You would agree that nothing compares to relaxing in the lap of nature and being in complete awe of the magic of wilderness. National parks are a perfect summer escapade that offers plenty of things to see and do. Whether you want to take in the scenery, camp in the wild, indulge in water activities, go hiking, or enjoy stargazing, these top national parks in the USA fulfill all your desires. So, escape into some of the amazing geological wonders this summer! Are you wondering which would be the best national park to visit in July? Read through the following set of best national parks to visit in summer and plan your dream vacation.
21 of the Best National Parks to Visit in Summer
Read this list of National Parks and plan your summer trip!
Grand Teton National Park
Explore the beautiful Grand Teton National Park located about 10 miles south of the popular Yellowstone National Park. Enjoy uninterrupted views of snow capped peaks, the scenic alpine landscape, the crystalline Jackson Lake, mountain glaciers, and various streams in the park. Exciting activities like bicycling, climbing, hiking, fishing, boating, and water sports are also available at the park.
Livingit Tip: The Grand Teton National Park has six campgrounds that work on the first-come first-serve basis, so plan well. You may also choose backcountry camping or lodging at the park’s resort hotels or cabins.
Acadia National Park
Visit this wonderful park with diverse landscapes ranging from granite peaks and sandy beaches to swathes of pines and hardwood forests. Immerse in its glory as you drive along the Twenty-mile Park Loop Road, which offers splendid views of the coast and Mount Desert, and takes you through the meadow-blanketed valleys and forests. Also, enjoy watching seals and whales as you go kayaking or boating on the sea.
Livingit Tip: Cycling in the park trails isn’t allowed, instead, you can go biking on the serene carriage roads (45 miles) that pass through the park’s center.
Crater Lake National Park
One of the jewels of Oregon as well as one of its cleanest national parks, Crater Lake is a real treat to the eyes. You will be mesmerized by the beautiful blue water of the lake surrounded by 2,000-foot high cliffs. You can also take up activities like hiking, swimming, fishing, wildlife viewing, backcountry camping, Rim drive, and bicycling.
For unobstructed, photographic views, hike 2.5 miles up the Mount Scott Trail. Daily boat tours are led by the park rangers during the months of July to mid-September (summer). Check for the weather conditions and activities available before heading to the lake, and carry enough water, sunblock, etc.
Livingit Tip: Get an ‘America the Beautiful National Parks Pass’ before you head to the park and save waiting time at the gate.
Great Basin National Park
Be ready to have your eyes glued to magical views of the stars and the Milky Way at night! The Great Basin National Park is one of Nevada’s largest national parks, with splendid limestone caverns, pine trees, and alpine lakes. Its high elevation and very low light pollution facilitate an out-of-the-world stargazing experience and make it one of the best national parks to visit in summer.
Explore the park’s splendor on the various tours and hikes such as the Lehman Cave Tour, Grand Palace Tour, Wheeler Peak hike, Bristlecone Pine Trees tour, etc. You may also go fishing, climbing, horseback riding, camping, and cross-country skiing here.
Zion National Park
Come and explore the first national park of Utah and one of the best national parks to visit in summer– the Zion National Park, which abounds in orange-red rock walls, hanging valleys, slot canyons, and slickrock peaks.
The Narrows (a river at the base of the park’s upper canyon) is a great spot for hiking, (16-mile trail), surrounded on both sides by high sandstone walls. If you’re not much into adventure activities, go on a scenic drive on Highway 9 along River Virgin or take a short trek to the Weeping Rock and emerald pools.
Read more about Zion in our article Hiking Trails in Zion
Livingit Tip: Trekking poles and sturdy hiking shoes are a must for hiking on the slippery rocks. A short hike to the Canyon Overlook at sunset will gift you with breathtaking views of the sun-kissed canyons.
Channel Islands National Park
For a wonderful kayaking, diving, and snorkeling experience amidst the kelp beds, head to this splendid archipelago of eight isles, on California’s southern coast. One of the best national parks to visit in summer, you will be stunned to know that the Channel Islands is home to over 150 species of plants and animals. Out of them, you’ll get to see whales, sea lions, elephant seals, and the island-specific island deer mouse and island fox.
Glacier National Park
Straddling the USA-Canada border, Glacier National Park is a haven for hiking enthusiasts and one of the best national parks in the US. It boasts of breathtaking views of peaks and glaciers, waterfalls, alpine lakes, wildflowers aplenty, and grizzly bears and mountain goats as wildlife. Hike along its popular trails or drive along the popular ‘Going-to-the-Sun Road’ for perfect views of the park’s natural wonders.
Livingit Tip: Carry good hiking shoes, camping necessities, windbreakers, and snow axes.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Visit the Mammoth Cave National Park for the feel of a journey to the Earth’s center! Home to over 400 miles of caves, the Mammoth Cave National Park is a great summer escapade. You can go on exciting ranger-led tours such as the ‘Wild Cave Tour’ that takes you through unusual tracks for cave exploration. Once you explore the caves, you can go kayaking, boating, riverside camping, and fishing on the Nolin and Green Rivers that wind through the park.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Situated near the 14,505-foot Mount Whitney, the two parks – Sequoia and Kings National Park are a combined spot for the best National Park in California. This is one place where you’ll feel tiny amidst the high-standing (250 feet) sequoia trees! It’s a backpacker’s paradise, with over 850 miles of trails that wind through lush forests and glacial canyons.
You cannot miss the General Sherman Tree, which is one of the world’s largest trees (274.9 feet tall and 78.5 feet wide) located in the Giant Forest. Cedar Grove and Crystal Cave are the other must-see spots in the park, with various trees and natural limestone formations.
Livingit Tip: There’s a parking lot for the handicapped next to the General Sherman Tree, while you can walk along the half-mile Sherman Tree Trail by taking a right on the Wolverton Road and another right at the parking area of Sherman Tree Trail.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Are you a fan of glaciers and icebergs? Then Kenai Fjords National Park on the Kenai Peninsula should be your favorite summer destination. Soak in the pleasant temperatures and pristine beauty of the park, and indulge in exciting activities such as kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, boat cruising, hiking, and flightseeing by plane.
This is the best way to explore the park’s smoky fjords, beautiful glaciers, and far-away islands. And did you know? The park is home to vast sea life including sea otters, humpback whales, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and orcas! If you’re not much of a sea person, you can walk along the Harding Icefield Trail or camp at the Northwestern Lagoon for a tranquil experience.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Where: Border of North Carolina and Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, Tennessee, is one of the busiest parks with around 9 million visitors per year. You’ll be mesmerized by the scenic beauty of the Great Smokies area (covering 522,419 acres) of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of eastern United States’ largest protected areas. Behold 1600 species and more of flowering plants on a wildflower parade or get to the top of Clingmans Dome, the park’s highest point (6,643 feet) and enjoy panoramic mountain views.
Livingit Tip: Check online for suggested wildflower hikes.
Shenandoah National Park
A perfect holiday destination during fall, the Shenandoah National Park (about 196,000 acres) lures visitors and can even be one of the best national parks to visit in summer. The Blue Ridge Mountains create a pleasant weather and make the park much cooler than the surrounding valleys.
Hiking enthusiasts are in for a treat at the Shenandoah National Park in summer, when plenty of hiking and camping activities await you at the park’s waterfalls and backcountry side. Else, explore the area on a Skyline Drive that takes you through the entire park. Before visiting, check the park’s online guide for information on the hiking trails and adventure activities.
Livingit Tip: If you’re keen on learning about the area’s vast flora and fauna, take the guided hikes that are conducted daily.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
A lesser-known heaven in Wisconsin, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (an archipelago of 21 islands) is an amazing summer destination. Enjoy various adventure activities including scuba diving in the crystal-clear Lake Superior amidst the natural beauty and old shipwrecks.
Kayaking, boating, and fishing in the island’s immaculate beaches and protected bays are also popular activities. There are over 50 miles of well-maintained trails in the islands, which are home to old farm sites, deserted quarries, scenic beaches, campsites, and overlooks.
Livingit Tip: You can hike the 4.5-mile Mainland Lakeshore Trail, starting from the Meyers Beach area.
Mesa Verde National Park
Witness some of the world’s most amazing and well-preserved cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park. This is known to be USA’s only cultural national park. It’s an absolute treat to hike up the Park Point and take in the awe-inspiring panoramic views.
Isle Royale National Park
Head to the land of solitude and tranquility this summer, the Isle Royale National Park. It’s an archipelago of a beautiful 45-mile island and over 450 smaller islands in Lake Superior. Soak in the pure wilderness amidst fir and spruce forests that are home to abundant wildlife such as wolves, foxes, and moose.
It is also a great place to indulge in scuba diving, fishing, and kayaking. The only way to get here is by the park’s ferry service from Minnesota or Michigan. Approach the park ranger for low-impact camping and hiking discussions that will cover important tips. Carry necessary things for camping and hiking or choose to stay at the Rock Harbor Lodge.
Livingit Tip: Avoid feeding the wild animals.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is a haven for geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, pools, and calderas. Being one of the best national parks to visit in summer, you have to check out the various attractions. There are numerous activities to pursue in the park, 1300 miles of trails for exploring, 12 campsites, and vast species of wildlife.
You can hike along the scenic trails or discover backcountry. With 2 million acres to venture and an adventurous spirit, you will never get bored at this national park. Visit the Yellowstone in July for a great experience.
Mount Rainier National Park
Visit this park in July or August to witness beautiful wildflowers and unrestricted views of the mountain. With a 369 square mile coverage, this park surrounds the famous Mount Rainier which peaks at 14,410 feet and is one of the best National Parks to visit in summer.
This park contains five developed areas to explore, Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon/Mowich. These encompass temperate rainforests, meadows, mountains, hiking trails, and campgrounds.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
This national park surrounds one of the most active volcanic areas found in the world. There are numerous sights to see from volcanic craters, deserts, and rainforests, to actual live burning lava. The Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are two active volcanoes in this park, with Kilauea constantly erupting to this day since 1983.
This park is named a World Biosphere site by UNESCO, and also a World Heritage site. Covering 333,000 acres and with over 150 miles of the hiking trail to choose from, there is a summer adventure just waiting for you.
Grand Canyon National Park
This Park would make for an unforgettable summer holiday if you plan to discover its beauty. Visit this park for exquisite views of the Great Canyon, the Colorado River, and numerous trails available to explore every inch of the site. One of the best National Parks to visit in summer, the Canyon covers 277 miles in length and a mile in depth. The Colorado Rapids flowing alongside allowing activities like rafting, skydiving, balloon and helicopter rides, and more.
Livingit Tip: When you visit this park, avoid the weekend as the crowds can get suffocating. If you still want a more secluded view of the Canyon, try the North Rim, it is known to be less traveled by.
Katmai National Park
This National Park known for volcanoes and bear, an unlikely combination, is home to 15 volcanoes and the largest protected population of brown bears. This makes it one of the best National Parks to visit in summer. There are also numerous activities like kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and, of course, hiking.
One must see attraction at this Park would be the Valley of 10,000 smokes caused by steam vents in the earth. Best time to visit is usually June to September, but if you wish to witness the brown bears in their habitat, then in June the salmon attract around 2,000 bears to the Brooks River.
North Cascades National Park
One of the most interesting things about this park is that you must hike to reach it in the first place. You can drive to the outer park stations, but to actually set foot in the park you must go on foot. There are many opportunities for adventure in this park, starting with Ranger walks, wildlife treks, hiking trails, rafting, fishing, camping, and climbing. Visit the Glacier lakes like that of Diablo Lake, the best time is around July and August.
Livingit Tip: You might need to check to see if the trails are open and unrestricted to visit the park.
This list of best National Parks to visit in Summer is all you need when you are in a dilemma about which parks to visit. So, let this summer be different and well-spent. Don’t forget to tell us how your summer vacation was!