Top U.S. National Parks Tours & Vacations 2024/2025...

U.S. National Parks Tours & Travel Packages 2024/2025

25 U.S. National Parks trips. Compare tour itineraries from 14 tour companies. 22 reviews. 4.8/5 avg rating.

Small Group U.S. National Parks Tours

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Top U.S. National Parks Attractions & Experiences

Top U.S. National Parks Experiences

  • Standing on the rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, gazing into the vast width and depth of multi-hued rock carved over millions of years by the Colorado River.
  • Hiking among the world’s tallest trees in California’s Redwood National Park or the world’s biggest trees in California’s Sequoia National Park, and feeling nothing but awe.  
  • Riding an airboat over the surface of the Florida Everglades, checking out the crocodiles sunning themselves on the nearest land banks.
  • Following the boardwalks leading past steaming mud pots and geysers in Yellowstone National Park as bison wander freely in the distance.
  • Driving the winding Skyline Drive (speed limit: 35 mph) through Virginia’s mountainous Shenandoah National Park during fall foliage season.
  • Climbing as far as you dare up Half Dome, Yosemite’s most iconic granite formation and symbol.
  • Touring Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, the world’s longest complex of underground caverns.
  • Sailing Alaska’s Glacier Bay on a small ship cruise in search of whales, orcas, seals, and other sea mammals.
  • Marveling at the sometimes weird, always fascinating rock formations in Utah’s Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Zion national parks.
  • Stopping for fresh popovers after hiking the rugged Maine coast on a sunny day in Acadia National Park.
  • Discovering the diversity of life and attractions in California’s great desert parks, Death Valley and Joshua Tree.
  • Viewing the sunrise and then biking down Haleakala volcano on Hawaii’s island of Maui – the world’s longest downhill bike ride.

U.S. National Parks Tours & Travel Guide

U.S. National Parks Attractions & Landmarks Guide

Since the first national park in the U.S. – and the world – was established in 1872, America’s National Park System has grown to encompass more than 400 areas in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and various U.S. overseas territories. Of these, the majority are national recreation areas, monuments, designated scenic trails and historic places overseen by the National Park Service.

That first national park, Yellowstone – which protects a huge swath of volcanic land stretching across parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and is best known for its geysers and wildlife – remains one of the jewels of the system. It’s now part of a diverse and highly select group of 58 forests, deserts, canyons, mountains, bodies of water and wetlands, battlegrounds and other areas of natural scenic beauty and historic significance that warrant full national park status.

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Why Use a Tour to See U.S. National Parks?

Considering a U.S. national park vacation package? Here are the top five reasons why you should:

1) Stress free planning

2) Tour companies have access to lodging that the public might not have, particularly during the high season

3) National park itineraries through tour operators are time-tested thanks to their experience in the park. This means your visit will be optimized based on the period of time you are traveling. 

4) There are millions of acres in U.S. national parks. Each park has its own history, geography, flora, and fauna which you’ll learn about from the tour operator’s guide(s) who are often experts in their field. 

5) Tour operators know the best way to navigate the vast geography whether by car or foot. They’ll be able to show you the “best of” sites as well as some off the beaten path experiences depending on the type of tour.

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Top Activities on US National Parks tours

1. Culture and History

The U.S. National Park Service is one of the government’s leading agencies for the preservation of culture and history. Scenic parks first come to mind and for sure, this where tour operators specialize but more than half of the areas in the National Park system were established to preserve places and memorialize people, events, and activities that helped shape American history.

On a trip to historic Jamestown in Virginia, for example, you’ll see and learn about the first permanent settlement in North America and in New Orleans, Louisiana, the birthplace of jazz.  

Scenic parks have both prehistoric and historic sites that archaeologists and anthropologists work tirelessly to preserve. In Mesa Verde, Colorado, the National Park protects over 5,000 known archaeological sites. The Ancestral Puebloans made this their home for 700 years from 600 to 1300 CE. Cultural U.S. National Park tours

2. Geographical and Scientific Learning

U.S. National Park geography has extraordinary stories to tell, like the mile high walls of the Grand Canyon. There you’ll see a mostly undisturbed 2 billion year-old cross-section of the Earth’s crust.

National parks serve as living laboratories for scientific studies in fields of study that include not only geography but also, anthropology, archaeology, climatology, botany, biology, and, in over a dozen International Dark Sky certified U.S. National Parks and Monuments, astronomy.

3. Hiking

The natural landscapes in U.S. National Parks are magnificent and unparalleled. While much can be seen from the roadways around and within the parks, the view from the canyon floor of Yosemite National Park can’t compare to the view from the top of the valley or the views you’ll find in the high country.

Top hiking trails in U.S. National Parks give you an idea of what you’ll experience like the Emerald Mile in California’s Redwood National Park, the Wonderland Trail in Washington’s Mt. Rainier National Park or the Zion Narrows, affectionately called “Wall Street” in Utah’s Zion National Park. There are dozens of U.S. National Park hiking and walking tours 

4. Camping 

If you’re up for camping, you’ll have the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the magnificence. How immersive depends on you. Camping these days comes in many forms from high country huts and RV camping or glamping to more primitive and isolated camping. Tour companies will offer camping tent style. Camping tours U.S. National Parks

5. Photography

Photographers from around the world travel to U.S. National Parks to capture their scenic wonders. Photographs, in fact, have been an important part of park history. They convey why these special places need protection. U.S. National Park photography tours

6. Wildlife

The wildlife habitats provided by U.S. National Parks are second to none. Seeing an animal in a natural setting unspoiled by human development simply can’t compare to seeing one in a zoo or even your local neighborhood. In Yellowstone National Park, you are sure to see the American bison most erroneously call buffalo. It’s the largest terrestrial mammal in North America.

In Alaska, you’re likely to see a grizzly bear, a type of brown bear that in the Kodiak Archipelago south of the mainland is called the Kodiak bear. A male grizzly can weigh up to 1,700 pounds. Your tour guides are excellent naturalists and they’ll be sure to share their knowledge about the wildlife of the area and their behavior, including whether they’ll come to say “hello”! Read more about American wildlife here. U.S. National Park wildlife tours

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The National Park Stars

The most visited national park is the Great Smoky Mountains, accessed via a highway that cuts through the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee and leads to hiking trails, waterfalls, wildlife viewing, and fall color scenery.

It receives more than nine million visitors per year, about twice the number of the second most-visited park, the Grand Canyon – though the 277-mile-long, 6,000-foot-deep canyon is probably the most famous U.S. national park. California’s Yosemite – a natural wonderland of valleys, meadows, waterfalls, and granite rock formations -- is the third most visited national park, followed by Yellowstone.

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Other Top 20 National Parks

Other popular U.S. national parks include Washington State’s Olympic (for hiking through rainforest) and 14,400-foot Mt. Rainier; Colorado’s Rocky Mountains (with 60 peaks 12,000 feet or higher); Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, south of Yellowstone and replete with mountains and wildlife; Utah’s Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches, known for their unusual rock formations and multi-colored canyons; and Maine’s Acadia, which was the first national park east of the Mississippi, with good hiking trails, campgrounds and beaches.

Along with Yosemite, California offers up two outstanding desert parks, Joshua Tree and Death Valley, as well as Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Redwood national parks, which feature the world’s biggest and tallest trees, respectively. Sequoia’s 2,500-year-old General Sherman tree is believed to be the world’s largest living thing.

Other top 20 most-visited national parks include Ohio’s Cuyahoga, which features a scenic railway ride as well as biking, hiking and horse trails; Montana’s Glacier, for hiking, camping, and mountain scenery; South Dakota’s Badlands, where erosion has produced an array of canyons, spires, and buttes; Hawaii Volcanoes, where Kilauea has been erupting since 1983; Hawaii’s 10,000-foot-high Haleakala volcano; and Arkansas’ Hot Springs.

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Don’t Overlook These Gems

Other notable national parks include Florida’s Everglades, the country’s only subtropical wilderness area, known for its network of rivers and wetlands as well as its wildlife; Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest known cave system, with almost 400 miles of caverns and passageways; Arizona’s Petrified Forest, with its ancient fossilized trees, and Saguaro National Park, home of giant cacti.

Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park offers scenic drives through the mountains; Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Denali provide incredible scenery (Denali is North America’s highest mountain); and Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park is great for boating in summer, snowshoeing in winter.

Don’t know where to start? You can rely on Stride to help sort your way through the U.S. National Park System and soon have you on your way to some of America’s most beautiful and historic settings.

When Did the U.S. National Park System Start?

  • 1872
  • Major players: George Catlin, John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt

Establishment of national parks in the U.S. was a uniquely American idea inspired by the work of George Catlin, a noted American author, painter, traveler and the first to document and depict Native Americans in the western United States.

On an expedition to the Dakotas in 1831, Catlin, who was troubled by the impact settlement of the west was having on the Native American populations and the buffalo they were dependent upon, suggested that a “nation’s park” be set aside and protected. 

It wasn’t until 1864 that President Abraham Lincoln established a grant that protected the wilderness areas of Yosemite. These lands remained under state control, however, it was a situation that Scottish Naturalist John Muir felt was causing exploitation. Muir convinced Congress to place the state-managed lands in Yosemite under federal control. With that, the momentum to establish national parks accelerated and in 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant declared Yellowstone a national park, the first in the world.

Muir, along with President Theodore Roosevelt who believed that experiencing nature was instrumental in building the American character, would contribute greatly to the establishment of a national park system. In 1906, Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act which gave the President the authority to create national monuments from federal lands and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established the National Park Service, a new federal bureau under the Department of the Interior. By then, there were 14 national parks and 21 national monuments. 

Subsequent expansion of not only national parks and monuments but also, military parks, memorials, capital parks, and cemeteries followed. With no central guidance, however, there were problems including poor management and in some cases, continued exploitation. Yosemite, for example, was being managed by the U.S. Army.

And so, in 1933 President Franklin D Roosevelt consolidated all parks, monuments, memorials, and cemeteries into a single National Park System. It had been over a century since George Catlin called for a “nation’s park,” an idea that evolved over the decades to become “America’s best idea”.

Thanks to Catlin’s vision there are now 60 U.S. National Parks that are enjoyed by millions each year.

U.S. National Parks Reviews & Ratings

4.8/5  Excellent
22  Reviews
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Gail

Jul 2023

Written on

Outdoor Alaska

Seeing the wonderful scenery of Alaska, particularly the Wrangell and St Elias National Park.

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Trusted Customer

Jul 2023

Written on

Outdoor Alaska

Really liked our guide Ken, He was full of knowledge, friendly and helpful. The highlight of our trip was either seeing three types of whales or walking a glacier. B...

W

Wendy

Aug 2022

Written on

Outdoor Alaska

Too much time spent in the minibus getting from A to B, however, I don't know how you mitigate this as the distances are so large. Very disappointed in the wildlife...

J

Jean

Jul 2022

Written on

Outdoor Alaska

Kennicott and Seward plus Denali, for the variety of experiences.

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