There’s a unique challenge in visiting east coast national parks compared to the west coast or heartland –– there aren’t that many of them! And even though there’s so much beautiful natural scenery and amazing things to discover, the distance between each makes planning a road trip a tall order.
That’s why we’re laying out 6 must-see east coast national parks with your next adventure in mind. Follow along to learn about the parks and what makes each one so special. Buckle up, and get ready to hit the road!
How To Use This Guide
The parks are listed from south to north. Pick a point close to you and go up or down the list depending on which direction you want to roam. For a faster pace, choose more parks. Or to take your time, and choose less. Just make sure they’re next to each other (or close) on our list.
Organizing your ultimate east coast national park road trip has never been easier!
Best National Parks on the East Coast
Use this guide to plan your perfect east coast road trip. We highlight what each park has on offer for visitors and suggest things to do!
Everglades National Park
- Largest subtropical park in the U.S.
- Home to several endangered species
- Several ecosystems like wetlands and coastal lowlands
The diverse ecosystems present at this east coast national park means you’ll have so much to see and do.
Start by bird watching while you walk along scenic ponds and trails. Keep your eyes to the skies to spot over 300 unique bird species. Feeling adventurous? Paddle your way through mangroves, marshes, and the open waters of the Florida Bay. You can float along a paddling trail or make your own way. Or just kick your feet up on a boat and fish the days away.
No matter what you choose, Everglades National Park is sure to delight and leave lasting memories.
Biscayne National Park
- A park made up of 95% water
- Snorkeling through coral reefs
- A 10,000 year history
This next east coast national park is a history buff or water-lover's dream. Biscayne Bay was home to native humans as much as 10,000 years ago. Since then, pioneers, farmers, pirate smugglers, and rum runners have all left their mark.
Besides enjoying the crystal blue waters wherever you go, you may learn about the remains of 44 shipwrecks peppered along the coast. A guided tour will let you hear plenty of stories while you take in the scenery.
And if any sort of water-based activity from kayaking to diving to fishing is your thing, Biscayne National Park is an absolute must.
Congaree National Park
- Expansive backcountry camping
- 15+ miles of kayaking or canoeing
- Old-growth forest and massive champion trees
Start your trip at this South Carolina gem. Congaree National Park is one of the best east coast national parks for someone looking for a true sense of adventure.
You’ll find excitement in the form of a sprawling backcountry that’s accessible by foot or canoe. A camping permit is free and will give you a chance to test your mettle in an untamed wilderness.
If something more relaxing is your speed, enjoy one of two designated park campgrounds. From there, you’ll have access to 15+ miles of canoeing, fishing anywhere in the park, and a scenic trail system.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- 36 miles of connected mountain ranges
- Gorgeous views from peaks over 5,000 feet high
- Variety of terrains like wetlands, marshes, and swamps
A drive to North Carolina/Tennessee will bring you to this span of connected peaks in the Great Smoky Mountain range.
The park is a hiker's paradise with over 30 viewpoints and a chance to route your own path. You can choose your level of strain thanks to the wide variety of elevations available. Or take it easy in any of the park’s valleys, grottos, and open plains. There’s no end to the unique geological features and scenery each biosphere offers.
New River Gorge National Park
- 70,000-acre West Virginia park
- Shaped by 53 miles of wild river
- Whitewater rafting
New River Gorge is the best east coast national park for whitewater rafters. The 53-mile river divides into two sections. The upper section includes milder rapids up to class III (a good option for a more relaxed time). And the lower section is famous for its powerful flow rated at class III to V (you can expect hazards and danger –– a very challenging course).
But even if all that adrenaline isn’t your thing, New River Gorge has plenty more to offer. Enjoy fishing all along the water, hiking scenic trails, or just setting up camp near some beautiful scenery.
Shenandoah National Park
- 200,000 acres of protected wilderness
- Brilliant stargazing
- 105-mile scenic road: Skyline Drive
Shenandoah National Park is most famous for its pretty Skyline Drive. This 105-mile long road climbs high along an Appalachian mountain ridge to give you a grand overlook of the wilderness below.
But there’s no shortage of hiking trails, backcountry wilderness, or rock outcroppings to explore either in 200,000 acres of Viriginian land.
And when it’s time to retire for the evening, don’t forget to look up. Thanks to its distance from unnatural light and relatively deep darkness, the starry sky is brilliant. Snap a few star photos or just take a breath and enjoy the view.
Explore the Best East Coast National Parks With an RV Rental
We hope you enjoyed this guide to east coast national parks. We’re sure you will have an adventure at any park you choose! To experience the best the east coast has to offer, you better ride in comfort and style. We’re talkin’ about a Cruise America RV rental of course!
Check our Cruise America’s full lineup and reserve your RV rental today!