The United States is home to some of the most awe-inspiring natural landscapes and formations in the world. From towering mountains and deep canyons to crystalline lakes and lush forests, the diversity of nature across America’s national parks system is unparalleled. If you’re looking to experience some of the country’s most spectacular wilderness areas first-hand, here are five awesome national parks you simply must visit.
Yellowstone National Park
As the world’s first national park established in 1872, Yellowstone needs no introduction. Located primarily in Wyoming but also extending into Montana and Idaho, the park contains half of the world’s hydrothermal features, including the legendary Old Faithful geyser. In addition to hot springs and vibrantly colored thermal pools, Yellowstone is also home to incredible waterfalls, vast lakes, deep canyons, alpine rivers, and a wide array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, and herd upon herd of bison.
Grand Canyon National Park
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, seeing the Grand Canyon’s immense scale and dramatic layers of colorful rock formations in person needs to be on every traveler’s bucket list. No photograph can truly capture the feeling of standing on the canyon’s rim gazing across miles of chasms revealing millions of years of geological history cut ever deeper by the Colorado River. Some of the best viewpoints are found along the North Rim, which sees far fewer visitors than the South Rim area.
Yosemite National Park
From the sheer granite faces of El Capitan and Half Dome rising over the Valley floor to the towering Giant Sequoias of Mariposa Grove to the ribbons of waterfalls cascading through the park, Yosemite packs in jaw-dropping sights around every corner. As one of America’s most popular national parks, go to Yosemite prepared for crowds if visiting during peak times but also moments of welcome isolation on the many miles of trails. For a life-long memory, hike the Mist Trail to stand dripping inside the spray of Vernal and Nevada Falls.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Almost 70 miles west of Key West Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park feels worlds apart thanks to its extreme remoteness and subtropical climate. This 100-square-mile archipelago consists of 7 small islands, mostly uninhabited, that you can explore by ferry or even seaplane from Key West. Known for world-class snorkeling, kayaking, camping, and fishing as well as a rich history as a 19th-century fort, visiting Dry Tortugas allows you to play pirate among shipwrecks, look for sea turtles and sea birds and also relax on beaches where not more than a couple dozen others will join you. Even though it seems remote, you can find reasonable airfare to Florida from just about anywhere to start this unique island-hopping adventure.
Glacier National Park, Montana
As the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park encompasses over 1 million acres of awe-inspiring Rocky Mountain Wilderness dotted with azure alpine lakes and threaded by scenic roads crossing high mountain passes. Over 700 miles of hiking trails allow visitors to experience Glacier’s pristine backcountry while boat tours and historic lodges provide comfort and civilization. But the main attraction remains Glacier’s namesakes – the park still has 25 glaciers today (down from 150 in 1850), which create spectacular valley terrain displaying the inexorable forces of nature. Although wildfires and receding glacial melt pose environmental challenges, Glacier remains one of the country’s most sublime mountain playgrounds.
Exploring America’s national parks allows you to encounter incredibly diverse landscapes, from fiery geysers to mysterious subtropical islands to the last remaining glaciers in the lower 48 states. So, whether you seek outdoor adventure, historical curiosities, or a sensory experience like no other, the national parks provide something for everyone. Just pick a direction and go – the wonders await!
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