These are the best national parks to visit in Eastern USA

by | 30 Jun 2022

Blessed with spectacular scenery and endless open space, the national parks of the Eastern USA are a must for anyone who loves nature. From intricate cave systems to whitewater rivers and stunning landscapes, the area is a paradise for hikers, cyclists and wildlife lovers.

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Just 75 miles from the capital, Washington, D.C., the spectacular Shenandoah National Park is a haven for unforgettable vistas, cascading waterfalls, wildflower fields and wooded hollows. With over 200,000 acres of protected lands and 500 miles of hiking trails, there are endless ways to connect with nature. While once home to Appalachian farming communities, the park is now a sanctuary for wildlife, including white-tailed deer, the black bear and numerous species of birds.

Running 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the full length of the park, is the Skyline Drive. Famous for its stunning vistas, colors and foliage, the Skyline Drive is one of America’s National Scenic Byways. It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the park and with 75 outlooks along the route there many vantage points from which you can enjoy spectacular views. Fabulous to visit at any time of year, spring offers the most colorful wildflowers along the drive, as well as blooming azaleas and mountain laurel, and the park is particularly impressive in the fall, when the leaves change to red and crimson.

Travel with Insight and stay at the historic Skyland Lodge inside the park. Relax, reconnect with nature and sip cocktails whilst admiring views of the colorful Shenandoah Valley and one of the most beautiful national parks on the east coast. Enjoy a gentle hike on the Stony Man via Appalachian Trail for some of the best vistas and guests can also choose to take an optional Skyland Trail horseback ride.


America’s newest National Park, New River Gorge, is characterized by scenic mountains and breathtaking gorge views, with a whitewater river that winds dramatically through deep canyons, spanned by magnificent bridges. West Virginia’s New River is amongst the oldest on the continent and one of only a few in the world that flows northwards.

Spanning over 70,000 acres, rich in cultural and natural history and offering an abundance of scenic opportunities, this vast national park in northeast USA is the perfect destination for whitewater rafting, cycling, hiking and climbing. A standout feature is the New River Gorge Bridge, the longest single arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Visitors can stroll a picturesque boardwalk trail for magnificent bridge views.

Travel with Insight and stay at the Resort at Glade Springs, set just outside the park. More than a hotel, the luxurious resort offers many amenities for you to enjoy during your stay, including a golf course and relaxing spa. Whilst at the park, guests can choose an optional guided Bridge Walk to learn all about the history of this engineering marvel.


Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the vast Great Smoky Mountains National Park is considered one of the most biodiverse places in the world and a highlight in the national parks of the Eastern USA. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 525,000-acre park is home to nearly 20,000 species of plants, fungi and wildlife. The park also offers stunning waterfalls along wooded trails, and extensive hiking from easy trails to strenuous climbs, along with scenic drives such as the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Travel with Insight and discover the importance of agriculture to the park’s ecosystem with a visit to the Mountain Farm Museum. This unique collection of farm buildings has been assembled from locations throughout this great national park of Eastern USA. Highlighting the importance and culture of agriculture within the park, explore a log farmhouse, barn, apple house and working blacksmith shop, to see how families may have lived 100 years ago. Then head to the secluded Collins Creek picnic site to savor a delicious and picturesque picnic lunch while overlooking the Smoky Mountains. Relax, enjoy tasty delights and bask in nature’s beauty.

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Located in central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park is one of the most unique national parks of the Eastern USA and features the longest known cave system in the world. Home to rolling hills, deep river valleys, and thousands of years of human history and a rich diversity of plant and animal life, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.

The park boast a limestone labyrinth cave system, with more than 400 miles explored, and estimates a potential for another 600 miles in its system. Beautiful, with lots of different formations and colors, the caves feature massive chambers with towering rock formations creating vast underground cathedrals. As well as the caves there is plenty more to do and explore while visiting this beautiful wilderness area, such as hiking, camping, horseback riding, fishing and kayaking.

Travel with Insight and you can choose to join a Park Ranger for a tour of the intricate cave system and learn about thousands of years of human history and rich biodiversity.


To visit these national parks of the Eastern USA book on our new Spectacular National Parks of the Eastern USA premium guided tour. Revel in wide open spaces, stunning landscapes, iconic city sights and enjoy a bounty of food, music and art. As well as the parks, explore Washington D.C., take a behind-the-scenes tour of Citizen Vinyl Record’s press factory in Asheville, and visit the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest privately owned home. Uncover the region’s fascinating history at the Oconaluftee Indian Village as you join a Cherokee cultural expert for a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience and end your trip with a crescendo in Nashville, the home of country music.

Read more: MAKE TRAVEL MATTER®: Why developing meaningful travel experiences has never been more important

If you are dreaming of travelling to the USA, Canada or Latin America, our full collection of premium guided tours to the Americas are now available for 2024.

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