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Top 5 National Parks to Camp at Before You Die

By Edited Apr 20, 2014 1 5

The numbers don’t lie: these are some of the most widely visited national parks in the U.S., and they’re popular for a reason. With their unparalleled beauty, these parks made it as the top five national parks in the U.S.that you absolutely must camp at before you die. Sure, you can stay at a hotel while you visit these places, but be warned: the awe and amazement at the beauty of the wilderness may be diminished as a result.

Yosemite National Park


Yosemite is one of the first wilderness parks in theU.S. and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984. It is located in central California, covering 761,268 acres. There are over 3.7 million visitors toYosemite. Yosemite is known for its granite cliffs, streams, Giant Sequoia forests and waterfalls.

Yosemite Valley, the most widely visited part of the park, is open year-round. However, most of the remaining park is closed during the winter due to snow and re-opens in the springtime. The best time of the year to visit Yosemite is in late May, after the snow has melted. Plants and wildlife will be blooming then, and waterfalls will be glistening.

Yosemite is a great place for people who are looking to go hiking, rock climbing, cycling, or simply driving through the beautiful scenery. In the winter, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing are available.

There are thirteen campgrounds open from April until September. Seven need reservations while six of them are first come, first serve. It’s best to book ahead since other visitors will likely come around the same time of year as well.

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon(89449)
Credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a0/Grand_canyon_hermits_rest_2010.JPG

The Grand Canyon is a steep canyon in Arizona where the Colorado River runs. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and it attracts about five million visitors per year. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and over a mile deep. The Grand Canyon National Park is a fascinating area of study for geologists, since one can see much of the geological history of the Earth due to the layers of rock that can be seen.

The most widely visited part of the park is the South Rim since it is more accessible. The best time of the year to visit in terms of accessibility is between May and October when the snow has gone. This way, one can avoid possible road closures due to snow. Unfortunately, one cannot avoid the crowds that gather during this time.

Some popular activities in the Grand Canyon National Park include hiking, running and rafting. There are also helicopter tours available. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also take a ride on a mule.

Camping is available on the North and South Rims at established campsites. It is recommended that you book reservations early if you wish to camp at either rim, especially for the busier South Rim. If you wish you camp overnight below the rim, you require a backcountry permit from the Backcountry Office BCO).

Yellowstone National Park


Yellowstone National Park is located in the state of Wyoming and extends into Montana and Idaho. It spans 2,219,791 acres and has over three million visitors per year. It was designated a national park in 1872. Yellowstone is unique because of its geysers, particularlyOld Faithful, the most well-known geyser in the park. Also, one can see free roaming grizzly bears and bison (remember: admire from afar).

The best time of the year to visit Yellowstoneis during the spring and summer months since many roads close in fall and wintertime.Old Faithful, faithfully enough, spouts all year, but you can’t reach it until spring due to road closure.

There are 9 visitor centers and museums throughout the park to educate the public more about the park. Hunting is not permitted in the park, and mountaineering is discouraged due to the unstable volcanic rock in the park. However, fishing is popular in the park with a fishing license.

There are a dozen campgrounds in Yellowstone, as well as campgrounds in nearby national forests such as Grand Teton National park, which is south of Yellowstone. 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain

Rocky Mountain National Park covers 265,761 acres of land in Colorado. This park is known for its beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains, alpine meadows, streams and wildlife such as the bighorn sheep. There are slightly over three million visitors to the park every year.

There are five visitor centers in the park that visitors can see to learn more about the park and its history. Some popular activities in the park include hiking and backpacking. There are a variety of trails for the beginner to the experienced hiker. On some trails, horseback riding is permitted. Fishing is also popular in the lakes and streams. For the more adventurous, rock climbing and mountaineering are possible. In the wintertime, people can opt to go crow-country skiing and snowshoeing. On some of the sloppier terrain, people can also go alpine skiing. Unless you’re looking to go specifically for the winter sports, it’s best to visit sometime between early spring and fall to avoid road closure due to snow.

There are five campgrounds in the park. Two take reservations for summer camping. For the other backgrounds, it’s best to arrive in the morning when travelling in the summer as campgrounds fill up daily by early afternoon. 

Glacier National Park

Glacier national park(89452)

When you face the glistening lake,Glacier National Park is truly picture perfect. Located in Montana, the park is 1,013,322 acres and includes parts of theRocky Mountainsand over 130 named lakes. Glacier National Parkis also known for its alpine meadows and lush green forests.

There are a number of tours available by bus or by boat. The boats are wooden, some dating back to the early 1900s. These boats can carry up to 80 people and they tour on the larger lakes in the park. Hiking is a popular activity at the park. However, if you look to go hiking in the backcountry, it’s best to wait until early June since much of the area has high avalanche risk and there are large amounts of snow. People also enjoy fishing in the park on the streams that run through. No permit is needed for fishing as long as the fishing occurs within the boundaries of the park. During the winter, cross-country skiing is allowed. Snowmobiling, however, is illegal. It is best to visit the park in the summer time due to the limited wintertime activities.

There are 13 campgrounds in Glacier National Park. Most campgrounds are first-come first-served while some are based on reservations.


There you have the best that the National Parks in the U.S. has to offer in a nutshell. Of course, there are other national parks that are amazing and breathtaking in their own right, but these national parks are truly unique and places in the U.S. that you must visit as a traveler. Happy trails!



Mar 15, 2012 4:12pm
Great article, thank you!
I have been to Yosemite and The Grand Canyon. You have convinced me that I must go to the 3 others before it is too late.
Mar 15, 2012 4:21pm
Thanks! There are so many great national parks, but not enough time (or space in this article) :(. An interesting one that comes to mind is Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. Hm maybe i should write a part 2 to this article sometime :)
Apr 30, 2012 12:45pm
Great article. I have only been to rocky national park, but am hoping to get some time in the coming years to see the others. An ambitious thing I would like to do is hike part of the Appalachian trail! And I am dying to see Mt. Rushmore... I don't even know why!
Apr 30, 2012 2:01pm
Great article and stunning images!

I better start with my list of different places I have not been able to visit yet.

Apr 30, 2012 6:56pm
Wow...Great palces.I have heard about Yellowstone but not yet visited.Love to go to these places
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