From the peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the valleys of the Grand Canyon, the natural wonders of the USA are wild and wonderful.
From the oldest opening in 1872 to the newest in 2020, the USA’s beloved National Parks are true icons of the country’s diverse natural frontier. This year, Yellowstone celebrates its 150th birthday with a range of events at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, with presentations by Native American scholars, a temporary Teepee village and the opportunity to meet with Tribal members.
In mark this magnificent milestone, we trek across the country and check out the ultimate outdoors to explore. Lace up your hiking boots – here are the best National Parks in the USA.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The original national park of the USA, Yellowstone is quite possibly the USA’s most iconic. Crystalline lakes, towering waterfalls, deep canyons, and stretches of grasslands fill this 9,000 square kilometre destination, spanning into the states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
Famous attractions include the geysers, hot springs, and basins. With Old Faithful Geyser and Upper Geyser Basin the most popular and where millions of visitors flock each year.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
One of the USA’s most popular parks, Rocky Mountain is as dramatic as it is beautiful. As the name suggests, the park is full of mountain peaks that stretch over 4,000 metres above the ground. These dizzying heights offer beautiful, panoramic vistas and great reflections from the surrounding lakes.
The scenery changes with the altitude, so expect lush forests, waterfalls, streams, meadows, and high mountain lakes along its 570 kilometres of hiking trails.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one for the bucket list. Nearly 5,000 square kilometres of dramatic cliffs, stretching ravines, colourful rocks, and towering canyons make up the Grand Canyon National Park.
There’s so many ways to explore the jewel of Arizona. From lookouts to white-water rafting down the Colorado River. Mule rides along the South Rim trail, to helicopter tours for an incredible bird’s eye view.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Home to North America’s tallest peak, Mt McKinley, Denali National Park is a prime example of what the stunning Alaskan wilderness has to offer.
Its mountains, glaciers, wetlands, and forests can be explored by its rugged hiking trails in the summer. In winter, skiing, snowshoeing, and dogsledding are the best way to see the park.
Denali is also an incredible destination to view wild grizzly bears, wolves, and moose in the wild.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
This World Heritage Site located on the Big Island of Hawaii is most well-known for Kīlauea, the world’s most active volcanoes that the park is centred around.
Molten lava has carved the landscape, and continues to collide with ocean waves, filling the air with steam.
Beyond the lava fields are tropical rainforests and a desert, making for a unique diversity of ecological zones.
Yosemite National Park, California
It’s California’s most famous national park and for good reason. Yosemite attracts over 4 million people a year to its towering granite peaks and stunning cascade waterfalls.
Carved into the Sierra Nevada Mountains are its iconic landmarks of El Capitan, the largest granite rock in the world, and Half Dome, the 2,700m peak that can’t be missed.
Topping it off is Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America that guarantees incredible photographs.
Zion National Park, Utah
Beautiful, multicolored rock formations and plenty of canyons formed over millions of years create the incredible Zion National Park.
The park offers a number of backcountry trails that pass many cultural sites and animal communities. From mule deer to big horn sheep, the park feels alive even with its desert location.
There are dozens of sites to discover that make Zion a photographer and hiker’s dream, such as glistening Emerald Pools under the canyon walls.
New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The newest on the National Park scene, opening in December 2020. New River Gorge in West Virginia is brimming with rich history and incredible sites.
Known to be the second oldest river in the world, New River is a natural marvel that divides the landscape. It creates extensive geological formations that offer visitors the option of strolling alongside it amongst the flora and fauna or cutting through on a white-water rafting tour.
Also don’t miss the impressive Canyon Rim, Sandstone Falls, and a stunning view of the gorge at Grandview.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Famous for its signature bluish haze that looks like smoke blanketing the landscape, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been the USA’s most visited National Park for many years running.
Another World Heritage Site, it’s a natural wonderland with its ancient mountains. It’s also steep in historical sites with many 19th and 20th century wood-framed buildings still intact.
The Southern Appalachian Mountain culture mixed with the diverse flora and fauna make the Great Smokies a worthy visit.
Looking for more inspiring Vacations & Travel stories? Try these…