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8 Best National Parks to Visit on a 3-Day Weekend

You can see everything you need to see at these parks over a long weekend, experts say.

Three-day weekends give us an extra day for rest and relaxation, but they're also a great opportunity to plan a little getaway. While these weekends probably aren't long enough for an international trip, they do provide ample time to get the most out of some of the coolest destinations in the U.S. Read on to discover eight national parks that are perfect for a three-day weekend trip.

RELATED: The 6 Best U.S. National Parks to See Fall Foliage.

Joshua Tree National Park (California)

skull rock and starry night sky at joshua tree national park
Sierralara / Shutterstock

If you're California dreamin', consider booking a three-day trip to Joshua Tree National Park in SoCal.

"It is one of the top 10 most visited national parks in the U.S. and welcomes visitors with its incredibly unique desert landscape, towering rock formations, and wide range of outdoor activities that can be overwhelming to experience in a quick weekend trip, but perfect for a three-day weekend!" Kristin Lee, travel expert and owner and author of the travel blog Global Travel Escapades, says.

Lee specifically recommends taking a hike up Ryan Mountain or along the Arch Rock Trail, or trying out rock climbing if you're even more adventurous. There's plenty of desert wildlife to observe over a long weekend, but you'll also get an extra night to stargaze, which Lee calls "the best part."

There is limited light pollution at Joshua Tree, Lee says, allowing you to see "thousands and thousands of stars" in the night sky.

Everglades National Park (Florida)

wooden deck in everglades national park
Nick Fox / Shutterstock

On the opposite coast, at the southern tip of Florida, you'll find Everglades National Park—an ideal spot for a long weekend.

"Everglades National Park sits along Florida's southern-most coastline and encompasses 1.5 million acres of wetlands, mangrove tunnels, fields of grass, cypress and mahogany hammocks, pine forests, and both fresh and salt bodies of water," Erin Moreland, travel blogger at The Simple Salty Life, tells Best Life. "In fact, Everglades is the third-largest national park in the contiguous U.S., so it can take several days to explore. This makes it the perfect park for a three-day weekend trip!"

Moreland suggests a three-day itinerary, starting with a drive from the Ernest F. Coe entrance outside of Miami to the southern portion of the park. You can take your time along the way and explore the different trails, she notes.

"End in Flamingo for an epic glamping adventure in an Eco-Tent right on the water, and get a head start on day two," she recommends. "Beginning right at the Flamingo Marina, kayaks and small powerboats are available to rent and explore the park's waterways, either heading to the Florida Bay or into the backcountry—watch for manatees, alligators, and sometimes crocodiles and dolphins!"

From there, your last day should be spent exploring Shark Valley, which you can see from the comfort of a tram or by taking a bike, and then paddling through the Ten Thousand Islands section of the park.

"This area is just south of Naples, Florida, and is a literal maze of mangrove islands only accessible by boat," Moreland says. "With three action-packed days, the Everglades can be thoroughly explored, so you won't miss a thing."

RELATED: The 12 Best National Parks That Need to Be on Your Bucket List.

Yosemite National Park (California)

el capitan and merced river at yosemite
Nadia Yong / Shutterstock

Yosemite is another California park ready to host you for a long weekend.

According to Adam Marland, travel photographer and blogger for We Dream of Travel, three days is actually "the perfect amount of time to thoroughly explore what is arguably the most beautiful national park in the country."

He continues, "While a typical weekend visit will limit visitors to one to two sections of the park, having that extra day allows you to see the entirety of the Yosemite Valley, drive to the top of Glacier Point, and even journey across the Tioga Pass (weather permitting)."

Marland points to the different activities available at the park, which offer something for everyone, regardless of skill level or ability.

"Those who enjoy trekking have dozens of long trails to choose from, while the whistle-stop enthusiasts can explore by car stopping at countless viewpoints and natural attractions visible right from the roadside," he says. "There are also lakes to swim, wildlife to observe, and an endless buffet of natural wonders for people of all ages and interests."

Acadia National Park (Maine)

acadia national park in autumn
pisaphotography / Shutterstock

A hot spot for leaf peepers and adventurers alike, this gem of a national park is also a great spot if you've got an extra day to spend.

"Acadia National Park in Maine is great for a three-day weekend trip. It's one of the few U.S. national parks on the East Coast, so for some pristine nature, East Coasters don't have to feel like they went too far from home," Becca Siegel, travel writer at, says.

There are plenty of flights to get you there quickly, Siegel says, including options with Jet Blue and United to nearby Bar Harbor, Maine.

"For road trippers, you're looking at a 4.5 to five-hour drive from Boston to Acadia National Park, which is both not too bad and pretty scenic," she adds.

RELATED: The 12 Best Weekend Trips in the U.S. You Need to Take This Year.

Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

The sun rising above Thor's Hammer at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

You may think that a three-day weekend only leaves you with enough time to really see one national park, but Sophie Clapton, travel blogger with We Dream of Travel, says that's not the case.

"This one is a double feature! While a weekend would typically only be enough time to explore Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon, a three-day weekend creates the unique opportunity to experience both," Clapton says. "When roads are clear, the drive time from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is only about an hour and a half."

Over three days, you can explore all of Zion on the free shuttle within the park and also take time to hike the Zion Narrows or Angel's Landing, according to Clapton. Then, you can sit back and enjoy the drive to Bryce Canyon.

"As Bryce Canyon National Park tends to be a day trip for most visitors, combining these two parks into a three-day weekend is a perfect fit," she says. "And if you move quickly, you can even add a bonus stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument with only a slight detour between the two!"

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

grand canyon at sunrise
Invisible Witness / Shutterstock

If you've always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, take comfort in knowing that you don't need a full week to see it.

"Most people who visit the Grand Canyon only ever see it from the South Rim, and only as a day trip. With a three-day weekend, however, the possibilities to truly explore this official 'Natural Wonder of the World' open up substantially," Marland says.

With the extra time, you can see and do more, including exploring the bottom of the canyon—which Marland notes can be reached by hiking or by taking a mule ride—walking along the sky bridge, and camping.

But even better, you can explore other parts of the park you wouldn't get to see if you only had two days.

"Most notably, having the extra day creates the opportunity to drive up to the North Rim, considered the most beautiful vantage point from which to behold this remarkable place," Marland says.

RELATED: 11 U.S. National Parks You Can Do in a Day.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

view from mount washburn at yellowstone national park
Andy Williams photos / Shutterstock

Yellowstone is another big hitter you can explore in three days' time, especially if it's an "introductory trip," Claire Ramsdell, adventure consultant at Wildland Trekking and owner of the travel blog The Detour Effect, tells Best Life.

"Yellowstone is so massive that you really need to focus on one region of the park per day; you could spend one day around the West Yellowstone/Old Faithful area, one day in the northern part of the park near Mammoth Hot Springs, and a third day in the more central region to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone or hike Mount Washburn," Ramsdell says.

While she concedes that you could "spend a lifetime" exploring the more remote areas of Yellowstone, a three-day stretch is ample time for an overview of the park's major draws.

"You can hit all the main attractions and even fit some lesser-known detours into a three-day Yellowstone trip and feel pretty satisfied," Ramsdell says.

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Olympic National Park (Washington)

rialto beach olympic national park
Pierre Leclerc / Shutterstock

There are ample three-day weekend trips at national parks out West, but if you're looking to see the Pacific Northwest, you might want to consider a visit to Olympic National Park.

"This park is really large and easily situated just a few hours' drive from Seattle, making it an easy drive for even non-locals," Alice Ford, content creator, travel agent, and national park expert, tells Best Life. "The park is circled by [Highway] 101, so no backtracking is needed when exploring the four main ecosystems of the park—the Eastern Mountains, the coastline, the lakes and lowlands, and the rainforest."

You might end up wanting a few extra days here, but three will suffice to explore the must-see points. On your first day, Ford recommends starting in the town of Sequim and taking the one-hour drive to Hurricane Ridge.

"Here you can drive high onto the ridgeline and have views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, distant glaciers, and beautiful forest," she says, noting that there are several hiking trails, too. "After that, head west towards Lake Crescent where you can stop for a swim and take the short hike to Marymount Falls and Sol Duc Falls."

Day two is best spent driving to Cape Flattery (the northernmost point in the contiguous U.S.) and then heading back to Rialto Beach to explore a sea cave. If you're a fan of the Twilight series, make sure you book your second-night stay in Forks, and rest up for your third and final morning at Hoh Rainforest and your afternoon at Kalaloch Beach or Lake Quinault.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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