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10 Best National Parks on The East Coast (USA)

The national parks on the east coast of the USA may not get the attention like other well known national parks in the USA get, like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, but there are some epic national parks to visit on the east coast, and these are 10 of the best.

The phrase “10 of the best” is used simply because these are some of the most popular national parks on the east coast, but there are plenty of others to explore as well that are also great.


National Parks on The East Coast

Getting a National Park Pass called “America the Beautiful” is a good idea if you plan to visit a lot of national parks in the United States as it covers the entrance fees and other amenities which makes it handy to have.

You can get a National Park Pass here from the official store.

Top tip: The national parks can get busy on the weekends, so if you want more peace and can manage it then try and visit on weekdays.


Acadia National Park (Maine)

national parks on the east coast USA - Maine.
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Let’s start with a favourite of the national parks on the east coast, Acadia National Park. This is a stunning national park in Maine by the coast and has some of the best hiking trails on the east coast.

The rugged terrain of Maine’s coastline is famous throughout the United States which makes this a great place to go hiking.

Top tip: Try to get up Cadillac Mountain, which happens to be the highest elevation on the east coast, for the best views in Acadia National Park.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina/Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers 2 states, North Carolina and Tennessee, and is packed with epic forests where rivers and waterfalls flow through.

This is one of the best places on the east coast to get into the forest and the famed misty mountains of the area.

Fun fact: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the USA.


Everglades National Park (Florida)

Crocodile! Alligator! Yes, the Everglades National Park is the most famous of the national parks on the east coast for crocodile and alligator spotting, and they are everywhere. It’s the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators live together in the same habitat.

The Everglades is also famous for its swamps and wetlands which seem to stretch forever across the horizon, and the national park is the largest subtropical wilderness area in the USA.

One of the best ways to get out and see the park is by boat.


Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

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The Congaree National Park is a great place to go to explore a primaeval forest landscape and see some of the tallest trees on the east coast. The area is one of the most diverse ecosystems in all of the USA and is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

It’s a floodplain forest famed for its towering trees of pine and hardwoods and one of the best walks to see the best of the park is the “Boardwalk Loop Trail.”

Top tip: Try canoeing/kayaking at Congaree National Park on Cedar Creek if you can. Also, it’s a great place to go fishing!


Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Shenandoah National Park
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The Shenandoah National Park is another one of the national parks on the east coast known for its forested terrain, waterfalls, and the abundant wildlife that lives in them.

Black bears call this place home along with numerous deer and other animals.

It’s one of the best national parks to go hiking in the country due to the 500 miles of trails in the park and is only 75 miles from Washington D.C.


Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida)

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The Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote places in the United States and is a different vibe than the other national parks on the east coast mentioned here so far, in that it is a marine national park. You can only reach this national park by boat or seaplane.

It’s a great place in the Florida Keys to find secluded beaches, go snorkelling amongst vibrant marine life in the shallow waters, and there are also good birdwatching opportunities.

Top tip: Make sure you don’t just go for the snorkelling and try and take a look at the 19th-century Fort Jefferson when there.


Biscayne National Park (Florida)

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Sticking with the “marine” theme for national parks on the east coast, the Biscayne National Park is also located off Florida and along with the Dry Tortugas National Park, is a great marine park to visit. It’s only 15 miles from Miami to reach there.

This national park on the east coast is full of coral reefs and mangrove forests and is a great place to go snorkelling in the coral reefs and to go canoeing/kayaking in the mangroves.

The park is home to different turtle species as well as many species of fish and birds.

Top tip: Try paddleboarding in Jones Lagoon.


New River Gorge National Park (West Virginia)

The New River Gorge National Park is one of the best national parks on the east coast for some adventurous activities.

The national park has an epic whitewater river that runs through it making it a great place for white water rafting, paddle boarding, and climbing, among others.

There’s also plenty of hiking to do and you can camp out and enjoy the rugged nature of the area.

Top tip: Try whitewater rafting down the lower gorge there.


Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

The Mammoth Cave National Park is getting a bit further inland than the “east coast” but is close enough and is a great opportunity for some caving adventures as it has the worlds longest known cave system.

Apart from going into the caves themselves, you can also do plenty of hiking in the area as well as canoeing/kayaking, and more.

Top tip: Try kayaking down the Green River there.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is kind of a cheat of the national parks on the east coast as it’s a bit far inland to be truly considered “east coast”, but is such a great national park that it’s included at the end of this list.

The national park has the Cuyahoga River winding through it and is surrounded by forests and hills and there are the usual canoeing/kayaking, hiking, fishing, and other activities to do there. There’s even a scenic train ride in the area that you can do.

Top tip: Hike or bike the Towpath Trail to explore the historic Erie and Ohio canal.


Bonus Destination: Appalachian National Scenic Trail

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We’ll end with one extra bonus option that isn’t a national park on the east coast in itself but is the most epic hiking trail on the east coast that you can do, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which also passes through some of the national parks mentioned in this article.

Along with the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast, this is one of the ultimate long-distance hiking trails in the United States.

Of course, unless you have 5 months straight to spare to hike the whole trail, you will have to do what they call “section hiking”, which involves hiking parts of the trail a few days/weeks at a time and maybe over the course of several years (or whatever) you will be able to have hiked the whole trail.

Have a read of the 10 best books about the Appalachian Trail.


Visit The National Parks on The East Coast

Those are 10 of the best national parks on the east coast you can visit. Depending on where you plan to be on the east coast, you can plan accordingly to which parks you choose to go to.

If you are truly a national parks “addict” then you could go fr it and try to do them all in one long go, if you have the time that is. An epic trip to the national parks on the east coast.

A great guidebook that covers all the national parks in the United States that I recommend getting is the Moon USA National Parks.

For more on travel in the USA take a look at my travel guides for the United States.


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