger-guided activities, with exception to ranger-guided hikes that include a boat trip and some of the Native American Speaks programs.

With recently released data (as of March 14th, 2023) Glacier National Park touts that they are one of the top 10 visited National Parks in 2022, hosting 2,908,458 recreational visits in 2022 alone. You can clearly see why this is such a popular choice for a visit, since the park is gorgeous, cost-friendly, and offers everything you need on-site.

Zion National Park

Seated in Utah, Zion National Park is Utah’s first National Park. It stakes claim to 229 square miles of red rock landscape, preserving paths where both indigenous peoples and pioneers walked. This park is also open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, proudly open year-round. Their hours of operation are fairly comprehensive, with most spots opening at 8am and the latest closing at 8pm (Zion Forever Park Store) and the earliest closing at 12pm (Kolob Canyons Wilderness Desk).

They have specific information regarding the park’s conditions and what you can expect on your visit depending on the seasons, including all four seasons so you can get a good idea of when you want to go prior to your visit. It looks like the most popular time for the park to get visitors is during the summer, which is from May through September, with a slightly calmer pace taking back over in fall (October and November). If you’re looking for a more isolated nature experience, going during the winter might be your preferred, wherein they state you can expect “solitude and snow (sometimes)”.

As with the other parks, their fees are viewable online and you can also pay for and/or make reservations. Standard entrance passes for Zion range from $20-$35, with several options available for annual passes. Interagency annual passes are $80, which allows you entrance to all Federal fee areas for one year from date of purchase with no additional entrance fees; Zion annual passes are $70, which covers Zion National Park; military annual passes are free; and senior annual passes are $20, restricted to U.S. citizens or permanent residents aged 62 or older. There are also lifetime access passes, with lifetime senior passes costing $80 (same restrictions as senior passes) and lifetime access passes free for permanently disabled U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

You can camp in Zion, which has two campgrounds available: Watchman Campground, which is open year round and they recommend you make reservations up to six months head of your visit; and Lava Point Campground, which is roughly a one hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road, which is closed during the winter. Please note that there is also a South Campground, but that camping ground is currently closed for a long-term rehabilitation project.

As always, preparedness is key, so if you’re planning a trip to Zion, act fast to get your campgrounds reserved. According to their handy-dandy statistics viewer, Zion National Park had a whopping total of 4,693,417 visitors in 2022.

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park takes your breath away, sitting on nearly a million acres of Washington state’s ground. It has over 70 miles of wild coastline available, along with glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rainforests, and several distinctly different ecosystems.

Olympic National Park has specific recommendations for visitors for summer versus winter, and has helpful information on their website. If you’re looking for a summer visit, now is the time to be acting on that, because summer season is here!

Standard entrance passes for the Olympics start at $15 and cap at $30, with annual entrance fees only being $55! Their camping fees are a bit more straightforward, ranging from $15-$24 depending on location and season, with a complete list of fees available online. You can also acquire a wilderness camping permit and stay in the Olympic backcountry overnight, which will cost $8 per person, per night, plus a $6 per permit fee.

Olympic National Park has many things to do, including boating, fishing, day hikes, backpacking, night sky programs, and wildlife viewing. You can also partake in a ranger led program, whereupon you can explore the diverse ecosystems and history with a ranger on-site.

Once again utilizing NPS’ statistics page, you can see that in 2022, Olympic National Park received 2,432,972 visitors!

Everglades National Park

One of eleven National Parks in Florida, the Everglades is a constant marvel. This National Park provides important safety for rare and endangered species, such as the manatee, American crocodile, and the ever-elusive Florida panthers. Not only that, but the Everglades also serves as a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially-protected area under the Cartagena Treaty. Spanning 1.5 million acres of wetland, we can understand why the Everglades is a must-see place.

There are several available entrances for the Everglades National Park: Homestead entrance, Miami entrance, and the Everglades City/Naples entrance. The only one with specific hours of operation is the Miami entrance, which is open from 8:30am to 6pm. Rather than separating by standard seasons, the Everglades state that they separate by wet season (April through October) and dry season (which is November through March). 

They state that ranger-led programs are more restricted during wet season, but you can check the park calendar for specific programs you may be interested in. Dry season features more ranger-led programs, wildlife viewing opportunities, and generally has a higher rate of visitation.

Standard entrance fees range from $15-$30, and they offer annual passes for $55. As usual, you can camp in the Everglades National Park, with some restrictions around when campgrounds will be open. You can also engage in wilderness camping in the Everglades, but a camping permit is required.

Popular activities in the Everglades include bird watching, boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and generally taking in the wildlife. Based on public data, the Everglades received 1,155,193 visitors in 2022.

Yellowstone National Park

Our final National Park, we bring you to Yellowstone National Park, which spans across three states – Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. This is the first national park for all to enjoy, including hydrothermal and geologic features unique to this park alone. It spans 2.2 million acres, making it a massive visitation hot-spot for people all across the country and even the world.

Yellowstone is so large that they have many different operating hours and peak seasons, which you can view on their Operating Hours and Seasons page. No matter when you’re visiting, standard entrance passes are $20-$35, and annual passes are $70. Being so large and having so many options for visiting, you can of course camp in Yellowstone and take a look at their reservable campground pricing fees. It looks like they are currently working out availability in Mammoth and Tower Fall, with Norris and Pebble Creek camping being closed in 2023. Their campground information page is quite comprehensive, including information like cell phone reception, trash/recycling collection, and amphitheater information for visitors.

There are so many things to do in Yellowstone, it’d be impossible to detail it all in one article. They do have recommendations based on when you’re visiting – if you’re looking for a winter visit, you can ski, snowshoe, ride a snowmobile or snowcoach, and camp in the backcountry. Summer recommendations can include hiking a trail, watching the wildlife, biking in the park, or even riding a horse!

Being one of the more highly-visited parks in the U.S., Yellowstone had 3,290,242 visitors in 2022 alone.

No matter what national park you decide to visit, On Air Parking has got your back with easy, painless airport and city parking reservations. You can download the app on an Apple or Android device, and make a few clicks to reserve parking. Free cancellations up to the start date, and free shuttles in most parking, On Air Parking makes it easy to park and go. Customer service is available Monday through Friday, from 10am to 7pm ET, by phone (888-487-2754) or by text (424-532-8940). You can also reach us by email at hello@noson.io.

Happy traveling!