For more than a century, millions have flocked to U.S. National Parks each year to experience firsthand some of the most fascinating, picturesque and adventurous places on earth—from landscapes to wild animals, to daring mountains and hiking trails, to fascinating geologic formations and so much more, the 423 national parks in the United States have a bit of something for everyone.
Not to be overlooked, there are also more than 6,000 State Parks scattered across the United States, which offer up the best outdoor scenery and activity local terrain has to offer. State parks serve as popular weekend getaways for many who enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, boating and other outdoor activities. And after a year on lockdown, there has never been a better time to explore the outdoors.
Here are 10 of the best National and State Parks—and the closest Hilton properties that are waiting nearby to welcome you.
Must-See National Parks
According to visitation statistics from the National Parks Service, the top five most-visited National Parks in 2020 were the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Because these are among the most visited in the U.S., be sure to check your desired park’s website for updates on capacity, reservations, hours, and any offerings that may be limited at this time.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – NC, TN
Families can explore the Great Smoky Mountains, which straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, taking in wildlife and breathtaking scenery. Camping, and hiking through forests or to waterfalls, are other popular activities here. Stop at Cades Cove for wildlife viewing and get ready to spot white-tailed deer, black bear, skunk, coyotes and more. And be sure to end your day atop Clingman’s Dome, at 6,643 feet the highest point in the park and an epic way to watch the sunset on another day of adventure. The Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg offers lodging just a half-mile from the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance and the Gatlinburg Trailhead. The hotel also offers an indoor swimming pool and a fire pit for nighttime entertainment.
Yellowstone National Park – ID, MT & WY
Did you know that Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park in the United States? In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone Park Protection Act to help preserve this beautiful place, and the first National Park was born. The park, which is a bucket-list vacation stop for many, actually stretches through three states: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. It delights the senses with a bevy of wildlife and hydrothermal and geologic wonders. Animals often spotted here include bison, elk, bear and wolves. Visitors can also explore rare geologic formations and thermal basins, or they can hike, bike, fish, go boating or horseback riding. The Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson is located right in Jackson Hole valley, home to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The area offers shopping and restaurants nearby, or guests can enjoy free hot breakfast at the hotel or prepare meals in their in-room kitchens.
Zion National Park – Utah
Zion National Park, Utah’s first National Park, is full of activities, including hiking, biking, backpacking and canyoneering. Take in the panoramic views of the Kolob Canyons or hike through The Narrows in the Virgin River. Because this park serves as the meeting point of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, Basin and Range, and Mojave Desert physio-geographic zones, it’s home to a wide range of animal life, including falcon, California condor, collared lizards, Mexican spotted owl, Mojave desert tortoise and more. At night, find respite at Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton, a stunning hotel a half-mile from the Zion National Park Visitor Center. Guests can recharge from a long hike at the hotel’s two heated outdoor pools and hot tubs (available year round).
Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado
Hikers get those shoes ready. Rocky Mountain National Park offers more than 300 miles of hiking trails. Camp, bike, picnic, horseback ride, and fish throughout the park, or visit the Holzwarth Historic homestead site. Hampton Inn Loveland is one of the closest Hilton properties to the park. It’s also located two miles from Chapungu Sculpture Park and minutes from outlet shopping.
Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming
The Teton Mountains are home to extraordinary wildlife, glittering lakes and alpine terrain. Hiking, biking, fishing, backpacking, floating down the Snake River, climbing and mountaineering are all on the menu at Grand Teton National Park. Bear, elk, trout, bald eagle, wolves and mountain lions all call the park home. The Hampton Inn Jackson Hole is located just 15 minutes from Grand Teton National Park and one hour from Yellowstone National Park. Enjoy restful nights here with free Wi-fi and complimentary breakfast.
Must-See State Parks
If you can’t make the trek to a major National Park this year, there’s likely a State Park within a few hours drive from your own home. Depending on the park, a State Park day-trip or weekend getaway could be the perfect place for camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, kayaking and so much more. Be sure to check your destination’s official website for hours, restrictions, and even updates on pet access.
Baxter State Park – Maine
Baxter State Park offers more than 200,000 square acres of wilderness to explore, including 215 miles of hiking trails and 337 campsites. The crown jewel of the park is Mount Katahdin. It’s the highest mountain in the state of Maine, measuring a whopping 5,269 feet tall, and was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1969. Aside from camping, hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting are also permitted.
Blue Ridge Parkway – Asheville, North Carolina
Stretching through the southern and central Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers an exceptional glimpse of the regional flora and fauna. The park features Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain peak in the Eastern United States, Nell River, the oldest river in North America, and Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon. Animals you may spot range from white-tailed deer to black bear. The Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park is just 10 miles from the Biltmore Estate, the North Carolina Arboretum, and more.
Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park – California
Explore the sandstone caves of Chumash Painted Cave State Park to see the rock art created by Chumash Native Americans. The Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort offers additional fun, with direct beach access, pools, tennis courts, bike rentals—and a concierge team that can line up kayaking, coastal cruises and golf for you.
Gateway National Recreation Area – NY, NJ
Gateway National Recreation Area stretches 27,000 acres from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Breezy Point, New York. The park is the gateway from the ocean into New York Harbor. Try archery, kayaking, biking, birdwatching, camping, swimming and more. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tinton Falls – Eatontown is located just minutes from shopping and a short drive from Asbury Park Beach and Long Branch Beach boardwalks. The hotel also offers a warm DoubleTree cookie at check-in.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area – AZ & NV
Lake Mead National Recreation Area was America’s First National Recreation Area, and spans 1.5 million acres that includes mountains, canyons, and valleys. Visit Lake Mead or Lake Mohave, to boat, fish, hike, or go scuba diving or horseback riding. The Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa is a desert oasis located in the Mojave Desert in Henderson, NV, 20 minutes from Lake Mead. The Reflection Bay Golf Club and Las Vegas Strip are also just a few miles away.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park – Columbia, Florida
Travelers can paddle down the six-mile Ichetucknee River via canoe or kayak, and splash in spring-fed swimming holes at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Here, visitors can go tubing, spot wildlife—including turtle, wild turkey, beaver, otter and gar. Visitors can also snorkel in Blue Hole, a spring that maintains a temperature of 72 degrees year-round. Bring your own snorkel gear to glimpse an underwater cave system that starts 40 feet below. Home2 Suites by Hilton Lake City is located in the historic Lake City, Fla., near Ichetucknee Springs, shopping, and more.
Redwood National & State Park – California
Explorers in for forested fun will love the breathtaking redwood trees of Redwood National & State Park. The park offers wide open spaces to walk, camp, kayak, hike, tidepool, bike. The park is also a popular place for scenic drives. Dogs are also permitted in some locations. Check the park’s official site for details. Hampton Inn & Suites Arcata is located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway 101. The Arcata Community Forest is just three miles away, as is the Beau Pre Golf Course, local dining and more.
Valley of Fire State Park – Overton, Nevada
Valley of Fire State Park contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years. Stop into the Visitor Center to learn about the park’s geology and ecology, then head out for camping, hiking, and enjoy tremendous photo opps like Arch Rock and Elephant Rock. You can also hike Mouse’s Tank Trail, which is known for having one of the largest collections of petroglyphs that date back nearly 3,000 years. The Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa is a desert oasis located in the stunning city of Henderson, NV. The hotel offers a pool with private cabanas and Mediterranean-style spa.