It can’t be denied that the U.S. has some of the most awesome national parks around. If you’re going to have a road trip or bus it around the States – then spend some dreamy afternoons exploring some these eight parks we’ve prepared for you.
The best part about such a venture is that you don’t need to worry about $10-$30 entrance fees wherever you go. Instead, you can just get an annual National Parks pass that lets you enter any of the 59(!) national parks for $80. But let’s start with the grandest of all…
#1 The Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
You can’t have a list of awesome national parks – no, you can’t have a list of must-see U.S. landmarks without including the Grand Canyon National Park. No amount of panoramic shots on high-end cameras can truly capture the spectacular depth, color, and layers of the canyon – the dream of every hiker. Grab yourself a couple of bottles of water (you’ll need them), and enjoy stargazing from the innards of this American Colossus.
#2 Katmai National Park, Alaska
Awesome national parks don’t need a massive distinguishing feature to feel special (like a canyon, humongous trees, or even a super-volcano as we’ll see later on). Just enjoy the untouched beauty of the North American brown bear’s turf, along with the snowy mountains in the distance and blue lakes that will make your eyes glisten with delight. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes (the site of a massive volcano eruption over a hundred years ago) is something that you should definitely add to your itinerary.
#3 Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California
The General Sherman Tree has its residence within the park, a sequoia that dwarfs even the massive Blue Whale in comparison. While the 2100-year old, 83-meter tree is truly a sight to behold, it certainly doesn’t detract from the fact that you’ll be standing in a forest of giants. I mean, they literally named it “Giant Forest” as if we weren’t already aware! To top it all off, further along in Kings Canyon lies General Grant, which is actually the second largest tree in the world after Sherman.
#4 Redwood National and State Parks, California
While we’re still in California, we thought we’d include another one of its awesome national parks filled with its own set of giants. The redwood trees in the areas are even taller than Sherman and Grant, and can reach impressive heights of up to 107 meters! If you need a reminder of just how small we are in tis world, glance up towards the top of a tree. Finish up with a delicious picnic at the High Bluff Overlook to get a sweeping view of the lovely Cali coast.
#5 Zion National Park, Utah
If the Grand Canyon palette can become a bit dull amid its various shades of red, Zion National Park will impress you with an extensive selection of color. Each shot of the landscape will remind you of those pretty paintings they sell at county fairs in various countries. Or maybe something by Bob Ross. Either way:
- Take the time to rock-hop through The Narrows at the west end of the park (bring waterproof boots!);
- Try and brave Angel’s Landing before realizing you are not prepared and stopping at Scout’s Lookout;
- Head over to the (cleverly-named) Observation Point for a hugely satisfying, sweeping view of the park;
#6 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
We mentioned a super-volcano at some point in the beginning, no? Well, we haven’t forgotten about it. The sixth on our list of awesome national parks holds within it the Yellowstone Caldera, which is basically the mouth of a huge volcano (think in terms of tens of square kilometers!).
Don’t worry, though. This thing hasn’t erupted in about 640,000 years (though leave it to tabloids to assume every other earthquake coming from the area is a doomsday scenario). However, Yellowstone does have cool erupting geysers (two-thirds of all geysers in the world, in fact). This includes the world-famous Old Faithful which can blow its lid up to 52 meters in the air!
Aside from the angry, over-sized water fountains, you have a variety of beautiful hot springs scattered across the park. They almost look like the eyes of ancient creatures buried just beneath the ground. The Grand Prismatic Spring, in particular, holds true to its name and is a rainbow of delight to look at.
#7 Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
We’ve written about stunning forests before, but aside from the Crooked Forest in Poland, we don’t think we’ve seen a weirder one than this. Stepping into the National Park, you get the feeling that you’ve landed on the Moon after a giant hand splashed a dab of blue paint onto the landscape. We’re talking, of course, about the Blue Mesa section of the park.
After soaking in the view from the mesa, head over to the Jasper, Crystal, and Rainbow Forests (no, you’re not heading into a fantasy adventure). The tree logs in these areas have been infused with quartz, amethyst, and a myriad of other precious stones that give off a unique palette of colors. Unfortunately, travelers have been stealing from this natural treasure, so many of the best samples ave been lost. Don’t be like the others!
#8 Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
We’re going underground with this one! Seriously, though. We’ve seen lots of awesome national parks over the years, but have you ever heard of an entire system of caves turned into a national park? Neither did Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, so he just went ahead and established the first one in the entire world.
The cave has at least 220 km of explored passageways, though obviously, you wouldn’t want to get lost inside. It’s worth to mention the unique “boxwork” mineral structure within the caves, that give them the appearance of a honeycomb. A guided tour of the place will fill you with wonder, though the outside is just as cozy to explore. Keep an eye out for the roaming bison!