Best State and National Parks to Drive ThroughLast Updated February 5, 2020
The United States is filled with thousands of miles of winding road that can be perfect for any road trip, but if you’re looking for the best places to drive, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve pulled together a top-10 list of the best places to drive in the United States, and what each place has to offer.
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1. Olympic National Park, Washington
Washington is full of beautiful forests, mountains and coastlines, but you often have to drive well out of your way to experience them all. Olympic National Park brings all those amazing vistas together. The park features more than 160 miles of paved roads and approximately 70 miles of untouched coastline. It’s also a picturesque spot if you enjoy fishing, but make sure you check the current fishing and shellfish regulations for your trip to ensure you’re in compliance with local laws.
2. Joshua Tree National Park, California
If stargazing is your thing, or you prefer dryer climates, check out Joshua Tree National Park in California. There are two distinct desert ecosystems within the park — the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert — and the park itself is dotted with Joshua trees. These hardy trees have come to represent resilience and survival for Native Americans who once lived in the area.
3. Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Saguaro National Park in Arizona is named for the saguaro cactus that makes its home there. There is even an eight-mile paved loop that takes you through the Cactus Forest. The park itself is separated into eastern and western districts, and you can take a ranger-guided tour through either side of the park, or both if the mood strikes. There are also designated trails for hiking, biking and mountain biking — just be sure you don’t run into a cactus!
4. Arches National Park, Utah
Utah offers some of the most breathtaking geological formations in the world, and the Arches National Park is the best way to see some of the most beautiful. There is an 18-mile road through the park that takes you past more than 2,000 natural stone arches and towers of naturally balanced rocks. If you want to get out of the car, there’s plenty of stuff to do here as well, including hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding and rock climbing. And don't forget to check out the incredible stargazing opportunities at night!
5. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Don’t let the name turn you away — the Badlands National Park in South Dakota is home to some amazing scenery. The park is dotted with enormous rock formations like buttes, spires and pinnacles. In terms of wildlife, it is also home to bison, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep and ferrets, all of which you might see as you traverse the park.
6. Tishomingo State Park, Mississippi
Tishomingo State Park is home to some of the most beautiful vistas in the Mississippi as you approach the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and is characterized by massive moss-covered rock formations. Nearby Bear Creek is a great place to take a canoe trip, with more than six miles to travel by river. The park also holds a bit of history — it was originally part of the well-known Natchez Trace Highway built during the 1800s to traverse the area.
7. Chief Logan State Park, West Virginia
This park is flanked by two creeks — Buffalo Creek and Little Buffalo Creek — making it the perfect place for water-based adventures. It’s also an ideal spot for biking, camping, hiking, fishing, swimming and even geocaching, if you’re up for a little treasure hunting. The park also does an enormous annual Christmas display every year for people who enjoy walking, biking or driving through the park.
8. Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania
Take in a bit of history during your road trip with a stop at the Gettysburg National Park, the location of the Battle of Gettysburg that took place during the Civil War. In addition to the sights you can visit on foot, you can take a self-guided auto tour through the park to help you imagine what it would be like to live during the Civil War.
9. Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire
Get a bird’s-eye view of New Hampshire’s beauty in Franconia Notch State Park — one of the biggest highlights of the park is the aerial tramway that reaches up Cannon Mountain and provides an incredible view of the park.
The park itself is bisected by I-93, which makes it easier to visit. There are several pull-offs from the interstate itself, so you can explore the park without having to find your way to the entrance. The Trailhead parking pull-off is one of the most popular, because that’s the beginning of a nearly nine-mile trail.
10. Acadia National Park, Maine
For beautiful coastal vistas, Acadia National Park in Maine should be your destination of choice. The park features a 27-mile-long coastal loop, with a pinnacle stop at Cadillac Mountain. The mountain itself stands an astonishing 1,532 feet above sea level. Its position makes the mountaintop one of the first places to see the sunrise every morning.
Acadia is also home to many species of birds, and attracts birdwatchers from around the world.
Driving around the country doesn’t have to be miles of empty highways. There are parks all over this great country that have plenty of amazing sights to be held. Check out some of our top 10 destinations for road trips and take in some of the amazing beauty our country has to offer.
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