There are close to 500 National Parks in the United States; 63 of those parks are considered “the elite,” the crown jewels of America, because Congress selected them as especially important. These elite national parks see thousands of visitors, with some seeing one million+ visitors every year.
We are shifting into higher consciousness and creating stronger connections with nature; we are more outside than before, and this is the perfect time to visit one of these gems. Below is a list of elite national parks located in states that have legalized cannabis, with a bit of added information to help plan your trip(s).
National Park Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Fly into Honolulu Airport to visit this elite destination. It’s located on the Island of Hawaii, 96 miles away from Kailua-Kona and 30 miles from Hilo. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park receives over 1.2 million visitors per year, and two of the world’s most active volcanoes can be found there, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.
Things to consider before visiting: Visitors say that the best time to visit is during the off-peak season because there are fewer people, and visit the park just before dusk because it’s the best time to see the lava. But before going, check for lava flow closures.
Cannabis legality: Hawaii is a medically legal state and allows those 21 and older with medical cards from their states to shop for cannabis in Hawaii medical dispensaries.
National Park Washington
Mount Rainier National Park: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma Airport to visit this elite refuge, receiving over 1.5 million visitors per year. Mount Rainier is an active volcano located in central Washington state. It is the most glacial peak in the U.S. Mount Rainier has five rivers traveling through/around and is recognized for its subalpine wildflower meadows.
Things to consider before visiting: There are five entrances to this park – remember where you decided to enter and park. Visitors say leaving your pet at home is best because dogs, for example, are not allowed on trails or park waters. Check the weather because it may be warm on the ground, but things get colder on the mount.
Cannabis legality: Washington state legalized recreational cannabis years ago and has some great cannabis grown from that magical soil. Visitors 21 and older can shop for cannabis in Washington-based dispensaries.
National Park Montana
Glacier National Park: Fly into the airport built for this elite wilderness, known as the “crown of the continent,” the Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, MT. This park receives over 3 million visitors per year and preserves 1 million acres (about the area of Rhode Island) of glacier-carved peaks and valleys. There are over 700 miles of trail here, and visitors call the park: “a paradise for the adventurous seeking wilderness steeped in human history.”
Things to consider before visiting: Visitors say that for most people, visiting June-September is best because it’s a must to drive the: Going to the Sun Road and exploring both sides of the continental divide. As someone who visited Montana and parts of the park in April, I agree with the June-September recommendation. It’s also recommended to bring bear spray because this park is home to the largest of both black and grizzly bears.
Cannabis Legality: Recently, I toured Montana’s tourism and cannabis scene and was so impressed. Montana legalized recreational cannabis and welcomes visitors 21 and up to shop in their dispensaries for some things that I’m sure haven’t been seen before.
National Park Missouri
Gateway Arch National Park: Fly into St. Louis Airport in St. Louis, MO, to visit the elite Gateway Arch, the world’s tallest arch that receives over 1.2 million visitors per year. Here, visitors can travel up to the top of the arch and take in majestic views from the observation deck. Fun fact: The arch reflects St. Louis’ role during the Westward Expansion in the nineteenth century and is also a memorial to Thomas Jefferson and Dred Scott.
Things to consider before visiting: Visitors say to plan ahead for parking. As someone who has visited this national park, I agree with this recommendation. Consider leaving these prohibited items behind: knives, blades over 4 inches, brass knuckles, cups/containers with no lids, and drones.
Cannabis Legality: Missouri legalized recreational cannabis recently. Visitors 21 and older can shop at Missouri-based cannabis dispensaries.
National Park New Mexico
White Sands National Park: Fly into El-Paso International Airport to visit this elite getaway that receives just over 750,000 visitors per year. Known as one of the greatest wonders of the world, White Sands National Park rises from the heart of the Tularosa Basin, is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, and is the world’s largest gypsum dune field (a rare constituent of sand).
Things to consider before visiting: Visitors say to check for missile testing before visiting and to be prepared for multiple stops; the U.S Border Patrol has multiple checkpoints throughout. It is recommended to check the temperatures because they can be extremely hot, maybe too hot to visit the park.
Cannabis Legality: New Mexico legalized recreational cannabis a few years ago, so visitors 21 and older can shop New Mexico-based cannabis dispensaries.
National Park United States Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands National Park: Fly into St. Thomas to visit this elite Caribbean paradise in St. John. Visiting here from the States requires no passport for U.S Citizens. USVI National Park receives just over 300,000 visitors per year and is known for protecting some of the Caribbean’s last tropical dry rainforests. Historical treasures: stories of Taino people and enslaved and free Africans.
Things to consider before visiting: Visitors recommend going when it’s not hurricane season (July-Oct) and visiting in December, January, and February. As someone who spent an extended period on a neighboring island, Puerto Rico, I agree with this recommendation: no hurricanes and less heat.
Cannabis Legality: Visitors who are 18 years and older can buy medical cannabis in the US Virgin Islands with temporary medical cards and are able to buy up to three ounces of medical marijuana every 15 days.
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Veronica Castillo is known as the Traveling Cannabis Writer. Her body of work includes educational and informative insights on cannabis and various plant medicines, and she travels the country to provide insight on cannabis friendly travel. She is a collaborator, connector, content creator, and traveler that specialized in bringing to light the hidden gems in the plant space. Follow her journey: #travelingcannabiswriter.