East Coast national parks are often overshadowed by the Rocky Mountains and West Coast national parks. No one can dismiss the majestic views and thrilling outdoor recreation at Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Joshua Tree. But at the same time, the national parks from Maine to Florida offer their own grandeur that should not be dismissed simply because they’re on the other side of the Mississippi.

Acadia National Park offers stunning vistas of the Atlantic Ocean from a mountain summit. Dry Tortugas National Park is surrounded by turquoise water 90 miles from Key West. And the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts peaks above 6,000-feet for breathtaking mountain views.

But in between the 7 East Coast national parks are a whopping 113 additional National Park Service units. These units offer a chance to explore Revolutionary War and Civil War battlegrounds, history, culture, and outdoor recreation.

Which of these national parks or additional units is next on your travel bucket list? Leave me a comment below!

Sunset on the Foothills Parkway, a lesser known area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

What is the “East Coast?”

I never thought I would need to define the “East Coast.” But in curating this list, I realized other writers were including national parks in Arkansas, Ohio, and Kentucky. I can’t seem to put the words “Bluegrass State” and “East Coast” in the same sentence.

My definition is a bit more accurate.

I think an East Coast state should include the actual coast. That would include Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Although a national park could be hundreds of miles from the coast – like the Great Smoky Mountains – it’s still located inside a coastal state and earns a place on this list.

But anything else belongs on a list of Southeast national parks or Midwest national parks – something I may get around to writing someday.

READ MORE: Complete List of All 423 National Park Service Units by State + Social Media and Website Links

Do You Love Road Trips?
Sign up and be the first to read new road trip itineraries and destination guides.
Yes! I would like to receive updates, special offers, and other information from Road Trips & Coffee.
Photo courtesy of NPS/Victoria Stauffenberg.

No. 01

Acadia National Park

Established in 1929, Acadia National Park was the first national park on the East Coast and remains the only one in Maine. The iconic national park covers most of Mount Desert Island on the coast and attracts millions of visitors every year.

A great way to explore Acadia National Park is the 27-mile Park Loop Road. The paved road connects all of the park’s major sites and outdoor recreation. One of the park’s most interesting features is the old-fashioned carriage roads. The primitive roads were developed in the 1600s and today are only open to pedestrians, bicyclists, and horseback riders.

While visiting Acadia National Park, be sure to book a reservation so you can drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. At 1,527-feet, the summit offers a stunning panorama view of the Atlantic Ocean and Main coastline.

Additional National Park Units in Maine

advertisement
 
Photo courtesy of NPS/Shaun Wolfe.

No. 02

Biscayne National Park

Some national parks have sweeping landscapes and endless vistas viewed from scenic overlooks and observation towers. But Biscayne National Park is different – 95% of the national park is underwater.

One of three national parks in Florida, Biscayne National Park preserves four ecosystems: a forest of mangrove trees, islands in the Florida Keys, the waters of Biscayne Bay, and the Florida Reef, the third-largest coral reef system in the world.

Snorkeling is the most popular outdoor activity at Biscayne National Park – Maritime Heritage Trail leads snorkelers to shipwrecks and wildlife. Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are other ways to explore this watery national park.

Additional National Park Units in Florida

advertisement
 
The Lower Boardwalk winds through the old growth bottomland forest and ginormous cypress trees.
The Lower Boardwalk winds through the old growth bottomland forest and ginormous cypress trees.

No. 03

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park is one of the most underrated national parks in the country. Often overlooked because “it’s just a swamp,” the national park preserves one of the largest old-growth bottomland forests remaining in the United States.

And big cypress trees.

READ MORE: 5 Sensational Local Places for Brunch in Columbia, SC

Covering 26,000 acres about an hour south of Columbia, it’s the only national park in South Carolina. 10 hiking trails sprawl across the landscape. One of the most popular is the Boardwalk Loop Trail – a 2.4-mile hike on a wooden boardwalk through the dense forest and primitive path to return to the Harry Hampton Visitor Center.

The 15-mile Cedar Creek Canoe Trail is another way to explore the national park. Ranger-led tours meander the narrow waterway through the park past large cypress trees and nests of owls.

Additional National Park Units in South Carolina

advertisement
 
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

No. 04

Dry Tortugas National Park

The second of three national parks in Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park preserves Fort Jefferson and the surrounding ecosystem. The fort was started in the 1800s as part of the Coastal Fortification System but was never completed.

Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote national parks in the country. It’s located 70 miles west of Key West – the only way to reach the park is by ferry, seaplane, or charter boat. Visitors can take tours of Fort Jefferson and snorkel the shallow water surrounding the fort.

The most interesting way to experience Dry Tortugas National Park is to spend a few nights. But you won’t find an Airbnb or VRBO rental on the islands – you’ll have to camp on the primitive beach.

Additional National Park Units in Florida

Join the Discussion on Social Media
Photo courtesy of NPS/Jane Gamble.

No. 05

Everglades National Park

Humanity might be able to learn something from the wildlife at Everglades National Park – it’s the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live together.

One of the three national parks in Florida, Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres of wetland. Like Biscayne National Park, the most popular activities have to do with the water in the park. Kayaking, canoeing, boating, and snorkeling are the best ways to see the flora and fauna of the national park.

Less than an hour from Miami, the park features three main areas to explore: the Gulf Coast, Shark Valley, and the flamingo area.

Additional National Park Units in Florida

advertisement
 
The Morton Overlook is one of the best scenic overlooks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Morton Overlook is one of the best scenic overlooks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

No. 06

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains the most-visited national park in the country – and for a good reason.

Established in the 1930s, the national park preserves hiking trails, auto touring routes, and outdoor recreation in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s a giant park – it takes about three hours to drive from Cades Cove to Cataloochee Valley. One of the best drives in the park is Newfound Gap Road connecting Gatlinburg and Cherokee; a detour leads to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Tennessee.

Hiking is the most popular activity in the national park but far from the only option. Scenic drives, backpacking, and horseback riding are a few other activities to enjoy.

READ MORE: Day Trip on the Cades Cove Loop Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Additional National Park Units in North Carolina

advertisement
 
Hazeltop Ridge Overlook along the Skyline Drive offers a view of the nearby landscape at Shenandoah National Park.
Hazeltop Ridge Overlook along the Skyline Drive offers a view of the nearby landscape at Shenandoah National Park.

No. 07

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is Virginia’s only national park, established at the same time as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The 105-mile Skyline Drive is the only road through the national park. Built like the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Skyline Drive is a two-lane road with scenic overlooks, access to hiking trails, and connecting attractions through the park.

100 miles of the Appalachian Trail pass through the national park, frequently crossing or running parallel to the Skyline Drive. Day trips are easy on the trail in the park, but there are lots of great backpacking spots for an overnight stay. The 9.2-mile hike to Old Rag is one of the most popular hikes in the park, leading to a stunning overlook high above the Shenandoah Valley.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Road Trip on the Skyline Drive Through Shenandoah National Park

Additional National Park Units in Virginia