13 National Parks To Add To Your Bucket List

When you see this gallery from U.S. National Parks, you’ll have a hard time choosing just one. So, plan to visit them all.

Explore
By Andy Crawford
Explore Ambassador

Photographer Andy Crawford travels roughly six months out of every year, and he never misses a chance to add another national park to the list of those he’s photographed. His current list includes 13 parks — all of which have added beautiful photographs to his gallery. Here’s a look at some his favorites.

1/21

Badlands Moon Rising-Badlands National Park

The Badlands National Park holds a special place in my heart. It was during my first visit there that I decided I just HAVE to photograph every national park in the Continental U.S. I had never been to the American West, and I was blown away by the stark beauty of the landscape. I saw this cool scene of the moon rising over a rugged peak as my buddy, fellow Bassmaster photographer James Overstreet, and I drove through the park, and I knew it would make a great black-and-white image.

2/21

Three gossips-Arches National Park

Arches National Park was my first visit to one of Utah’s Big 5, and it was really cool. The high desert formations were so wild. For instance, this formation known as the Three Gossips, stands about 350 feet above the road that winds through the park. It’s just incredibly beautiful.

3/21

Autumn at the Grotto-Zion National Park

Utah’s Zion National Park is another of the state’s Big 5, and it is truly amazing. I visited Zion last fall, when the cottonwoods were ablaze with color. This photo really encapsulates the beauty of the cottonwoods contrasted against the rugged red cliffs that tower over the canyon at the Grotto. And it’s just a little more than an hour away from Bryce Canyon National Park.

4/21

Sunset over Thor Temple-Grand Canyon National park

I’ve dreamed of visiting Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim for decades, and finally made it happen in November 2021. After a day of poking around, I settled on Cape Royal as my location to capture sunset, and I wasn’t disappointed. This beautiful photo was taken about 10 minutes after the sun slipped behind the horizon and shows Thor Temple in the middle of the frame, along with the wonderful textures and layers of the canyon. I’m already dying to go back!

5/21

Working at the Grand Canyon North Rim

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim was a real dream come true for me, and I made the most of my time there. My buddy Tim Stanley took this image of me standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon as I composed another shot.

6/21

Standing on Navajo Point-Grand Canyon National Park

I wasn’t planning to stop at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim when I headed to Arizona in November 2021, but a change in the route home put me about an hour from this viewpoint. It was more than I could stand, so I took a right turn — and was not disappointed with the expansive views. This photo taken at Navajo Point is really the iconic scene of the Grand Canyon. I only spent about an hour at the South Rim, but I’m already planning a return trip!

7/21

Monster Tower-Canyonlands National park

My first and so far only visit to Canyonlands National Park in Utah was mind blowing. I spent all of my time on the park’s Island in the Sky, and the views were breathtakingly beautiful. This scene shows the pinnacle known as Monster Tower backed by the gorgeous La Sal Mountain range. For some scale, Monster Tower stands more than 600 feet tall, protruding from an 800-foot cone of rock. There’s more to see, and I can’t wait to get back there.

8/21

Green River Moonscape-Canyonlands National Park

I was standing at Canyonlands National Park’s Green River Overlook and wondered how to really capture the moon-like feel of the river valley below. I finally pulled out a long lens and zoomed in to show the Green River snaking between the surrounding valley floor. There is a 4×4 trail that winds its way along the shelf above the river, and that’s on my list when I return to Canyonlands.

9/21

Hoodoo Sunset-Bryce Canyon National Park

Standing over the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park is an other-world experience. The formations truly look alien, and when the sky above lights up during sunset the scene is stunningly beautiful. Bryce Canyon is one of Utah’s Big 5 National Parks, and really should be a bucket-list destination for any nature lover.

10/21

Milky Way Over Balanced Rock – Arches National Park

Arches National Park is one of the darkest places on earth, which means it’s the perfect place to view the Milky Way. Balanced Rock is one of the iconic landmarks in the American Southwest, so I was happy to combine it with the Milky Way in this one-exposure image. An LED panel lighted the stones.

11/21

Desert Stardust – Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park has been recognized by the International Dark-Skies Association as one of those areas with the least light pollution, so the night skies are amazing. My wife and I came across this gorgeous scene at the park’s old hot springs resort while camping there in 2019, and it was perfect for this nighttime shot of the Milky Way. I used a couple of small LED panels to light the tree and old building to create this one-exposure image.

12/21

The Ledges – Cuyahoga National Park

Honestly, I had never heard of Cuyahoga Valley National Park until I was driving through Ohio and saw the sign. Well, I was on a deadline to be in Michigan, but I turned off the interstate and spent about two hours looking around. I didn’t get to see much, but the Ritchie Ledges were amazing. I felt like I was walking through Middle Earth. One would never know this piece of wilderness was between the major metropolises of Akron and Cleveland. This is one I need to visit again when I have time!

13/21

Sandstone Falls – New River Gorge National Park

West Virginia is one of my favorite states because of its rugged beauty. And it’s the home of the nation’s newest national park: New River Gorge National Park. I had visited the gorge before it received this designation, but I made some time to drive to Sandstone Falls last summer. It’s not the tallest waterfall in the world, but it stretches across the entire river. In fact, I couldn’t figure out how to show the entire length. So I worked my way out to an island and captured the wildness of this section of Sandstone. The sound of that rushing water is amazing!

14/21

Clouds over Bass Harbor Head Light-Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park was on my bucket list for years, so I was thrilled when my wife and I planned a trip to the Maine park last summer. After settling into our little cottage, we headed straight for Bass Harbor Light. I had seen photos of the old lighthouse taken from the other side, so I looked around until I saw a faint trail on this side of the rocky point. I put on boot spikes to keep from slipping on the very slick rocks and eased out to compose what is one of my favorite photos of all time. I used a neutral density filter to slow down the shutter speed and make the water glassy smooth.

 

15/21

Sunrise at Boulder Beach-Acadia National Park

It was a dream to walk onto Acadia National Park’s Boulder Beach as the first light of day crept over the horizon. My goal was to capture the surf among the boulders while also showing Otter Cliffs being lighted by the sunrise. I was in such a hurry I forgot to put on my boot spikes, which ended badly. Fortunately I didn’t hurt anything but my pride. I set up with a low angle to include as many of the boulders as possible, and then waited for Otter Cliffs to light up. It was perfect!

 

 

16/21

Moon Over Bass Harbor Marsh-Acadia National Park

I wanted to capture sunset over Bass Harbor Marsh to illustrate the diversity found at Acadia National Park, so I set up about 30 minutes early. The mosquitoes were horrible. I mean, I’m from South Louisiana, and they were at least as mean as those back home. After the light faded from the western horizon, I packed my bag and ran back to the truck, swatting bugs all the way. As I drove back across the bridge, my wife and I glanced to the east and saw this amazing view of the moon rising above the marsh that made me slam on the brakes. I quickly pulled over and ran to set up before that beautiful pastel light faded.

Feeling inspired to plan a trip to Acadia National Park? We have a great springtime guide

17/21

Working at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of my favorite places to visit is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so I make time to stop whenever I’m in the area. Buddy and fellow Bassmaster photographer James Overstreet captured this photo in the fall of 2020 when I was waiting on another sunset deep in the park. I love to travel with my mini-camper and boondock wherever I find open space. On this visit, I just parked in pulloffs and jumped in the back so I would be in the thick of the beautiful national park when I woke up.

Check out Andy’s Top 10 Smoky Mountains Waterfalls

18/21

Smoky Mountains Refuge-Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There’s never a bad time to drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the absolute best time to be there is when the leaves turn during the fall. I have only timed it correctly once, but it was jaw-dropping, with every stream surrounded by vivid colors. I loved the way the fallen leaves added color to the rocks and log along this stream.

19/21

Dark Hollow Falls-Shenandoah National Park

Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely LOVE waterfalls. So after setting up camp in Shenandoah National Park in 2020 I made plans to hike into Dark Hollow Falls early the next morning. My plan was to beat the crowds so I could create a nice image of the waterfall, but I got a bit sidetracked by whitetail deer in a field. By the time I arrived, the Dark Hollow Falls parking lot was almost full. I hurried down the trail and found a really beautiful double waterfall – along with a stream of people climbing all over it. I found this nice angle and set up, and then patiently (mostly) waited for a break in the visitors. It was almost an hour before a window of opportunity briefly presented itself. I opened the shutter and voila!

20/21

Whitetails-Shenandoah National Park

I was camping at Shenandoah National Park between Bassmaster tournaments in 2020 when I spotted these whitetail bucks feeding off Skyline Drive. I love deer, so I pulled off and eased into the field sneaking around so I didn’t spook them. I soon discovered they didn’t mind me taking their photos one bit. In fact, they meandered through the tall grass until they were just yards from my position – so close, in fact, that I had to replace my long lens. I got some really nice photos, but this one of one of the bucks scratching an itch is my favorite.

21/21

Clingman’s Dome Sunset-Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hands down one of my favorite places in the country because it was where I spent so many summer vacations as a child. I still try to make a visit once a year, and I always find myself driving to the top of Clingman’s Dome for sunset. If you’ve never experienced the end of a day overlooking the layered ridges of the Smoky Mountains, this should be on your list. It will take your breath away. But get there early: The view draws a LOT of people, and if you don’t get there early you’re likely facing a long hike to get to the parking area.

1 / 21

Badlands Moon Rising-Badlands National Park

The Badlands National Park holds a special place in my heart. It was during my first visit there that I decided I just HAVE to photograph every national park in the Continental U.S. I had never been to the American West, and I was blown away by the stark beauty of the landscape. I saw this cool scene of the moon rising over a rugged peak as my buddy, fellow Bassmaster photographer James Overstreet, and I drove through the park, and I knew it would make a great black-and-white image.

Three gossips-Arches National Park

Arches National Park was my first visit to one of Utah’s Big 5, and it was really cool. The high desert formations were so wild. For instance, this formation known as the Three Gossips, stands about 350 feet above the road that winds through the park. It’s just incredibly beautiful.

Autumn at the Grotto-Zion National Park

Utah’s Zion National Park is another of the state’s Big 5, and it is truly amazing. I visited Zion last fall, when the cottonwoods were ablaze with color. This photo really encapsulates the beauty of the cottonwoods contrasted against the rugged red cliffs that tower over the canyon at the Grotto. And it’s just a little more than an hour away from Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sunset over Thor Temple-Grand Canyon National park

I’ve dreamed of visiting Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim for decades, and finally made it happen in November 2021. After a day of poking around, I settled on Cape Royal as my location to capture sunset, and I wasn’t disappointed. This beautiful photo was taken about 10 minutes after the sun slipped behind the horizon and shows Thor Temple in the middle of the frame, along with the wonderful textures and layers of the canyon. I’m already dying to go back!

Working at the Grand Canyon North Rim

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim was a real dream come true for me, and I made the most of my time there. My buddy Tim Stanley took this image of me standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon as I composed another shot.

Standing on Navajo Point-Grand Canyon National Park

I wasn’t planning to stop at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim when I headed to Arizona in November 2021, but a change in the route home put me about an hour from this viewpoint. It was more than I could stand, so I took a right turn — and was not disappointed with the expansive views. This photo taken at Navajo Point is really the iconic scene of the Grand Canyon. I only spent about an hour at the South Rim, but I’m already planning a return trip!

Monster Tower-Canyonlands National park

My first and so far only visit to Canyonlands National Park in Utah was mind blowing. I spent all of my time on the park’s Island in the Sky, and the views were breathtakingly beautiful. This scene shows the pinnacle known as Monster Tower backed by the gorgeous La Sal Mountain range. For some scale, Monster Tower stands more than 600 feet tall, protruding from an 800-foot cone of rock. There’s more to see, and I can’t wait to get back there.

Green River Moonscape-Canyonlands National Park

I was standing at Canyonlands National Park’s Green River Overlook and wondered how to really capture the moon-like feel of the river valley below. I finally pulled out a long lens and zoomed in to show the Green River snaking between the surrounding valley floor. There is a 4×4 trail that winds its way along the shelf above the river, and that’s on my list when I return to Canyonlands.

Hoodoo Sunset-Bryce Canyon National Park

Standing over the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park is an other-world experience. The formations truly look alien, and when the sky above lights up during sunset the scene is stunningly beautiful. Bryce Canyon is one of Utah’s Big 5 National Parks, and really should be a bucket-list destination for any nature lover.

Milky Way Over Balanced Rock – Arches National Park

Arches National Park is one of the darkest places on earth, which means it’s the perfect place to view the Milky Way. Balanced Rock is one of the iconic landmarks in the American Southwest, so I was happy to combine it with the Milky Way in this one-exposure image. An LED panel lighted the stones.

Desert Stardust – Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park has been recognized by the International Dark-Skies Association as one of those areas with the least light pollution, so the night skies are amazing. My wife and I came across this gorgeous scene at the park’s old hot springs resort while camping there in 2019, and it was perfect for this nighttime shot of the Milky Way. I used a couple of small LED panels to light the tree and old building to create this one-exposure image.

The Ledges – Cuyahoga National Park

Honestly, I had never heard of Cuyahoga Valley National Park until I was driving through Ohio and saw the sign. Well, I was on a deadline to be in Michigan, but I turned off the interstate and spent about two hours looking around. I didn’t get to see much, but the Ritchie Ledges were amazing. I felt like I was walking through Middle Earth. One would never know this piece of wilderness was between the major metropolises of Akron and Cleveland. This is one I need to visit again when I have time!

Sandstone Falls – New River Gorge National Park

West Virginia is one of my favorite states because of its rugged beauty. And it’s the home of the nation’s newest national park: New River Gorge National Park. I had visited the gorge before it received this designation, but I made some time to drive to Sandstone Falls last summer. It’s not the tallest waterfall in the world, but it stretches across the entire river. In fact, I couldn’t figure out how to show the entire length. So I worked my way out to an island and captured the wildness of this section of Sandstone. The sound of that rushing water is amazing!

Clouds over Bass Harbor Head Light-Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park was on my bucket list for years, so I was thrilled when my wife and I planned a trip to the Maine park last summer. After settling into our little cottage, we headed straight for Bass Harbor Light. I had seen photos of the old lighthouse taken from the other side, so I looked around until I saw a faint trail on this side of the rocky point. I put on boot spikes to keep from slipping on the very slick rocks and eased out to compose what is one of my favorite photos of all time. I used a neutral density filter to slow down the shutter speed and make the water glassy smooth.

 

Sunrise at Boulder Beach-Acadia National Park

It was a dream to walk onto Acadia National Park’s Boulder Beach as the first light of day crept over the horizon. My goal was to capture the surf among the boulders while also showing Otter Cliffs being lighted by the sunrise. I was in such a hurry I forgot to put on my boot spikes, which ended badly. Fortunately I didn’t hurt anything but my pride. I set up with a low angle to include as many of the boulders as possible, and then waited for Otter Cliffs to light up. It was perfect!

 

 

Moon Over Bass Harbor Marsh-Acadia National Park

I wanted to capture sunset over Bass Harbor Marsh to illustrate the diversity found at Acadia National Park, so I set up about 30 minutes early. The mosquitoes were horrible. I mean, I’m from South Louisiana, and they were at least as mean as those back home. After the light faded from the western horizon, I packed my bag and ran back to the truck, swatting bugs all the way. As I drove back across the bridge, my wife and I glanced to the east and saw this amazing view of the moon rising above the marsh that made me slam on the brakes. I quickly pulled over and ran to set up before that beautiful pastel light faded.

Feeling inspired to plan a trip to Acadia National Park? We have a great springtime guide

Working at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of my favorite places to visit is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so I make time to stop whenever I’m in the area. Buddy and fellow Bassmaster photographer James Overstreet captured this photo in the fall of 2020 when I was waiting on another sunset deep in the park. I love to travel with my mini-camper and boondock wherever I find open space. On this visit, I just parked in pulloffs and jumped in the back so I would be in the thick of the beautiful national park when I woke up.

Check out Andy’s Top 10 Smoky Mountains Waterfalls

Smoky Mountains Refuge-Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There’s never a bad time to drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the absolute best time to be there is when the leaves turn during the fall. I have only timed it correctly once, but it was jaw-dropping, with every stream surrounded by vivid colors. I loved the way the fallen leaves added color to the rocks and log along this stream.

Dark Hollow Falls-Shenandoah National Park

Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely LOVE waterfalls. So after setting up camp in Shenandoah National Park in 2020 I made plans to hike into Dark Hollow Falls early the next morning. My plan was to beat the crowds so I could create a nice image of the waterfall, but I got a bit sidetracked by whitetail deer in a field. By the time I arrived, the Dark Hollow Falls parking lot was almost full. I hurried down the trail and found a really beautiful double waterfall – along with a stream of people climbing all over it. I found this nice angle and set up, and then patiently (mostly) waited for a break in the visitors. It was almost an hour before a window of opportunity briefly presented itself. I opened the shutter and voila!

Whitetails-Shenandoah National Park

I was camping at Shenandoah National Park between Bassmaster tournaments in 2020 when I spotted these whitetail bucks feeding off Skyline Drive. I love deer, so I pulled off and eased into the field sneaking around so I didn’t spook them. I soon discovered they didn’t mind me taking their photos one bit. In fact, they meandered through the tall grass until they were just yards from my position – so close, in fact, that I had to replace my long lens. I got some really nice photos, but this one of one of the bucks scratching an itch is my favorite.

Clingman’s Dome Sunset-Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hands down one of my favorite places in the country because it was where I spent so many summer vacations as a child. I still try to make a visit once a year, and I always find myself driving to the top of Clingman’s Dome for sunset. If you’ve never experienced the end of a day overlooking the layered ridges of the Smoky Mountains, this should be on your list. It will take your breath away. But get there early: The view draws a LOT of people, and if you don’t get there early you’re likely facing a long hike to get to the parking area.

Prints of these beautiful photos are available in various sizes and media, including archival prints, acrylic prints, canvas gallery wraps and metal prints at https://shop.andycrawford.photography(Andy Crawford Photography)

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