We agree with Wallace Stegner: Our national parks are “America’s Best Idea.” These famous natural sanctuaries call our name when the concrete jungle becomes too oppressive, when we long to take deep, cleansing breaths in fresh air while marveling at the quiet, unassuming wildlife that was here long before we were. However, with the rapid increase in popularity of domestic road trips to our country’s national parks, you may wonder if there’s a peaceful experience to be had in these popular destinations?

Luckily, our Nat Hab Expeditions Leaders and naturalist guides know a thing or two about the best national parks in the U.S. Relying on their first-hand knowledge of these spaces, our guides lead small groups deep into the most remote and least-known park areas. On one of our Yellowstone and Grand Tetons nature tours, for example, you may find yourself face to face with a moose at Oxbow Bend or peering out the pop-top roof hatch of a specialty safari truck to get the best view of bighorn sheep near Mount Washburn.

If you have your eye on a closer-to-home nature vacation this summer, here’s why we think these top national parks in the U.S. are superb in the summer.

Baby Mountain Goat Walking Through Meadow of Flowers in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Want to forget real life for a few days? Listen to the advice of naturalist John Muir, who, upon his visit to Glacier National Park in 1901, called it the “best care-killing scenery on the continent.” Let those woes wash away as you explore the hidden corners of this rugged quilt of peaks, meadows, wildflowers and meltwater lakes. Nat Hab guides know the park, and Canada’s adjacent Waterton Lakes National Park, like the contents of their well-stocked backpack and are eager to share their treasures with you. Summertime brings out the resident mountain goats, elk, grizzly bears, whistling marmots and more. With one guide for each, we can divide into two small groups for varied hikes, and intimate wildlife encounters larger groups can’t access.

Acadia National Park

Yosemite National Park - Reflection in Merced River of Yosemite waterfalls and beautiful mountain landscape, California, USA

Summer on the Maine coast is captivating. Colorful lobster boats on the horizon. Coves and rocky headlands bathed in the afternoon sunlight. Memorable sunrises from atop Cadillac Mountain. Nat Hab Maine tours offer deliberate, up-close encounters with Acadia’s natural features for a classic New England idyll. Sail across Penobscot Bay on a historic windjammer with other nature enthusiasts and an expert guide. Hike into the wooded hills of Beech Hill Preserve, where 141 bird species make their nests, or Crockett Cove Woods Preserve, known as the “fog forest” for its heavy mists trapped under towering fir and spruce trees. If you’re intrigued by the promise of spectacular fall foliage, consider an autumn departure, when the hills come alive with hues of gold, orange, russet and crimson.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park blooms in the summertime, with its granite cathedrals complementing roaring waterfalls and towering sequoia groves. The park has long inspired conservationists to protect its natural wonders. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant in 1864, the first national act to conserve an American landscape for public enjoyment. You’ll want to gaze upon the revered Half Dome, of course, and the 3,000-foot wall of El Capitan, but Nat Hab will also reveal hidden spots within the Mariposa Grove, where you’ll find some of the largest trees on Earth, get far away from the crowds on a wildflower-strewn walk in the Wawona Meadow, and follow Tioga Road, from Crane Flats to Tioga Pass, which at 9,943 feet high is the highest automobile road in California.

Grand Canyon National Park and Surrounds

The days of summer are long in the Canyonlands of the United States, offering more hours to explore the deep gorges, pink pinnacles and sandstone ramparts of Grand Canyon National Park, as well as Bryce and Zion. Walls glow gold, rose, rust and violet, depending on the light, making for incredible nature photography. Marvel at sedimentary layers more than a mile thick and look for the silvery Colorado River snaking through Red Rock Country thousands of feet below the rim. Soar above the hoodoos of Bryce in a helicopter, capturing a rare aerial perspective. Walk the length of the historic Navajo Bridge, watching for condors soaring overhead. And while you’ll want to savor the view from the Grand Canyon’s famous South Rim, you’ll get to admire the vista away from the heaviest crowds on a Nat Hab canyons tour.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA: Old Faithful geyser

Yellowstone National Park

What may at first seem impossible—a wild, less-traveled nature experience in Yellowstone National Park—is a stunning reality on our nature tours in America’s first national park. President Theodore Roosevelt’s priceless legacy begs us to slow down and savor scenic grandeur and prolific wildlife unparalleled in the Lower 48. For those interested in nature photography, the opportunities in Yellowstone Country are endless. Find the perfect viewing spot next to Old Faithful. Use spotting scopes to seek out bears and wolves in the vast Lamar Valley in the park’s remote northeast corner. Visit the art gallery of Dan Hartman, a local wildlife photographer whose wolf images are highly renowned. With a small-group size and expert naturalist guidance, you’ll be privy to the famous park’s most hidden pockets, away from the summer crowds.

Bear watching in Lake Clark National Park

Lake Clark National Park

The gorgeous Alaska summer is the best time for a genuine wilderness encounter with the brown bears that live there. Our Lake Clark National Park adventure tours offer a peerless location in this renowned bear-viewing destination, accessed by private floatplane. Surrounded by remote wildlands that look much the same as they did when the first pioneers ventured here, you’ll spy ambling bears along the shore of the Cook Inlet—a close-up wildlife moment you won’t soon forget. From elevated platforms, you’ll see the bears both nearby and from a distance, and sometimes, right from camp (behind electrified wires). Our Expedition Leaders are seasoned bear naturalists and will enlighten you with “bear etiquette” and ensure that we never disturb the animals but instead respectfully watch them go about their daily routines.

Why Nat Hab for National Parks?

National park travel is all the rage right now—and that’s a good thing. The more people who are taking the time to explore our country’s protected lands and gain a deeper appreciation for these natural spaces, the better. To avoid the inevitable crowds, it’s wise to travel with a respected tour company like Nat Hab, which specializes not only in nature travel but in immersive, off-the-beaten-path gems within those treasured places.

If the animal count during your nature adventure is more important to you than the thread count of your sheets, these focused itineraries are for you. With World Wildlife Fund’s top scientists and staff by our side and years of experience scouring the planet for captivating nature destinations, we can help you access the lesser-known corners of U.S. national parks, away from tourist crowds, and stay in secluded lodges and camps that are ideally situated for wildlife viewing. This summer, get to know the best national parks in the U.S. with great guides that will make all the difference in your experience.