1. Zion - 2. Acadia - 3. Denali - 4. Haleakala - 5. Shenandoah
America's National Parks contain some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes and many of the country's most iconic. In these vast areas, some as big as European countries, you'll find fantastic wildlife as well as every possible terrain imaginable, plus some that are quite simply beyond imagination. Pull up to a National Park kiosk and you know you are in for something special, and with nearly 60 parks to choose from, your only difficulty will be deciding where to venture first.
Looking for a Wild West landscape straight out of The Lone Ranger or Thelma and Louise? Try the famous National Parks of the Colorado Plateau. Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capital Reef and Zion; all boast their own unique vistas, characterised by imposing rock formations, carved over millions of years by the elements. Monument Valley, whilst not a National Park is also high on most people’s bucket list and instantly recognisable from the silver screen.
Want to get closer to nature? How about canoeing through the mangrove swamps of the Everglades National Park, looking for crocodiles and manatees? Or taking a bat tour at Carlsbad Caverns? Or driving through Yosemite, keeping an eye out for bears? The options are endless. But the best way to experience the National Parks is often on foot, with some stunning hiking trails from 20 minutes to two days just waiting to be walked.
But it’s not all about action packed days on National Park holidays. Its about learning too. Discover the fascinating cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans in Mesa Verde National Park. Find out about the awe-inspiring power of volcanoes at Yellowstone, the USA’s oldest National Park which contains half the world’s geothermal features. Or see two billion years of geological history exposed in the Grand Canyon. Wherever you choose to go, get ready to be inspired.
Why not explore our favourite National Park destinations
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park is located in southern Utah and is famous for its fantastic rock formations and towering sandstone cliffs. The dramatic and inspiring landscape attracts visitors for hiking, climbing and canyoning through the maze of deep narrow sandstone canyons hemmed in by the tall canyon walls. A highlight is the Zion Narrows, a spectacular gorge carved out by the Virgin River running through the park, a place where the walls rise 2,000 – 3,000 ft. above the canyon floor.
As visitors gaze up at the steep canyon walls in the park they will notice the variety of life growing on the steep cliffs. Nicknamed the ‘hanging gardens of Zion’ these masses of ferns, mosses and wildflowers seem to thrive in this precarious environment and take their sustenance from the water and minerals seeping through the sandstone from the mesas above. There’s also a great variety of wildlife to be spotted in the park despite the arid climate, and this includes many birds, jack rabbits, porcupines and coyotes.
Much of Zion National Park is accessible by car and the 6 mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is not to be missed. Zion Canyon itself can only be visited by the free shuttle which operates from late March to October. This starts at the Zion Visitor Center where there are also interesting exhibits to be seen and plenty of background information available.
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