After nearly a year and a half spent at home, we're all itching for a getaway.
Travel restrictions are slowly being lifted around the world, more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, and a return to semi-normalcy is on the horizon. Even still, you might not yet feel safe scheduling a trip to a packed city or popular beach town. We can't blame you.
That's where National Parks come in. Whether you prefer a casual vacation spent in a secluded AirBnb or going all-in with a camping setup, the U.S. National Parks are wonderful places to get your travel fix while still being mostly distanced from others.
With 63 to choose from, exploring National Parks can be somewhat daunting for newbies. If you're looking for a good place to start, we've rounded up the best National Parks to visit in 2021. (Although, really, you can't go wrong).
Arches National Park
Just outside of Moab, Utah, Arches National Park is aptly named for its natural sandstone arches. While climbing the actual arches is banned parkwide, there's still plenty to see and do, from hiking and biking to camping and stargazing.
2. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is the U.S.'s first national park, and rightfully so. Its wide array of wildlife, scenery, and geothermal features (like the Old Faithful geyser) make it popular.
3. Sequoia National Park
Nestled in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia National Park is a must-see for those thrilled by skyscraping trees. Among California's plentiful parks, Sequoia might be a little overlooked, but it's worth the trip.
4. Joshua Tree National Park
If a desert escape is more your fancy, look no further than Joshua Tree National Park. Massively popular due to its proximity to Los Angeles, Joshua Tree has plenty of campgrounds to fulfill your desert camping dreams — although the surrounding area also has lots of lodging options.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Straddling the North Carolina/Tennessee border is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which — like its name implies — is full of lush greenery in its sprawling mountains. It was the most-visited national park in 2019, with many visitors attracted to its hiking trails, fly fishing spots, and historic buildings.
6. Mount Rainier National Park
Up in Washington state, you'll find Mount Rainier National Park, which encompasses its namesake stratovolcano and its surrounding wildlife.
7. Zion National Park
Located in southwestern Utah, Zion is perhaps one of the most popular National Parks the U.S. has to offer — and for good reason. Housing the stunning Zion Canyon, the park is a favorite of hiking enthusiasts, but other activities like rock climbing and horseback riding are also abundant.
8. Yosemite National Park
California's Yosemite National Park is a go-to for folks who want a little bit of everything; here, you'll find spectacular views of mountains as well as tranquil spots along the Merced river.
9. Acadia National Park
While the East Coast is considerably lacking in National Parks compared to its Western counterpart, Acadia — off the coast of Maine — is well worth the trek. In the winter, the park is a popular destination for snowshoe hiking and cross-country skiing, while fishing and kayaking draw crowds during the warmer months.
10. Grand Canyon National Park
Of course, no National Parks list would be complete without the inclusion of the Grand Canyon, one of the most popular natural destinations in the world. Whether you're just a casual sightseer or a hiker extraordinaire, the Grand Canyon should be not only on your National Parks list, but on your bucket list.