America’s national parks are one of our greatest treasures. According to the National Park Service, nearly 312 million people visited them in 2022.
Within the 424 protected lands and monuments of our park system, 63 have the designation of a “national park.” (The rest are national battlefields and military parks, historical parks and sites, reserves, parkways, preserves, scenic trails, areas, seashores, lakeshores and more.)
Some of these parks are known around the world. Some are unknown by even most Americans. All are worthy of a visit to enjoy our country’s amazing natural heritage.
We won’t attempt to cover all these parks, but here are some suggestions to get you started planning your next adventure.
5 Not-to-be-Missed US National Parks
These five national parks offer experiences and scenery that are vastly different from one another. It’s always eye-opening to see things you’ve never seen before and be in natural settings unfamiliar to you.
Maybe one of these can be your next big adventure:
Acadia National Park (Maine)
Acadia is among the top 10 most-visited US national parks, with an average of 4 million people a year entering its gates. It’s known for its great hiking, paddling, camping, forests and seashore. The 27-mile Park Loop Road is a great way to see the park on land, and a boat tour is a great way to explore the area by sea.
While it’s such a popular park, Acadia is also one of the smaller national parks. It’s located on one of Maine’s many coastal islands. It gets a lot of precipitation year-round, so be sure to bring your rain gear. Its marine climate helps keep the temperatures fairly moderate.
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, dating back to 1872. It also sees about 4 million people in an average year. This park is most well-known for its geological wonders, especially the hot springs and geysers. It holds about half the world’s geysers, in fact—the most famous being Old Faithful. You’ll find vast plains, snow-capped mountains, canyons of all sizes, forests, rivers, lakes and plenty of wildlife including elk, bison, grizzly bear, wolf and black bear.
Yellowstone is around 8,000 feet in elevation and its weather varies greatly, even within a single day. So be prepared for anything (even snow, even in the summer!). Layers and rain gear are a must. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails, camping and paddling in both the “front” country and backcountry—2.2 million acres of it.
Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
This unique park is named after the world’s longest known cave system. Touring the cave is, of course, a highlight for visitors. But there’s also hiking, biking, horse riding, river paddling and camping to enjoy.
Kentucky’s weather is moderate. Expect hot, humid summer days and nights that don’t cool off much. The temperature in the cave is a constant 54º F though, so pack some warmer layers, too, for your cave tour.
Mammoth Cave is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a designated International Biosphere Reserve, as is our next pick…
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
This national park on Hawaii’s Big Island has an extreme vertical grade from sea level to almost 14,000 feet. It includes two active volcanoes—Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Because of the volcanic activity over the years, its landscape looks Mars-like, but extends to the coast, too, for spectacular rock formations carved by waves.
The weather in the park varies widely because of the elevation gain from ocean to the volcanoes themselves. In higher elevations you should expect cooler temps, rain, fog and maybe even snow. Other areas closer to the base can be hot and windy. Again, layers are best!
Everglades National Park (Florida)
Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in America, and another World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve—plus a Wetland of International Importance. Rather than four seasons, Everglades has two—dry and rainy, with the dry season (winter) being the most popular with visitors.
The park’s 1.5 million acres stretch across a variety of terrain like freshwater sloughs, prairies, mangrove swamps, coastal lowlands, estuaries and more. It’s a birdwatcher's paradise, along with such wildlife as manatee, American crocodile and Florida panther.
5 Less-Visited National Parks for Your Go-To List
Some of these parks are less visited because people just don’t know about them. Others see fewer people because they’re harder to access. The first two on this list see fewer than 50,000 visitors a year on average, compared to the least-visited park in the section above, Mammoth Cave at half a million.
Don’t start crossing these off your list yet, though. Each offers unique natural beauty and a wide variety of possible activities. If you love the idea of meeting fewer people, these are for you:
North Cascades National Park (Washington)
Though just a 3-hour drive from Seattle, this park on the northern edge of Washington is one of America’s least visited. It includes towering mountains, hundreds of glaciers, alpine lakes and rivers and large forests. Hiking, camping and boating are all popular activities. This park offers gorgeous alpine scenery with far smaller crowds than others like Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks.
As in most mountainous areas, the weather will vary and can change quickly. The west side is cooler and rainier while the east side tends to be hotter and drier. Plan your layers and rain gear accordingly.
Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)
Like a couple of others on our list, Isle Royale is on an island—or more accurately, an archipelago of more than 200 islands in Lake Superior. Though it’s much closer to Minnesota and Canada, Isle Royale is part of the state of Michigan. It’s only accessible by boat and seaplane, so weather plays a role in accessing it as well as visiting it.
Hiking, backpacking and camping are all popular. Wildlife includes moose, black bear and wolves. The park’s boundaries extend more than four miles into the surrounding Lake Superior waters, which makes it prime for sea kayaking. Dress in layers and bring rain gear. The lake tends to keep daytime temps cooler than your average summer day on the mainland.
Denali National Park (Alaska)
Denali is without a doubt the most well-known national park in this section, but its remoteness leaves it here in the least-visited, about a quarter million people annually. It's home to 6 million acres of some of the highest mountains on the continent—including North America’s tallest peak. The park also includes alpine tundra and taiga forest—all wilderness.
Large wildlife includes a plentiful population of moose, caribou, wolf, grizzly bear and black bear. The weather tends to be cool and rainy in the summer. Rain gear and layers are important, including insulating layers.
Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)
While many wrongly assume the Boundary Waters is a national park, Voyageurs (also in northern Minnesota) is very similar in terrain with a lot of lake acreage, forests and rivers. Boating, fishing, paddling, hiking and camping are all popular activities. While you can drive there, much of it is best accessed by boat “to truly experience the park.”
Only about a quarter of the size of the Boundary Waters, Voyageurs sees about the same number of visitors during an average year. Voyageurs can be very nice in the summer, with hot sunny days with cooler nights. But be prepared with layers and rain gear.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)
On the opposite end of the country is Guadalupe Mountains NP, the largest wilderness area in the big state of Texas. This national park features NO amenities other than restrooms and potable water at the campgrounds. So come prepared and know what you’re facing!
The terrain includes Texas’ four highest mountains (8,000-feet + in altitude), canyons, desert and sand dunes. It also contains the most extensive Permian fossil reef in the world. Most people visit in the spring or fall when the temps are mild during the day and cool off to mild temps at night. Daytime temperatures in the summer are often in the 100s F. You won’t need your rain gear as much here!
What Gear Should You Bring Along?
You probably noticed a recurring theme here: dress in layers and bring rain gear. The gear you bring, including your clothing, depends on several factors:
Which National Park(s) Will You Visiting?
All of the park pages on the National Park Service website include climate and weather information. Find out what type of weather to expect at the park for the time of year you plan to visit.
Look at the average daytime highs, but don’t forget the nighttime lows—especially if you plan to camp. Will it be hot and muggy? Hot and dry? Is precipitation likely? What kind? Does the weather tend to be stable or changeable?
What Type of Lodging Will You Use?
Staying in a cabin or lodge with all the amenities is completely different from camping—especially backcountry camping. Will you need to pack light for an airplane or backpack or can you bring everything but the kitchen sink?
Will you have access to laundry facilities? Do you need to bring cooking gear and utensils? If you plan to cook over an open fire while you camp, are you sure that’s allowed where you plan to go, or will you need a camp stove?
What Activities Will You Do?
The idea of visiting our national parks is to be outside. What outside activities will you do during your visit? Good, comfortable footwear is a must. Next, a basic, versatile and comfortable wardrobe is your best bet for whatever activities you plan to do.
What You Need to Know about National Parks
While all our national parks are run by the federal National Park Service, they don’t all have the same rules and guidelines. It’s really important to do your research ahead of time so you’re not caught by surprise.
Here are some things to check out before you get on the plane or in your car:
- Are there vehicle restrictions, especially during the park’s busiest season? Will you need a reservation for a specific drive on a specific day?
- If you plan to camp, will you need a reservation ahead of time or is it first-come, first-served?
- If you’re used to traveling with your pet all the time, be aware almost all the parks have strict pet rules. Most don’t allow even leashed dogs on the trails. Some don’t allow pets in the park at all, like Isle Royale.
- Are there bears in the area, especially grizzlies? That involves a different mindset if you plan to hike and camp, especially in the backcountry.
- What’s the vehicle entrance fee and how long does the permit last?
Finally, it also pays to do your research so you don’t miss out on anything you wished you would have seen or done!
Our Top 5 Storm Creek Apparel Suggestions for National Park Visits
Performance, comfort and quality are all important to both you and us. And when you add eco-friendly, all the better, especially on outdoor adventures like a national park visit.
Here are our five top picks for your trip apparel:
Traveler Eco-Insulated Travelpack Vest
A vest is an ideal layering option that adds that extra bit of warmth when you need it for cool mornings and evenings, or even under a rain jacket. Our and are best sellers. They include zippered pockets, a water and wind-resistant shell and non-bulky but optimal insulation – PLUS it packs into the right-hand pocket to make storage while traveling a breeze. We use 4 recycled bottles in each men’s vest and 3 in each women’s vest.
Explorer Rain Jacket
Be prepared for moisture, especially in the parks where rain is common. Our Explorer Rain Jacket uses a stretchy, breathable waterproof material that’s high in performance and comfort. The men’s Explorer uses 10 recycled bottles and the women’s Explorer uses 9.
Pacesetter Quarter Zip
For an ultra-comfortable midweight layering option, look no further than our best-selling Pacesetter. These are made with our super-soft sueded jersey fabric that has incredible stretch. It comes in a whole host of colors, too. The women’s Pacesetter uses 9 recycled bottles and the men’s Pacesetter uses 10.
If you want to dress it up a notch but keep the comfort, you’ll want our Naturalist Shirt. Equally at home in the lodge restaurant, in the kayak or on the trail, our Naturalist offers UV protection, breathability and 4-way stretch. Our men’s Naturalist uses 9 recycled bottles each, and our women’s Naturalist uses 8. We offer short sleeve versions as well for both women (6 recycled bottles) and men (7 recycled bottles).
These may not be as technical as some outdoor hiking pants, but you won’t find anything more comfortable for evenings in the lodge, at the AirBnB or at the campsite. And of course, they’re ideal for taking to the trail, too, with our ultra-stretch, ultra-soft sueded jersey. Our women’s Trendsetter uses 15 recycled water bottles per item while the men’s Trendsetter uses a whopping 32!
When you wear Storm Creek apparel you can be proud you’re helping the planet as well as enjoying our beautiful national parks in comfort and style.