Many visitors to America's national parks do the same things: they go geyser-watching in Yellowstone, peer over the rim of a Grand Canyon overlook, cruise the waters of Glacier Bay, stroll through the arches at Arches, or hike Half Dome at Yosemite. And of course all of those activities should be on every traveler's bucket list. But there are also more rarefied experiences to be had, ones that allow a visitor to dive deeper into the unique character and beauty of the parks.
Head to Maine's Acadia at the right time of the year to be the first person in the continental United States to see the sun rise. Or head to Cape Alava in Washington's Olympic National Park to stand on the westernmost point in the lower 48. Don't just peer over the rim of the Grand Canyon—hike down to the floor to truly appreciate how monumental it is. Head to Denali at the right time of year for the rare experience of seeing the majestic peak unshrouded by clouds. View the mighty California condor, now back from the brink of extinction, at Pinnacles, America's newest national park. Go backcountry skiing at Grand Teton. Stay in a hotel that overlooks a smoldering caldera at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. All seven of these experiences pack in adventure and awe. Start planning for them now.