9 Best National Parks on the East Coast

There are a lot of things the East Coast is known for like its mountainous regions in the Appalachian Mountains which stretch across 13 states, as well as the city that never sleeps, New York. If you are looking for outdoor activities to do on this side of the country, then you are in luck. The East Coast boasts several national parks that present an accessible haven for people to lay back and have a good time in the arms of nature.

Acadia National Park

View of the Maine Coastline at Acadia National Park
View of the Maine Coastline at Acadia National Park

It is no secret that Acadia National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States, receiving 4 million visits per year. This national treasure is located in Maine between Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor, on one of the islands lying along the coastline of the state. It features a unique atmosphere, and delivers rocky hiking trails amounting to 158 miles, as well as a gorgeous beach called Sand Beach, ensuring that you will satisfy your thirst for a diverse natural experience.

Shenandoah National Park

Asphalt road with autumn foliage - Shenandoah National Park, Virginia United States
Asphalt Road with Autumn Foliage - Shenandoah National Park, Virginia United States

Located in Virginia, barely 75 miles away from the bustling life of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers a retreat for anyone looking to take a deep clean breath outside the city life. Stretching along the Blue Ridge Mountains, the park is majorly known for its Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road running the entire length of it. It is perfect for visitors who are keen on road trips and enjoying views from the comfort of their vehicles. This park is full of panoramic views and rich human history, making it worth more than one visit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Colorful leaves on Foothills Parkway West in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in late October.
Colorful leaves on Foothills Parkway West in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in late October

Also among the top-visited parks in the U.S., the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located between North Carolina and Tennessee boasts 14.1 million recreational visits(2021). Deemed the crown jewel of the East Coast national parks, it boasts the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. It is called the Smokies due to the hydrocarbons released by the trees, forming the ever-existing hazy fog. The park is surely known for its diverse plant and animal species that are constantly thriving there. It is a go-to for people looking for a shifting mountainous region to conquer.

Everglades National Park

Long Pine Key Lake at Sunset, Everglades National Park, Florida
Long Pine Key Lake at Sunset, Everglades National Park, Florida

If you are looking for a flatter planed landscape, then the Everglades National Park, located in Florida, is your choice. Featured as the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., its habitat enables numerous recovering endangered species, like the manatee and the American Crocodile, to thrive. Although it is made of distinct environments, it is majorly characterized as a wetland where visitors can make the most out of their stay by kayaking and boat touring the park through the mangrove tunnels and the open marshy terrain.

Mammoth Cave National Park

In Mammoth cave National park. Adventure in Mammoth cave National park
Mammoth Cave National park

Crowned as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and International Biosphere Reserves, the Mammoth Cave National Park, located in Kentucky, is home to the world’s longest-known cave system. Explorers have mapped out more than 420 miles of carved limestone passageways, which began forming millions of years ago. Consequently, the park offers cave tours for curious and brave adventures wanting to delve into the massive labyrinth themselves and relish the rock formations and Earth’s history. The park includes additionally more than 1,300 flowering species, hiking trails, and the Green and Nolin Rivers, facilitating further outdoor activities beyond cave exploring. 

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park Sign
Congaree National Park Sign

The Congaree National Park, found in South Carolina, protects one of the most expansive old-growth bottomland hardwood forests (also known as river swamps) in the southeastern region of the United States, which is primarily due to nutritious streams supplied from the Congaree and Wateree rivers. To observe the biodiverse animal and plant scene, the boardwalk loop trail makes it easily accessible to ponder upon the trees reaching out from the water from its elevated view. However, if you are in the mood for more than just walking, kayaking and canoeing through the lakes and streams are available for you to enjoy the shade of the bald cypress trees in the calm waters.

Biscayne National Park

Boca Chita Key lighthouse in Florida's Biscayne National Park
Boca Chita Key lighthouse in Florida's Biscayne National Park

If you are looking for a place capturing the true spirit of the summer, then the Biscayne National Park, situated in Florida, is the right choice. The park, just 20 miles south of Miami, features a more unique experience than the rest of the parks by having 95% of it accessible strictly by boat. It showcases distinct aquatic ecosystems and coral reefs, making it a home to numerous marine wildlife species like manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles. You can enjoy the sceneries of shipwrecks and mangrove estuaries above water or dive and savor the views under the surface.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park, Fort Jefferson. Florida. USA.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Fort Jefferson, Florida

Also situated in Florida, the Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the more exceptional places to visit. Lying approximately 70 miles to the west of Key West island city, the park is strictly accessible by boat or seaplane. It is home to Fort Jefferson, a glorious hexagonal-shaped structure. Once used as a prison during the civil war, the fort now serves as a spacious retreat for visitors yearning for their dose of history and architecture, in addition to the greenery and the crystal-clear waters the area provides.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Charging River at Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Charging River at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Even though it is pretty close to the urban setting of Cleveland, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, set in Ohio, thrives in its greenery. The history of the park is an inspiration to all; the Cuyahoga River was intensely polluted and caught fire 13 times in the latter half of the 1900s, but due to the efforts and rallies led by the community, the restoration of the river was successful, majorly evident by the resurgence of the wildlife there. The park’s most redeeming quality is the accessibility it offers with tamed wilderness rather than an unbridled landscape which would make it physically taxing to roam. There are also farmlands on the park’s soil, enabling visitors to buy fresh produce in the year-round set-up markets. There are numerous ways to go about exploring the park, from cycling and hiking the kid-friendly Towpath Trail, to even riding a train that runs between Rockside Station and Akron.

The East Coast is full of national parks that are home to vital ecosystems and diverse wildlife. They serve as catalysts for recuperating habitats and animal species, while giving curious visitors a chance to safely observe these flourishing environments. If you are looking for a quick getaway after a busy week, these spots will definitely help you unwind and connect yourself to nature.

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