Below are the most popular U.S. national parks to visit on a tour. Click any link to see a list of itineraries visiting these destinations.
Established as the first U.S. national preserve in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is mostly in Wyoming but spills into neighboring Montana and Idaho as well. It is famed for its geysers (Old Faithful being the most celebrated), hot springs and abundant wildlife. Grizzlies, black bears, bison, elk and moose roam here.
Look for many of those same creatures in Wyoming's nearby Grand Teton National Park, as well as bald eagles and ospreys in the skies. Wildflower season is especially scenic, with blooms typically on display from May through September. You might join a tour company's optional float trip down the Snake River.
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is one of the world's most studied geological areas. Carved by the Colorado River, it is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and 1 mile deep. Hiking, mule rides and whitewater rafting are popular ways to see the canyon.
Many of our Grand Canyon itineraries also travel to outstanding locales in southern Utah. Tall limestone spires called hoodoos rise from the floor of Bryce Canyon National Park, their shades of pink, red and orange changing with the rising and setting of the sun. In Zion National Park, massive sandstone cliffs soar above cottonwood trees, waterfalls and the Virgin River. Arches National Park in eastern Utah is prized for its photogenic red rock formations, including more than 2,000 stone archways.
Yosemite National Park in east-central California is known for its waterfalls (most abundant in spring after the snow melts), wildflower-filled meadows, old sequoias and granite monoliths like El Capitan and Half Dome.
Acadia National Park takes up most of Mount Desert Island in Maine. The expanse is crisscrossed by hiking trails and carriage roads -- woodland routes built in the early 20th century.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is named for the blue haze that clings to its peaks. It is renowned for its diverse plant and animal life and historic remnants of southern Appalachian mountain culture.
Badlands National Park in South Dakota has rich fossil beds and a rugged landscape of layered rock buttes. Look for bison and bighorn sheep here. Itineraries that visit the Badlands usually also spend time at Mount Rushmore National Monument, the enormous sculpture of four U.S. presidents.
In Alaska, Denali National Park was the first national park established to protect wildlife. Look for bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, peregrine falcons and golden eagles. On clear days, you might catch a glimpse of North America's highest mountain, 20,310-foot Denali.
Here are more to consider:
Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, where lava from Kilauea still flows down to the sea
Katmai National Park in Alaska, a prime spot for observing grizzly bears
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, which boasts more than 70 peaks that rise above 12,000 feet
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, embracing the Blue Ridge Mountains and about 850 species of wildflowers
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, famed for the sapphire-blue lake that formed in a collapsed volcano peak