Picture Perfect: Best Views in the National Parks

Get ready for jaw-dropping moments at these iconic viewing spots

Posted by: Xanterra on January 10, 2018

The best overall view of Death Valley — summer or winter — is Dante’s View (5,475 feet) because visitors can see nearly half the park.

Cascading waterfalls, snow-covered mountain peaks, undulating sand dunes, and dramatic alpine vistas are just some of our National Parks’ scenic wonders. The parks abound in superlatives — deepest, bluest, driest, hottest, lowest, longest, and most concentrated — as well as some of the most spectacular views in the country.

To catch the best ones and maximize your park moments, follow our picks for the best vistas.

Big blue lake

Crater Lake National Park, Ore.

America’s deepest lake, Crater Lake formed in the caldera of a collapsed volcano. The water’s intense blue set against the surrounding cliffs creates a gorgeous scene. “In summer Discovery Point is a great place to view the sunrise and The Watchman (an 8,000-foot-peak) and Cloud Cap (the highest road-access overlook on the lake rim) are great places to view the sunset,” says Marsha McCabe, chief, interpretation and cultural resources for the park. In winter, McCabe advises snowshoeing or skiing to various rim overlooks.

For more information and reservations, visit craterlakelodges.com or call 888-774-2728.

Death Valley National Park, Calif.

A sweep of desert marked by craters, sand dunes, mountains and mud flats, Death Valley contains the hottest, driest and lowest points in the U.S. The best overall view — summer or winter — is Dante’s View (5,475 feet) because visitors can see nearly half the park. “It’s best before 10 a.m. when the sun is behind you. In the afternoon, people are looking into the sun, which makes it harder to see the landscape,” says Abby Wines, a park spokesperson.

For more information and reservations, visit oasisatdeathvalley.com or call 800-236-7916.

Lake and Mountains

 

Glacier National Park, Mont.

A premier example of a glaciated landscape of mountains and lakes, Glacier National Park’s one million acres also feature dense pine forests and rolling grasslands. The best views are along the 50-mile Going to the Sun Road: see snow-capped peaks and stop at the highest point, 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass with its Continental Divide views. Jackson Glacier Overlook offers the best opportunity to see a glacier from the road. Depending on snowfall, the road remains open late June/early July to October/early November. For the best winter view, take in the snow-capped mountains from the base of Lake McDonald.

For more information and reservations, visit glaciernationalparklodges.com or call 855-733-4522.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz.

The canyon’s mile-deep walls change dramatically with the light, turning from a series of wheat colors striated with pink and purple during the day to rose and deep magenta at sunset. On the South Rim, popular Hopi Point offers memorable sunset views and Yaki Point, vivid sunrise vistas. But both can be crowded in summer. “Lipan Point near Desert View, offers incredible views of the canyon with the San Francisco Peaks to the south, the distant Painted Desert, and extensive stretches of the river below,” advises park spokesperson Emily Davis.

For more information and reservations, visit grandcanyonlodges.com or call 888-297-2757.

Sun set on the mountains

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo.

Rocky Mountain National Park’s pine, spruce, and fir forests, towering mountains, and high meadows provide habitat for elk and bighorn sheep. You might see them when driving the park’s signature route, the 48-mile Trail Ridge Road, a byway that’s also the highest continuous paved road in America. Ascending some 4,000 feet, “11 miles of the road is above tree line, where park visitors will enjoy the wonder of alpine tundra and mountains everywhere, including those that form the Continental Divide, as well as Longs Peak, the Mummy Range, and the Never Summer Mountains,” says park spokesperson Kyle Patterson. Depending on conditions, the road closes from mid-October to mid-May. In winter, Patterson recommends Horseshoe Park’s view of the Mummy Range.

For more information, visit trailridgegiftstore.com or call 970-586-2133.

Yellow Stone grand canyon

Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.

Yellowstone contains a stunning array of sights: the world’s highest concentration of geysers, fumaroles, and other geothermal thermal features as well as a 20-mile-long canyon, forests, lakes, and waterfalls. Often called “America’s Serengeti” for its diversity of animals, the park harbors bison, wolves, elk, brown and grizzly bears, moose, mountain goats, and more critters. From Lookout Point, a panoramic overlook on the north rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, you see the iconic — and popular — view of Lower Falls, the park’s largest waterfall, cascading 308 feet.

For more information and reservations, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.

Big mountain with a red sky in the background

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park unfolds as a series of multi-colored cliffs, unusual sandstone formations, forested mesas, and canyons whose walls flame red in the sunlight. Experienced hikers who can handle the 2.4 mile (one-way) strenuous, uphill hike with a last half-mile of thin, exposed ridges reach Angels Landing and reap the rewards of expansive park panoramas. But that’s not for most people. The half-mile (one-way) Canyon Overlook trail has a doable elevation gain of about 100 feet and leads to a sweeping view of several park formations.

For more information and reservations, visit zionlodge.com or call 888-297-2757.



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Candyce Stapen

Written by: Candyce Stapen

Long-time family travel guru Candyce H. Stapen writes for many publications and outlets. She has written 30 travel guidebooks, including two for National Geographic.