They’ve been called “America’s best idea,” and it’s hard to argue given how much natural beauty the national parks preserve. There are 60 officially designated national parks across the United States and territories and the National Park System covers more than 84 million acres. With all that space, it’s hard to pick just a few parks to highlight, but you can’t go wrong with these favorites.
It became a national park in 1872, 44 years before there even was a National Park Service, and it may very well be the first designated national park in the world. Covering more than 2 million acres in three states (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho), Yellowstone features crowd favorites such as Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. There’s also a thriving bison population, along with many other types of wildlife and a huge amount of geothermal activity. Plus, Grand Teton National Park is nearby and combines very well with Yellowstone in terms of trip planning.
A wondrous sight to behold, the Grand Canyon runs for 277 miles through Arizona, carved out by the Colorado River. While the North Rim closes for the winter, the South Rim is open year-round. The park provides an almost endless array of activities, from rafting to hiking to skydiving and even an ultramarathon. For those less inclined toward physical activity, there are helicopter and plane tours over the canyon. Camping out on either rim is also a popular option. The North Rim reopens May 15.
Great Smoky Mountains
On the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, this park attracted more than 11 million visitors in 2017, nearly twice the amount of people who visited the runner-up, Grand Canyon National Park. With all kinds of fluctuations in elevation, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts a wide diversity of plant and animal life. There’s some type of flower in bloom basically year-round, and synchronous fireflies put on a natural light show around May and June. The 11-mile Cades Cove loop features historic buildings and a variety of wildlife and is the most popular area of the park.
Featuring Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the East Coast and one of the first places in the U.S. to see sunrise each morning, Acadia is the oldest designated national park east of the Mississippi River. Covering several islands off the coast of Maine, the park is an excellent destination for birdwatchers and rewards hikers with stunning ocean views. The area was first inhabited by the Wabanaki people and later became the site of the first French missionary colony in America. To reduce summertime traffic congestion, the National Park Service is working on a new transportation plan to keep the park a beautiful and enjoyable destination.
The highlight, of course, is the 20,310-foot-tall mountain which is the highest peak in North America and gives the park its name. But over more than 6 million acres, there is much to explore. Along the 92-mile road the traverses the park, visitors can see a diversity of wildlife, including caribou and several bear species. The topography features tundra, taiga forest, lakes, glaciers and mountains. For adventurous spirits, dog-mushing and heli-skiing are popular activities.
There are another 55 national parks to explore, so contact us to plan an adventure.