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National Parks to Visit During Summer - AARP Skip to content

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Best National Parks for Summertime

  • A Wood Cabin In Front Of The Grand Tetons Wyoming, Best National Parks
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    8 National Parks to See This Summer

    In summertime, national parks provide the ultimate escape to some of the most beautiful and geologically unique places in the nation. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at national parks this time of year—whether you’re looking to take in the scenery, camp in the wilderness, or learn about nature through expert-led programs. Not sure which one to choose? We’ve handpicked the 8.

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  • View Of A Glacier At Kenai Fjords National Park In Seward Alaska, Best National Parks
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    Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

    Located 126 miles south of Anchorage on the stunning Kenai Peninsula, Kenai Fjords National Park is an Ice Age dreamscape. Think pristine water, giant icebergs and seemingly endless glaciers. In the summer, long daylight hours and temperatures in the 50s and 60s are ideal for activities such as kayaking, hiking and stand-up paddleboarding. For those interested in a little less action, “flightseeing” by plane is Alaska’s quintessential way to take in the scenery — or cruise by boat among the icebergs.

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  • A Tall Sequoia Tree In The Sequoia National Forest In California, Best National Parks
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    Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California

    Set in the shadow of 14,505-foot Mount Whitney (the highest summit in the contiguous United States), this combined park is a backpacker’s dream, with more than 850 miles of remote trails through extensive glacial canyons and old-growth forests — home to giant sequoias standing more than 250 feet tall. Summer temperatures in the southern Sierra Nevada foothills often exceed 100 degrees but remain pleasant in the sequoia groves, where they rarely top 90.

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  • Aerial View Of Shenadoah National Park In Virginia, Best National Parks
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    Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

    Just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., this park is known as a fall foliage destination — but it's an equally viable escape in the summer. Hike more than 500 miles of trails and cool off beside one of the park’s dozen waterfalls. If backcountry camping is your thing, you can pick a spot anywhere on most of Shenandoah’s 196,000 gorgeous acres.

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  • A Wood Cabin In Front Of The Grand Tetons Wyoming, Best National Parks
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    Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

    The park's alpine terrain includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. A dozen small glaciers, the Snake River, streams and numerous crystalline lakes provide a welcome reprieve from the heat of summer. Although Grand Teton is only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, it's generally less crowded. Campgrounds, as well as several excellent lodging facilities ranging from cabins to resort hotels, are located inside the park.

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  • Cliffs Of Apostle Island National Lakeshore In Wisconsin, Best National Parks
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    Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

    The park comprises 21 islands — the “Jewels of Lake Superior” — and the northern tip of Wisconsin. Lake Superior is the cleanest of the Great Lakes, and you can enjoy scuba diving amid old shipwrecks. The islands' pristine beaches, protected bays and public docks make for outstanding boating, fishing and kayaking. Twelve of the islands have maintained trails — more than 50 miles total — leading to historic lighthouses, abandoned quarries, old farm sites, scenic overlooks, beaches and campsites.

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  • Hikers In Zion National Park, Utah, Best National Parks
    Peter Guttman

    Zion National Park, Utah

    Hot summer weather is perfect for hiking the Virgin River at the base of the park’s upper canyon, otherwise known as “The Narrows.” The trail is literally the river — trekkers walk, wade and swim through the 16-mile route, penned in on both sides by 2,000-foot vertical sandstone walls. The hike is strenuous (trekking poles or a walking stick are essential to negotiate the slippery rocks and moving current), but well worth the effort for the unique experience and awe-inspiring scenery. Check the schedule of performances at the O.C. Tanner Amphitheater, located just outside the south entry gate in Springdale.

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  • Sunset At The Great Smoky Mountains In Tennessee, Best National Parks
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    Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

    This park is the busiest in the nation (with an average of 9 million annual visitors), but part of the magic of this vast swath of wilderness is that it never feels crowded. Encompassing 522,419 woodsy acres along a ridgeline section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the park is home to 1,500 kinds of flowering plants — more than any other national park on the continent. The summer wildflower display includes black-eyed Susans, brilliant-red cardinal flowers, small purple-fringed orchids, pink turtleheads and Turk’s-cap lilies.

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  • Mammoth Cave National Park In Kentucky, Best National Parks
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    Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

    The cool, dark passages of the world’s longest cave system (400 miles have been explored so far) offer a great reprieve from the summer heat. Rangers lead more than a dozen different tours, including the Wild Cave Tour that gets visitors off the beaten track to climb, crawl and slither through more remote sections of cave. Aboveground, enjoy boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and riverside camping along the more than 30 miles of the Green and Nolin rivers that run through the park.

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  • View Of A Glacier At Kenai Fjords National Park In Seward Alaska, Best National Parks
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