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Celebrate National Park Day at These Awesome Spots

National Parks are incredible anytime, but on August 25, entry is free to celebrate National Park Day. Hooray!

Here’s our Top 10 favorites, though we have plans to double that number soon, as we’re making it a priority to visit as many National Parks as possible during Our Grand Tour!

1. Mount Rainier

So accessible, The Mountain is just 2.5 hours from Seattle. This magnificent dormant volcano has beautiful hikes, amazing skiing year-round and lots of camping options, though you’ll want to make reservations during the busy summer months.

2. Olympic National Park

There are all sorts of landscapes to be explored in this vast park, from the Hoa Rain Forest to sky high peaks and mile-long stretches of pristine beaches. We love the ocean view campsites at Kalaloch.

3. North Cascades National Park

Are we in the Alps? Certainly looks that way when you’re traveling over the mountain passes in one of the nation’s newest parks, established in 1968. We love the privacy of the campsites at Newhalem, and spotted bear this year while driving. Very cool!

4. Haleakala

Ten years ago, we hiked down deep into the crater of this very special spot on Maui, and spent the night in a cabin that was built in the 1930s. It was one of the coolest outdoor experiences ever the most exquisite silence on earth, covered by a blanket of stars. This summer, we camped on the Hana side of the park and love it even more.

5. Joshua Tree

The dramatic desert landscape near Palm Springs is best experienced in the spring and fall when the temperatures aren’t extreme. Don’t miss the hike into Hidden Valley, and snag a site at Jumbo Rocks campground.

6. Rocky Mountain National Park

Last year, John backpacked deep into this popular Colorado park and escaped the big crowds. He’d love to go back for another helping of high altitude adventure.

7. Glacier National Park

While most visitors stick to a drive through on the Going into the Sun road, be sure and take at least one hike. You might share the trails with mountain goats or even spy a brown bear while wandering this vast gem in the northwest corner of Montana.

8. Volcanoes National Park

Yes, it’s erupting dramatically these days, and much of the park is closed, but until the lava flow slows, there are guided hikes and Hawaiian culture educational programs offered at the Kahuku unit, about an hour from the park. Surprisingly, the rest of the Big Island is not affected by the eruption and is so worth exploring, too.

9. Crater Lake

A dreamy destination for bikers, boaters and skiers located in southwest Oregon, it’s the polar opposite of its sister park in Hawai’i, its long dormant bones of a mountain making for one of the most picturesque places on the planet. John has biked the rim, but prefers the relative solitude of a winter cross country ski trip.

10. Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The lone entry on the list east of the Mississip, we traveled to there for a fix of mountain time in 2005, when we lived in Memphis, Tenn., and those tree-smothered hills were a welcome sight. If you’re checking off high points in each state, this one’s easy to summit. Clingman’s Dome is reachable via a paved path, and, on a clear day, views stretch more than 100 miles.

Up next, we're going to Denali for the first time in a couple weeks! What's your fave national park?

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Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.