The 25 Best National Parks on the West Coast


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Sun rising from behind snow covered mountains in the back and trees in front
Marvel at the many picturesque landscapes on the West Coast of the US

West Coast national parks have a spellbinding way of pulling people in from all over the world. You'll find rolling hills, alluring forests, intriguing deserts, and staggering mountains to explore throughout the expansive West Coast.

The best way to experience any national park, whether exploring the national parks on the East Coast or here, is by taking a road trip through the United States, so you can truly take in how spacious it all is. Everything you need to know about the best national parks on the West Coast is included on this list, so keep reading to find out more.

The "West Coast" is typically considered all the westernmost states of the US, from the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin to the Pacific Coast and even Hawaii. The Western US is the country's largest area and is divided into two smaller sections by the U.S. Census Bureau.

These are the "Mountain states," such as Colorado and Utah, and the "Pacific states," like California and Oregon. This guide tries to cover various fascinating national parks in several of the different states on the West Coast.

Many parks have "free days" every year, like the first day of National Park Week, which is where entrance fees are waived for everyone! So consider visiting on one of these days if budget is a factor for you.

National parks in the Western US also set standards for guests to follow, such as carry in and carry out. So whatever you take into the park, you have to take out of the park, including trash.

Safety standards apply too, like letting your friends or family know about your adventure plans, having the proper equipment, and the right amount of food and water for the duration of your trip.

A national parks West Coast map can be found below and is super useful for a quick overview before planning your route.

  • 25 west coast national parks

Disclosure: Destguides may receive commission for purchases made through links in this article at no cost to you.

United States West Coast National Parks Map

Using the map of United States, you can explore all the west coast national parks.

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Mountains with trees surrounding a blue lake with an island in the middle
Crater Lake National Park is 1,943 feet deep

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake is the deepest known lake in America at 1,943 feet. It only collects water from rain and snow as there are no rivers or streams feeding into it, and this is how Crater Lake maintains its legendary clear-blue color. Crater Lake is lovingly called Lake Majesty and was formed thousands of years ago when a volcano blew its top.

Crater Lake National Park has four forest zones, which adds pops of color amongst the blue of the lake. The park is unique in several ways. It's the only place in the world that is home to the Mazama Newt, and the park also has a fire season. These fires mostly happen from lightning and help shape the park and its many forests.

What are the best things to do in Crater Lake National Park?

One of the biggest reasons people come to this park is to see the crater by taking the Scenic Rim Drive. You can either drive it in your own car or take the trolly.

Taking a tour on a boat is an ideal way to get up close and personal with the alluring beauty of the lake. There is also one hiking trail that leads down to the lake; however, it is not for the faint of heart.

If you're visiting November through May, you can take full advantage of the winter wonderland that Crater Lake National Park becomes. Snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobiling are all popular ways to explore the park.

When is the best time to visit Crater Lake National Park?

July, August, or September

  • Summer Season - May 22 to October 31
  • Winter Season - November 1 to May 21

What are the facilities at Crater Lake National Park?

  • Steel Visitor Center
  • Rim Visitor Center

Where to stay in Crater Lake National Park?

Crater Lake National Park has two designated campgrounds that are only open in the summer. Mazama Campground and Lost Creek Campground are first-come, first-serve, so it's a good idea to have a backup plan.

Backcountry camping is allowed as long as you obtain a permit first. There are also loads of campgrounds near the park if your heart is set on camping.

There are two different indoor lodging options within the park as well. You can stay at the Crater Lake Lodge or The Cabins at Mazama Village. You can make reservations up to a year in advance!

How many days do you need in Crater Lake National Park?

3-4 days

While Crater Lake is the only national park in Oregon, there are 11 national forests in the state. Extend your trip by a few days and connect your favorite forests together in an Oregon road trip from Portland.

What is the entrance fee for Crater Lake National Park?

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Personal car - $30.00 in summer, $20.00 in winter
  • Motorcycle - $25 in summer, $15.00 in winter
  • Individuals on bike or foot - $15.00

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A blue river passing through rocky mountains and lush trees in the foreground
Explore the stunning forests, alpine meadows, and mountains of Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park is one of North America's hidden treasures. Over 700 miles of marked trails take you through lush forests, alpine meadows, and glacier-formed mountains with as much peace and solitude as you need.

The park is open at all times throughout the year, with the busiest being May through September. The park is also home to various epic animals like grizzly and black bears, lynx, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and moose.

What are the best things to do in Glacier National Park?

Most people explore the park by hiking. There are five hiking sections with hundreds of hikes to choose from, including day hikes, multi-day hikes, and easy nature trails, with Trail of the Cedars and Running Eagle Falls being wheelchair and stroller accessible.

You can go horseback riding, rafting, cycling, fishing, and cross-country skiing in Glacier National Park. Another popular thing to do is drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

When is the best time to visit Glacier National Park?

July and August

What are the facilities at Glacier National Park?

  • Apgar Visitor Center
  • Logan Pass Visitor Center
  • St. Mary Visitor Center
  • Eddie's Mercantile
  • Lodge Campstore
  • Swiftcurrent Campstore
  • Rising Sun Campstore
  • Two Medicine Campstore

Where to stay in Glacier National Park?

Glacier National Park has 13 designated campgrounds that are primitive campsites. Rules and regulations about food storage have to be closely followed because of the native wildlife.

There are plenty of other lodging options within the park. For example, the Glacier National Park Lodges/Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates several inns and lodges. Then there is the Apgar Village Lodge and Motel Lake McDonald, as well as backcountry chalets, like the Sperry Chalet and Granite Park Chalet.

How many days do you need in Glacier National Park?

3-4 days

What is the entrance fee for Glacier National Park?

All permits are valid for 7 days, and there are options to buy a digital pass online.

  • By car - $35.00
  • Per person without a car - $20.00
  • By motorcycle - $30.00

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Green mountain tops with a bit of snow and trees on a sunny day
Olympic National Park is home to many endangered animals

Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park showcases everything special that the West Coast has to offer. The park is home to three separate and distinct eco-systems: glaciated mountains, a temperate rainforest, and coastline. Each offers its own wild adventures.

Different ecosystems have their own unique wildlife. Within Olympic Park, you can spot several species of whales and dolphins in the Pacific Ocean, along with sea lions, seals, and sea otters. In addition, you can find crabs and starfish, and other hidden creatures in the tide pools along the beach.

The park is also home to mink, cougars, bears, and eagles. Olympic National Park protects endangered and threatened animals, like the wild salmon, northern spotted owls, and marbled murrelets.

The park protects its own species as well, like the Olympic marmot, Olympic snow mole, and Olympic torrent salamander, which can only be found in Olympic National Park.

What are the best things to do in Olympic National Park?

This park is an adventure haven. You can explore the area in many ways, like hiking, boating, or snowshoeing, which are just a few options. Olympic Park is also ideal for skiing and snowboarding, fishing, rock climbing, canoeing, and kayaking.

When is the best time to visit Olympic National Park?

Spring through Fall

What are the facilities at Olympic National Park?

  • Olympic National Park Visitor Center
  • Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center
  • Mora Ranger Station
  • Kalaloch Ranger station
  • Hurricane Ridge Ranger Station
  • Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station
  • Ozette Ranger Station
  • Storm King Ranger Station
  • Staircase Ranger Station
  • Sol Duc Eagle Ranger Station

Where to stay in Olympic National Park?

Camping is highly encouraged while staying in Olympic National Park. There are numerous campgrounds to choose from, each with something unique about it. They include:

  • Deerpark Campground
  • Dosewallips Campground (walk-in only)
  • Fairholme Campground
  • Graves Creek Campground
  • Heart O' The Hills Campground
  • Hoh Campground
  • Kalaloch Campground
  • Log Cabin Resort RV and Campground
  • Mora Campground
  • North Fork Campground
  • Ozette Campground
  • Queets Campground
  • Sol Duc Campground
  • South Beach Campground
  • Staircase Campground

There are also indoor lodging ranging from historic inns from the 1900s, modern hotels, and basic cabins. Check out accommodation options, latest prices, and more details here.

How many days do you need in Olympic National Park?

5-7 days

What is the entrance fee for Olympic National Park?

Park passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Private cars - $30
  • Motorcycle - $25
  • A person on bike or foot - $15

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A lake surrounded by rocky hills and lush snow-capped mountains in the back
North Cascades National Park has over 300 glaciers

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Nicknamed the American Alps, North Cascades National Park has a wild, rugged, and beautiful terrain. It is filled with untouched forests and is home to hundreds of animals. This park is intriguing to anyone, even the infamous writer Jack Kerouac.

North Cascades National Park has over 300 glaciers, making it a winter wonderland for winter lovers, but one that is unfortunately quickly disappearing.

The park is left largely undisturbed, however, as there are hardly any roads that go through it. You can find nearly 400 marked and maintained hiking trails here.

What are the best things to do in North Cascades National Park?

The North Cascades are popular with climbers and hikers. There are hikes for every activity level, including family-friendly walks, day hikes, and overnight hikes.

Climbers come from all over the world to scale the peaks of the North Cascades. While you do need a permit to climb, you can find out about how to obtain one here, as well as any other relative information you'll need to know to have a successful climb.

Exploring the park by kayak or canoe gives you a unique chance to see the park from a different perspective. You can also go whitewater rafting on The Skagit and Stehekin Rivers.

When is the best time to visit North Cascades National Park?

June through September

What are the facilities at North Cascades National Park?

  • North Cascades Visitor Center
  • Golden West Visitor Center
  • North Cascades National Park Service Complex Headquarters and Public Information Center
  • Wilderness Information Center

Where to stay in North Cascades National Park?

The Lost River Tiny House is one of the most sought after accommodations near North Cascades National Park. For anyone looking to get lost in nature, this tiny house is ideal. Everything you need can be found in the house, but keep in mind that there is low cell service and no wifi.

How many days do you need in North Cascades National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for North Cascades National Park?

Free!

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Glacial snow-capped rocky mountain peaks from across tall green trees
Mount Rainier National Park has nearly 300 miles of hiking trails

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park is named after Mount Rainier, an active volcano. It hasn't erupted in almost 1,000 years and is the most heavily glaciated peak in the United States, with 25 major glaciers. The glacier flow is the start of several rivers, including the Carbon, Puyallup, Mowich, Nisqually, and Cowlitz Rivers.

Mount Rainier has three summits and a 1,000-foot crater at the top, and the park is of massive interest to the science community. The ice caves found on the volcano are being studied as part of research for Mars!

What are the best things to do in Mount Rainier National Park?

Mount Rainier is probably best known for hiking and climbing. The park has nearly 300 miles of hiking trails, and you can choose from day hikes to intense backcountry and wilderness hiking. With three different life zones in the park, hiking can lead to some great wildlife spotting.

Climbing here is world-class and not for the faint of heart, but it is easy to find guides for beginners. You can also go fishing and boating on overnight fishing trips.

When is the best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park?

July through August

What are the facilities at Mount Rainier National Park?

  • Longmire Museum
  • Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor Center
  • Ohanapecosh Visitor Center
  • Sunrise Visitor Center
  • Carbon River Ranger Station
  • Longmire Wildernss Information Center
  • Whiteriver Wilderness Information Center
  • Paradise Wilderness Information Center

Where to stay in Mount Rainier National Park?

There are three campgrounds within the park: Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, and White River. The campgrounds are primitive and basic and are only open seasonally.

Mount Rainier National Park also has lodging options. There is the National Park Inn as well as the Paradise Inn.

How many days do you need in Mount Rainier National Park?

4-5 days

What is the entrance fee for Mount Rainier National Park?

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Personal car - $30.00
  • Morotcycle - $25.00
  • Per person - $15.00

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A blue river passing over rocks and through the tall sides of a narrow canyon
Zion National Park protects North America's largest flying bird

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park is one of the best national parks in the Western United States. It was once home to an ancient tribe known as the Anasazi, and you can still see traces of their lives in the park today. For example, there are remnants of sandstone villages and rock art around.

The park protects the California Condor as well, North America's largest flying bird. This endangered bird can have a wingspan of up to ten feet! The park is also home to the endangered Peregrine Falcon, the Mexican Spotted Owl, and the Southwest Willow Flycatcher.

Zion National Park also has the second-largest natural arch in the world, the Kolob Arch, which is nearly 300 feet long.

What are the best things to do in Zion National Park?

Zion National Park is filled with adventures. You can go hiking and backpacking, horseback riding, birding, and biking, as well as climbing and canyoneering.

Something you can't miss when here is Angels Landing. While the hike has been called by some "the world's most dangerous," if you're hiking safely and cautiously, you'll be just fine.

There are several times throughout the year you can kayak or canoe down the Virgin River. And, of course, Zion is legendary for its sunsets and stargazing.

When is the best time to visit Zion National Park?

  • April and May
  • September and October

What are the facilities at Zion National Park?

  • Zion Canyon Visitor Center
  • Kolob Canyon Visitor Center
  • Zion Human History Museum

Where to stay in Zion National Park?

There are only three campgrounds within the park, and reservations are highly recommended. They are named the South Campground, the Watchman Campground, and The Lava Point Campground.

There are also loads of places to stay outside of Zion National Park. One charming place is the Gooseberry Lodges.

How many days do you need in Zion National Park?

3-4 days

What is the entrance fee for Zion National Park?

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Private car - $35.00
  • Motorcycle - $30.00
  • Individual with no car - $20

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The sun rising over red rocky canyons and some lush trees in front
Bryce Canyon is a geological wonderland

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the smaller national parks of the West and is known for its peculiar beauty. Made up of natural amphitheaters and other intriguing rock formations, Bryce Canyon is a geological wonderland.

Reds and oranges permeate the rocks and cliffs throughout the park, giving guests spectacular views while exploring Bryce Canyon and its 3 "life zones." Bryce Canyon is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, adding to the excitement of the area.

What are the best things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park?

Every year in June, Bryce Canyon National Park holds their Annual Astronomy Festival. Bryce Canyon has perfect skies for stargazing and attracts people of all ages to come and study its night sky.

People also love to hike in Bryce Canyon National Park. There are trails for various hiking abilities, with some even being paved. For a different way to experience the park, you can explore on horseback.

If you want to see the park in its stunning beauty, consider visiting in the winter. Bryce Canyon's red rocks are often blanketed in snow, providing a striking backdrop for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

When is the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park?

May through September

What are the facilities at Bryce Canyon National Park?

Bryce Canyon Visitor Center

Where to stay in Bryce Canyon National Park?

Bryce Canyon National Park has two designated campgrounds, North and Sunset. You can make reservations for the Sunset Campground up to 6 months in advance. You can also camp in the backcountry as long as you signup for a permit.

Within the park, you can find The Lodge at Bryce Canyon. The lodge offers 114 rooms of different sizes, styles, and varieties for your comfort, and it has a dining room that provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

How many days do you need in Bryce Canyon National Park?

1-2 days

What is the entrance fee for Bryce Canyon National Park?

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Private car - $35.00
  • Motorcycle - $30.00
  • Individual - $20.00

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The stone Arches National Park is one of the best national parks on the West Coast
Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 stone arches

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park can be found in eastern Utah. It is home to over 2,000 stone arches. Along with the arches, the park houses impeccably balanced rocks, staggering pinnacles, and other naturally formed stone masterpieces. Arches National Park is home to the world's most famous arch, the Delicate Arch - a freestanding arch that stands 60 feet tall.

The park is said to have been formed after millions of years of an inland sea forming, evaporating, and reforming, which left behind massive salt beds each time. Over time, rivers, rain, wind, and other natural wear and tear formed the entrancing Arches National Park.

What are the best things to do in Arches National Park?

Arches Park has various ways to explore its vast beauty. You can drive through with a car or motorcycle, or you can go hiking or biking and even horseback riding. The park is also ideal for canyoneering, rock climbing, and stargazing.

The fiery furnace hike tickets are highly sought after as they are only available with a special permit or on a tour with a ranger. These hikes are only permitted from spring to fall and are extremely challenging both mentally and physically.

When is the best time to visit Arches National Park?

  • April through May
  • September through October

What are the facilities at Arches National Park?

Arches Visitor Center

Where to stay in Arches National Park?

The only designated campground within the park is the Devils Garden Campground, and it is almost always full. You can make reservations up to 6 months in advance for any time between March 1 to October 31. The campground has drinking water, picnic tables, grills, and both pit-style and flush toilets.

If you can't get a reservation, or camping isn't your thing, the Moab Springs Ranch is an ideal place to stay. Moab Springs Ranch has several different styles and sizes of rooms and a restaurant on site not too far from the park.

How many days do you need in Arches National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Arches National Park?

  • Private vehicle - $30.00
  • Motorcycle fee - $25.00
  • Per person (without a car) - $15.00

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A paved road leading to red rocky cliffs at the back with blue sky above
Visit Capitol Reef National Park to gaze at the dazzling stars at night

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park is most famous for " The Waterpocket Fold," commonly referred to as a geological wrinkle on Earth. This is a 100-mile long warp in the Earth's crust and is just one of the interesting things people come to this park for.

The nighttime sky here is the real dazzler, though. Designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2015, there is nearly no light pollution here, and it is one of the best West Coast national parks for viewing the stars.

What are the best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park?

Capitol Reef is ideal for canyoneering, rock climbing, and bouldering. The park is an oasis for hikers as well. There are three sections to hike in: Fruita, Waterpocket District, and Cathedral Valley.

When is the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park?

September to November

What are the facilities at Capitol Reef National Park?

Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center

Where to stay in Capitol Reef National Park?

There are three campgrounds in the park, with only one of them being developed, Fruita Campground.

While there is no lodging within the park, the Red Sands Hotel is an epic place to stay just outside the park.

How many days do you need in Capitol Reef National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Capitol Reef National Park?

  • Private car - $20.00
  • Motorcycle - $15.00
  • Individual - $10.00

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Vast grassland with a river and snow-covered mountains and blue sky at the back
Denali National Park has over six million acres of wildland

Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali is one of the most untouched national parks in Western US. It has over six million acres of wildland, with one lonely stretch of road running through it.

The mountain has the distinction of being North America's highest peak, and it's so massive that it can be seen from more than 200 miles away on clear days.

Denali National Park is home to thousands of animals, both big and small. It is even home to one species of frog that freezes itself in the winter!

What are the best things to do in Denali National Park?

Denali is filled with unique adventures; there are things here that you can't experience in any other national park. The number one thing you have to try is mushing.

Sled dogs and mushing have been a tradition in Denali since 1922. Working dogs have been used for everything from patrolling park borders for poachers, maintaining park trails and boundaries, and winter transportation.

Hiking is another popular activity people visit Denali for. While there are shorter, marked trails near the park entrance, the more enticing adventure is off-trail hiking in the backcountry.

Denali is a world-class spot for mountaineering and stargazing, too, including seeing the Northern Lights.

When is the best time to visit Denali National Park?

May 20 to mid-September

What are the facilities at Denali National Park?

  • Murie Science and Learning Center
  • Denali Visitor Center

Where to stay in Denali National Park?

Denali is epic for camping; the views and the silence are unbeatable. There are six campgrounds within Denali, and only one, Riley Creek, is open year-round.

There are super cool places to stay close to the park as well. Check out accommodation options, latest prices, and more details here.

How many days do you need in Denali National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Denali National Park?

$15.00 per person, and the ticket is valid for 7 days;

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Panoramic view of magnificent canyons on a sunny day from above
Grand Canyon National Park contains over 1,000 caves

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the more well-known national parks in Western United States. The canyon is about a mile deep, 277 miles long, and 18 miles wide. It has over 1,000 caves; however, one cave, The Cave of Domes, is open to the public.

The Grand Canyon was thought to have been formed 6 million years ago with help from the Colorado River. The park is one of the most famous landmarks in North America and one of the most studied landscapes in the world.

What are the best things to do in Grand Canyon National Park?

Hiking is probably the number one way to explore the canyon. There are several heavily used trails along the rim and day hikes in and around the canyon. Overnight treks into the canyon are also an option.

Rafting down the Colorado River offers another unique perspective of the Grand Canyon. You can choose from smooth water rafting or white water rafting.

When is the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park?

  • March through May
  • September through November

What are the facilities at Grand Canyon National Park?

South Rim

  • Yavapai Geology Museum
  • Verkamp's Visitor Center

North Rim

  • North Rim Visitor Center

Where to stay in Grand Canyon National Park?

Grand Canyon National Park is divided into the South and North Rim. The South Rim section of the Grand Canyon is open year-round, and you can camp in the Mather, the Trailer Village, or the Desert View (closed for winter) campgrounds.

The North Rim side of the Grand Canyon is more secluded and rugged and is only open from May 15 through October 15. The North Rim Campground takes reservations, and they come highly recommended.

There is indoor lodging available on both sides as well. There is one option on the North Rim called the Grand Canyon Lodge, and you definitely want to make reservations well in advance.

On the South Rim, you have more options both in and outside of the park. Check out accommodation options, latest prices, and more details here.

How many days do you need in Grand Canyon National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Grand Canyon National Park?

  • Personal car - $35.00
  • Motorcycle - $30.00
  • Individual - $20.00

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Old tree trunks scattered around on dry sandy land on a cloudy day
Petrified Forest National Park is nearly 220 million years old

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park in the US that closes at night, and this is to help prevent the theft of the petrified wood. The ancient forest is believed to be nearly 220 million years old, and it is one of the largest areas of petrified wood on Earth.

There is a lot of human history in the park, with over 800 archeological sites so far discovered. Today, the park is home to all kinds of wildlife, including bobcats, foxes, lizards, snakes, birds, and many more.

What are the best things to do in Petrified Forest National Park?

The Petrified Forest National Park is ideal for a mini road trip. There are 28 miles of paved road, complete with overlooks and spurs. Biking is also pretty popular, so make sure you share the road!

Hiking is a great way to get up close and personal with the park and see it in smaller detail. There are hiking trails, but off-trail hiking is permitted and offers a different type of hiking adventure.

When is the best time to visit Petrified Forest National Park?

March through October

What are the facilities at Petrified Forest National Park?

  • Painted Desert Visitor Center
  • Rainbow Forest Museum

Where to stay in Petrified Forest National Park?

For now, there are no options to stay within the park overnight, but there are excellent options close by. Check out accommodation options, latest prices, and more details here.

How many days do you need in Petrified Forest National Park?

1-2 days

What is the entrance fee for Petrified Forest National Park?

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Personal car - $25.00
  • Motorcycle - $20.00
  • Individual - $15.00

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A white, orange, yellow and green colored geyser on a sunny day
There are over 10,000 geysers at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most famous parks of the West and one of the most fun things to do in Wyoming. People from around the world are attracted to the park for its hydrothermal features. There are over 10,000 geysers, hot springs, mud pools, and fumaroles to explore here.

Nearly 70 species of mammals and over 280 varieties of birds make Yellowstone their home. You can also find waterfalls, archaeological sites, and hundreds of hiking trails.

What are the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park?

There are many remarkable things to do within Yellowstone National Park that you may need to take some extra time to do everything you want!

Yellowstone has over 1,000 miles of hiking trails, and hiking one of its many paths is a must for any Yellowstone National Park itinerary. Boating, like kayaking and canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, and biking, are all popular activities.

If you like winter activities, you can find cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing, and snowboarding can also be done within Yellowstone.

When is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park?

  • April and May
  • September and October

What are the facilities at Yellowstone National Park?

  • Albright Visitor Center
  • Grant Visitor Center
  • West Thumb Information Station
  • West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center
  • Canyon Visitor Education Center
  • Old Faithful Visitor Education Center
  • Fishing Bridge Visitor Center and Trailside Museum
  • Madison Information Station and Trailside Museum
  • Norris Geyser Basin Museum and Information Station
  • Museum of the National Park Ranger

Where to stay in Yellowstone National Park?

Camping is the number one accommodation for people visiting Yellowstone, and there are over ten campgrounds to stay in. There is one campground for RVs called Fishing Bridge RV Park.

The park also offers top-of-the-notch lodging, basic cabins, and everything in between. All accommodation is open from late spring to late fall with two, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, being open all year.

How many days do you need in Yellowstone National Park?

4-6 days

What is the entrance fee for Yellowstone National Park?

The pass is valid for 7 days.

  • Car - $35.00
  • Motorcycle or snowmobile - $30.00
  • Individual - $15.00

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Rocks and pine trees in the front with numerous mountains in the background
There are 77 mountain peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the highest parks on the West Coast. There are 77 mountain peaks that are over 12,000 feet tall, and the park also contains the Continental Divide.

Rocky Mountain National Park is also home to the highest continuous paved road in the nation and offers incredible views and vistas. It protects 60 species of mammals, nearly 300 varieties of birds, and only a handful of reptiles and amphibians.

What are the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Hiking is a popular activity all year round in Rocky Mountain National Park. It has nearly 400 miles of hiking trails. Climbing and mountaineering have become popular with experienced climbers and beginners as well.

Horseback Riding in Rocky Mountain National Park creates a fun and different way other than hiking to explore the park.

When is the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

  • April and May
  • October and November

What are the facilities at Rocky Mountain National Park?

  • Alpine Visitor Center
  • Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
  • Fall River Visitor Center
  • Kawuneeche Visitor Center
  • Holzwarth Historic Site
  • Moraine Park Discovery Center
  • Sheep Lakes Discovery Center

Where to stay in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Several campgrounds take reservations and are recommended, such as Aspenglen Campground, Glacier Basin Campground, and Moraine Park Campground. Some campgrounds are first-come-first-serve, like Longs Peak and Timber Creek.

How many days do you need in Rocky Mountain National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Rocky Mountain National Park?

Pass is valid for 1 day.

  • Personal car - $25.00
  • Motorcycle - $25.00
  • Per person - $15.00

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Grassland in the front with gigantic sand dunes and mountains in the background
Explore the tallest sands dunes in North America at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park houses the tallest sand dunes in North America. Not only that, but the park also contains grasslands and wetlands, as well as forests and tundra.

The park is open day and night all year long, so you might want to consider taking a nighttime walk along the dunes to take in the night sky.

What are the best things to do in Great Sand Dunes National Park?

Sandboarding and sand sledding are the biggest attractions of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Fat biking and hiking are popular as well and offer a slower and more personal experience of the park.

If Medano Creek is flowing when you visit the park, take a dip in the fresh moving creek from the melting snow high above.

When is the best time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park?

Early fall

What are the facilities at Great Sand Dunes National Park?

Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center

Where to stay in Great Sand Dunes National Park?

Piñon Flats Campground is open from April through October, and reservations are required. You can also get backcountry permits for camping online.

There are more lodging options than camping options available within the park, including Great Sand Dunes Lodge and Oasis Camping Cabins.

How many days do you need in Great Sand Dunes National Park?

3-4 days

What is the entrance fee for Great Sand Dunes National Park?

Each pass is valid for 7 days.

  • Personal car - $25.00
  • Motorcycle - $20.00

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Ancient cliff dwelling surrounded by lush trees on a sunny day
Mesa Verde National Park is home to 5,000 archeological sites

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park is an important part of American history, and it is the only cultural park in the national park system. It protects close to 5,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.

The cliff dwellings date back nearly 1000 years, with the largest being Cliff Palace. The area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and is a popular spot for all sorts of tourists.

Tucked into ridges and valleys, Mesa Verde National Park is an alluring and intriguing place to visit.

What are the best things to do in Mesa Verde National Park?

Mesa Verde National Park's number one attraction is the cliff dwellings and cave paintings, and there are numerous ways to see these historical sites.

Many people drive through the park, and others decide to hike through. There are several marked trails of varying lengths and difficulty. You can take guided or self-guided hikes but always stay on the marked trails.

In the winter, Mesa Verde is a popular spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

When is the best time to visit Mesa Verde National Park?

  • April and May
  • September and October

What are the facilities at Mesa Verde National Park?

  • Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
  • Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum

Where to stay in Mesa Verde National Park?

Morefield Campground is more than just a campground; it's a village. There are over 250 sites, including full RV hookup sites.

From May through September, the campground almost acts like a little town with a full-service gas station, an RV-dumping station, a pancake breakfast buffet at the onsite cafe, and even a little grocery store.

If you are looking for something quiet and restful, Far View Lodge might be the perfect option for you. The rooms here offer panoramic views of three states, so there is no need for TV.

How many days do you need in Mesa Verde National Park?

1-2 days

What is the entrance fee for Mesa Verde National Park?

Digital Passes are preferred at this park, and you can purchase them here to print or save to your phone.

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Personal car: May 1- Oct 21 $30.00, Rest of the year $20.00
  • Motorcycle: May 1 - Oct 21 $25.00, Rest of the year $15.00
  • Individual: May 1 - Oct 21 $15.00, Rest of the year $10.00

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Barren and hilly rock formations all around
Badlands National Park is home to the American Bison

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park is home to one of the most studied fossil beds in the world. Scientists have found ancient horse and rhino bones within the rock beds, along with hundreds of other fossils, like saber tooth tigers.

Today, the park protects the national mammal, the American Bison. There are less than 1500 bison in the park, with their numbers slowly growing.

Despite the park's name, Badlands is filled with plant and animal life, especially during the spring months. At this time, you can find fields of vibrant wildflowers being pollinated by nearly 70 species of butterflies.

What are the best things to do in Badlands National Park?

Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the park. You can hike the back roads or the many marked trails. There are trails that are easy for wheelchairs and strollers and more challenging ones. You can also hike off-trail if you so desire.

The park is also set up for scenic driving with loads of stop-offs and beautiful landscapes that are indescribable. During the summer, the park is home to the astronomy festival.

When is the best time to visit Badlands National Park?

Late August through September

What are the facilities at Badlands National Park?

  • Ben Reifel Visitor Center
  • White River Visitor Center

Where to stay in Badlands National Park?

There are two designated campgrounds, Cedar Pass and Sage Creek. Sage Creek is a free campground and is first-come, first-serve.

If the campgrounds are full, you can head to the Cedar Pass Lodge, which offers cabins for people to stay in.

How many days do you need in Badlands National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Badlands National Park?

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Private vehicle - $30.00
  • Motorcyle - $25.00
  • Individual - $15.00

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A green colored pond surrounded by lush green trees
The caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park are 4 million years old

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is home to over 100 caves. The caves were formed close to 4 million years ago after sulfuric acid dissolved some of the limestone away, leaving behind what is now the magnificent caverns.

Above the caverns are just as magical with deep canyons, enchanting desert life, and various ways to explore the park; you will surely never get bored!

What are the best things to do in Carlsbad Caverns National Park?

Of course, exploring the caverns are number one on everyone's to-do list when visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park, but there are loads of other things to do as well.

There are plenty of hiking trails on the surface of the caverns, with trails of varying degrees of difficulty. The park also hosts several education programs, especially teaching people about the importance of bats in the park.

When is the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park?

Spring or Fall

What are the facilities at Carlsbad Caverns National Park?

First-time visitors are required to have a reservation to enter the caverns. You can set that up here.

Where to stay in Carlsbad Caverns National Park?

There is only backcountry camping available by (free) permit in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

There are plenty of options outside of the park to stay in as well. Check out accommodation options, latest prices, and more details here.

How many days do you need in Carlsbad Caverns National Park?

1-2 days

What is the entrance fee for Carlsbad Caverns National Park?

Passes are valid for 3 days and cost $15.00 per person.

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A magnificent rocky mountain with a big rocky hill in the foreground
Visit the Guadalupes to hike and enjoy the unique suuroundings

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a hidden gem within the Western United States. The park has 4 of Texas's highest peaks, deserts, dunes, and gorgeous canyons.

The park is also well known for its marine fossil reef and lush flora and fauna, and it is thriving with wildlife, too! You can see such things as mule deer, pumas, black bears, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons.

What are the best things to do in Guadalupe Mountains National Park?

People mostly visit the Guadalupes to hike. There are hikes for all abilities and levels. Horseback riding is an excellent alternative to hiking, as you can still spot various wildlife and take in all the incredible views.

Stargazing and nighttime animal watching are unique experiences in this park that surely shouldn't be missed. Different animals come out in the desert at night, and of course, the night sky dazzles.

When is the best time to visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park?

  • April and May
  • October and November

What are the facilities in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park?

  • Pine Springs Visitor Center
  • McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center
  • Dog Canyon Ranger Station
  • Dell City Contact Station

Where to stay in Guadalupe Mountains National Park?

There are only two campgrounds within the park, and they are both first-come, first-serve.

  • Pine Springs Campground
  • Dog Canyon Campground

How many days do you need in Guadalupe Mountains National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for the Guadalupe Mountains National Park?

Valid for 7 days, a pass is $10 per person.

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A cactus surrounded by rocks and dry landscape
Joshua Tree National Park is home to nearly 700 species of plants

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park is open all year and offers stunning vistas of its iconic namesake. Connecting two distinct deserts, the Mojave and the Sonoran, Joshua Tree National Park has two incredible ecosystems. The park is also home to 6 different mountain ranges.

Despite being a desert, the park is home to nearly 700 species of plants, including colorful wildflowers and cactus. There are also animals like snakes, bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, coyotes, lynx, rabbits, birds, and lizards.

What are the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park is filled with fun activities. Hiking is super popular, with trails ranging from easy to moderate to hard.

Climbing is another exciting activity that offers a different and beautiful view of the park. On weekends from October through May, the park offers "Climber Coffee."

While visiting Joshua Tree, you can't miss the night sky. Stargazing here is otherworldly because there is no light pollution.

When is the best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park?

  • March through May
  • October and November

What are the facilities at Joshua Tree National Park?

  • Joshua Visitor Center
  • Oasis Visitor Center
  • Cottonwood Visitor Center
  • Black Rock Nature Center

Where to stay in Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park is ideal for camping. There are several campgrounds open year-round to choose from, and many take reservations in the summer season.

  • Black Rock Campground
  • Cottonwood Campground
  • Indian Cove Campground
  • Jumbo Rocks Campground
  • Ryan Campground

There are also first-come campsites from September through May.

  • Belle Campground
  • Hidden Valley Campground
  • White Tank Campground

If you don't want to camp, there are some whimsical lodging options in Joshua Tree. Check out accommodation options, latest prices, and more details here.

How many days do you need in Joshua Tree National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Joshua Tree National Park?

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Personal car - $30.00
  • Motorcycle - $25.00
  • Individual - $15.00

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A path along thick tree trunks in dense forest
Discover the wildlife waiting for you at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California

The Giant Sequoias of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park have the thickest bark of any tree in the world, but this park isn't only famous for its giant trees. There are also close to 300 caves in the park and nearly 900 miles of trails.

The park is filled with wildlife just waiting to be spotted. There are over 200 species of birds, nearly 30 different types of fish and amphibians, and just over 70 kinds of mammals to find.

What are the best things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park?

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is a captivating park to visit. There are many activities to do, including day hiking and multiday treks. In addition, you can go horseback riding, explore the Crystal Cave or go rock climbing.

During the winter, you can go skiing or snowboarding and even snowshoeing.

When is the best time to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park?

June through August

What are the facilities at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park?

  • Foothills Visitor Center
  • Kings Canyon Visitor Center
  • Lodgepole Visitor Center
  • Cedar Grove Visitor Center
  • Mineral King Ranger Station
  • Giant Forest Museum

Where to stay in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park?

There are only a handful of campgrounds in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Buckeye Flat and Potwisha are open by reservation only, and Azalea Campground is open as first come, first serve.

How many days do you need in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park?

Passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Personal car - $35.00
  • Motorcycle - $ 30.00
  • Individual - $20.00

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Dry vegetation with a little creek and the desert beyond
Death Valley National Park is the hottest and driest national park in the US

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park claims itself to be the hottest, driest, and lowest of all the national parks. It is full of extremes and entices visitors from the farthest reaches of the Earth. Most people know Death Valley for prolonged droughts, record-setting temperatures, and being below sea level.

However, what most people don't know is the other side of the extremes. Death Valley can also see snow-capped mountains, fields of vibrant wildflowers, and in stark contrast to its name, an abundance of wildlife.

What are the best things to do in Death Valley National Park?

Hiking is a popular activity in Death Valley; however, knowing when to go will make all the difference. November through March are the best months to go as the temperatures are not as extreme. Although, you do need to be prepared for all sorts of weather and drink more water than you think is necessary.

Death Valley also has more backcountry roads than any other national park, and they are a super fun way to explore the vastness of the area. You need a 4WD vehicle, and rules state you must stay on the marked roads.

When is the best time to visit Death Valley National Park?

March to May

What are the facilities at Death Valley National Park?

Furnace Creek Visitor Center

Where to stay in Death Valley National Park?

It is only recommended to camp from October through April as temperatures in the summer months can be unbearable. There are several campgrounds to choose from. Sunset and Stovepipe Campgrounds almost always have spots available, and the Furnace Creek Campground will take reservations.

Death Valley has lodging options as well. You can stay in the Stovepipe Wells Village, The Inn, or the Ranch at The Oasis in Death Valley. Finally, if you want to pamper yourself a bit, you can head to the Panamint Springs Resort.

How many days do you need in Death Valley National Park?

3-4 days

What is the entrance fee for Death Valley National Park?

All passes are valid for 7 days.

  • Personal car - $30.00
  • Motorcycle - $25.00
  • Individual - $15.00

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Rocky cliffs and peaks reflecting sunlight with trees below
Yosemite is one of the best national parks on the West Coast

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is known for many enchanting things, including giant sequoias, waterfalls, glaciers, meadows, and more. In addition, Yosemite has well over 50 mammal species, over 30 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, and loads of little creatures.

What are the best things to do in Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite has endless experiences for you to discover. The most notable and a must-see is the sunsets. The granite cliffs and rocks put on a dazzling light show, reflecting bright oranges, reds, and yellows as the sun sets. This is most significant on El Capitan and Half Dome during late February.

Yosemite is a world-class spot for rock climbing as well and has areas for all levels. Hiking is another ideal way to explore the park. Yosemite has over 750 miles of trails for you to experience the park's wildlife and stunning landscapes, including one of the world's tallest waterfalls.

You can also go rafting, swimming, and/or fishing in the Merced River. If you want a different experience of the park, consider visiting during the winter. You can go skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, tubing, sledding, and even ice skating.

When is the best time to visit Yosemite National Park?

May and September

What are the facilities at Yosemite National Park?

  • Valley Visitor Center
  • Yosemite Museum
  • Valley Wilderness Center
  • Happy Isles Art and Nature Center
  • Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center

Where to stay in Yosemite National Park?

Most people who visit Yosemite National Park come with the expectation of camping, so you will most definitely want to make sure you have reservations for campsites. There are over ten campgrounds throughout the park.

Yosemite also has several styles of indoor lodging, including a luxury hotel called The Ahwahee. There are several types of lodges, from very basic canvas-style lodges to modern accommodation with dining options. There are also hotels, cabins, and even a ski hut open in the winter!

How many days do you need in Yosemite National Park?

3-4 days

What is the entrance fee for Yosemite National Park?

A pass is valid for 7 days.

  • Car - $35.00
  • Motorcycle - $30.00
  • Individual - $20.00

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A small lake surrounded by lush trees and green hills and plants
Marvel at the thriving flora and fauna in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the only places in the world where all four types of volcanoes can be found. The park also features stunning lava pinnacles, rugged craters, and steaming, smelly sulfur vents.

It is almost like traveling to another world until you discover the thriving flora and fauna in the park. The thick forests of Lassen National Park become mixed with various trees at different elevations.

Lassen is teeming with wildlife like cougars, black bears, bobcats, striped Whitesnakes, alligator lizards, sagebrush lizards, rubber boas, rough-skinned newts, peregrine falcons, and bald and golden eagles, so keep your eyes open as you explore the park.

What are the best things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park?

The national park is filled with exciting activities with different things to do in each season. In the winter, you can spend time sledding, snowshoeing, skiing or snowboarding, and, of course, hiking.

During the summer months, you can also drive through the park to take in the epic scenes. You can kayak or canoe on the rivers, go fishing, and even horseback riding.

When is the best time to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park?

July through October

What are the facilities at Lassen Volcanic National Park?

  • Kohm Yah-Mah-Nee Visitor Center
  • Loomis Museum

Where to stay in Lassen Volcanic National Park?

Lassen Volcanic National Park has seven campgrounds to choose from, with Southwest Campground being open year-round. The other six campgrounds are:

  • Butte Lake
  • Juniper Lake
  • Lost Creek Group
  • Manzanita Lake
  • Summit Lake
  • Warner Valley

The only lodging within Lassen Volcanic National Park is Drakesbad Guest Ranch. Reservations are required, and stays are only available June through October.

How many days do you need in Lassen Volcanic National Park?

2-3 days

What is the entrance fee for Lassen Volcanic National Park?

All passes are valid for at least 7 days.

  • Vehicle Pass - $30.00
  • Motorcycle - $25.00
  • Individual - $15.00
  • Winter Pass (Dec 1 - April 15) - $10.00

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The giant trunks of Redwood trees with shrubbery around from below
Redwood National Forest has some of the world's oldest and largest living trees

Redwood National Park, California

Redwood National Forest is legendary for having some of the world's oldest and largest living trees, but the park is also home to 40 miles of wild coastline.

The park is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site protecting the redwoods and elusive animals like cougars and bobcats. Redwood National Park is thriving with loads of other animals and plants, making a trip to the Redwoods a spectacular one.

What are the best things to do in Redwood National Park?

Hiking and biking are probably the best ways to explore the park. There are over 170 miles of hiking trails and 50 miles of biking ones. During the summer, park rangers lead kayak tours down the Smith River, which are popular.

When is the best time to visit Redwood National Park?

September and October

What are the facilities at Redwood National Park?

  • Thomas H Kuchel Visitor Center
  • Prairie Creek Visitor Center
  • Hiouchi Visitor Center
  • Jedediah Smith Visitor Center
  • Crescent City Information Center

Where to stay in Redwood National Park?

Camping is the only way to stay in the park overnight. There are four developed and designated campgrounds you can head to, and reservations are always highly recommended:

  • Jedidiah Smith
  • Mill Creek
  • Elk Prairie
  • Gold Bluffs Beach

You can also get free permits to camp in the backcountry if that is more your style.

How many days do you need in Redwood National Park?

3-4 days

What is the entrance fee for Redwood National Park?

Free!

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Remember...

Outdoor activities can be subject to weather changes and hazards, so always be prepared for the unexpected. Respect the environment and wildlife, do no harm, and clean up after yourself.

If you're planning on visiting several parks, then road-tripping is the best way to travel and explore the West. Have a great time!

This article was edited by Loredana Elena.

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Written by Amanda Strube

Amanda_Strube WRITER I grew up in a beach town in New Jersey. I started traveling up and down the east coast of the US for surf trips and then moved to Nicaragua and then New Zealand. Im currently back home, planning some new adventures.


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