Best National Park Beaches | National Seashore Beaches in the USA

When you think of national parks, you probably think of mountains, waterfalls and forests.  But many of the most beautiful beaches in the USA are in the national parks and national seashores.  From the classic ocean beaches, to lakeshore beaches, and even river beaches, I have compiled a list of the most beautiful beaches in the country.   

Ranging from wild, windswept rocky beaches surrounded by towering cliffs to tropical bright white sandy beaches fringed with gently swaying palm trees, you will find something to inspire your wanderlust and to add to your national parks bucket list

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US National Park Beaches to Explore
Jaw Dropping Beaches in U.S. National Parks

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Best National Park Beaches

1. Acadia National Park

Sand Beach Acadia National Park
Sand Beach

Location: Maine

Acadia National Park is surrounded by water and offers two great beaches.  Echo Beach is an artificial beach on Echo Lake, which is much warmer than the ocean, so actually a lovely place to swim.  For sheer beauty, however, the prize for one of the best American beaches has to go to the ocean beach inside Acadia, the aptly named Sand Beach.  Surrounded on both sides by rocky outcrops and backed by wooded hills, it is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire park.  

Popular Beaches: Echo Beach, Sand Beach 

Types of beaches: Lake and ocean beaches 

Read More: Read my Guide to Acadia National Park for more information about Acadia

2. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon beach

Location: Arizona

The Grand Canyon may seem an unlikely inclusion in a list of beaches, but there are actually a lot of incredibly beautiful sand beaches along the Colorado River inside the canyon.  Getting there isn’t easy – you need to take a white-water river trip through the canyon.  But if you take one of these trips, you will spend the afternoons and nights camping on the beach, surrounded by the towering walls of the canyon.  It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience vert few people have.  

Types of beaches: River beaches 

Read More: Read my Guide to Grand Canyon National Park for more information about the Grand Canyon

3. Yosemite National Park

Sentinel Beach Yosemite National Park
Sentinel Beach

Location: California

Yosemite National Park is another unlikely candidate for best beaches in the US, but the Merced River, which flows through the breathtaking Yosemite Valley, has two gorgeous sandy beaches.  Both Cathedral and Sentinel beaches have picnic areas and are great places to cool off on a hot summer day.  Plus, they are surrounded by the granite peaks that make Yosemite such a legendary national park. 

Popular Beaches: Cathedral Beach, Sentinel Beach 

Types of beaches: River beaches 

Read More: Read my Guide to Yosemite National Park for more information about Yosemite

4. Olympic National Park

Rialto Beach Olympic National Park
Rialto Beach

Location: Washington

Olympic National Park is surrounded by water, which means there are plenty of beaches!  The Olympic beaches range from the sandy Kalaloch Beach, which is great for bird watching, to the boulder-strewn Ozette Beach, sandwiched between old growth forest and fantastical sea stacks off shore. 

Perhaps, though, rocky Rialto Beach gets the prize for the most beautiful nature beach in the park.  With tree-topped sea stacks, towering trees, gray whales swimming offshore in season, and the stunning Hole-in-The-Wall sea-carved arch nearby, this beach is not to be missed. 

Popular Beaches: Rialto Beach, Ozette Beach, Kalaloch Beach, Ruby Beach 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

Read More: Read my Guide to the Best Beaches in Olympic National Park and Guide to Olympic National Park for more information about Olympic

5. Channel Islands National Park

Santa Rosa Island Channel Islands National Park
Santa Rosa Island

Location: California

Channel Islands National Park includes five islands off the coast of California.  The nearest, Anacapa, is actually three small islands close together.  The tidal pools on West Anacapa’s Frenchy’s Cove beach are fascinating to explore.  The largest island, Santa Cruz, has several beaches you can hike to, including Smugglers Cove Beach and Chinese Harbor Beach. San Miguels’s beaches are often packed with elephant seals and sea lions.  However, the windswept beaches on Santa Rosa, with rose colored sand and layered golden cliffs, are hard to beat. 

Popular Beaches: Frenchy’s Cove (West Anacapa), Water Canyon Beach (Santa Rosa), Smuggler’s Cove Beach and Chinese Harbor Beach (Santa Cruz) 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

Read More: Read my Guide to Channel Islands National Park for more information about the Channel Islands

6. Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Lake Michigan

Location: Indiana

The park runs for about 20 miles along the southern shore of Lake Michigan.  15 of these miles are gorgeous beaches known for their singing sands.  

Popular Beaches: West Beach, Porter Beach, Kemil Beach, Lake View, Central Avenue Beach 

Types of beaches: Lake beaches 

7. Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore

Location: Texas

North Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world.  The national seashore has 65.5 miles of gorgeous white sandy beaches.  All except four miles (which is called Closed Beach because it’s closed to traffic) is open to four-wheel-drive vehicle traffic, and this is the only way to access most of the pristine nature beaches in the country.  Head south and you will soon find a stretch of beach al to yourself.

Popular Beaches: Malaquite Beach/ Closed Beach, South Beach (60 miles long) 

Types of beaches: Gulf beaches 

8. Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National Park
Hidden Beach

Location: California

The Redwood parks are most famous for the towering redwood trees that give them their name, but the rugged coastline is just as impressive.  From the long Enderts Beach, with tidal pools and ocean waves, to the miles of gray sand, strewn with driftwood and surrounding dunes of Gold Bluffs Beach, there are plenty of options to choose from. 

Perhaps the most stunning beach in the parks, though, is Hidden Beach.  With boulders and driftwood scattered over dark gray sand and a photogenic sheer-sided island just off shore, the secluded beach is worth the short hike to get to.  

Popular Beaches: Hidden Beach, Enderts Beach, Crescent Beach, Gold Bluffs Beach 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

9. Cape Cod National Seashore

Nauset Beach Cape Cod National Seashore
Nauset Beach

Location: Massachusetts

The Cape Cod National Seashore stretches 40 miles along the eastern shore of Cape Code from Chatham to Provincetown on the very tip of the cape.  There are six Cape Cod National Seashore beaches, all of them with pristine white sand.   

Popular Beaches: Nauset Light Beach, Marconi Beach, Herring Cove Beach, Race Point Beach, Coast Guard Beach, Head of the Meadow Beach 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

10. Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

Location: California

Located on the breathtaking Point Reyes Peninsula, the national seashore has plenty of wild coastal beaches to enjoy.  You can walk along the 2.5-mile long Wildcat Beach admiring the adjacent cliffs; explore the giant dunes along Kehoe Beach; frolic in the surf on the 10-mile Pont Reyes Beach; or enjoy the dramatic white sandstone cliffs surrounding the iconic Drakes Beach.  

Note that some of the beaches are occasionally closed so as not to disturb elephant seals and harbor seals. 

Popular Beaches: Drakes Beach, Wildcat Beach, McClures Beach, Kehoe Beach, Point Reyes Beach 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

11. Virgin Islands National Park

Trunk Bay Virgin Islands National Park
Trunk Bay

Location: US Virgin Islands

The national park occupies 60% of St. John and nearly all of Hassel Island in the US Virgin Islands.  This relatively small area boasts several of America’s top beaches.  Sparkling white sand backed by tropical rainforest and fringed with swaying palm trees; water so clear you can stand in chest deep and see your feet as if you were looking through air; colorful coral reefs; and picturesque isles dotted off shore, these beaches are hard to beat!  

There are several beautiful beaches to choose from, but Trunk Bay is not only one of America’s best beaches, it is also one of the most famous beaches in USA. In fact, it is frequently voted one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world! 

Popular Beaches: Salt Pond Bay, Trunk Bay, Honeymoon Bay, Maho Bay, Cinnamon Bay 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

12. Fire Island National Seashore

Lighthouse Beach Fire Island National Seashore
Lighthouse Beach

Location: New York

The national seashore stretches along a 26-mile section of Fire Island, a narrow barrier island just across from Long Island near New York City.  The beach is one continuous stretch of white sand and dunes, with 17 private communities beyond the dunes.  At the far west end of the seashore, accessible along a 1.5-mile boardwalk through the Sunken Forest, is Lighthouse Beach and the striped lighthouse that gives it its name.   

Popular Beaches: Lighthouse Beach, Watch Hill and Sailors Haven 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

13. Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Baker Beach Golden Gate national recreational area
Baker Beach

Location: California

The national recreation area lies north (Marin County) and south (San Francisco County) of Golden Gate Bridge.  There are several beautiful white sandy beaches, many with views of Golden Gate Bridge and surrounded by rugged cliffs.   Baker Beach and China Beach both have especially wonderful views of the bridge. 

Popular Beaches:  Muir Beach and Stinson Beach (Marin County).  Baker Beach, China Beach, Ocean Beach and Crissy Field (San Francisco county) 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

14. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Miners Beach Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Miner’s Beach

Location: Michigan

On the shores of Lake Superior between Munising and Grand Marai, Pictured Rocks has beautiful beaches surrounded by dramatic sandstone cliffs or stunning giant sand dunes. There are 15 miles of colorful sandstone cliffs up to 200 feet tall, dotted with sandy (or rocky) beaches.  Swim, relax, walk or just soak in the stunning views of Lake Superior.   

Enjoy 12 miles of pristine sand beach on Twelvemile Beach; see the gorgeous Bridalveil Falls from Miner’s Beach; admire the towering dunes behind Sable Falls Beach; or visit the famous Chapel Rock on Chapel Beach. 

Popular Beaches: Twelvemile Beach, Sand Point Beach, Miners Beach, Sable Falls Beach, Chapel Beach 

Types of beaches: Lake beaches 

15. Cape Lookout National Seashore

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Location: North Carolina

North Carolina’s Outer Banks, or Crystal Coast, has some of the most famous beaches in America and the 56-mile section, spread over three undeveloped barrier islands, that makes up Cape Lookout National Seashore is hard to beat. There are endless miles of wide flat sandy beaches bordered by low dunes and grasslands. 

You can drive along the beach on North and South Core Banks and find an isolated spot to have to yourself.  On Shackleford Banks, you may end up sharing the beach with some of the wild horses, called Banker Ponies, that roam free on the island! 

Popular Beaches: Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks 

Types of beaches: Ocean beaches 

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Best National Park Beaches

Best Beaches in US National Parks

Enjoy the beach!  

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Jaw Dropping Beaches in U.S. National Parks
US National Park Beaches to Explore

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  About the Author 

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.

He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks. 

Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.

As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.

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