US National Parks: 13 Of The Most Popular & Best National Parks on the West Coast

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The US is known for its staggering natural beauty, and these 13 beautiful and Best National Parks on the West Coast are no exception!

It is perhaps not surprising that the US is known for its incredible selection of National Parks, with a total of 423 parks spanning the length and breadth of the country. From the popular parks on the East Coast all the way to the West Coast, all with their own identity, beauty, and features, it is no wonder that visiting these has made many travel bucket lists!  

Trying to figure out which West Coast National Parks are the best can certainly seem quite challenging. With the western part of the United States covering so much territory and such a wide range of locales, there are so many beautiful national parks to choose from. 

Whether you like deserts, canyons, arid landscapes, lush forests, stunning rivers, and majestic seashores, the west coast of the United States truly has something for everybody.

While many parks could have made it on this list, the criteria for choosing the Best National Parks on the East Coast included a few must-have things. These parks usually all have a central attraction combined with plenty of other activities that can be enjoyed besides that main event. 

Most of these parks are built around a certain theme, and we wanted to ensure that no matter what you liked, whether hiking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, or sightseeing, there is something on this list for you.

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5 Must-Have Hiking Gear Items When Planning A Visit To One Of These Top West Coast Parks

If you’re planning a hiking trip or trekking expedition through one of these majestic parks, then don’t forget to grab these 5 must-have hiking essentials before you head off on your next adventure! 

  1. A hiking day backpack
  2. Comfy pair of men’s boots, or woman’s hiking boots
  3. Hiking water bottle for hydration
  4. A cozy men’s and woman’s windbreaker for those gusty summits
  5. A set of hiking poles

13 Top National Parks On The West Coast

1. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park © Image Courtesy of mujun from Getty Images by Canva
Yellowstone National Park © Image Courtesy of mujun from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Absolutely any list about West Coast Parks would be remiss without mentioning Yellowstone National Park. Arguably one of the most famous parks in the world, there is so much more to look forward to than just the famous geysers! 

Of course, the hundreds of geysers at Yellowstone are what make it famous the world over. The park has over 10,000 different thermological features, and almost 1,300 of these are geysers. 

Shooting scalding hot water, sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, these structures, along with the hot springs that they surround, make up some of the park’s most recognizable and visited attractions.

However, there is still so much to do besides seeing the geysers! During the summer, visitors are invited to stay at one of twelve established campgrounds and over 300 designated camping areas. Reservations for campgrounds must be made in advance, and a nightly fee is associated with these places.

Guests could also take some snapshots of the many types of wildlife that call Yellowstone home. From bison to bear, moose and elk, there are tons of animals that roam freely around the park. However, you are reminded to stay safe and pull over when viewing from a car. 

Those that do not know where to go for the best spots do not have to worry! Plenty of viewing tours are available through authorized operators to get you close to the wildlife you want to see.

For those that are more active, Yellowstone has over 1,000 miles of trails. During the winter, visitors can ski, ride snowmobiles, and much more. However, while camping during winter is allowed, inexperienced campers are strongly encouraged against doing so due to the freezing temperatures the park sees during this time.

2. Olympic National Park

Shi Shi Beach Olympic National Park © Image Courtesy of william teed from Getty Images Pro by Canva
Shi Shi Beach Olympic National Park © Image Courtesy of william teed from Getty Images Pro by Canva

Location: Port Angeles, Washington

Olympic National Park is probably one of the best national parks on the west coast for those that love being in the water. Located in the far northwestern corner of Washington state, the park offers an impressive 75 miles of Pacific coastline, over 800 lakes, and about 4,000 miles of streams and rivers to explore. With all this water real estate, it is no wonder that one of the main attractions here is fishing.

Fishing is allowed year-round, and the park is home to some of the country’s last remaining wild reserves of trout and salmon. Visitors should definitely check out the fishing rules and regulations manual that the park publishes each year. 

Besides fishing, you can also explore the backcountry by boat, kayak, or canoe. With so many different options to choose from, it is best to do some thorough research and planning as different parts of the park are better suited for beginners and more advanced kayakers or canoers, respectively.

Boaters should also be careful not only to have their license before arriving but to clean their boat of any foreign debris or water as well. Because conditions change in the park rapidly, those wanting to get in are advised to contact the closest ranger station to get the most up-to-date information on river and lake conditions.

Another great feature of the park is its many tidal ponds. These mini-ecosystems close to the beaches offer a great chance to see some interesting and exotic lifeforms. There are several notable tidal ponds to visit too, and, just like with kayaking and canoeing, you should check conditions before you arrive since it’s best to plan your visit around the tides.

3. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park © Image Courtesy of dmodlin01 from Getty Images by Canva
Joshua Tree National Park © Image Courtesy of dmodlin01 from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Twentynine Palms, California

Situated in the blistering southern California desert, this park is known for being one of the best national parks on the west coast for rock climbing and bouldering. With over 8,000 established climbing routes, 2,000 different places to go bouldering, and hundreds of different valleys and gaps to explore, the park’s climbing and bouldering attractions are what bring most people here.

Visitors should note that the park does not maintain any of the climbing gear on the routes. People wanting to climb also need to ensure themselves that the guide they are hiring is licensed and insured.

While climbing might be the main attraction, there is plenty more to see and do here. Camping, hiking, backpacking, and even glamping in Joshua Tree are all part of the activities offered here, but what makes this park stand out more so than others is the ability to go birdwatching. 

With dozens of different species calling this area home, the park is a unique place to admire some truly interesting birdlife. The park also gets tons of migratory birds stopping through during their travels so visitors should be prepared to capture images of some birds they may not have planned on seeing!

4. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park © Image Courtesy of Gim42 from Getty Images by Canva
Yosemite National Park © Image Courtesy of Gim42 from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Yosemite National Park, California

Among national parks on the west coast, Yosemite Valley has to be the most beautiful. The scenery here covers the whole gambit of what anyone could ever want. With picturesque waterfalls, sun-kissed mountains, lush forests, glistening lakes, and more, it is no wonder that Yosemite is an extremely popular park. 

Because it is so popular, you should be aware that during the peak visiting season from May through September, visitors planning to drive during the day and afternoon need a reservation to drive their vehicle into the park.

After arriving, you can enjoy any one of a number of great activities. Because 95% of the park is considered wilderness, hiking, backpacking, and camping are some of the most popular activities. Ranking even higher than these, though, would be rock climbing. Yosemite is known as one of the best national parks for advanced climbers. With massive walls and mountains to scale, these trails are not for the faint of heart.

Because these climbs rank pretty high on the difficulty scale, the park warns visitors about the dangers of climbing since over a hundred climbers each year end up needing help or rescuing. All climbers looking to climb the larger walls also need to register with the park beforehand.

Those that would rather stay on the ground and take in the mountains can do so too. Yosemite is one of the west coast national parks known for providing artistic motivation to its visitors. 

There are year-round art classes offered here and there are also photography tours of some of the most photogenic spots.

5. Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park © Image Courtesy of Jillian Cooper from Getty Images by Canva
Grand Teton National Park © Image Courtesy of Jillian Cooper from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton is another park making our list of the best national parks on the west coast and is especially popular for fishing. Located in the Teton mountain range, the park’s numerous rivers and lakes at the foot of these mountains are the perfect natural habitat for numerous species of fish. Fishing is allowed all year; each person visiting the park must purchase a Wyoming fishing license if they want to fish.

Anglers should also note that while they take some fish home, they need to check with park rangers on any questions they might have since some parts of the park do not allow fishing at certain times of the year. If you don’t quite know where to start or are unfamiliar with the area, you can instead choose from one of almost ten different authorized operators in the park to go on a guided fishing trip!

Fishing might be the main attraction, but that is not the only thing to do here. Hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering are all popular pastimes too. Visitors that want to do this should note that black bears and grizzly bears also call the park home. You should always be mindful of these animals and carry bear spray just in case. Be sure to also heed the bear safety guidelines outlined by the park. 

Be aware that those wishing to go mountaineering would also need to register with the park before doing so.

6. Zion National Park

Zion National Park © Image Courtesy of johnandersonphoto from Getty Images by Canva
Zion National Park © Image Courtesy of johnandersonphoto from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

Situated in the mountains and valleys of the rugged wilderness of Utah, Zion National Park is among the best national parks on the west coast for canyoneering. Canyoneering is the art and skill of navigating canyons, gorges, and their accompanying trails. Those interested in canyoneering would need to master a wide range of skills, including rappelling, hiking, and rock climbing.

Zion National Park offers numerous ways to explore its many canyons and valleys for visitors of all skill levels and experience. Regardless of which routes you choose, visitors should always remember to get a canyoneering pass and thoroughly research conditions before starting a trek.

The birdwatching you can do here is a less physically demanding but equally fun adventure. Zion National Park is home to almost 300 different species of birds. Whether they are migratory or make the park their home, you are bound to see some of the nation’s most exotic and rare bird species here.

7. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park © Image Courtesy of Joecho-16 from Getty Images Pro by Canva
Grand Canyon National Park © Image Courtesy of Joecho-16 from Getty Images Pro by Canva

Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona

No list of national parks on the west coast would be complete without mentioning the Grand Canyon. This natural wonder is right up there with Yellowstone National Park in regards to how famous it is, and for a good reason. 

The giant canyon that spans the length of the park took millions of years to form, and the amazing scenery is something to behold whether it’s your first, fifth, or hundredth time visiting.

Because the Grand Canyon itself is the main attraction here, there are plenty of ways to see it. Visitors wanting to walk can take several guided tours that go to the best spots. Those wanting to see a little more of the rugged nature of the canyon can hitch a ride atop a mule. Mules are one of the best ways to see the more austere parts of the park due to the rugged nature of the environment here.

Visitors in search of more adventure activities can book any one of a number of white water rafting rides. While there are several companies that offer guided tours, these can get booked up to a year in advance, so prior planning is essential. 

There are also several docks and launches where you can get into the river and white water raft however and whenever you so choose.

8. Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park © Image Courtesy of Alexander Reinhold from Getty Images by Canva
Glacier National Park © Image Courtesy of Alexander Reinhold from Getty Images by Canva

Location: West Glacier, Montana

Those wanting a one-stop shop park for all things outdoors need to look no further than Glacier National Park. As the name would imply, the main reason why people come here is to see the glaciers. Because of how cold the temperature here is year-round, visitors will always see these icy beauties. The easiest way to see them is via the Sun Road, which connects the east and west sides of the park. Driving along this route will give visitors spectacular views no matter when they come.

For those wanting to get more in tune with nature can also camp at one of 13 established campgrounds and over 1,000 backcountry sites. With over 700 miles of trails to hike, picking a campsite along the desired trailhead is a pretty easy task.

Getting a campsite close to where you might want to fish is also pretty easy, considering that fishing in almost every body of water here is permitted year-round. While there are some restrictions on types of fish and where you can fish, visitors can expect almost unhindered access to fishing at all times. Best of all, you also do not need a fishing license here.

Because of the huge amount of winter snow, guests can also expect plenty of cross-country skiing to do. With numerous trails for visitors of all skill levels, there is something for everybody here.

9. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park © Image Courtesy of kevinerty from Getty Images by Canva
Mount Rainier National Park © Image Courtesy of kevinerty from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Ashford, Washington

Mount Rainier holds the distinction of being the highest glaciated peak in North America. Its icy top has captivated mountaineers and hikers for decades. It will continue to do so for generations to come and this is partly why the mountain is so popular because of its natural beauty and its challenge. Most of the mountain requires almost vertical ascent through icy conditions.

Because of how challenging the climb is here, visitors should be in top physical condition and ensure they have a guide. Those that do not have a guide should make careful preparations in planning which one of the twenty routes they want to use before beginning their journey.

Another great attraction here is the wildflower blooming. These purple, blue, and dark-colored flowers bloom at only certain times of the year. Careful planning should be used to ensure that you get to see them when they are in peak bloom. There are many factors that go into this, and visitors should inquire with park rangers before coming to the park just for these to avoid being disappointed.

Be sure to check out these awesome Mt. Rainier hikes for your next visit to this gorgeous National Park!

10. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park © Image Courtesy of Jorge Garcia Argazkiak from Getty Images by Canva
Sequoia National Park © Image Courtesy of Jorge Garcia Argazkiak from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Three Rivers, California

For west coast parks, Sequoia National Park stands out as a world record holder. Home to the world-famous sequoia trees, these natural wonders are among the last ancient trees still standing in the world. 

Protected from harvesting and human development, these ginormous trees continue to grow and wow guests with their immense size and dimensions. One tree, in particular, General Sherman, is the world’s largest tree by volume.

Thankfully for visitors, there are plenty of ways to view the forest. There are numerous driving routes along with day hikes that take you up close and personal to these awe-inspiring wonders. 

If you prefer more time to soak in the scenery you may also camp and backpack your way through the park. With no shortage of day hikes and sights to see, this park is perfect for planning plenty of mini-trips to keep coming back.

11. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park © Image Courtesy of Kesterhu from Getty Images by Canva
Bryce Canyon National Park © Image Courtesy of Kesterhu from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park is yet another park that holds a world record. That record being that the park holds the largest number of rock spires on the planet. Rock spires are irregular formations of rock that, due to erosion and time, form these amazing and unique patterns. Bryce Canyon is dotted with countless rock spires concentrated in numerous areas.

Some of the more famous areas can be viewed by driving along in your car. These trips usually take a few hours and are a great way to see the park without having to set up a tent or get sweaty. Visitors wanting a more rustic experience can hike any number of day hikes, and several of them loop around the more famous formations found in the park.

Another little-known aspect of the park is its stargazing prospects. Because of its remote location, Bryce Canyon has been designated as a top-tier stargazing area. So after a long day of viewing the park’s wonders, guests can lay back and take a long, relaxing gaze into the night sky as nature intended us humans to do.

12. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park © Image Courtesy of aimintang from Getty Images by Canva
Death Valley National Park © Image Courtesy of aimintang from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Death Valley, California

While the name Death Valley might insinuate a negative connotation, for this place, it really is not! The name Death Valley originally came from the incredibly hot temperatures that plague the area during the summertime. With limited food and water resources, this place of beauty became a death trap for early travelers.

With advances in modern-day technology, people do not have to worry about dropping dead from exhaustion here, but the danger still certainly exists. Visitors wanting to drive the plethora of scenic routes should study maps carefully beforehand since there are few road signs and little mobile phone reception. 

You’ll also need to have plenty of survival supplies, including food and water on your person and vehicle at all times.

These precautions are necessary even in winter when hiking along some of the two dozen or so trails are advised. Those wanting to get some nostalgia can also take a tour of some of the most famous desert scenes in history. Numerous scenes from the Star Wars franchise were shot here. You can visit these places and experience your favorite movie series in real life!

13. Arches National Park

Arches National Park © Image Courtesy of Hiromasa Araki from Getty Images by Canva
Arches National Park © Image Courtesy of Hiromasa Araki from Getty Images by Canva

Location: Moab, Utah

Arches National Park is another Utah park famous for its iconic rock formations. You’ve no doubt seen photos of some of the more famous formations found here, and they truly are a sight to behold. There are five different main areas where visitors can view these formations.

Because of the great shots that can be taken here, photography is one of the main reasons people come to visit. With so much interest in the subject, the park has actually published a guide on which places and times are best for the kind of photos you might want to take.

Outdoor enthusiasts wanting to be a bit more active can also tour the park on foot. There are several hiking trails ranging in time from just 30 minutes to several hours in length.

Visitors should be aware that the park has been trying to combat congestion from the exponential spike in tourists over the past couple of years. If you’re visiting now, you must make a timed reservation to enter the park. Park authorities hope this will cut down on traffic and give every visitor more time to get up close and personal with the park and its famed rock formations.

13 Best West Coast National Parks to Explore! Best National Parkss on the West Coast, West Coast Parks, West Coast National Parks, National Parks of the US, US National Parks, USA Travel Guide.
13 Of The Best National Parks on the West Coast! Best National Parkss on the West Coast, West Coast Parks, West Coast National Parks, National Parks of the US, US National Parks, USA Travel Guide.
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