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Ten Best National Parks to Visit This Summer

By Jayme Moye
July 16, 2014; 8:00 AM ET
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In summertime, national parks provide the ultimate escape to some of the most beautiful and geologically unique places in the nation. There's something for everyone to enjoy at national parks this time of year-whether you're looking to take in the scenery, camp in the wilderness, or learn about nature through expert-led programs focusing on stargazing and wildlife biology. If your summer schedule permits, plan a trip for August 25, when park entrance fees are waived all day in honor of Founder's Day, the National Park Service's birthday. Not sure which one to visit? We've handpicked the 10 best national parks to visit this summer.

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Crater Lake National Park

Where: Oregon

For pure visual splendor, it's hard to beat Crater Lake's brilliant blue water and 2,000-foot cliffs. Oregon's crown jewel is also one of the cleanest national parks in the country. The five-mile lake is the clearest in the U.S. and the pristine air offers unobstructed views of up to 100 miles. The world-class hiking keeps active visitors occupied with more than 100 miles of trails. Don't miss the 2.5-mile gradual walk up the Mount Scott Trail-the park's highpoint-for picture-perfect views of Crater Lake.

Insider Tip: From July to mid-September, park rangers lead a daily boat tour on Crater Lake. The view from the water is just as dazzling as from the road or trail.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Crater Lake National Park Guide

Photo Credit: kurdistan / Shutterstock

Acadia National Park

Where: Maine

It may be one of the smaller national parks, but Acadia has an amazingly diverse landscape, from sandy beaches to hardwood forests to granite peaks. The park encompasses most of Mount Desert Island, and some of the smaller surrounding islands. The rugged, rocky coastline has become synonymous with summertime in Maine-an absolute must-visit on the Atlantic coast.

Insider Tip: Cycling is not permitted on any of the park trails, and the scenic Park Loop Road-the main artery for cars-is generally too congested for bike traffic. Instead, ride some (or all) of the 45 miles of carriage roads that wind through the heart of the park. Originally built between 1915 and 1933 by John D. Rockefeller Jr., the crushed-rock surface paths are ideal for biking.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Acadia National Park Guide

Photo Credit: Sean Lema / Shutterstock

Kenai Fjords National Park

Where: Alaska

Located 2.5 hours from Anchorage on the stunning Kenai Peninsula, Kenai Fjords National Park is an Ice Age dreamscape. Think pristine water, giant icebergs, and seemingly endless glaciers. In the summer, long daylight hours and mild temperatures in the 50s and 60s are ideal conditions to try the park's many adventurous activities like kayaking, hiking, and stand-up paddleboarding. For those interested in a little less action, "flightseeing" by plane is Alaska's quintessential way to take in the scenery, or try a boat cruise among the icebergs.

Insider Tip: The Alaskan wilderness is about as wild as it gets; in fact, the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park accessible by road is Exit Glacier. While breathtaking in its own right (and most people's only chance to come face-to-face-with a glacier), there is much more to see and do in Kenai Fjords. Hire an outfitter to tap into the park's abundant offerings.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Kenai Fjords National Park Guide

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