To many the term “east coast national park” may never have even crossed your mind, but I’m here to tell you that the U.S. east coast is teeming with adventure-worthy parks.
Here at More Than Just Parks we’ve visited every single one and even created films on a few of them! Everyone should see at least some of these east coast national parks in their life. The fall foliage alone is worth the trip!
Keep on scrolling to discover new destinations that are sure to rival any of the west’s iconic national parks.
Premium East Coast National Parks Maps
If you’re a fan of the national parks then what better a souvenir than a premium national parks checklist map? This one is printed on quality stock and comes with some different options including framing, etc. We may be biased but we love it – maybe you or someone you know might as well.
East Coast National Parks Map: You can purchase the east coast national parks map featured in this article.
National Parks Checklist Map: This beautiful National Parks Checklist Map can be ordered to your house.
Framed National Parks Map: We’re a sucker for maps, this framed national parks map is the best.
Check out this page for more purchasable national parks maps. If you don’t see the right size map for you above feel free to shoot us an email and we’ll be happy to create a customized one just for you!
I’ve included a free downloadable/printable version of this east coast national parks map at the bottom of this article for those interested.
The Best East Coast National Parks
1. Acadia National Park
This list wouldn’t be right if I didn’t start with this rugged and beautiful coastal wonder situated on the rocky shores of Maine’s central coast.
Bring your bike or your hiking shoes and spend the day exploring the park’s beautiful carriage roads which wind through the woods and are off limits to cars.
Summers here along the north Atlantic coast are mild and punctuated by cool ocean breezes and lobster roll shacks with incredible waterfront views.
Acadia also boasts the opportunity to be the first to see the sun rise in the United States each day from atop the summit of Cadillac Mountain (which you can drive to).
Here you’ll have commanding views of the forests, lakes, and endless ocean stretching out to the horizon.
If you plan on heading up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for the brag-worthy view you’ll want to check with the park website and get a reservation beforehand.
Due to high demand you’ll need a reservation to make the drive up and take in this one-of-a-kind view.
Why does Acadia top Great Smoky Mountains you might ask? Simply because this is an “East Coast National Parks” list and Acadia is actually on the coast!
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Location: Tennessee & North Carolina
- Resources: Guide | Things to Do | Map | Guidebook | Where to Stay
The nation’s most visited national park, straddling the misty mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, is a true national treasure.
Spared from destructive development by farsighted locals and President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934, this Appalachian gem is one of the crown jewels of the National Park System and a must visit on any park enthusiasts list.
Summer is the most popular season in the Smokies and can see some serious crowds, but thanks to the park’s sprawling layout there are always places to escape the hustle and bustle.
Autumn brings kaleidoscopic fall color to the park’s old forests and rolling landscapes.
Don’t sleep on Spring though as that’s when the synchronous fireflies make their spectacular appearance.
3. Shenandoah National Park
The mountain paradise fondly known to Virginians as Shenandoah National Park, is situated high in the Blue Ridge Mountains where old stand of trees, craggy cliffs, and plenty wildlife make their home.
Drive the park’s famous Skyline Drive, which takes you along the ridge line of the mountains, for unforgettable views.
Fall brings beautiful leaf-peeping opportunities, while late spring and summer provide a welcome relief from the heat in the valleys and towns down below.
And if Skyline Drive wasn’t enough for you, the world famous Blue Ridge Parkway even makes an appearance in the park!
4. Everglades National Park
I am talking about east coast national parks after all so how could I not mention this rare and ecologically precious national park.
Everglades is home to numerous endangered species like the American Crocodile and the Florida Panther providing them with one of their last sanctuaries on earth.
Exploring this park is like exploring another world and should be a must for any wildlife-lover.
Whether you travel by canoe, kayak, boat, or walking some of the park’s many boardwalks, you’re sure to be amazed by this south Florida wildlife paradise.
5. Congaree National Park
Visiting Congaree National Park is like stepping foot back in time.
Here you’ll discover ancient cypress trees and waterways that once dominated the coastal southern United States but now are found only in a few pockets of protected land.
Congaree happens to be one of the more forgotten parks on the east coast which is great for those of us who like to avoid crowds!
Most people don’t think of South Carolina when they think of national parks, but you’ll definitely want to add this magical 26,000 acre park to your bucket list.
Kayaking and canoeing are popular, as are strolling the park’s boardwalks. Avoiding the spring is recommended unless you’re prepared for some serious mosquitoes!
6. Biscayne National Park
- Location: Florida
- Resources: Where to Stay
Back to Florida for another truly coastal east coast national park. As you can see in the above photo this park has a lot going for it.
Palm trees, white sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and crystal clear blue water, what’s not to like?
While you may have heard the common national park slogan “half the park is after dark”, here that should probably be amended to “half the park is underwater”.
It’s true, with snorkeling and paddling opportunities abound, you’ll be truly immersed in beauty at this beachfront national park.
7. New River Gorge National Park
This list of east coast national parks wouldn’t be complete without the newest member of the national park family, New River Gorge in West Virginia.
While efforts are still underway to create the national park amenities visitors to other parks might be used to, now is the time to visit this relatively unknown and spectacularly beautiful part of West Virginia.
Rafting and rock-climbing are the most popular activities here, along with hiking of course.
The weather is mild in the summer and fall brings beautiful color to the surrounding hills and mountains.
8. Dry Tortugas National Park
What can I say? When it comes to east coast national parks, Florida is flush with them!
For this east coast national park we travel to just about as far south as you can go in the United States to find this remote, rugged, and jaw-droppingly beautiful national park.
Here you can explore the red brick ruins of Fort Jefferson, a pre-civil war coastal fortress comprised of more than 16 million bricks.
If you can reach it, the park offers unparalleled opportunities for snorkeling, sea kayaking, wildlife viewing, and a completely one-of-a-kind national park experience.
Beyond the East Coast National Parks
At this point in the list we’re departing the coastal area sufficiently to no longer be “on the coast”. As such, the following national parks are ranked by relative proximity to the east coast.
9. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
What was once a superfund cleanup site is now a beautiful national park. Cuyahoga is a great place to spend a day and soak in the natural beauty of Ohio.
Its location near Cleveland makes it an easy stop for any park-lover to add on their trip to the city.
10. Mammoth Cave National Park
The longest known cave system is Kentucky’s only national park and it is a true gem.
While the scenery here is a bit one-dimensional it is indeed grand.
Mammoth Cave is one of the eastern United States’ few parks and is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Summary of the Top 10 East Coast National Parks
- Acadia National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Shenandoah National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Congaree National Park
- Biscayne National Park
- New River Gorge National Park
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Mammoth Cave National Park
Map of East Coast National Parks
Do You Have a Favorite East Coast National Park?
Leave us a comment below and let us know what your favorite east coast national park is!
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