10 US National Parks with Volcanoes

The United States is home to what is arguably the most beautiful and diversified collection of national parks. For most people, though, the term “volcanoes” isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when considering these protected lands. However, volcanoes in national parks are not at all uncommon. In fact, 19 U.S. national park units have been set aside expressly for their unique volcanic features. 

Some national parks contain only one volcano, while others may consist of multiple volcanic edifices. Some may also be part of a much more sizable volcanic field. 

Regardless, the national parks featuring volcanoes are astonishing and make up some of the most scenic landscapes in the country. 

We will discuss 10 of the nation’s best volcanic national parks. You may be familiar with many of the parks mentioned here but had no idea volcanoes were present!

Top 10 Volcanoes in National Parks

The western half of the United States is home to all of the national parks that feature volcanoes. Most of these parks are situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region that encircles much of the Pacific Ocean and is known for its frequent volcanic eruptions and seismic activity. Visitors to these parks can witness the awe-inspiring power of nature as they explore the unique landscapes shaped by volcanic activity.

These volcanic national parks are among the nation’s most beautiful and pristine areas. They also contain more than just volcanoes. These parks boast sights such as wildflower meadows, old-growth forests, waterfalls, glaciers, mountain ranges, historic architecture, and picturesque scenic drives. 

Adding to the excitement is that many of these volcanic national parks are on land that is still volcanically active. Although these parks are quite peaceful and serene, they will likely erupt sometime in the future. This makes the experience all the more thrilling! 

1. Lassen Volcanic National Park 

A beautiful sunset over Mount Lassen with its reflection on Manzanita Lake
A beautiful sunset over Mount Lassen with its reflection on Manzanita Lake.

The exceptional and often underrated Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in northern California. The park’s volcano, Lassen Peak, is the park’s main attraction. It’s also the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. What’s more, Lassen Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the USA. 

It’s also the largest plug dome volcano on earth. A plug dome, or lava dome, is a circular, mound-shaped protrusion resulting from a volcano’s slow extrusion of viscous lava.

The land here is volcanically active. Lassen is packed with steaming fumaroles, boiling pools, and mud pots. Plenty of life and thriving ecosystems exist here, such as mixed conifer forests, red fir forests, subalpine regions, wildflower meadows, and pristine mountain lakes and streams. 

Lassen Volcanic is a close runner-up behind Yellowstone regarding the number of hydrothermal features it contains. Although less famous than Yellowstone, this is definitely a fascinating park to visit.  

2. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Lava from the Kīlauea volcano flows into the Pacific Ocean, forming new land
Lava from the Kīlauea volcano flows into the Pacific Ocean, forming new land.

This extraordinary park is the embodiment of a volcanic national park. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the big island comprises two of the most active and largest volcanoes in the USA.

Kīlauea is the more active of the two volcanoes. Since 1983, Kīlauea has been constantly erupting, with its most recent significant eruption in January, 2023. The continuous lava flows from the caldera flow down the volcanoes’ slopes straight into the Pacific Ocean, forming new land masses. 

The second main volcano at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is Mauna Loa. While not as active as Kīlauea, Mauna Loa is much larger than its counterpart. From the base of the sea floor to its peak, Mauna Loa is over 56,000 feet (17,000 meters) tall. From sea level, it is 13,679 feet.

Mauna Loa is classified as the world’s largest volcano in terms of mass and volume. In addition to the rumbling volcanoes, the park offers visitors a chance to hike through some wild rainforests and spectacular scenic drives. 

The visitor center is the first place you’ll want to stop when entering. Friendly park rangers are happy to provide visitors with the latest information on current conditions, things to do, hiking information, and the daily schedule of ranger-led activities.

Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii is the perfect place to visit to connect with some of the earth’s most volcanically active areas. 

3. Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park stunning collection of rock gardens and deserts, bringing bright orange hues across the landscape
Haleakalā National Park has a stunning collection of rock gardens and deserts, bringing bright orange hues across the landscape.

This is another volcano-based national park in Hawaii. Haleakalā, located on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, has volcanic landscapes, sub-tropical rain forests, red and orange rock gardens and deserts, rushing waterfalls, and perfect ocean vistas. 

The centerpiece of this park is the lofty peak of Haleakalā, a 10,023-foot dormant volcano. The extreme height from the top of the volcano offers phenomenal vistas of the surrounding mountainous terrain. 

Sunrises and sunsets at the top of Haleakalā are said to be the best in the entire world. Stargazing from Haleakalā’s summit is equally impressive, with frequent clear skies. The summit is only reachable through a two-lane road that winds up the volcano.

4. Yellowstone National Park

vibrant rainbow-colored Grand Prismatic Spring
The vibrant rainbow-colored Grand Prismatic Spring ranges in temperature from 145.4 to 188.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

An icon of the American West, Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks. The park contains a wide variety of natural features and landscapes. Here you’ll find a series of extraordinary canyons, dense forests, open meadows, pristine alpine lakes, streams, numerous waterfalls, hot springs, and bursting geysers, including the infamous Old Faithful Geyser. 

The entire park is placed over the top of the Yellowstone Caldera – the largest supervolcano on the continent. In essence, the park is one massive volcano. The highly active hydrothermal activity is evidence of that. Yellowstone is home to over 10,000 of these hydrothermal features. The park boasts over 500 geysers, about half of the world’s geyser population. 

Yellowstone also has an iconic collection of wildlife, including elk, grizzly bears, American Bison, moose, and wolves.

5. Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park's Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
Katmai National Park’s Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is still mostly devoid of life even after over 110 years since the Novarupta eruption.

This fantastic national park in Alaska is home to a tundra biome full of lakes and ponds, deep valleys, glacial moraines, and four rugged stratovolcanoes. Katmai is also one of the most volcanically active national parks in the USA. The park is named after Mount Katmai, the area’s main stratovolcano. 

The park was also the site of a massive volcanic eruption in 1912. That year, the Novarupta eruption occurred, releasing 30 times more the volume of magma than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. 

Katmai National Park was established several years later, in 1918, to protect the devastated area around the eruption site. The area around the Novarupta explosion is still largely barren to this day, with little vegetation—a true testament to the destructive nature of the eruption. The ash-covered valley created after the explosion was aptly named the “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.”

Visitors also flock here to see the brown bear and salmon spectacle. Hundreds of brown bears come to the Brooks River every summer to feast on salmon jumping over Brooks Falls. It makes for a unique sight unseen at any other national park.

6. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Mount Saint Elias is seen towering in the background, with the park's icy waters in the foreground
Mount Saint Elias is seen towering in the background, with the park’s icy waters in the foreground.

This is America’s largest national park being six times the size of Yellowstone. The vast and wild area has grand and impressive landscapes everywhere you look. 

You’ll find countless glaciers, meandering rivers and streams, rocky coastal beaches, waterfalls, fjords, and four different mountain ranges here. Nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States can be found within the park.

As you might expect, the two prominent mountains in the park are Mount Wrangell and Mount St. Elias. Standing at 14,163 feet, Mount Wrangell is the only active volcano in the Wrangell Mountain Range. 

Mount St. Elias is the second-tallest mountain in the USA, standing at a staggering 18,008 feet. Only Denali is higher than St. Elias, towering at 20,130 feet. 

While many of the peaks in that mountain range are now dormant, they were, at one time, volcanically active.

7. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Lake Clark National Park's Mount Redoubt Volcano overlooks Cook Inlet with the colorful Aurora Borealis in the skies above
Lake Clark National Park’s Mount Redoubt Volcano overlooks Cook Inlet with the colorful Aurora Borealis in the skies above.

Another one of Alaska’s National Parks, Lake Clark, provides visitors with magnificent sights of a rugged, wild, and diverse landscape. You’ll find alpine tundra, boreal forests, freshwater rivers and lakes, coastal beaches, salt marshes, active volcanoes, and mountains covered with snow and glaciers. 

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is one of America’s most remote and least visited national parks. No established roads lead into Lake Clark, so the primary way to reach the area is by small plane. The park is extremely isolated from civilization and its comforting amenities. As such, the site is befitting only for those with experience in excellent backcountry skills. 

Lake Clark contains two volcanoes known as Redoubt and Iliamna. Mount Redoubt stands at 10,197 feet, while Iliamna stands at 10,016 feet. 

8. Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake and Wizard Island as viewed from the West Rim near the Lightning Springs Picnic Area
Crater Lake and Wizard Island as viewed from the West Rim near the Lightning Springs Picnic Area. NPS photo

Oregon’s Crater Lake is arguably one of America’s most beautiful, serene spots. The lake is 1,949 feet deep, making it the deepest in the USA. Crater Lake is fed only by rain and snowfall, which prevents pollutants from flowing in. As a result, the water here is among the clearest and cleanest in the world. Visitors get lost gazing at the vivid blue waters of this magnificent spot situated in the Cascade Mountain Range. 

The lake was formed due to a cataclysmic event that took place 7,700 years ago. Back then, the lake was a massive volcano known as Mount Mazama. The mountain erupted so violently that the entire volcano collapsed in on itself. This created an enormous crater that, over time, filled with water, creating Crater Lake as we see it today. 

In the middle of the lake, you’ll see the iconic “Wizard Island.” The island is known as an active cinder cone volcano which last erupted about 4,800 years ago. Boat tours of the lake also take you to Wizard Island.

9. Mount Rainier National Park

Various wildflowers grow along a stunning alpine meadow with Mount Rainier looming behind
Various wildflowers grow along a stunning alpine meadow with Mount Rainier looming behind.

This awe-inspiring national park contains icy glaciers, ancient old-growth forests, wildflower meadows, pristine alpine lakes, gushing waterfalls, and numerous other wetlands. The park’s centerpiece is the 14,411-foot Mount Rainier which stands as an icon over the state of Washington. 

Mount Rainer, an active stratovolcano, is the tallest mountain in the Cascade Volcanic Arc. It’s the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States. Mount Rainier also has 25 named glaciers, more than any mountain in the continental United States. 

The mountain is one of the most easily accessible volcanic national parks thanks to its proximity to major cities such as Seattle and Tacoma. However, this makes it one of the nation’s most dangerous and high-risk volcanoes. The mountain’s massive amount of ice, frequent underground earthquakes, hydrothermal system, and great height pose a significant danger to the surrounding communities should the volcano erupt. 

The mountain, though, has remained largely silent for the past 500 years and isn’t expected to erupt again during our lifetime. 

10. Death Valley National Park

A hiker in the bottom left of this photo is barely seen climbing up from the massive Ubehebe Crater
A hiker in the bottom left of this photo is barely seen climbing up from the massive Ubehebe Crater. NPS photo

Death Valley National Park is a land of extremes. There is a steady drought in this arid landscape. Summer temperatures frequently exceed 110°F. The world record for the highest air temperature was recorded here at a scorching 134°F.

Despite the extreme heat of the park, a magnificent landscape full of rugged canyons, meadows packed with wildflowers, and snow-covered mountains and dunes are all found here.

The volcanic side of Death Valley, though, is often overlooked. Death Valley’s Ubehebe Crater is located in the park’s northern section. The crater is a large maar volcano 600 feet deep and half a mile across. The crater was created due to a powerful volcanic steam explosion that occurred about 2,100 years ago. 

The Ubehebe Crater can be easily viewed from the parking area around the rim. However, the hike to the bottom of the crater is the ideal way to see it. The hike to the bottom is a 1 ½ mile round-trip trail leading past various smaller craters, including Little Hebe.

Final Thoughts

There are tons of outstanding volcanic national parks to visit across the American West. Many of these astonishing locations contain volcanic features without people even realizing it. 

Visitors to parks like Katmai and Death Valley are often unaware that volcanoes are present and have erupted violently in the past. Some of these parks, though, have volcanic incidents that are far more evident. Locations like Hawai’i Volcanoes and Yellowstone have geologic and volcanic activity happening right in front of visitors’ eyes. 

Active volcanoes in national parks, like Mount Lassen and Mount Rainier, are sleeping giants. Though scientists don’t anticipate them erupting in the near future, they will one day spring back to life, likely causing devastation to the surrounding landscape and communities.

Despite the destructive power of such volcanoes, they are undoubtedly sites of immense beauty and wonder. With such a wide variety of national parks with volcanoes, there’s no reason not to visit at least once in your lifetime! 

Want a FREE complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!

national parks map and list - printable checklis
Free Downloadable NP List & Maps

About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

Let us know what you think about our content and if you have any questions, suggestions, or have any favorite memories or tips you would like to share. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Travels! Sandy

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