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The 12 Best US National Parks to Visit in 2021

Summary: Best US National Parks to visit in 2021

2020 has been a wild and crazy year. I don’t know about you, but my year didn’t go as planned. I expected to be celebrating my 30th birthday in my 62nd National Park. I didn’t. I’m going to end this year at the same number of National Parks as I started the year. I could have knocked Indiana Dunes NP off but I never felt like making the drive. Here’s to hoping that 2021 is better year for us all and this becomes a bad memory.

As for the National Park System, there were a few changes than in 2021 but a certain pandemic event might have something to do with that. There were five units added to bring the total number of parks to 424 national parks. The long-awaited Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial was finally finished and assets acquisition was completed for Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument, Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, Medgar, and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument. The West Virginia politicians snuck in a new National Park and added a National Perserve as a hidden line time in a COVID stimulus bill.

I went though my bucket list of park and picked out a few that I think would be amazing national parks to visit in 2021. Here are 12 National Parks you should visit in 2021.

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Are you planning your #findyourpark adventures for 2021? Having trouble with deciding which of the 423 national park service units you should visit?  Here is our guide for the best national park units to visit in 2021.

Must Visit National Parks Must-See National Parks 2021 National Parks National Park Trips 2021 Must See National Parks 

#nationalpark #nationalparks #travel #unitedstates #nps 
 #nationalparkobsessed

Quick Guide to the Best US National Parks to Visit in 2021

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
  • Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
  • Isle Royale National Park
  • Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
  • Manhattan Project National Historical Park
  • Manzanar National Historic Site
  • Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
  • Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park
  • Timpanogos Cave National Monument
  • Virgin Islands National Park

Map of United States National Parks to Visit in 2021

2020 National Parks to Visit Placeholder
2020 National Parks to Visit

Best US National Parks to Visit in 2021

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, Washington D.C.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is a presidential memorial in Washington D.C. honoring the life and accomplishments of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II and post-war Europe. Those two titles don’t begin to describe or define Eisenhower as a soldier or statesmen. During World War II, Eisenhower oversaw the invasion of North Africa and Sicily as well the Normandy Invasion. As president, he established the Interstate Highway System and used federal troops it intergrate schools.

The Memorial has been a long planned memorial. In October 1999, Congress created the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission to build a permeant memorial in Washington D.C. The memorial went into planning and suffered some setbacks and planning controversies related to architect and design selection. The memorial’s final design was approved and the construction began in 2017. The memorial had planned to be dedicated on May 8, 2020, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day but was postponed until September 17, 2020 due to COVID-19.

Things to do in Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial: Auto tour

How to get to Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial: The memorial is located at the corner of 4th St SW and Independence Ave SW across the street from the Air and Space Museum. The memorial is near the L’Enfant Plaza metro station and Jefferson Drive and 7th Street SW stop or D Street SW and 7th Street SW stop of the National Mall Circulator Loop bus.

Where to Stay in Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial: There are plenty of hotel and Airbnb options in Washinton D.C.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Entrance Fee: Free

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Official Website: Click Here

Map of Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial: Download

NPS Photo

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Ohio

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is honors the life of Charles Young. Charles Young was into slavery in Kentucky towards the end of the civil war. His father escaped slavery and enlisted in the US Army gaining his families freedom. After the war, Young’s family move to Ohio Young attended an all-white high school and graduated top of his class. He earned an appointment to United States Military Academy at West Point. As the third African-American cadet, Young was mercilessly harassed but he persevered and graduated.

Young spent most of his Army Career with segregated African American units. Due to their service in the Indian Wars, these units were known as the Buffalo Soldiers. In 1903, Captain Young and his unit were assigned to Sequoia and General Grant national parks (General Grant is now Kings Canyon National Park). Young was appointed as acting superintendent and made him the the first Black superintendent of a national park

The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is made up Young’s Wilberforce home which has exhibits on Young and the Buffalo Soldiers. Tours of the home are by appointment only. There is also a cellphone tour of the area and the National Afro American Museum & Cultural Center is nearby. Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument was created on March 25, 2013

Things to do in Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument: auto tour, National Afro American Museum & Cultural Center, guided home tours

How to get to Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument: The monument can be reached via US-35 and I-71.

Where to Stay in Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument: The monument is located in Xenia/Wilberforce, Ohio. There are limited hotel and airbnbs option in the area.

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument Entrance Fee: Free

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument Official Website: Click Here

Map of Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument: Download

NPS/Tom Engbert

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia/Virginia/Maryland

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. The park includes the historic town of Harpers Ferry and is a mix of town and natural recreational areas. The area is most famous for a pre-Civil war event. On October 16, 1859, an abolitionist named John Brown led a raid on the Harpers Ferry’s federal armory. Brown’s plan was to start a slave revolt and end slavery. Brown captured the armory but found local slaves unwilling to join his revolt and a contingent of US Marines led by Robert E. Lee capture Brown and his men. Brown was hanged. While Brown didn’t accomplish much, the raid on Harpers Ferry is considered the last major pre-civil war event and contributed to Lincoln’s election, the secession of the southern states, and in the long term the end of slavery.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park was created on June 30, 1944, as a National Monument. It was elevated to a National Historical Park in 1963. The initial monument was meant to focus heavily on the Harpers Ferry raid, but today the park focus on a more complete history of the area and its outdoor recreational opportunities.

Things to do in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: Guided tours, climbing, hiking, whitewater rafting, ranger programs

How to get to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: Harpers Ferry is located along US Route 340.

Where to Stay in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: There are several hotel or Airbnb options in the town of Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Entrance Fee: $20 per vehicle or free with America the Beautiful Pass

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Official Website: Click Here

Map of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: Download

NPS / Volunteer Devin Taggart

Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park is a collection of remote islands located in Lake Superior. Isle Royale is most famous for its unique predator-prey relationship between the Isle Royle moose and wolf population. Due to the location, these populations live in relative isolation and subject to a long term study.

The park is consistently one of the least visited National Parks due to the remote location and difficulties in getting there. Most visitors plan to spend four or more days on the island. This means that it is easy to minimize human interaction and just enjoy the wilderness. The park has no roads as such it is made for backpacking, hiking, kayaking, and canoeing. There are 36 campgrounds spread across the islands and park visitors can hiker or boat from campsite to campsite. For visitors who don’t want to backpack or kayak, there is a hotel in Rock Harbor and camper cabins in Windigo, and plenty of day hiking options.

Isle Royale National Park is the only park that officially closes . For safety of the island and visitor the park is open from April to October. Isle Royale National Park was established on April 3, 1940 and declared a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1980.

Things to do in Isle Royale National Park: backpacking, camping, boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, day hiking, scuba diving, guided tours

How to get to Isle Royale National Park: Isle Royale can be reached by seaplane, ferry, or private boat. The seaplanes and ferries leave from both Michigan and Minnesota. >>> Learn more about getting to Isle Royale

Where to Stay in Isle Royale National Park: Most visitors to Isle Royale are camping but there is a hotel in Rock Harbor and camper cabins in Windigo.

Isle Royale National Park Entrance Fee: $7 per person per day or free with America the Beautiful Pass

Isle Royale National Park Official Website: Click Here

Map of Isle Royale National Park: Download

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Alaska/Washington

In 1896, a precious yellow metal was discovered in the Klondike region of Yukon, Canada. The following year news reached Seattle and the race to the Klondike was on. In less than 18 months almost 100,000 people would attempt to reach the Yukon gold fields. Only 30,000 would make it and even fewer would strike it rich. One of the most common routes to these gold fields started in Seattle, Washignton. Miners would take a boat from Seattle to Skagway, Alaska. In Skagway, miners had to get a years worth of food and supplies to the summit of Chilkoot Pass. Once miners had their supplies, they were allowed to enter Canada and head to the Yukon.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is made up of five sites. Most park visitors explore the Skagway Historic District since it is in downtown Skagway and easily accessed by cruise ship passengers. The Dyea and Chilkoot Trail Unit is starting place of the Chilkoot Trail and a former boom town. The third Alaskan unit is the White Pass unit and is usually see by the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad visitors. The Seattle Unit offers a few different exhibits and a historical walking tour.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park was established on June 30, 1976. The park was created with the intent to develop an International Historical Park that celebrated both the US and Canadian history on the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1987, the Canadian section of the Chilkoot Trail was declared a Historical Site of Canada. Finally, in 1998, the US and Canadian Units were merged to create the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park. The International Park includes Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and the Canadian sites of Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site, Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site, and “The Thirty Mile” stretch of the Yukon River. 

Things to do in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park: hiking, backpacking, ranger programs, historical tour

How to get to Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park: The park is made up of four units. Three in Skagway, Alaska, and one in Seattle, Washington.

The Alaska Klondike Units can be reached by driving, flying, or boat to Skagway. Skagway is connected to the rest of Alaska via the Alaska Highway and Klondike Highway which goes through Canada. Most passengers arrive in Skagway via cruise ship. The Seattle unit is located in downtown Seattle and can be reached by car.

Where to Stay in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park: There are many hotel options in Skagway and Seattle.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Entrance Fee: Free

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Official Website: Click Here

Map of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park: Download

NPS photo/K. Unertl

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park commemorating World War II’s Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was a secret project to develop the first nuclear weapons. This massive project grew to encompass 130,000 workers in 30 sites across the US, Canada, and the UK. The project successfully developed two different types of atomic bombs. These two bombs are known as Little Boy and Fat Man. On August 6, 1945, and August 9, 1945, Little Boy and Fat Man were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. Thes bombs helped lead to the end of World War II. While their use is subject to great debate, their development was a feat of engineering.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park is made up of three units in three different states. They are Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Hanford. These sites are where some of the most critical operations of the Manhattan Project took place. All three units are still National Labratories doing research into nuclear tecnology as well as research into other scienfic areas.

The Oak Ridge Unit is located in Oak Ridge, TN. The city of Oak Ridge was specially built for the Manhattan Project. The American Museum of Science and Energy offers bus tours of several of the important buildings such as the X-10 Graphite Reactor and the Y-12 electromagnetic separation plant.

The Los Alamos Unit is located in Los Alamos, New Mexico. There is currently a visitor contact station but none of the park buildings are open to the public, yet.

The Hanford Unit is located in Richland, Washington. Tours are offered of the B Reactor.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park was established on November 10, 2015.

Things to do in Manhattan Project National Historical Park: historical tours

How to get to Manhattan Project National Historical Park: The park has three units.

Oak Ridge, Tennessee – The Oak Ridge Unit can be reached via I-75 and I-40.

Where to Stay in Manhattan Project National Historical Park: There are hotels in all the surrounding towns.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park Entrance Fee: Free

Manhattan Project National Historical Park Official Website: Click Here

Map of Manhattan Project National Historical Park: Download

Ed Westcott / US Army / Manhattan Engineering District

Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar National Historic Site is the site of one of the ten World War II American concentration camps. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in camps like Manzanar between March 1942 and November 1945. The vast majority’s only crime was being of Japanese descent. About two-thirds of the people “incarcerated here” were born in the United States and had NEVER been to Japan. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, there was a fear that the American Japanese population on the West Coast would be sympathetic to the Empire of Japan and aid them in the war. This wasn’t the case and a number of American Japanese young men would volunteer to join the military and severed with distinction in the European Theater.

In November 1945, the camp closed and over the next few years most the buildings were removed and the site was returned to its original state. In an unusual move for modern NPS, they has been selectively reconstruing the structures to help add to the interpretation of the camp.

Manzanar National Historic Site was designated on March 3, 1992.

Things to do in Manzanar National Historic Site: guided tours, driving tour, biking, walking

How to get to Manzanar National Historic Site: Manazara is on the west side of US-395.

Where to Stay in Manzanar National Historic Site: Hotels can be found in Independence, CA.

Manzanar National Historic Site Entrance Fee: Free

Manzanar National Historic Site Official Website: Click Here

Map of Manzanar National Historic Site: Download

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument commemorate the lives of Medgar and Myrlie Evers. Medgar and Myrlie Evers were/are prominent civil rights activists. In the early 1950s, the Evers became involved in the Civil Rights movement and quickly moved into leadership roles. Medgar help organized several boycotts and in 1954 became field secretary for Mississippi’s NAACP. Myrlie served as Medgar’s secretary and assistance and they had three children.

By the 1960s, the family was being targeted by white supremacists. The situation had gotten so serious that he and his wife trained their kids on what to do if the house was attacked. On May 28, 1963, the house was firebombed by terrorists. On June 12, 1963, Medgar returned from the NCAAP meeting when he was shot while standing in the carport. He managed to stagger inside. He was taken to a local hospital where he was initially refused entry due to his race. After learning who Megdar was, he was admitted to the hospital but died of his injuries.

His death sparked marches throughout Mississippi and was a catalyst for the passage of the Civil Right Act. Myrlie Evers continued her work with NCAAP and from 1995-1998 served as chairwoman. She spent 31-year fighting to see Medgar’s killers brought to justice. Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument was created on December 10, 2020

Things to do in Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument: guided tour

How to get to Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument: The house is located at 2332 Margaret W Alexander Drive in Jackson, Mississippi.

Where to Stay in Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument: There are hotels and Airbnb options in Jackson, Mississippi.

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument Entrance Fee: Free

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument Official Website: Click Here

Map of Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument: Download

By Jud McCranie – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74148308

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument protects the habitat of the Organ Pipe Cactus. The Organ Pipe Cactus grows in the Yuma Desert section of the Sonoran Desert. This is the only place that the Organ Pipe Cactus grows in the United States. This National Monument protects this unique habitat. The monument shares a border with Mexico.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a great place for outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and scenic drives.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was created on April 13, 1937. In 1976, the monument declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve. So the story goes the state of Arizona donated the land that would become Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to the federal government during prohibition so that way the feds would improve roads in the area and make it easier to smuggle liquor in from Mexico. I have been unable to confirm or deny this story but I can see it happening.

This National Monument has been the site of significant controversy as the construction of the US/Mexico border wall. No matter what your opinion on the border wall is, it hurt to see this unique area damaged. Cacti take years to go and killing any single one of them is a loss that isn’t easily replaced.

Things to do in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: scenic drives, biking, hiking, horseback riding, camping, ranger programs

How to get to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Organ Pipe Cactus is off Arizona Highway 85.

Where to Stay in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: There are hotel options in Ajo, Arizona.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle for 7 days or free with America the Beautiful Pass

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Official Website: Click Here

Map of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Download

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, Missouri

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park was established on October 30, 2020 There

Things to do in Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park: self-guided walking tours, guided tours,

How to get to Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park: St. Genevieve can be reached via I-66 and US-61.

Where to Stay in Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park: There are a couple of hotels in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park Entrance Fee: Free

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park Official Website: Click Here

Map of Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park: Download

NPS/Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park

Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Utah

Things to do in Timpanogos Cave National Monument: Cave Tours, Ranger Programs, Hiking

How to get to Timpanogos Cave National Monument: The monument can be reached via I-15 and UT-92 or US-40 or US-189 and UT-92.

Where to Stay in Timpanogos Cave National Monument: There are lots of hotel options in American Fork, Utah.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument Entrance Fee: Free

Isle Royale National Park Entrance Fee: $7 per person per day or free with America the Beautiful Pass

Timpanogos Cave National Monument Official Website: Click Here

Map of Timpanogos Cave National Monument: Download

NPS Photo

Virgin Islands National Park

Things to do in Virgin Islands National Park: Hiking, Snorkeling, Beach fun, Historical tours

How to get to Virgin Islands National Park: Fly into St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands and then take one of the ferries to St. John.

Where to Stay in Virgin Islands National Park: There lot of hotel and Airbnb options on St. John.

Virgin Islands National Park Entrance Fee: Free

Virgin Islands National Park Official Website: Click Here

Map of Virgin Islands National Park: Download

What National Parks do you plan to visit in 2021?

Are you planning your #findyourpark adventures for 2021? Having trouble with deciding which of the 419 national park service units you should visit?  Here is our guide for the best national park units to visit in 2021.

Must Visit National Parks Must-See National Parks 2021 National Parks National Park Trips 2021 Must See National Parks 

#nationalpark #nationalparks #travel #unitedstates #nps 
 #nationalparkobsessed

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Kathleen

Monday 21st of December 2020

Organ Pipes is one of my favorite places that we have been to. My wife is a nurse, and we are holding off on making travel plans right now, though we will spend time in Olympic and Mt Rainier since we live by them.

I’m sorry that your plans were changed by Covid. Hopefully this next year is better. We bought our daughter binoculars in June after reading your experience with them as a child. My then five year old daughter was able to find our first grizzly Bear at Yellowstone thanks to them!

Jennifer Melroy

Saturday 26th of December 2020

I'm replanning Alaska for this summer but I'm not holding my breath on things happening.

I'm so excited that you got your daughter binoculars and she spotted her first grizzly. I'm sure that it will be the first of many wildlife sightings and something she never forgets.

Monica

Monday 21st of December 2020

You’ve got an Alaskan paragraph in the USVI section which doesn’t belong.

How to get to Virgin Islands National Park: There are no roads to Alagnak Wild River. Alagnak Wild River can only be reached via air taxi. Please check the list of authorized air taxis.

Alagnak Wild River’s visitor center is located in King Salmon, Alaska. King Salmon is the main visitor center for most southwestern Alaska National Parks including Aniakchak, Katmai, Lake Clark, , and the NPS-affiliated Aleutian World War II Heritage Area

Where to Stay in Virgin Islands National Park: There only lodging in Alagnak is Alaska Trophy Adventure Lodge and Alagnak Wilderness Camps. There are several other wilderness lodges in the surrounding area. Lodging is available in King Salmon.

Scott Sink

Thursday 13th of December 2018

That's a fun list. We are planning to visit Virgin Islands National Park in March 2019, though they are still recovering from the 2017 hurricanes. Can't wait to go snorkeling! Scott and Tiff

Jennifer Melroy

Tuesday 18th of December 2018

Virgin Islands is a fun park. I loved my time there. Hopefully, it is recovering well from the hurricane.

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