The Best Cities Near the Most Popular National Parks

Nearly 150 years ago, former president Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill to create the first national park — Yellowstone. Since then, the preservation list has grown to 62 and you can find them all across the U.S.

The excitement to see the outdoors hasn’t dwindled either. In 2020, the National Park Service saw more than 200 million visits — the Great Smoky Mountains National Park took the top spot for most recreational visits at 12.1 million.

If you’re an outdoors enthusiast, consider moving to one of these cities near national parks. You can clock out on Friday and spend the weekend on top of a canyon, white water rafting or hiking to a stunning waterfall.

Can you picture it? Here are the best cities near the most popular national parks.

Cities near the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon.

There are genuinely no words or pictures to describe how majestic the Grand Canyon is. It’s just one of those places that you have to add to your bucket list. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon offers endless hiking opportunities, waterfalls sightings like Havasu Falls and even rafting along the Colorado River.

The Grand Canyon owes its existence and shape to the Colorado River, which has carved itself along the red walls of the canyon. Once you spend some time in the popular Bright Angel Trail, head to the North Rim for a bit of quiet time and advanced hiking. You can find an apartment nearby in the following cities:

  • Flagstaff, AZ: 82.5 miles
  • Sedona, AZ: 117 miles
  • Prescott, AZ: 132 miles
  • St. George, UT: 156 miles
  • Phoenix, AZ: 232 miles
  • Las Vegas, NV: 250 miles

Cities near Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park.

The U.S.’s first national park, Yellowstone, saw a whopping 3.8 million visitors in 2020. From hot springs and geysers to the local animal population, the area’s natural beauty spreads along 2.2 million acres across parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

You’ll see buffalos and elks in your drives, Old Faithful and other geysers erupt and the many hiking trails will lead you to multi-colored mineral springs like the Grand Prismatic Spring.

The Yellowstone Lake, Mammoth Hot Springs and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are other not-to-be-missed stops. Thinking of moving nearby? These are the closest cities:

  • Jackson, WY: 57.3 miles
  • Livingston, MT: 64.3 miles
  • Rexburg, ID: 83.1 miles
  • Bozeman, MT: 88.5 miles
  • Idaho Falls, ID: 109 miles
  • Big Piney, WY: 149 miles
  • Billings, MT: 157 miles
  • Pocatello, ID: 159 miles
  • Riverton, WY: 160 miles
  • Anaconda, MT: 171 miles
  • Helena, MT: 182 miles

Cities near Yosemite

Yellowstone National Park.

From the tall waterfalls to the impressive views from the top of Tunnel View Outlook, Yosemite is incredibly popular among California residents and beyond. The national park is part of the Golden State’s Sierra Nevada mountains. You’ll see many granite rock formations, like El Capitan and Half Dome throughout the park.

One sight you cannot miss is the giant sequoia trees, split across three different groves. The most popular one, Mariposa Grove, has over 500 mature sequoia trees. Many of them live more than 3,000 years.

Luckily, if you’re a California resident, the park is convenient with many cities within the state.

  • Fresno, CA: 61.7 miles
  • Modesto, CA: 83.8 miles
  • Stockton, CA: 97.1 miles
  • Visalia, CA: 104 miles
  • Cameron Park, CA: 124 miles
  • Folsom, CA: 127 miles
  • Sacramento, CA: 141 miles
  • San Jose, CA: 159 miles
  • San Francisco, CA: 167 miles
  • Santa Rosa, CA: 213 miles

Cities near Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park, based in Montana, has more than 700 lakes with incredible views of the mountains. The park has an extensive trail network, with many levels of difficulty, including Grinnell Glacier.

Good news for those who aren’t avid hikers, the 52-mile drive down Going-to-the-Sun Road provides a beautiful scenic drive around the park. While paved, some of the mountain turns are not for the faint of heart, but the views of the glacial lakes, waterfalls and forests are worth it.

Is Montana calling your name? Here are a few cities near Glacier National Park.

  • Kalispell, MT: 33.7 miles
  • Missoula, MT: 138 miles
  • Great Falls, MT: 154 miles
  • Havre, MT: 189 miles
  • Helena, MT: 202 miles
  • Anaconda, MT: 233 miles

Cities near Zion National Park

Zion National Park.

Zion National Park, one of Utah’s natural treasures, has something to offer for every kind of outdoor person. Whether you’re there to see the Emerald Pools’ waterfalls or hike Angel’s Landing 1,500 feet to the top, Zion’s red rock formations will leave you in awe.

If you’re feeling less adventurous, hop on your car and drive on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive — a 57-mile ride around the park with a stop at every landmark.

The expansive trails offer every level — from the easy 1.2-mile Lower Emerald Pool trail to the advanced 9.4-mile Narrows trail.

The best part about Zion? It’s proximity to big cities like Las Vegas.

  • Springdale, UT: 1.1 miles
  • Hurricane, UT: 23.1 miles
  • St. George, UT: 46.5 miles
  • Cedar City, UT: 57.9 miles
  • Las Vegas, NV: 166 miles
  • Henderson, NV: 181 miles
  • Flagstaff, AZ: 248 miles

Cities near Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park.

Not too far from Yosemite National Park, you’ll find a national park dedicated to the wisest trees you’ll ever meet — the Sequoias.

Sequoia National Park has more than 40 different groves with hundreds and sometimes thousands of Sequoia trees per grove. These giants live more than 3,000 years and are some of the largest in the world.

Nestled in the San Joaquin Valley, the park has more to offer than these giants, including canyons, caverns and hiking trail opportunities.

While wildfires have recently damaged the area, the park’s beauty remains as it recovers.

  • Visalia, CA: 52 miles
  • Porterville, CA: 62.1 miles
  • Fresno, CA: 82.9 miles
  • Clovis, CA: 86 miles
  • Bakersfield, CA: 112 miles
  • Merced, CA: 138 miles
  • Turlock, CA: 163 miles
  • Modesto, CA: 177 miles
  • Stockton, CA: 207 miles
  • San Jose, CA: 232 miles

Cities near the Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountains.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park took the top prize for most visited national park in 2020 with 12.1 million visitors. The mountains’ name comes from its signature smoky, composed of vapor and fog that often envelops the mountains.

The Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountains range and have more than 100 native trees. Residents of Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia routinely go up to the Smoky Mountains to get a breath of fresh air and every summer to see the most spectacular firefly show.

The best part? The temperatures in the area rarely go above 80 degrees.

Unlike many other national parks that are a little far from civilization, there are a few major cities within an hour away.

  • Sevierville, TN: 14.7 miles
  • Knoxville, TN: 32.1 miles
  • Asheville, NC: 36.7 miles
  • Greenville, SC: 88.8 miles
  • Chattanooga, TN: 108 miles
  • Charlotte, NC: 151 miles
  • Winston-Salem, NC: 179 miles
  • Columbia, SC: 184 miles
  • Atlanta, GA: 204 miles
  • Nashville, TN: 227 miles

Get closer to nature at these national parks

If you love fresh air and staying close to nature, living in one of the cities near national parks can lead to some great adventures. Whether you love hiking, rafting, camping or even a relaxing day at a lake, renting an apartment or buying a house near one of the most popular national parks is a great idea. Grab your hiking boots and get to searching for your next place.

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