Published March 26, 2012
From the peaks of the Rockies to the depths of the Grand Canyon, the United States has some of the most varied and breathtaking landscapes in the world.
Nowhere is this natural beauty showcased in more spectacular fashion than within America’s 58 national parks. Millions of visitors each year flock to these vast sanctuaries to explore and appreciate the scenic deserts, mountains, valleys, lakes and forests.
With such a wide variety of landscapes and experiences to choose from, deciding on your next national park adventure can be challenging. So to help you get the most out of America’s natural wonders, here are 10 U.S. national parks that are sure to delight
Peppered with alpine lakes and vast forests set among towering mountain peaks, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado displays dramatic American landscape at its finest. This picturesque environment is also renowned for its varied wildlife, playing host to all manner of animals, birds and fish. Boasting lush meadows, sheer cliffs and over 355 miles of hiking trails, Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect location for thrill-seekers and nature-lovers alike.
Encompassing 3.4 million acres of the hottest, driest desert in the country, Death Valley National Park (in California and Nevada) is the most expansive national park in the contiguous United States. Within this parched land are spectacular natural attractions, including giant sand dunes, vast salt flats and various geological wonders. For those who can stand the heat, a trip to Death Valley can be a truly rewarding experience.
Despite its remote location in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, millions of tourists travel to Yellowstone National Park each year to marvel at its majestic peaks, vast wilderness and abundant wildlife. But the park’s main attractions are undoubtedly its hot springs, fumaroles and geysers, particularly the world-famous Old Faithful. Fishing, hiking or exploring nature trails are all ideal ways to experience this unique natural wonderland.
Since its foundation, Yosemite has been attracting tourists from around the globe with its verdant scenery and countless waterfalls. Several well-known rock formations are dotted throughout Yosemite, including the Half Dome and El Capitan.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park spans three distinct ecosystems, containing a staggering array of flora and fauna. Olympic’s terrain encompasses snow-capped mountains, undisturbed rainforests and over 60 miles of Pacific coastline beaches. Roads line the outer periphery of the park, but at its core is a vast wilderness waiting to be explored.
Great Smoky Mountains
With broad stretches of old-growth forests, hundreds of miles of scenic hiking trails and wide variety of wildlife, it’s no wonder that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee is the most visited national park in the U.S. Over 9 million tourists flock to the mountains annually to marvel at the park’s coves, waterfalls and trails, all set against the backdrop of the largest U.S. mountain range east of the Rockies. Although the park’s main arteries can become crowded during peak seasons, solitude can easily be found by venturing only a few hundred yards from the road.
Located at the very tip of Maine where America reaches into the Atlantic Ocean is a rare natural treasure of the East Coast. Attracted by the area’s natural beauty, deep forests and rocky coastline, notable visionaries such as former U.S. president Woodrow Wilson and John D. Rockefeller played integral roles in establishing this 33,000-acre park. Since its foundation, Acadia National Park has become a popular tourist attraction, drawing over 2.2 million visitors annually.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is undoubtedly among the most famous of all national parks – and with good reason. Considered a must-see tourist attraction in Arizona, the Grand Canyon’s immense size and dramatic landscape make for an unforgettable experience. The easily-accessible South Rim section offers sumptuous views and attractions, while a hike to the desolate North Rim makes for a more secluded and serene experience.
Set alongside Florida’s southern coastline, Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the world. Within these vast wetlands are interdependent ecosystems including cypress swamps and mangrove forests. Some more colorful inhabitants include crocodiles, panthers, manatees, as well as over 700 varieties of plants and 300 types of birds. It is this staggering biodiversity that prompted UNESCO to include the Everglades as a World Heritage Site.
The towering walls of Zion National Park in Utah are perhaps best experienced from the valley below. From here you can view the brilliantly colored sandstone, limestone and lava rock formations, magnificent waterfalls and shimmering emerald pools of water. Other active pursuits include hiking trails and guided tours to view the area’s impressive array of wildlife.