Americans have always valued the wide-open expanses of their wilderness, which likely explains why the concept of national parks started in the United States in the late 19th Century with Yellowstone National Park becoming the world’s first. Since then, the network of national park and monument lands in the United States has grown to include 59 national parks and 117 national monuments.
Within these parks and monuments are some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. Ranging from mountains to deserts, and including prairies, wetlands, seashores, and even active volcanoes, America’s national parks include a stunning array of beautiful scenery. But out of all of the views in America’s public lands, some stand out as being even more beautiful and breathtaking than the others.
I have put together a list of what I think are the Top 20 most beautiful viewpoints in America’s national parks. These are viewpoints that are so beautiful that they take my breath away and keep me wanting to come back to see them again-and-again. If there are viewpoints in the national parks that you think are beautiful but did not make my list, please leave me a note in the comments section. Not only do I want to hear about which viewpoints you find special, but other readers will likely appreciate hearing your thoughts as well.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Not surprisingly, one of my favorite viewpoints in America’s national parks is also in one of my favorite national parks. Bryce Canyon National Park has a lot of great viewpoints that allow you to see the beautiful hoodoo-filled canyon, but Inspiration Point is by far my favorite. In my opinion, this viewpoint gives you the best perspective of the gorgeous canyon below.
Zion National Park
Few other viewpoints in America’s national park system evoke as strong of emotions as Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. Making the roughly 1-mile out-and-back hike to this viewpoint elicits emotions of fear, relief, amazement, wonder, and awe. It is one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States, but also one of the most popular and highly rated hikes in the national parks because the payoff at the end is so great. The views from Angel’s Landing will literally leave you speechless.
Delicate Arch Viewpoint
Arches National Park
It can be argued that few other rock formations in the United States are as recognizable as Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. This arch is so iconic that it is actually featured on the license plate for the state of Utah. One of the best hikes in the national park system, the hike up to Delicate Arch also allows you to get up-close-and-personal with this amazing Arch. This makes it one of the best viewpoints in America’s national park system.
Grand Prismatic Viewpoint
Yellowstone National Park
The world’s first national park also has one of America’s most impressive, and colorful, viewpoints. The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in Yellowstone National Park is one of the world’s largest hot springs. This beautiful hot spring has different layers of color that are created by the different types of algae that grows in the different temperature regions of the hot spring. If you want the best view of this amazing work of mother nature, hike up behind the hot spring and get a view down onto the hot spring from the hill behind it.
Mesa Arch Viewpoint
Canyonlands National Park
One of the best vista viewpoints in America’s national parks has to be the Mesa Arch viewpoint in Canyonlands National Park. If you can beat the crowds and get a spot at this viewpoint before sunrise, you will get some of the best sunrise pictures you have ever taken at this viewpoint. Not only are you able to see great expanses of the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park, but you can use the beautiful Mesa Arch to frame your pictures.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is such a beautiful park that it has many viewpoints that could be classified amongst America’s best, but the Tunnel View is arguably the most famous viewpoint in the park because it is absolutely stunning. This viewpoint gives viewers a look down the entirety of Yosemite Valley, which the iconic Half Dome and El Capitan guarding both sides of the breathtaking valley.
Joshua Tree National Park
While Joshua Tree National Park is most famous for its iconic Joshua Trees and rock climbing scrambles, there is a viewpoint within the park that is amongst the most beautiful in America’s national parks. Keys View is one of the highest points within the park and gives visitors some absolutely amazing views of this stunning landscape.
Logan Pass Viewpoint
Glacier National Park
You really can’t go wrong with any viewpoint on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, but my favorite viewpoint on this amazing alpine road is the viewpoint for Logan’s Pass. You really get a great sense of just how massive this landscape is from this viewpoint. Not to mention, the views are absolutely incredible, especially at sunrise.
Olympic National Park
When you think about the continental United States, I am guessing your first thoughts aren’t of rainforests. In fact, many people that are unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest are completely unaware that America has forests that are classified as rainforest. These forests aren’t the tropical type that you would find in Central and South America, Asia, and parts of Africa, but they do get quite a bit of rain.
These forests, with their moss covered trees and abundance of wildlife, are so beautiful that the most famous of these rainforests has made my list of the most iconic viewpoints in America’s national parks. The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is absolutely breathtaking and should be near the top of the list of visits for any national parks enthusiast.
Santa Elena Canyon
Big Bend National Park
There are some amazing river canyons in America’s national park system and one of the most underrated of these canyons has to be Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park. Few other viewpoints highlight the beauty of the Rio Grande River than this beautiful canyon viewpoint. If you hike alongside the river into the canyon, the views down the length of the canyon are gorgeous.
Grand Canyon National Park
When most people think of America’s national parks, the Grand Canyon is typically at the top of their lists. This is no surprise because the Grand Canyon is one of the most extreme and beautiful landscapes in the United States, if not the world. The Grand Canyon has more than its share of beautiful viewpoints, but my favorite is undoubtedly the Desert View viewpoint. Not only do you get some of the most beautiful views of the canyon, but you also get to enjoy views of architect Mary Colter’s stunning Desert View Watchtower as well.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
Acadia National Park
If you think lighthouses are beautiful like I do, then the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park has to be on your list of top viewpoints in America’s national parks. This beautiful lighthouse, which is perched on the rocky, wooded shoreline, has to be one of the prettiest lighthouses in North America, if not the world.
Yellowstone National Park
Not only was Yellowstone National Park the world’s first national park, but it is also one of only two parks in America to put multiple viewpoints on my top viewpoints list. When most people think of Yellowstone National Park, their minds typically go to the amazing hot springs, geysers, and abundant wildlife.
However, the Artist Point Viewpoint in Yellowstone highlights another one of the wonders of this national park. From Artist Point, you have a great view of the Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls within the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. These beautiful waterfalls, as well as the stunning canyon, make this a viewpoint you should not miss when visiting Yellowstone National Park.
Great Sand Dunes National park
When visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, you would be excused if you momentarily forgot that you weren’t visiting the Sahara Desert in Africa. After all, the sand dunes in this amazing park look almost as spectacular as the sand dunes in that iconic desert. One of the most amazing viewpoints in this park is the High Dune viewpoint, which gives visitors a true taste of the magnitude and wonderfulness of this amazing landscape.
Rocky Mountain National Park
As one of the highest national parks in America, it should come as no surprise that Rocky Mountain National Park would put a viewpoint in the top viewpoints list. This amazing alpine park has many beautiful viewpoints, but the Longs Peak viewpoint has to be one of the prettiest. Not only is the view of Longs Peak absolutely stunning, but you have a great chance of spotting some amazing wildlife from this perch.
Crater Lake National Park
If you are a fan of beautiful lakes, then you will absolutely love Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. As one of the deepest lakes in the world with some of the clearest waters that I have seen in a lake, Crater Lake National Park is awe-inspiring. One of the best viewpoints in Crater Lake National Park and one of the prettiest viewpoints in America’s national parks has to be the Watchman Lookout. From this perch, you get a bird’s eye view of the lake and the stunning Wizard Island below.
Snake River Overlook
Grand Teton National Park
Often referred to as the Alps of the United States, the Grand Teton range is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the North American Rocky Mountains. The jagged peaks in this range remind me a lot of the jagged peak of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. One of the prettier viewpoints in the Grand Teton National Park and one of the most beautiful in America’s national parks is the Snake River Overlook.
Not only does this viewpoint give you a great view of the jagged peaks of the Tetons, but you also get a great view of the Snake River. The views of the meandering river with the beautiful mountains as a backdrop are absolutely stunning.
Wonder Lake Viewpoint
Denali National Park
Some of the wildest and most beautiful of America’s national parks lie within the state of Alaska, and one of the most beautiful parks in the state is undoubtedly Denali National Park. Named after the highest mountain peak in North America, the word Denali roughly translates to mean “the Great One”. And great it is, as the mountain can be seen from over a hundred miles away.
The prettiest viewpoint within Denali National Park is the Wonder Lake Viewpoint. This beautiful Alaskan lake is mesmerizingly beautiful on its own but is even more stunning with Denali and the other mountains of the park as a backdrop.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
While they can be extremely dangerous if you aren’t careful around them, active volcanoes can also be extremely beautiful. People often make the mistake of thinking that the only active volcanoes in America’s national parks are in Hawaii. While it is true that the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii has two of America’s most active volcanoes, the parks in the United States actually have over a dozen active volcanoes. The largest of which is the super volcano of Yellowstone Valley.
Of all the places to view the volcanic activity within Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the Halema’uma’u Crater viewpoint is arguably the most beautiful. This crater is part of the larger summit caldera of Kīlauea and one of the best places to view the lava.
Acadia National Park
The final viewpoint on my top viewpoints in America’s national parks list is the Cadillac Mountain Viewpoint in Acadia National Park. Along with Yellowstone National Park, Acadia National Park is the only other park to put multiple viewpoints on my list. And boy-oh-boy does the Cadillac Mountain viewpoint deserve its place on this list.
As the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard, the summit of Cadillac Mountain is a great place to get a view of Bar Harbor and the rocky coast of Acadia National Park below. The astounding views from the top of Cadillac Mountain will make you instantly fall in love with this beautiful park.