Looking for the best east coast National Parks? Here are our top 15 locations you need to explore!
There are some seriously beautiful east coast national parks, but finding the perfect choice can be difficult. So, if you’re looking for the best east coast national parks to explore – then take a read of this list! National Parks on the East Coast have so much to offer, from amazing mountains and woodlands, to beaches and even snorkeling spots too!
National Parks are amazing, and we’re so lucky to have so many of them in the USA. So if you’re wanting to get out and explore the best east coast national parks, then keep reading! This list is full of the most interesting and best national parks east coast, so take a read and decide which you’ll be exploring first.
So let’s go… Here are the best national parks on the east coast!
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park in Maine is one of the most glorious east coast national parks in the US. Not only is this east coast national park a sight to behold, but it’s packed with incredible hikes and forestry that’s difficult to find elsewhere in Maine. One of the most popular things to do at this east coast national park is Cadillac Mountain.
Although this spot can get very crowded, getting here before the sunrise guarantees glorious, romantic views. Parking is tricky, but we promise, the early start is worth it.
Congaree National Park
Next on our list of east coast national parks, it’s Congaree National Park. Located in South Carolina, this east coast national park promises to convert even the most nature averse among you. There is plenty to do in this east coast national park, but its highlights include kayaking on Cedar Creek, and hiking along the Congaree River. On your adventures, you may even spot some local wildlife!
Sure, you may not spot the elusive turtles, but you may spot some frolicking deer at this east coast national park. Hey, wildlife is wildlife! Just be sure to pack your camera, as this east coast national park sees swarms of fireflies during mating season. It may sound gross, but it’s stunning in person.
Mammoth Cave National Park
If you are looking for something slightly more daring than your traditional east coast national parks, then you’ll want to check out Mammoth Cave National Park. This underground area covers 80 square miles, and it’s known as the world’s longest cave system. Well, we can’t say that for sure, but it’s the largest one known to man as of 2021!
There are regular tours of the caves, but we don’t recommend this national park on the east coast for those afraid of the dark or tight spaces. There are times where you’ll be in complete darkness, and that can be far too much for some.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
You may have already experienced this US national park due to its incredible popularity, which is way it’s one of our top national parks on the east coast. However, if you’re yet to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll certainly want to after reading this!
Although there is a scenic highway through this east coast national park, you’re far better off walking. Not only will you encounter less traffic (for obvious reasons!), but you’ll also be able to experience the wonders of this east coast national park up close. With unique flora and fauna visible around every corner, you certainly won’t be bored on your visit to The Smokies! This is another beautiful choice for east coast national parks to explore.
Read more about New York State: 50+ things to do in Niagara Falls
Isle Royale National Park
Another one of the best east coast national parks is in Michigan. Secluded, quiet and free of motor noise, this east coast national park is perfect for those who adore the peace that nature brings. Of course, the best part about this national park is the scenery but do keep an eye out for moose! This park is said to be one of the top areas for spotting moose in the US, so don’t miss out! This is a brilliant choice of national parks on the east coast to visit and vacation!
Shenandoah National Park
Are you on the hunt for a scenic drive near Washington? If so this is a great choice of east coast national parks to explore! Well, you can’t do much better than this east coast national park. Shenandoah National Park features more than 500 miles of hiking trails, so you can totally tackle the area by foot if you wish.
However, if you’d rather experience this east coast national park from the comfort of your vehicle, then you can take the Skyline Drive. This 105-mile stretch of road will show you the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains in all their glory, so be sure to stop at regular intervals for unbeatable photos. This is another wonderful choice for national parks on the east coast to visit.
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
One of the more recent additions to the National Park System is New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, and it’s probably one of the national parks on the east coast you may not have heard of yet. Although this east coast national park is new to the game, you shouldn’t count it out. With gorgeous trails and cliffside views, this is another choice of east coast national parks not to be missed.
Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Florida, and it’s perfect for visitors who want to experience east coast national parks without ever moving a muscle. Most of The Everglades is only accessible by boat as it’s classed as wetlands, so before checking things out, you’ll be hopping onto a boat! With mangroves and local wildlife (including alligators!) making regular appearances, this is one of the national parks on the east coast with a bit of a difference.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most popular east coast national parks to visit for those who love marine life. Hosting incredible coral reefs, this east coast national park is ideal for ocean explorers. You should be aware that this park is only accessible by ferry or seaplane, so you’ll want to make plenty of accommodations in advance! This is one of those national parks on the east coast you’ll definitely want to visit.
Biscayne National Park
Located just a stone’s throw from Miami is Biscayne National Park, and it’s next on our list of national parks on the east coast. Now, this may not be one of the most well-known of the east coast national parks, but it’s perfect for a flying visit from the big Floridian cities. The scenery here is just gorgeous, and we highly recommend hiring a boat or canoe to take out onto the crystal-clear waters. Adventurous types will love this east coast national park’s snorkeling opportunities too; with several species of fish and shark circling this reef, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
There is only one national park located in Ohio, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, which is why it makes our list of east coast national parks. Home to some impressive biking and hiking opportunities, this is a great east coast national park to visit if you’re looking for a rush of endorphins.
If you’re looking to wind down after all that activity, hop on the park’s scenic railroad! Kids absolutely love the railroad, and it’s perfect remedy for tired feet that can’t possibly take another step. Another great option if you’re looking for national parks on the east coast to explore.
Cape Cod National Seashore
Cape Cod National Seashore is one of the most protected areas in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and it’s next on our list of national parks on the east coast. This east coast national park offers visitors everything from bike trails to towering lighthouses, and the area transitions beautifully between day and night for a more romantic feel.
If sightseeing and biking isn’t your thing, you can take a dip of one of the many beaches at this east coast national park. Whatever you choose to do, be sure to allocate plenty of time for relaxing and recharging. This is a great choice for east coast national parks.
Read more: How to plan a road trip from Cape Cod to NYC
Statue of Liberty National Monument
One of the most interesting east coast national parks on our list is the Statue of Liberty National Monument. You may feel we’re cheating the system with this one, but this monument is considered one of the best east coast national parks! Not every national park looks the same, and although this is ‘small’ when compared to some of the larger spots on the east coast, the Statue of Liberty National Monument is by far the most iconic.
You can easily get here from NYC on one of the many ferries, so don’t stress too much about travel and planning when checking out this choice for national parks on the east coast.
Read more: The best way to see The Statue of Liberty
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
If you love a good hike, then you’ll want to check out the Appalachian National Scenic Trail near Gatlinburg. Although this isn’t necessarily considered one of the east coast national parks (it’s something of an amalgamation of several parks), completing this national trail is considered a feat of performance that few could accomplish. Covering 2,190 miles, this trail crosses 14 states and certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. However, if you’re brave, plan far ahead and see the best of the east coast national parks on offer. Yep – all of them!
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is one of those places that you must see to believe. Deemed by both locals and visitors to be one of the best east coast national parks out there, we felt it deserved the final place on our list. You may be surprised to hear this, but Hot Springs National Park is the oldest east coast national park out there! So, if you’re all about seeing the OG, then this east coast national park is for you!
With a stunning bathhouse, long hiking trails, and impressive mountain views, this is a top contender for our favorite east coast national park. Another beautiful choice for national parks on the east coast to check out.
A few bonus suggestions!
We know you’re specifically searching for National Parks on the East Coast, but if you’re open to State parks on the east coast too (and some are equally wonderful) there are lots of other amazing places open to you on the east coast!
Check out some of the east coast national parks alternatives…
- Bear Mountain State Park (NY)
- Letchworth State Park (NY)
- Niagara Falls National Heritage Area (NY)
- Minnewaska State Park Preserve (NY)
- Saratoga Spa State Park (NY)
- Mason Neck State Park (VA)
- Sky Meadows State Park (VA)
- Gambrill State Park (MD)
We hope this list of national parks on the east coast has been useful!
As you can see, there are so many beautiful national parks on the east coast to explore! Let us know if you check any of these beautiful east coast national parks out!