There are 423 national parks in the United States, and each one is a must-see. All will surprise, delight, and enlighten, whether they are dedicated to preserving natural beauty, commemorating significant historical events, or protecting sites deeply ingrained in the collective American psyche.
They all have unique experiences to offer visitors, from spiritual to physical to fantastical. Listed below are eight must-do activities in US national parks in 2023.
Experience the iconic Statue of Liberty in all its glory.
Almost 140 years after its dedication, the Statue of Liberty in New York continues to be the subject of countless photographs and mementos. Take the ferry out, climb inside (reserve in advance), and visit nearby Ellis Island to learn what became of the hordes of immigrants who once looked up to the statue with such hope.
Admire the Grand Canyon’s depths
Despite the best efforts of photographers, the vast beauty of Grand Canyon National Park cannot be captured in a single image. Views of the Colorado River, muddy and winding along the Arizona desert floor far below, can be had from vantage points along the roads that run along the rim’s southern edge. Color striations in the seemingly endless rock layers alter with the sun’s angle and intensity throughout the day. If you haven’t seen it for yourself, it’s hard to imagine the geological spectacle.
See Yosemite and be amazed.
Yosemite National Park is a visual feast and a must-see on any trip to California. Start making your travel arrangements immediately if you haven’t already! The memory of standing in the valley next to a babbling stream and taking in the view of granite El Capitan and Half Dome, as well as the long, coursing drama of Bridalveil Fall, is one that will not soon be forgotten. Journey to the alpine meadows where rivers are formed amidst pristine natural beauty.
Step outside the Little Bighorn mythos.
At the center of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument on the dry, horizon-filling plains of eastern Montana is a circle of calvary troops fighting to the death. Many people’s understanding of what really happened in June of 1876, when Colonel George Custer made his last stand, is based on myths and legends rather than fact. The events leading up to the decisive victory of the Plains Indians at the Battle of Greasy Grass are detailed, providing background for the battle and explaining why Custer’s genocidal campaign against Native Americans was so devastating.
Get wet at Indiana Dunes.
Although some people may look down on Indiana because of its location in what they call “flyover country,” Indiana Dunes National Park on the shores of Lake Michigan provides a stunning rebuttal. The park’s white-sand beaches stretch for miles along the lakeshore, and their name isn’t a misnomer; the sand really is white.
In the summer, when the lake is at its warmest, you can always find a deserted stretch of beach all to yourself. You can have a s’more by the lights of the Chicago skyline peeking over the horizon at night. Hiking through ancient oak forests is just one of the reasons locals are so proud to call this area the Third Coast.