Summer may be winding down, but it’s not too late to plan a trip to visit a national park. The National Park Service in the U.S. protects 61 located throughout the country. To help inspire that future trip, we’ve rounded up 12 gorgeous photos from some of our favorite national parks.
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Arches National Park, Utah
There are more than 2,000 stone arches in Arches National Park, guaranteeing there will be at least one free from tourists for your photos. One of the most famous, Delicate Arch, offers a three-mile trail hike and is the perfect spot for watching the sunset.
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Sequoia National Park, California
California’s Sequoia National Park is best known for its enormous sequoia trees that can live 3,000 years. The General Sherman Tree is the largest tree in the world by volume and is a must-see on your tour through the forest.
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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone was the first national park, designated by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. A visit to Yellowstone should include the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring; it’s the largest hot spring in the U.S. and an unforgettable sight. The bands of color around the hot spring are caused by microbes that thrive in the hot water.
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Zion National Park, Utah
The Towers of the Virgin at sunrise is one of Zion National Park‘s most iconic scenes. For a less-crowded hike, take the moderate three-mile Watchman Trail and catch stunning views of Towers of the Virgin, West Temple, and the Altar of Sacrifice.
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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
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Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Some of the oldest trees in the world are in Great Basin National Park. Walk among these bristlecone pines, some of which are 4,000 years old (or even older). Explore the Wheeler Peak grove to see some of these ancient trees.
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Denali National Park, Alaska
The aurora borealis (Northern Lights) are spectacular in Denali National Park, and best seen from September to April. Several tour companies offer nighttime tours into the wilderness for Northern Lights viewing.
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Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Haleakala means “house of the sun.” Local myth tells how Maui the demigod imprisoned the sun at Haleakala to make the day longer. At Haleakala National Park, don’t miss Kalahaku Lookout for Instagram-worthy views of Haleakala’s crater floor.
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Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
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Olympic National Park, Washington
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, Olympic National Park offers mountains, beaches, glaciers, and even rain forests. Spend a morning walking through the trails in Hoh and Quinault rain forests, and take in the beauty of moss-covered trees and bright green plants.
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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Hop in the car and take a scenic drive on Skyline Drive; the only road in Shenandoah National Park is 105 miles long and full of incredible vistas. Along the route, stop at some of the 70 overlooks to take in the spectacular view.
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What to Wear on Your Trip
Comfy Yet Casual Older Women’s Outfit for a Scenic Drive
Men’s Semi-Casual Outfit for Dinner on a Vacation
Women’s Outfit for Walking the Great Wall of China
Men’s Amazon-Based Summer Outfit
Women’s Sustainable Jumpsuit Outfit
Men’s Sustainable Comfy Outfit
Women’s Outfit for Walking to Tijuana
More From Smarter Travel
- The Best National Parks in the U.S., as Recommended by Park Rangers
- The 7 Best National Parks to Visit in Winter
- 7 Secrets to Taking Better Travel Photos
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It’s been updated to reflect the most current information.