From the jaw-dropping landscape of the Grand Canyon to the dramatic mountains that oversee Denali, there’s no denying that the United States National Parks are an expansive group of sites to bear witness to.
There are 59 National Parks in America that are operated by the National Parks Service (a Federal Agency within the US Department of Interior). The US Congress made Yellowstone America’s first National Park in 1872. However, in the years that followed, environmentalists including writer John Muir lobbied for wilderness preservation with the creation of several more National Parks and Monuments. This prompted the establishment of the National Parks Service by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, which consolidated the management of America’s federal parklands under one agency.
Today, the National Parks Service oversees 417 Parks and Monuments, covering more than 84 million acres and attracting more than 330 million visitors per year. With so much to see, it can be difficult to know where to start. We’ve created this guide to some of America’s National Parks to help you, with tips on what to do, where to go and what not to miss.
Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana & Wyoming
For nature, animal and outdoor lovers, America’s first National Park is the place to be! Covering more than 7500-square kilometres, you’re bound to see many of Mother Nature’s treats in every which direction.
No matter the season, some of these hikes are accessible year-round (just contact the local Rangers or Sport Hut to ask about precautions required in the winter months):
Wraith Falls Trail
West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail
Harlequin Lake Trail
For outdoor-enthusiasts, Yellowstone is the gift that keeps on giving, with plenty of activities to be enjoyed year-round.
Summer: fishing, white water rafting, horseback riding
Winter: skiing/snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing
Points of Interest
Mammoth Hot Springs
Old Faithful Geyser
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Prepare to have your senses overwhelmed when you visit the Grand Canyon. At 446km long, 29km wide and 1.6km deep (not to mention the unique combination of geologic colours), the Grand Canyon is a massive sight to take in and definitely worth spending a couple of days exploring.
Over 250 people are rescued from the canyon each year, so if you’re hoping to include some hikes make sure that you’ve planned ahead!
Bright Angel Trail
Cape Royal Trail
There’s a lot to be admired at the Grand Canyon – if we’re being really honest, simply enjoying the view can last for hours as you take it all in! However, if you’ve got the time to do a little bit more, here are some of our suggestions:
Ride a mule into the Canyon
Sightsee on-board the Grand Canyon Railway
Raft along the Colorado River
Points of Interest
Grand Canyon Skywalk
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Home to the deepest lake (594m deep) in the USA, Crater Lake National Park is guaranteed to inspire awe. Crater Lake was formed after the eruption of Mount Mazama at approximately 5700BC, where pumice and ash was catapulted into the air where it soon collapsed, leaving behind a large caldera. Eventually rain and snowmelt accumulated in the caldera, forming a lake – Crater Lake.
The landscape surrounding Crater Lake (and the clean air) make for a great day hiking destination. Here are our picks:
Pacific Crest Trail section
Points of Interest
Crater Lake Lodge
Denali National Park, Alaska
See America’s tallest mountain as you try to spot the Alaskan Big 5 (moose, bears, dall sheep, caribou and wolves) in Denali National Park. There is plenty to see and do in the state’s first National Park, which was established in 1917 as Mount McKinley National Park and renamed Denali National Park in 1980.
There aren’t many maintained trails in Denali, so hiking is really a connecting-with-nature experience here. Just make sure you’re well-planned and prepared!
Horseshoe Lake Trail
Wonder Lake Trail
Attend a ranger-led dog-sledding mushing demonstration
Bird and Animal Watching
Points of Interests
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Despite being difficult to reach in comparison to other US National Parks (Isle Royale can only be accessed by boat or seaplane), a trip to this secluded park is well worth the effort. Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers unparalleled solitude, adventures and scenic beauty for travellers. However, a trip to this rugged, isolated island needs to be planned well in advance, as it closes between November and mid-April due to extreme winter conditions.
Greenstone Ridge Trail
Scoville Point Loop
Surrounded by nothing but nature, there is plenty to be seen and done in Isle Royale!
Scuba Dive in lake Superior
Canoe in Tobin Harbour
Interested in seeing America’s National Parks in the flesh? Check out our USA Tours today!