Top 5 US National Parks for Wild Adventures

Beautiful sunset view at Delicate Arch in Arches!

Hey, did you know, the National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016, and just yesterday the National Park Service revealed the Top 10 Most visited parks in 2015?  We love our National Parks and are pretty stoked because the most visited National park is even on our Top 5 List!!  

Here are our favorites.  They are our top for family fun, adventure, and adrenaline … and not in any particular order, because that’s impossible.

Table of Contents

Arches National Park

Arches National Park
Sunrise at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

Located in Moab, UT there is no place more beholden to our family than Arches.  It is spiritual, it is beautiful, it is welcoming and it is a place where every sense is awakened as you climb and/or hike any number of the over 2000 sandstone arches, natural bridges, rock fins and other epic formations.

Arches is home to Delicate Arch, easily it’s most famous landmark and to hike up at sunrise is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list!

Zion National Park

Zion National Park
Canyoneering in Zion National Park. Photo Credit: Logan Bartek

Zion located near Springdale, UT is one of our top choices for canyoneering.  Kerry and a couple friends went out there in November and she literally had the time of her life.  Here’s what she says about Zion …

I love Zion National Park, it’s definitely one of my favorite places to visit. The mountains and cliffs there are amazing. I think the greatest thing about Zion how big it is. There are a good number of great tourist destinations in the park, but a lot of it isn’t accessed by roads and is pretty remote. Zion is a great place for climbing and canyoneering. Last time I was there was in November. It was really cold. There was actually snow in places. We’d picked this canyon that sounded like during some times of the year there was a lake in the way, so just to be safe we rented Kokatat dry suits from a local tour company, the Zion Adventure Company.  I’m so glad that we did because we really needed them!  Turns out there was a giant, ice-covered lake right in the middle of the canyon and there wasn’t any way around it, but to swim through it. Zion is full of surprises, and that’s one of the reasons I love it!

Canyonlands National Park

And this sign is not kidding!

Another Moab park, you ask?  You got it.  Now, we’ve hiked around Canyonlands and while it was fun, the hikes itself wouldn’t have ranked in the top 5 as we all prefer Arches for the hiking and climbing, by a long shot.  But boating through the 14 miles of rapids in Cataract Canyon … nothing short of epic.  Of course it’s not a run for most of the family, in fact, only two of us have gone as of last season, but it’s definitely on the bucket list for one or two more.

If you are a proficient Class V boater and have never paddled through Cataract, this is another bucket list item for you.  Be sure to plan ahead and get a permit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cardy paddling at NOC in his Jackson Kayak Shooting Star.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the system and we have to admit is one of the most diverse National Parks we’ve ever visited.

Of course, we love it because of the kayaking.  The Nantahala River has runs for every skill level and the surf wave is one of the best in the country.  For non-kayakers, hiking in the Smoky Mountains is unreal, in fact, 70 miles of the Appalachian Trl runs through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Kady and Maddy took off one day and hiked about 8 of the 70 and took some amazing photos of the stunning fall foliage!

Rocky Mountain National Park

The beautiful landscape in the Spring.

This one’s in our own backyard,  and it’s right up there with the best of the best for our adventure seeking family.  I can’t tell you how often we have hit the Western facing slopes for some unreal backcountry snowboarding.

But for the less extreme traveler, RMNP offers a plethora of scenic drives, day hikes to waterfalls and lakes and even camping.

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