8 Best National Parks to Explore the East Coast’s Wild Side

8 Best National Parks to Explore the East Coast’s Wild Side

Beyond the trendy and historical cities of the East Coast are enchanting national parks that easily compare to and even outshine the parks of the West. On your next visit to the East, take some time to experience the natural beauty of the U.S. and Canada with 8 gorgeous national parks.

Everglades

everglades

Possibly the most famous on this list, the Everglades National Park is a stunning contrast to the crystal clear beaches of Miami. Tucked away in Florida’s southwest coast, the Everglades is teaming with swamps, wetlands, and forests that are filled with stunning birdlife, reptiles, and marine mammals, including the West Indian manatee.

Set out from Miami on a day trip to the Everglades by kayak, cruise, or airboat ride.

Great Smoky Mountains

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A gem of the South, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park stretches out across North Carolina and Tennessee with rolling mountains and forests that are truly worth getting lost in.

One of the most visited national parks in the U.S., the Great Smoky Mountains offers travelers a variety of trails, drives, and historical landmarks to discover, as well as stunning wildlife, wildflowers, and waterfalls.

Shenandoah

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Further up the coast you can discover another East Coast gem, the Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia. Wrapping around the Blue Ridge Mountains, the park is home to the enchanting Skyline Drive through the valley, a 105-mile (169 km) stretch of road that follows the mountains’ ridge.

You can also explore the park along the Appalachian Trail, which completely transforms come fall with the autumn leaves.

Acadia

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A perfect representation of New England’s natural beauty, Acadia National Park is the highlight of any trip to Maine. A coastal national park just southwest of Bar Harbor, Acadia encompasses a series of Atlantic islands, as well as Mount Desert Island.

It is perfect for a beach day or romantic holiday with its lovely coastal drives and charming beaches.

Mammoth Cave

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An extensive limestone labyrinth running beneath Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest cave system in the world and a must-see stop in Kentucky. Rich in history, the cave has been home to human residence for over six thousand years and today is not only a national park, but also a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve.

Guided tours from Mammoth Cave Parkway will introduce you to the cave’s unique denizens, including a variety of bat species, cave fish, and salamanders.

Bruce Peninsula

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Once you’ve crossed the border into Canada, prepare to encounter the most stunning national parks in the world, especially if you journey from Toronto to Bruce Peninsula. This coastal park in Ontario is a perfect compliment to Acadia, offering visitors a relaxing visit to gorgeous beaches, forests, and islands.

Kayak, cruise, bike, and hike to a variety of gorgeous coastal wonders. A must-see is the wind and wave carved Flowerpot Island.

Fundy

fundy

Traveling deeper into the wild side of Canada, you’ll discover Fundy National Park, another coastal gem tucked away in New Brunswick. Home to 25 hiking trails, from dirt paths to boardwalks, as well as three campgrounds, 25 waterfalls, and the expansive Bay of Fundy, the park is perfect for nature buffs who want to escape into the natural beauty of Canada.

Visit at low tide to walk out over the ocean floor and discover a variety of sealife.

Gros Morne

gros morne

Last but not least is Gros Morne National Park, the second largest national park in Atlantic Canada. Encompassing the west coast of the island of Newfoundland, this ancient mountain range dates back to 1.2 billion years ago, allowing you to see how the history of the world in the geology and complex erosion process.

A hiker’s paradise, Gros Morne offers 20 day trip trails to explore either the coastline or the interior mountains.

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John Gray

A poet by heart and an editor by trade, I have traveled across the world in pursuit of my studies and to criss-cross destinations off my bucket list. While a student at the University of Iowa, I traveled to Cuba, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, where I lived for 6 months. I am currently planning a return trip to see the Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia.

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