View of the mountains and river from North Bubble, in Acadia National Park, Maine

Beautiful national parks on the East Coast

Bri Bleiwas

Contributing writer

The United States is filled with breathtaking national parks, and many of the most well-known attractions are out West.

However, if you’re looking to visit a national park and can’t travel to this part of the country, you could always visit the East Coast’s parks. They have different features than the parks you’re likely most familiar with, and they’re all worth visiting.

Parking fees for each of these national parks cost $30, and the pass is valid for seven days. Some activities require additional passes or permits, so check the National Park Services website before you visit.

Here are a few of the most beautiful national parks on the East Coast.

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley from Little Stony Man

1. Shenandoah National Park

This national park is in Virginia, 75 miles outside of Washington D.C. Here, you’ll find picturesque waterfalls, wildflowers, and woods to explore.

Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of hiking trails, including some that lead to the waterfalls. To get some photos of them, try the Dark Hollow Falls or Doyles River Falls hikes, which are 1-2 hours long and 2-3 hours long, respectively.

If you’re not much of a hiker, you can take a scenic drive down Skyline Drive to see the park. After your trip, consider visiting Washington D.C. - you can see two beautiful sites at once!

Clouds and grasses reflected in the water at Everglades National Park, Florida

2. Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is a 1.5-million-acre preserve in southern Florida. Known for its freshwater slough, wildlife, and mangroves, this park is a treasure to visit.

The easiest way to explore Everglades National Park is by taking a tour. When you arrive at the park, you should start your day with a Shark Valley tram ride. This two-hour tour will teach you about Everglades’ ecosystem, and you’ll also get to access the Shark Valley Observation Tower.

Other fun tours include a canoe tour and slogging tour. Make sure you dedicate plenty of time to wildlife viewing - otherwise, you may miss great photo opportunities of the alligators and manatees.

Acadia National Park  with red foliage in Autumn

3. Acadia National Park

Located in Maine, Acadia National Park is the only national park in the Northeast. Like much of this region, the park is known for its gorgeous autumns and snow-covered grounds in the winter. No matter when you visit, though, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the park.

At the start of your trip to Acadia, stop by the Hulls Cove Visitor Center to learn about ranger programs and fun things to do. You may discover an activity you didn’t think of trying before!

Many people who visit this park enjoy hiking. Try should try exploring the Beehive Loop Trail, a popular hike that will only take an hour to complete.

While many national parks have restaurants in town, Acadia has one in the park itself. Jordan Pond House serves seafood, chowder, and pasta to park guests. Make your reservation before you visit, as the restaurant is busy.

Light filtering through the canopy of trees in Congaree National Park, South Carolina

4. Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park in South Carolina is home to one of the highest forest canopies on Earth. Just venture into the wilderness to take in this park’s beauty for yourself.

Not many people visit Congaree, but they should - there’s so much to see and do on the park’s grounds.

Fishing is a popular activity at Congaree National Park. You can fish anywhere in the park with a valid South Carolina fishing license.

If you can’t obtain one, you can still enjoy the water by kayaking or canoeing through Cedar Creek. Rent a canoe or kayak from a local rental center.

Those looking for a simple hike should start with the Boardwalk Loop Trail. As the name suggests, this trail is entirely made of boardwalk, making it easy for new hikers to navigate.

The view of the mountains from Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This national park sits on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. With forests, waterfalls, and of course, mountains, this park has a wide range of landscapes to take in.

The hiking trails at Great Smoky Mountains National Park include parts of the famous Appalachian Trail. If you’re looking to take a hike through the park, try the popular Alum Cave Trail or the Rainbow Falls Trail.

You should also head to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome, where you’ll be able to get a better view of the mountains. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

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Bri Bleiwas

Author - Bri Bleiwas

Bri is a New Yorker living in Oregon who loves dogs and writing. She also enjoys traveling and has been to Austin, Finland, Orange County, and many other places. In her spare time, she bowls and makes crafts with her Cricut.

Last Updated 16 January 2024

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