U.S. National Parks - Best Tours & Trips 2019
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Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.
Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.
Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.
Price Per Day
Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.
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Rivers & Seas
Cities & Attractions
Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.
Flights & Transport
Continents & Regions
- Get inspired by wilderness in the rockies
- Watch geysers erupt in yellowstone
- Indulge in craft beer in laid-back oregon
- Get a taste for the northwest's majestic national parks
- Visit quirky towns and funky cities
- Experience a chuck wagon dinner and cowboy entertainment.
- Discover a world of color and light on a breakfast cruise on Lake Powell.
- Explore the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a tribute to Buffalo Bill Cody.
- Meet Native Americans and discuss their unique and colorful culture.
- Spend a night at the spectacular Grand Canyon.
- Visit Yellowstone National Park, home to the famous Old Faithful Geyser.
- See one of the country's most famous landmarks, Mount Rushmore.
See the Acadia, our nation’s smallest National Park, is revered as one of the most scenic
- Experience the life and work of Bar Harbor’s lobstermen
- Enjoy a spin on the carriage trails or along the coast before arriving at the Jordan Pond House
- Cycle for miles on Acadia’s automobile-free Carriage Roads
- Experience cruise across Frenchman’s Bay to Schoodic Peninsula
- Explore Nez Perce National Historical Park in Spalding
- Visit the world’s largest fish hatchery at the Dworshak Dam
- Enjoy a ride in the Clearwater National Forest
- Enjoy drive about two hours to our put-in on the Salmon River
- Visit an ancient Chinese rock house
- Ride through the famous neighbourhood of Palm Springs
- Experience Hike through Indian Canyons followed by Palm Canyon’s fan palm tree
- Opportunity to ride through Anza Borrego State Park features palm canyons, cacti, and plentiful wildlife, including bighorn sheep
- Hike along a boulder-strewn river bed to one of the region’s only native palm canyons
- Hike through one of Yosemite's most breathtaking backcountry river canyons
- Traverse the famous Tuolumne River from the high country to the lower valley
- Pass several impressive waterfalls and box canyon sections
- Follow in the footsteps of John Muir, who pioneered this route in the 1800's
- Have good potential to see wildlife
- Enjoy our exceptional backcountry cuisine and expert guides
- Visit Mt. Rushmore National Monument
- Visit the old western cowboy town of Sheridan
- Follow the Lewis and Clark Trail to Livingston, Montana film location of "A River Runs Through It" and "The Horse Whisperer."
- See the moose, elk, bison, bears and wolves
- Visit Grand Teton National Park
- Enjoy a picnic lunch near the banks of the Snake River
- Watch for waterfowl, beaver, osprey and eagles
- See the Mormon Tabernacle
- Discover a spectacular and mostly untouched landscape while hiking a fragment of Yellowstone's 1,200 miles of backpacking, hiking and walking trails
- Four days in the field offer a tantalizing glimpse of the Great Caldera’s infinite wonders
- An instructor’s interpretation and observations enhance your hiking field trips and provide an intimate portrait of the park’s wildlife, habitats and geology
- See the Yosemite’s wilderness allow a clear picture of the hand that glaciers had in shaping Yosemite
- Enjoy the epic views while your guide shares tips, tricks and interpretation
- Visit the world-famous naturalist John Muir became fascinated with glaciers when exploring Yosemite
- Enjoy the summit Half Dome and stand in awe of the incredible view
- Enjoy camp for one night at Bright Angel campground
- You’ll have endless opportunities for exploration as you make your way along Garden Creek to the campground for the second night at Indian Gardens
- Experience Hike out day, and you’ll ascend to the Rim along the Bright Angel Trail.
- See elk in their natural habitat during a sleigh ride in the National Elk Refuge.
- Journey to the picturesque Caribou Targhee National Forest in Idaho.
- See the tranquil Lamar Valley tucked away in the scenic northwest corner of Yellowstone.
- Join an expert on a private walking tour to learn the history of Yellowstone.
- Witness the colossal geyser Old Faithful in action and surrounded by snow and ice.
- Travel by snowcoach to observe Yellowstone's iconic scenery.
- Experience hiking trip in Grand Canyon National Park for 5 days of camping
- Explore the popular and iconic South Rim and the more scenic North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
- Experience this historic tourist destination in a way that few travelers do
- Walk amongst an ancient Puebloan village at Wupatki National Monument
- Awesome thrilling trail offers spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock
- Incredible postcard-worthy views of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, El Capitan
- Enjoy hiking along The Merced River, we’ll take an incredible views of Upper Yosemite Falls
- Experience hike past Lion Lakes and Snowbank Lake all the way to the Continental Divide
- Enjoy the summer splendor of backpacking in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado
- Experience “the backbone of the continent,” skirting alpine lakes and hiking across the jaw-droopingly beautiful Martian landscape
- Experience the rugged wilderness of Yosemite with the expert guides from AOA
- Awesome hike beneath the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada, past rushing waterfalls, and alongside Yosemite Creek
- Learn about, and from, this one-of-a-kind wilderness
- This trip is a great choice for fit but inexperienced backpackers, as well as those who have already put significant backpacking miles on their boots
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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 Trip Reviews
79 U.S. National Parks Tour Reviews - Summary 99% Recommend
U.S. National Parks Tours and 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.
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.
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.
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.
All U.S. National Parks tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.9 for all U.S. National Parks trips.