With travel put on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19, National Parks have been the perfect refuge for local road trips. These are a few of the 62 National Parks worth making the trek for, and to help temporarily fulfill our wanderlust.
When you think of a landscape in the American Southwest, Moab, Utah, easily fills that image. With over 2,000 arches to explore, this sandstone saturated setting is an adventurer’s dream. Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, Double Arch, and Park Avenue are just a few of the many recommended sights that will awe you in the desert.
It might feel like you landed on a different planet when visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The built-in walking paths spill out into expansive contours of unique rock formations. Take in the impressive spires and spend the day feeling out of this world. There’s a good chance you might even run into Bighorn Sheep, but hopefully from a distance.
Walking among the hoodoos on the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail is a surreal experience. You will be thrust into the thick depths of the orange canyon, all while taking in the up close and mesmerizing perspectives of the crusted compositions. It all culminates to a jaw-dropping view of Thor’s hammer.
It’s all about the dramatic views. “Island in the Sky” is a very suitable name for an area of this park. Overlooks will have you peering into the cores of craters that look like huge imprints left behind from something extraterrestrial. For one of the most epic settings in the National Park System, make sure to take in the scene of Mesa Arch, an easy 0.7 mile trail.
When you ask someone where they want to travel, one of the answers will likely be, “The Grand Canyon.” As you amble towards one of the rims, you will take in one of the most monumental panoramas you’ll ever see. The first thing one does when seeing the Grand Canyon is to simply stare and marvel at this wonder. Take things to the next level with a rafting trip on the Colorado River.
If you are seeking solitude and yearning for the mountains, Grand Teton might be the perfect escape. The Teton mountain range naturally shows off its snow-capped stunning beauty via mirror reflections in its many majestic lakes. Close to Jackson Hole and adjacent to Yellowstone, it’s a park for all seasons but is particularly striking in the Fall. You might even experience a chance encounter with a moose, and where better to do that than in Moose, WY, where the Tetons are located.
These famous trees dot the desert landscape in southern California. It gets hot in this arid climate so it’s always most pleasant to visit in the winter, or spring, which is a notably great time to wander about as wild flowers are in full bloom. The Cholla Cactus Garden makes for a memorable sunset site while Barker Dam, Skull Rock, and Wall Street Mill are other hotspots to uncover.
The Rockies are a quick ride from Denver, and makes a perfect day trip. There are bounds of nature sights, impressive lakes, and mountains to seek out. Elk will be plentiful and like to take their time crossing the streets in nearby Estes Park. It starts snowing early in Colorado so if you don’t feel like snowshoeing on the sometimes ice-covered trails, it’s recommended to visit before winter arrives.
Easily accessible from Los Angeles or San Francisco, this is where to go if you want to be wowed by huge trees. The impressive giant Redwoods will make one feel teeny-tiny when taking in the scope of their size. If a change of scenery from trees is needed, there are endless meadows to discover. Home to the world’s largest tree by volume, this is where the famous General Sherman tree lives. Crescent Meadow, Tokopah Falls, and the Congress Trail, are other must-see spots.
One of the only accessible National Parks to east coasters, Shenandoah is an underrated gem. Popular with those who live in Washington, DC, a drive on Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge mountains is a necessity when visiting this park. It’s also perfect for leaf peeping, where one can enjoy the changing autumn colors. From easy to challenging, there are some great hiking options. Old Rag is the summit to ascend, which at 10.2 miles, will take a full day. Stony Man and Dark Hollow Falls are easier ones to climb, and should be added to your list.
There’s a reason why Yellowstone became the first National Park in 1872. It’s beauty, diversity, and vast landscapes easily makes this park a one-of-a-kind experience. Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful might be famous geysers, but there are 500 hot springs in total. Waterfalls and wildlife are in abundance and the best spot to get your bison fix (from a distance) is in Hayden Valley.
In the land of waterfalls, there seems to be an impressive one in every direction. Some of the most famous viewpoints in the National Park System call Yosemite home such as Tunnel View, and Glacier Point. There’s a lot of ground and distance to cover in this park so a few days spent exploring is recommended, especially if you want to see past Yosemite Valley in the picturesque but less busy area of Tuolumne Meadows, and the many alpine lakes peppered throughout the park.
Visiting Zion feels like you were suddenly transported back in time to the Mesozoic Era. The spectacular overlooks commonly have astounding canyons that include varied red sedimentary rocks. Less commonly known, are the ample water features ranging from waterfalls, rivers, and creeks. This is a park for thrill-seekers as the two most popular hikes are Angel’s Landing and The Narrows, though there really is something for everyone.
There are so many amazing National Parks that are worth your time and these are just a few that will impress and bring some much-needed solace to your inner travel itch. With Fall quickly approaching and leaves soon to change, it’s the perfect time to jump in the car, hit the road, and surround yourself in nature amongst sensational surroundings.