From flame-colored canyons to the tallest waterfall in North America, our national parks leave millions awestruck each year. Here, discover 10 top national parks, all American-made, all sure to inspire:

1. Hot spots

Old Faithful Geyser is a tease. Before it shoots steaming water well over 100 feet into the air, it sometimes reels in the audience with a few short spurts. But Old Faithful always delivers, spewing as much as 8,400 gallons of 200-degree water nearly every hour or so. It’s one of many geysers at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho (home to nearly 60 percent of the world’s geysers). Old Faithful draws big crowds, so for a more private experience, arrive at dawn or on a moonlit night. Also consider staying at the Old Faithful Inn, which is described beautifully in this episode of the Well-Traveled with AAA podcast.

2. Ice dreams

On the southern side of Alaska, more than half of Kenai Fjords National Park is blanketed in ice. The park boasts nearly 40 glaciers, and the best way to see them is on a boat tour during summer. Take in the thundering and crackling of ancient ice formations as you watch for harbor seals, humpback whales and porpoises swimming in the distance.

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3. Drive of a lifetime

The views are stunning: rosy sunsets over ice-capped mountains, aquamarine lakes, meadows dotted with elk, and Jackson glacier—which, along with its twin, Blackfoot glacier, was once a single, mighty force that split after decades of melting. Admire this picturesque perfection along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The 50-mile highway, in Montana’s Glacier National Park, crosses the Continental Divide and is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

4. Flower power

The buttery blooms of Dutchman’s breeches “look like a pair of pantaloons hanging on the line to dry,” according to the National Park Service. Wildflowers have personality, and it’s no wonder they’re one of the biggest draws at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. More than 1,500 types of flowering plants fan across the park—more than in any other national park. The first 1.5 miles of Porters Creek Trail (about 4 miles from the Greenbrier park entrance) offer an ideal way for flower fanatics to experience the tiny spring wonders.

5. Gorgeous gushers

Hear first-hand accounts of finding hidden treasures in our western National Parks.

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One of the tallest waterfalls in North America rushes nearly 2,500 feet to a mist-filled, rocky creek below. Among the top national parks, Yosemite National Park is famed for its massive Yosemite Falls. It and most of the park’s other falls are concentrated in Yosemite Valley, a small section of the California park’s 1,200 square miles. Tip: Visit in spring to see waterfalls before the dry season begins (and be sure to witness starry-night views).

6. Permanent record

Over millions of years, the Colorado River carved the mile-deep Grand Canyon, and today it winds more than 275 miles through northern Arizona. The size and length of this geological tale is hard to comprehend, but it’s made easier by the Trail of Time, a flat, 1.3-mile trail at the South Rim. Visitors to the Yavapai Geology Museum can take in the most recent rock formation (270 million years old) to the oldest (nearly 2 billion years old).

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Trip to Grand Canyon … We were very happy with all the plans that AAA made for us. It was very organized and everything was flawless. A real stress saver for us.

— mproell, from AAA Traveler Reviews

7. Mountain majesty

The Tetons are not the highest peaks in North America, but they could be the most magnificent. The National Park Service calls these beauties “mountains of the imagination.” The bottom line: Grand Teton National Park inspires. Located in northwestern Wyoming, this range commands attention, towering along the park’s skyline at nearly 14,000 feet. During a float down the Snake River, experienced guides will regale you with tales of the area’s first settlers and fur trappers as you take in the stately mountains.

8. A canyon, on fire

Inside The Narrows, the slimmest section of Utah’s Zion National Park, rusty orange and red canyon walls shoot 1,000 feet high as the Virgin River snakes along the bottom, a reward of striking contrasts for adventurous hikers. To wend your way through the colorful canyon, start near the Temple of Sinawava and follow the paved path along the river before wading into the water (which can get waist-high in places).

9. Sun-kissed paradise

John D. Rockefeller Jr. found a clutch of islands on the coast of Maine so breathtaking that he yearned to protect it. So, in the early 1900s, he bought thousands of acres of what would become Acadia National Park. Now, from October to March, thousands wait in the darkness atop Cadillac Mountain to catch the first glimpse of sunrise in the continental United States, in one of the top national parks that offers—as Rockefeller once said—“one of the greatest views in the world.”

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10. Tall, tall trees

They are born from seeds smaller than corn kernels and can grow up to 35 stories tall with trunks stretching more than 20 feet across. Even the most jaded onlooker is bound to be mesmerized at the base of a redwood tree. One of the best places to marvel at these giants is the aptly named Tall Trees Grove hike in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California. A 4-mile roundtrip, the trail boasts magnificent views of old-growth trees, situated in a flat next to Redwood Creek. Hikers need permits to access the trail; find them at any park visitor center.

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