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

yellowstone-national-park
Pic by @mickys.himself

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.

Hiking Trails

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

Activities

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

grand-canyon
Pic by @wanderlustphotography

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.

Hiking Trails

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
  • Hermit Trail

Activities

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
  • Havasu Falls
  • North Rim

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

crater-lake
Pic by @nationalparkgeek

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.

Hiking Trails

The landscape surrounding Crater Lake (and the clean air) make for a great day hiking destination. Here are our picks:

  • Wizard Island
  • Mount Scott
  • Pacific Crest Trail section

Activities

  • Star-gazing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Boat Tour

Points of Interest

  • Wizard Island
  • Plaikni Falls
  • Crater Lake Lodge

Denali National Park, Alaska

denali-alaska
Pic by @fleur_de_lis_80

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.

Hiking Trails

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
  • Teklanika Trail

Activities

  • Attend a ranger-led dog-sledding mushing demonstration
  • Bird and Animal Watching
  • Flightseeing

Points of Interests

  • Mount McKinley
  • Stony Hill Overlook
  • Polychrome

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

isle-royale

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.

Hikes

  • Greenstone Ridge Trail
  • Scoville Point Loop
  • Island Traverse

Activites

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
  • Animal-watching

Highlights

  • Windigo
  • Rock Harbor
  • Backcountry

 

Interested in seeing America’s National Parks in the flesh? Check out our USA Tours today!

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