Whether you’re planning a roadtrip and looking for a cool stop, or you’re wanting to learn more about the amazing National Parks in the USA, we have got you covered with our list of the best East Coast National Parks!
All with different landscapes and natural wonders, the East Coast USA national parks, scenic trails, seashores, and historical sites are amazing options for a day out of a car or to explore! While the title of “East Coast” covers a lot of ground, there are some incredible destinations along the way that will make your jaw-drop with gorgeous natural wonders and interesting sites to learn more about American History.
So, whether you’re in it for the history or wanting to get some exercise in while looking at some fascinating ecosystems, the parks on the East Coast of the USA are some of the best in the country and you will not be disappointed in whichever you choose to explore!
So, get your adventure bag ready and enjoy our list of the best East Coast National Parks!
What Do We Consider a National Park on the East Coast?
With 13 National Parks along the East Coast, we wanted to include more than just National Parks in order to bring in some diverse ecosystems and landscapes to bring some lesser known (but equally amazing locations) to your attention!
Our list of the best East Coast National Parks is comprised not only by some of the official National Parks in the Eastern United States, but also of some of the National Scenic Trails, National Seashores and some islands!
Best East Coast National Parks
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
First on our list of the best East Coast National Parks is, of course, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds the title of the most visited of the National Parks in the northeast. Established in 1926, this park borders North Carolina and Tennessee, and features visitor center’s in Sugarlands and Oconaluftee, you can enter or join the fun at any point and still see some amazing sights!
With hiking, camping, there are some amazing spots to explore within the many acres of some of the best mountains on the East Coast! It features some beautiful waterfalls, drawing in over 200,000 people every year, and has over 80 historic buildings to see!
Great Smoky Mountains is one of the great best East Coast National Parks to pick for any kind of vistor!
Want to ensure you’re making the most of your explorations? We have a fantastic list of all the best things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park so you can see as much as you can with the time you have!
Shenandoah National Park
Another fantastic option for the best East Coast national parks to visit is Shenandoah National Park!
Located near Washington, D.C. the Shenandoah National Park has some amazing things to do and see, so whether you’re looking specifically for national parks in Virginia, or on your way to the capital, this area is one of the best mountains on the East Coast!
Resting along the Blue Ridge Mountains, VA, you can stay for a day or take the Skyline Drive through the 105 mile long national park and enjoy the incredible view and surroundings! Shenandoah National Park features 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail with waterfalls, wilderness and some interesting human history; you could spend some time hiking the Appalachian Trail, clearly one of the best hikes on the East Coast, or simply enjoy the landscape!
This is one of the Eastern national parks where you can enjoy hiking, camping, white-water rafting and still learn something new about US history! Don’t miss out on how amazing Shenandoah National Park is!
Want to know how to make the best out of your adventures? Here’s our list of the best things to do in Shenandoah National Park.
Hot Springs National Park
Also known as “The American Spa”, Hot Springs National Park is an awesome option for national parks in Arkansas and you should not miss out!
With forty hot springs, over 20 miles in trails, and the historic Bathhouse Row, Hot Springs National Park is the oldest National Park in the official National park system. When it comes to Eastern USA national parks, Hot Springs is a unique and amazing experience for people looking to explore a cool ecological phenomenon and see some historic buildings!
With hiking and sight-seeing, this amazing option for the best East Coast national parks is a really cool spot to put on any road trip or adventure! You can even bathe in specific sections in the park! Don’t overlook this cool option for Eastern national parks.
Looking for more to do in this area? Here’s our compilation of the best things to do in Arkansas!
Acadia National Park
Maine is home to some really cool attractions and places to explore, and this option for the best East Coast national parks is no exception!
Acadia National Park is located along the Maine coast, in the Schoodic Peninsula of the Atlantic ocean. Filled with granite mountains, woodlands, lakes and a gorgeous ocean shoreline you can’t go wrong with a lovely afternoon at this awesome option for national parks in Maine.
With over 2 dozen mountains, Acadian National park boasts the highest point in the United States Atlantic Coast, Cadillac Mountain. There are 130 miles of trails to explore, and it is easily home to the best view of the Milky Way, this is the perfect option of Eastern national parks when looking for the ideal spot for some stargazing.
Home to lovely hiking, biking, camping, Acadia National Park is an amazing option for national parks in the Eastern United States and you should not overlook it!
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is the ideal option for those looking to explore one of the swampland parks on the East Coast of the USA.
Made of 1.5 million acres of tropical and subtropical climates, Everglades National Park is a fantastic option for people who want to explore and see the best of diverse ecosystems! There are three entrances to the Evergaldes National Park, and from any of these spots you can see and enjoy all the amazing spots that one of the East Coast natural wonders has to offer!
Everglades National Park is considered a World Heritage Site, Wetland of International Importance, and International Biosphere Reserve; established in 1934, this option for national parks in Florida is perfect for those interested in science, biodiversity and a lovely day in nature! Don’t miss out on this great option for East Coast USA national parks near Miami!
Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park is another option for the best East Coast national parks that you definitely need to check out if you’re in South Carolina.
This idyllic national park is home to some of the tallest trees in Eastern USA national parks (and along the East Coast), and is a section of the longest continuous tract of old growth hardwood forest!
Complete with giant trees, diverse animal life, and beautiful plants; this cool ecosystem is the perfect destination for those looking for a good mixture of American history and nature! It has one of the highest canopies in the world! You can enjoy hiking, camping and boating in this awesome option for the best national parks on the East Coast.
Mammoth Cave National Park
A unique and incredible option for national parks in Kentucky is definitely Mammoth Cave National Park!
Mammoth Cave National Park is one of the world’s longest known cave system! With over 400 explored miles, and 10 miles of accessible caves, this remarkable option for East Coast natural wonders is the place to go for people who love a thrill-seeking adventure, cool rock formations, and bats (sky puppies!).
The National Park preserves this cave system, as well as Green River Valley, and the hills of South Carolina and Kentucky! Made of a combination of beautiful woodlands, bodies of water, and cool rock formations; this world heritage site is a must-visit destination for explorers looking to see this amazing option for the best East Coast national parks!
Don’t miss out on this awesome option for Eastern USA national parks!
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
If you’re looking for a maritime paradise to explore, then Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the perfect option for you!
Of all the best East Coast national parks, Cape Hatteras is fantastic for people looking to search for sea turtles, deer enjoying the land, and some really cool ecosystems! This Eastern USA national park is home to an expansive variety of plant life and animal habitation.
There are some amazing and interesting historical heritage locations that make it a cool destination for history buffs! From the death of Blackbeard the pirate, to Civil War battles, lighthouses, shipwrecks, u-boat attacks, and US Coast Guard life-saving stations; there is plenty to do and learn about and explore at Cape Hatteras!
Want to see more of Outer Banks? We have you covered! Here’s our list of some of the other interesting towns Outer Banks, NC, has to offer!
Out of the many islands located in Georgia, Cumberland Island is one of the most interesting locations to go if you’re looking to explore some marshlands!
As one of the largest, and southernmost barrier islands of Georgia, this island is 17.5 miles long, is 36,415 acres of which 16,850 are made up of marsh, mud flats, and creeks! Housing undeveloped beaches, wide marshes and some amazing forests, Cumberland Island is a great destination if you’re looking for a relatively untouched location to explore. It is protected as much as it possibly can, and boasts many animals to keep an eye out for!
If you’re travelling with littles, make a bingo card or a scavenger hunt and see how many cool animals unique to the island! From sea turtles, to wild horses and armadillos, there are plenty to search for! Don’t miss out on this awesome option for the best East Coast national parks!
New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge National Park is one of the national parks in West Virginia that you cannot miss!
This option for national parks in the Eastern United States is home to one of the oldest rivers in the Americas! It is responsible for the conservation of more than 70,000 acres of land, and boasts some amazing spots for rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, and camping spots! It’s a popular destination for summer vacations and the staff that work in this awesome option for parks on the East Coast of the USA host guided historic walks, nature programs, and kids programs!
Rich with cultural and natural history spots, New River Gorge National Park is a splendid option for historians and nature buffs alike! Don’t miss out on this wonderful option for the best East Coast national parks!
When exploring West Virginia, there’s no shortage of adventures to be had; here’s our list of some of the best things to do in West Virginia!
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is a 19th century fort located off the coast of Key West and is a magnificent option for parks on the East Coast of the USA!
This national park is only accessible by boat or seaplane, and is located approximately 70 miles West of Key West! Dry Tortuga’s protects several East Coast natural wonders above and below water! From bird watching, to beach camping, to snorkelling and scuba diving, there is plenty to do and see on Dry Tortuga’s!
Dry Tortuga’s is an amazing option for best East Coast national parks, as a 100 square mile park of mostly water, with seven small islands, this is a fantastic spot to consider if you’re a history buff or obsessed with marine life!
Don’t miss out on Dry Tortuga’s, one of the unique options for National Parks in Florida!
Biscayne National Park
Another fantastic option for national parks in Florida, Biscayne National Park is a lovely spot for people wanting to have a swim and enjoy the shoreline!
Located close by downtown Miami, Biscayne is a fantastic spot for boating, snorkelling, camping and, of course, watching the wildlife! Biscayne is one of the best spots for scuba diving in the US! As a national park, it’s technically 90% water consisting of extensive mangrove forests and a portion of the world’s third longest living coral reef!
Biscayne tells a unique story of America’s history on this side of the Atlantic, preserving history over 10,000 years old. It also has six shipwrecks, as a part of the Maritime Heritage Trail, these shipwrecks span centuries, countries and sizes and are perfect for scuba adventurers looking to explore!
Don’t miss this awesome option for the best East Coast national parks!
At the center of the National Mall stands the Washington Monument! And while this is technically not a national park, the Washington Monument (and surrounding monuments) are definite non-misses for those looking to explore and see some national landmarks!
Located in the West End of the National Mall, the Washington Monument memorializes the first president of the United States, George Washington! Shaped like an Egyptian Obelisk, and at 555’5/8″ high and made of granite, marble, and bluestone gneiss, it took over 36 years to complete!
The Washington Monument is definitely a classic example of a national landmark you cannot miss out on and close by to other spots like the Lincoln Memorial, White House, United States Capitol Building!
If you’re looking for more things to do and explore while in Washington, we have a great article on the Best Things To Do in Washington that you should definitely check out!
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
Another really unique and historical option for the best East Coast national parks, is the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail!
The Old Natchez Trace was 500 mile foot path connects Mississippi to Tennessee and is now a designated National Scenic Trail. With 5 trails of more than 60 miles a piece, this is a great option for people who want to walk through a moment in history.
Sections of the trail run through Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee! The five segments consist of Highland Rim Trail, Blackland Prairie, Yockanookany, Rocky Springs, Potkopinu! Each have their own pros and cons, from the length to the difficulty level, so definitely check in to see what one is best for you.
Don’t miss out on this interesting option for the national parks in the Eastern United States.
Canaveral National Seashore
Last but not least on our list of the best East Coast national parks, Canaveral National Seashore is another fantastic option!
Located on a barrier island, Canaveral National Seashore is home to 1045 species of plants, and 310 species of birds so if you’re a bird watcher, this might be the spot for you! Spend a day (or a few) walking through nature and historical trails and enjoy the beautiful natural landscapes!
Canaveral National Seashore includes a bit of the ocean, beach, dunes, lagoon, salt marshes and pine flatland habitats! You can enjoy a number of summer leisure activities including boating, fishing, canoeing, surfing, swimming, hiking and camping! As well as some interesting historical trails!
There’s plenty to do and see at this lovely option for the East Coast USA national parks so definitely don’t overlook it!
There is plenty to do and see when exploring in the USA and taking time to see the best National Parks on the East Coast is a great way to spend time with the family or with friends!
Now that you’ve gotten the chance to see some of the East Coast natural wonders highlighted in some beautiful National Parks, where will you explore first?