National parks are areas set aside by a national government for preservation and conservation purposes. Often, these places have high educational, historical, geological, ecological, biological, or other important scientific value. Most national parks offer rich landscapes in their natural state and are brimming with unique features and abundant plants and wildlife. Visitors may enjoy recreational activities at most locations. These national treasures stand as symbols of beauty and national pride. When folks think of national parks in the USA, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite often come to mind. However, there are so many others that make a big impression. If you can visit them all, please do, as each is spectacular. Here are four on our list of not-to-be-missed national parks!
- Acadia National Park – (Est. 1916) Come hike enchanting forest trails and witness breathtaking ocean views along Maine’s beautiful rocky coastline. Acadia National Park protects the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands on the U.S. Atlantic coast. The park includes 47,000 acres of recreation area mainly on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, 27 miles of historic motor roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads. Absorb information on the Wabanaki Heritage and culture, discover an abundance of animals in their natural environment to include the Peregrine Falcon, and visit Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Summertime is spectacular, but the less crowded fall season is preferred for people who seek solitude in this picturesque park.
- Bryce Canyon – (Est. 1928) A trip here is best described as magical. Come see Utah’s red and pink cliffs and experience spectacular sunrises and endless vistas at this geological wonderland. Bryce Canyon National Park is home to the greatest number of hoodoos, or irregular columns of hard and soft rock, on earth. Situated along a high plateau at the top of the Grand Staircase is a series of colorful sedimentary rock layers that extend from Bryce to the Grand Canyon. Summertime is often the best time to visit Bryce Canyon to take advantage of the warm weather and activities such as camping, hiking, horseback riding, photography, and more. Rangers suggest using the free park shuttle bus that offers eight stops inside the park. The unique landscape sculpted by nature reveals an ancient lake and floodplain system which first appeared 50 million years ago.
- Olympic National Park – (Est. 1938) Which do you prefer, forest, coastal, or mountain scenery? Now you don’t have to choose. You can see them all in this incredible natural wilderness park. Come explore this exciting Washington State national park that encompasses nearly a million acres of diverse landscape. Boating, fishing, tide pooling, camping, and hiking are some of the many great things to do here. Be sure to bring your camera to capture photos of the high mountain peaks, lush rain forest, and broad sandy beaches. Don’t forget to take advantage of the night sky program to capture a glimpse of Olympics’ starry skies.
- Saguaro National Park – (Est. 1994) Come see the largest cacti in the U.S. for which the park and desert are named. This southern Arizona park has two sections located on either side of the city of Tucson. This unique Sonoran Desert environment consists of 917,716 acres and features Signal Hill Trail that leads to petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam people. Visitors to the eastern Rincon Mountain District may enjoy a trip down a loop road known as Cactus Forest Drive that offers outstanding views of the desert landscape. The eastern side is larger and more mountainous and offers backpacking options, whereas the western boasts a denser Saguaro Forest. The park contains six distinct biomes, diverse wildlife, and vegetation uniquely adapted to the varying climates of the region. Observe roadrunners, horned lizards, Gila monsters, kangaroo rats, and more, plus hundreds of species of birds.
Bear in mind that most of the National Parks charge entrance fees or offer recreational passes and some may be purchased online and in advance. Before buying a pass, note that the National Park Service, an agency of the United States federal government that manages all national parks and most national monuments, offers some fee-free days at participating parks. Upcoming free days include Thursday, August 4, for the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act; Saturday, September 24, for National Public Lands Day; and Friday, November 11 for Veterans Day 2022. The Senior Pass, for U.S. residents 62 years of age plus, provides discounts at National Parks and other federal recreation sites. Additionally, members of the U.S. military are eligible for military passes. Visit https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks-state.htm to learn more.
What’s your favorite national park? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.