The United States of America is a massive country, stretching "from sea to shining sea." Although there are many reasons to visit America, some of my favorite places to visit are its national parks. Currently, America has sixty national parks, and all worth seeing for their own reasons. For this blog post, I'm featuring some national parks (in no particular order) I think people should visit during their time in the US.
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: the Grand Canyon is one of the most famous naturally occurring features in the world. Pictures do not do this national park justice, because it is unbelievably stunning. Hiking here is unique, because you start the trail by going down and finish it by climbing back up!
Photo by Alan Carrillo on Unsplash
Must-see: Hike to the Phantom Ranch and spend a night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It is only accessible by hiking, rafting, or mule. The recommended way to get there is by taking the trails (either South Kaibab Trail or Bright Angel Trail). Beware, though! It gets extremely hot at the bottom of the canyon, so pack lots of food and water. The hike can also be quite strenunous and is not recommended to inexperienced hikers.
Another famous national park, and with justification. California is one of the US's most geographically diverse states because it spans so far north and south. Yosemite is a great place to visit because of the trails, views, and location.
We often get so caught up in the work and play and constant planning and progress of our lives, that we forget to take time to appreciate what is in front of us. Spending time in a national park often brings people a deeper sense of appreciation, whether it be for a place, an experience, a wildlife sighting, a friend, a family member, or even an idea or a chapter in one's life. We can find appreciation anywhere, though, and often just by taking a moment to pause and be thankful, we will find that our whole day seems brighter! What is your favorite way to connect with appreciation?
Must-see: If you enjoy challenging hikes, then you have to do the Half Dome day hike in Yosemite. The trail itself is 14-16 miles round trip, so experienced hikers only. The most famous part of the trails is climbing the cables, which is two rows of cables that allow hikers to climb the Half Dome without rock climbing gear. Even if you decide to not do the full hike, there is still so much to see along the way that you will not be bored by a shorter hike, especially if you take the Mist Falls trail to see the waterfalls.
Yellowstone spans the borders of three states. Of course, visitors should check out Old Faithful, the famous geyser. Fun fact: Yellowstone is actually situated over a supervolcano, although it had not erupted in 640,000 years.
Spectacular Cerulean Geyser
Must-see: Everyone knows to visit Old Faithful, but Yellowstone is known for so much more than that. The Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most photographed landmarks at the park. The bright colors around the edges are from bacteria that thrive off the rich minerals and heat. The center cannot support life, however, and gets its bright blue color because the water scatters the blue wavelengths of light.
Acadia is New England's only national park. It runs along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Cadillac Mountain is provides a great summit for watching the sunrise come up over the horizon on the water.
Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine
Must-see: Bike or drive around Park Loop Road for a great tour of Acadia. Popular stops along the way include Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff. You can make an entire day out of this mini road trip. It's recommended to pack your own lunch and snacks, as there aren't stops for you to buy food along the way. In addition, cell service can be spotty, so be sure to invest in a map.
Located a bit south of Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons are an incredible site. Take pictures of the reflection of the jagged mountains in the lake, explore the wildlife, and backpack up the mountains!
Must-see: Get up close with the wildlife at Grand Tetons National Park with a safari. This allows you to see moose, elk, bison, wolves, black bears, grizzly bears, bald eagles, and more in their natural habitats. Companies like Eco Tour Adventures offer half day, full day, and two day excursions.
Located two hours from Seattle, Olympic National Park is like a place from a fantasy world. The lush, green forests are perfect for camping and hikes. Feel free to partake in biking, boating, fishing, and tide pooling. And at night, don't forget to look up at the beautiful starry night sky.
. . The forest is for me a temple-a cathedral of tree canopies and dancing light. . . Dr. Jane Goodall . Ranger Megan personal adventures . [Photo-A trail leading into a coastal rainforest] . #trailtothirdbeach #coastalrainforest #coastalstrip #worldforestday #onp #nps #doi #pnw #olympicnationalpark #usinterior #optoutside #getupandgetout
Must-see: It may rain a lot in Washington state, but when the skies do finally clear, it is a site to behold. On clear nights, join a Master Observer and use telescopes to view the stars and moon. You can view the 2018 schedule here.
Angel's Landing is the most famous hike in Zion, and it definitely is not for the feint of heart. It's not a very long trail, but the sheer drop offs on the sides of the trails are definitely shocking. Even if you pass on Angel's Landing, Zion is a beautiful park that everyone should visit.
Must-see: If Angel's Landing isn't for you, perhaps try the Riverside Walk. Explore along the Virgin River by walking this 2.2 mile trail that is far less strenuous than other hikes here. This provides a relaxing alternative to the intensity of Angel's Landing.
Bike, hike, camp, explore, or dog sled through Denali--the options are endless! Alaska is one of the most beautiful states in America and Denali is a must-see if ever visiting. At night, be sure to keep an eye out for the northern lights, as you might get lucky and see them during your stay.
Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash
Must-see: One of the greatest ways to explore Denali is in the air. There are multiple companies that run air tours of Denali in a small airship, with varying prices and lengths of tours. These "flightseeing" tours are something you definitely do not want to miss during your trip to Denali.
Nothing quite compares to driving along Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road. Wind through the park's picturesque mountains and valleys for an experience unlike anything else. In addition, Lake McDonald Valley, St. Mary, and Two Medicine are some sites worth visiting. You have the options of hiking, camping, boating, and more here.
Must-see: Try a Red Bus Tour to get an authentic, historic tour on Glacier National Park. The 1930s buses were originally driven by Blackfoot Indians, and the tour is considered one of the longest running tours in the world. With eight different tour routes to choose from, there's endless possibilities for you to see around Glacier National Park.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is fantastic because it has two active volcanoes and a scenery that reflects its volcanic history. This national park has over 150 miles of hiking trails worth trying out. You can also visit the viewing area at Jaggar Museum on Crater Rim Drive.
Tomorrow, Monday, is the 10-year anniversary of the summit eruption of Kilauea Volcano! Join us and USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists at 6:15 am HST for a special sunrise Facebook Live. #AskAGeologist your question about this unparalleled eruption. 10 years, and still “glowing strong!” Photo/NPS Volunteer Janice Wei (3.16.18) #lavalake10 #newbeginnings #FindYourPark
Must-See: One of the most interesting things you can do at the park is walk through a 500-year-old lava tube. The Thurston Lava Tube or Nāhuku is a channel where lava used to flow. Don't forget to stop and listen to the birds each down the tunnel!
The Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States (ranked fourth in 2016 for number of visitors). Popular roads to drive along include Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road. In addition, some great things to do here are horseback riding, picnicking, hiking, fishing, and camping.
Unlike our friend here, who’s naturally equipped for the cold, it’s very important you carefully research and dress for conditions if you’re headed on a hike. Temperatures are set to drastically decrease starting tomorrow, with lows below zero and highs in the single digits and teens, plus wind and snow. Stay safe and have fun! (Photo: @co.mountain.girl) #rmnp
Must-see: Make your accommodation in Downtown Estes Park. There you'll find motels, inns, and hotels all at varying prices. Enjoy a multitude of restaurants, shops, and bars for you to enjoy. There's also a golf course and a river walk.
Shenandoah is the perfect park to visit for anyone who loves bird watching. With over 500 miles of trails, there are endless options for the nature and scenery you will see here in Shenandoah.
#FeatheredFriendsFridays Who wears a brilliant red hat and tweed coat, wields a mighty sword and can be found year-round in Shenandoah National Park? The Red-bellied Woodpecker sports a bright red crown on its head (whole head on the male, partial on the female), while its black and white feather pattern bears a strong resemblance to that tweed coat my mother used to make me wear. Striking and bold as those crimson heads are, the bird is actually named for the faint reddish tint on its belly. As such, Red-bellied Woodpeckers are often mistaken for Red-headed woodpeckers, which is a different, less common species. Red-bellied Woodpeckers use their sticky barbed-tip tongues (which can extend two inches past the end of their impressive beaks!) to snag insects from tree bark. They are omnivores and also enjoy fruits, nuts and seeds and cache food in tree crevices/cracks to consume during the leaner winter months. Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be a “king of the feeder” as other birds tend to respect that beak (sword)! #BirdYourWorld, #woodpecker, #redbelliedwoodpecker, #whenindoubtwearred, #shennps
Must-see: The Luray Caverns are located under the park and are the largest underground caverns on the east coast. The Great Stalacpipe Organ located here actually creates music by striking the ancient stalactites, and a wishing well can be found here. Wandering through these caverns are definitely a must for anyone visiting Shenandoah.
The Everglades are a national park unlike any other. Some parts of it are only accessibly by kayak. Just imagine seeing an alligator in its natural habitat (from a safe distance away)! You can also go biking, bird watching, boating, canoeing, fishing, and more.
Photo by Aldric RIVAT on Unsplash
Must-see: A unique way to see the Everglades is by airboat. These are boats with giant fans attacked to the back of them that propel them through the water. Companies like Captain Jack's Airboat Tour offer tours through both the mangroves and grasslands. This allows you to see the wildlife and natural beauty of the Everglades.
Exploring the Sequoia Groves is a bucket list item. These trees grow to around 76 meters/250 feet tall, but the largest one is 115 meters/379 feet tall. People often confuse Sequoias and Redwoods--the difference is Sequoias are slightly shorted but much wider. The perfect way to experience this park is to wander around these massive trees, perhaps with day hikes or backpacking.
Photo by Vladimir Kudinov on Unsplash
Must-see: Once done exploring the Sequoia groves, hop in a car and drive down the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. Along the way, be sure to stop at General Grant Tree, Boyden Cave, and Grizzly Falls.
There are so many options for exploring Arches National Park. There are over 2,000 natural sandstone arches here. When visiting, you can go horseback riding, biking, hiking, canyoneering, camping, rock climbing, and stargazing.
Must-see: To see as much of Arches National Park as you can, take a drive down Arches Scenic Drive. Popular stops along the road include Delicate Arch, Devils Garden, North Window, Double Arch, Wolfe Ranch, and more. Keep in mind, getting to some of these arches may include some hiking.
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