Six National Parks With Nearby Airports

The option to fly makes trips to natural preserves easier and more compelling.

Yellowstone National Park covers 2.2 million acres. [Courtesy: National Park Service]

There are 423 national park sites in the U.S., ranging from the vast Yellowstone National Park to battlefields and historic monuments, as well as the latest addition to the list: the home of civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers in Jackson, Mississippi.

Of the sites, 63 have “national park” as part of their official names, and this is the category from which we chose our list of six with nearby airports that make them ideal destinations for general aviation pilots. Of course, there are many more that are just as flyable.

The idea is to avoid being overwhelmed by the number of choices and just start planning visits. See how many you can fly to in a year, and then keep going.

Be sure to check the National Park Service website for information about park conditions, temporary road closures, guided tours, and suggestions that can help you plan the visit.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Airport (KWYS), West Yellowstone, Montana

This is the biggie, the top dog, the first national park, having opened in 1872, and the one people tend to think of first. It covers 2.2 million acres and has a diversity of wildlife and landscapes, and a wealth of geysers. The airport has an 8,400-foot runway and sits only about three miles from the west entrance to the park. The airport closes for the winter, so check its status before planning to fly in. 

[Courtesy: National Park Service]

Glacier National Park

Glacier Park International Airport (KFCA), Kalispell, Montana

Known for Going to the Sun Mountain—a peak of more than 9,600 feet in the Lewis Range—the park also has a road of the same name with dramatic scenery. Hikers can explore more than 700 miles of trails. During the summer, Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d'Oreille tribal members share knowledge of their history and culture as part of the “Native America Speaks” program, which marks its 40th anniversary this year.

[Courtesy: National Park Service]

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park Airport (KGCN), Tusayan, Arizona

Just about everyone wants to see this magnificent hole in the ground. To make the most of your flying privileges and the airport’s convenient location, it is best to avoid visiting during busy times like spring break or during peak hours in the summer. Lines at entry points tend to get long between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. The airport is two miles from the park entrance and seven miles from the South Rim, which is currently open (the North Rim is still closed for the winter season). 

[Courtesy: National Park Service]

Everglades National Park

Miami Homestead General Aviation Airport (X51), Homestead, Florida

Boating, fishing, and paddling canoes and kayaks are among the popular activities for visitors, who need to be especially careful to respect the many species that live in the area. The instruction to “stay at least 15 feet from alligators and crocodiles” leaps off the page listing various warnings about wildlife. The airport is less than 10 miles from the park’s eastern entrance. 

[Courtesy: National Park Service]

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Kent State University Airport (1G3), Kent, Ohio

Known as a refuge for native wildlife and plants, the park also has a transportation history theme. Visitors can walk or ride bikes on a trail that is part of the old Ohio and Erie Canal towpath. The park’s trails total more than 125 miles and include part of the statewide Buckeye Trail. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway offers rides through the park on a vintage train from the 1940s.

[Courtesy: National Park Service]

Acadia National Park

Hancock County/Bar Harbor Airport (KBHB), Trenton, Maine

It’s less than 10 miles from the airport to the park, which borders bustling Bar Harbor but offers quiet escapes on miles of forest hiking trails. Acadia is a particular joy for bicyclists, who can tour for hours on the park’s 45 miles of carriage, a gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., built between 1913 and 1940. You can also ride or drive up Cadillac Mountain for dramatic views of the harbor and surrounding hills.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4
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