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13 unmissable national parks in the USA

Author: Charlotte Boswell

With the aim of protecting and preserving the country's most spectacular scenery, natural landmarks and heritage sites, the USA National Park Network showcases the very best America has to offer. From the remote wilderness of Alaska's Denali National Park to the lush forests and waterfalls of Yosemite in California, the USA is home to 63 breathtaking and diverse national parks. No visit to the USA is complete without experiencing the beauty and history of a national park, so here is a list of our favourites.

1 Yellowstone, Wyoming

Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park

As the USA's first national park designated in 1872, Yellowstone dazzles with natural beauty. Renowned for its spewing geysers and rainbow pools, rolling grasslands and alpine valleys, it is also home to an abundance of wildlife including bison, bear and elk. During a visit to Yellowstone take a drive around the figure-of-eight Grand Loop Road and pause at different points to follow various walking trails, view wildlife and photograph extraordinary geothermal features. Highlights include the world-famous Old Faithful Geyser known for its consistent eruptions and the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring, a blue hot spring tinged with greens, yellows and oranges.

Featured in ‘Yellowstone & National Parks of Western USA

2 Denali, Alaska

Denali
Denali National Park

The beautifully rugged landscape of Alaska's Denali National Park offers visitors the perfect off-the-beaten-track experience where roaming wildlife easily outnumbers the human population. Home to 6 million acres of Alaskan wilderness and the continent’s tallest peak - Mount McKinley, Denali is the perfect playground for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and wildlife safaris scouting grizzly bear, moose and caribou. The park’s alpine landscape is dotted with glistening lakes and snow-capped peaks and offers a diverse range of hiking trails suitable for varying levels of ability.

Featured in ‘Natural Wonders of Alaska

3 Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park

Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is one of the world's most spectacular sights. Nothing will prepare you for the canyon's majestic plateaus, ridges, coloured rocks and peaks that reveal millions of years of geological history. One of the best ways to observe the magnificence and scale of the canyon is by helicopter. Soar over the snaking river that cuts through the multi-layered rocks that make up the ever-changing colours of the South Rim. Alternatively for a more intimate experience, stay in a lodge near the quieter North Rim and witness a breathtaking sunrise or sunset at one of the park's viewpoints.

Featured in ‘San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas Explorer

Speak to a travel expert

Speaking to one of our experienced sales consultants is the best way to begin your USA holiday enquiry.

It allows us to answer any questions you may have as well as make suggestions and recommendations for your planned trip.

We are available on evenings and weekends by prior appointment so please do not hesitate to book a call in with us at a time convenient to you.

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4 Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park

Located in the Cascade Mountains in southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is home to glistening lakes, volcanic islands and snow-capped peaks. During a visit to this stunning national park travel Rim Drive, a road surrounding Crater Lake - America’s deepest lake - which offers superb views of the park’s volcanic formations and lakes. Hike one of the park’s trails; Sun Notch trail is a particular highlight where walkers can observe Phantom Ship, a small rocky island outcrop. Visitors may also wish to explore and photograph the old-growth forests featuring conifers and pines that shelter black bears, mountain lions and elks.

Featured in ‘Pacific Northwest – San Francisco to Seattle

5 Zion, Utah

Zion
Zion National Park

Zion is dramatic and wild. Home to massive sandstone monoliths, riverine forests and cascading waterfalls it is one of the greatest parks in the Southwest. Known as one of the country’s greatest outdoor playgrounds, Zion offers a range of activities from hiking and nature walks to world-class rock climbing and canyoning. A shuttle bus takes visitors to the most popular trails including world-famous Angel’s Landing, Emerald’s Pool Trail and Observation Point, but maybe the most spectacular of them all is the Narrows where you can walk through a crystal river between towering walls of slot canyons. For non-hikers, take the six mile Scenic Drive which bisects Zion.

Featured in ‘The Ultimate Western USA – California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada

6 Everglades, Florida

Everglades
Everglades National Park

The Everglades National Park is one of Florida’s best-known attractions. This iconic wetland region is made up of marshes and rivers and is in fact one of the world’s largest mangrove forests. The brackish waters of the Everglades support a diverse ecosystem with a range of flora and fauna including egret, heron, spoonbill, duck, manatee, turtle and the formidable American alligator. One of the most memorable ways to explore these emerald wetlands is by kayak. This once-in-a-lifetime experience can be done from Everglades City where you will spend the morning meandering the twisting waterways listening to the beautiful sounds of nature. Alternatively, visit from Miami where several eco-friendly airboat tours are available.

Featured in ‘Coastal Florida and the Beaches of Key West

7 Death Valley, California

Death Valley
Death Valley National Park

Death Valley defies all superlatives; not only is it one of the continent's largest national parks, it is also the hottest and driest location in the USA and the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. This astonishing park encompasses salt flats, gigantic sand dunes, colourful sandstone canyons and remarkable rock formations. During a visit explore Artist's Drive which features some of the national park's most vibrantly coloured sedimentary and volcanic structures where hues vary from yellow to pink to green. Other highlights include sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Mesquite Flat Dune’s shifting sand dunes and the dramatic Red Cathedral.

Featured in ‘Northern California, the Lakes and Las Vegas

Speak to a travel expert

Speaking to one of our experienced sales consultants is the best way to begin your USA holiday enquiry.

It allows us to answer any questions you may have as well as make suggestions and recommendations for your planned trip.

We are available on evenings and weekends by prior appointment so please do not hesitate to book a call in with us at a time convenient to you.

Book An Appointment

8 Olympic, Washington

Olympic
Olympic National Park - Scott & Eric Brendal

Stunning Olympic National Park located on Washington’s wild northwest coast sprawls across several different ecosystems including the jagged-peaks of the Olympic Mountains, lush green rainforests, the Pacific Coast and old-growth forests. A good introduction to Olympic National Park is one of the short walking trails close to the main visitor centre, either the Living Forest Loop or the Peabody Creek Trail, both which provide a great insight into the nature and wildlife that lies ahead. During a visit be sure to visit the enchanting Hoh Valley - a mosaic of moss, twisting roots and giant ferns – that is also the gateway to the park’s highest peak, Mount Olympus.

Featured in ‘Pacific Northwest – San Francisco to Seattle

9 Yosemite, California

Yosemite
Yosemite National Park 

With its thundering waterfalls, formidable granite peaks and abundant wildlife, world-famous Yosemite is arguably the most picturesque national park on the West Coast that became popular from Ansel Adams’ black and white photographs taken in the early 20th century. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in northern California, the peaks, domes and canyons of Yosemite are all a result of age-old glaciation. Must-sees include the monumental El Capitan, iconic Half Dome, Mirror Lake and of course Yosemite Falls. Alternatively, take a ranger-led tour to experience Yosemite’s diverse wildlife including mule deer, black bear, bighorn sheep, the elusive mountain lion and over 250 species of bird.

Featured in ‘The Ultimate Western USA – California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada

10 Glacier, Montana

Glacier
Glacier National Park 

Home to over 700 miles of pristine hiking trails, Montana’s breathtaking Glacier National Park located in the Rockies is one of the northwest’s less visited and relatively untouched parks. Dotted with snow-capped peaks and turquoise lakes, the picturesque alpine forests house an abundance of wildlife including wolf, elk and grizzly bear which are often visible to visitors. If driving Glacier National Park, ensure you take the Going-to-the-Sun-Road that connects the east and west sides of the park. Highlights of the drive include the beautifully clear and widely photographed Hidden Lake, Logan Pass which offers breathtaking vistas from the Continental Divide and Grinnell Glacier famous for its hiking trails.

Featured in ‘Yellowstone & National Parks of Western USA

11 Grand Teton, Wyoming

Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park 

Located just south of the mighty Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton may not be as well-known or big, but it is just as spectacular and diverse. Home to sheer cliffs that rise up to 7000 feet above ground and glistening lakes that lie at the feet of the towering mountains where the wildlife congregates, there is so much to do and see in Grand Teton. Search for pronghorn antelope, elk, bison, moose and squirrel, drive to one of the park’s many viewpoints for beautiful panoramas and enjoy gentle hikes through the natural wilderness.

Featured in ‘Yellowstone & National Parks of Western USA

12 Petrified Forest, Arizona

Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest National Park 

If driving the iconic Route 66, a stop in the otherworldly Petrified Forest National Park in north-eastern Arizona is a must. It is home to the world’s largest collection of petrified wood, where some pieces’ lifecycle began 225 million years ago. The Petrified Forest also offers vividly coloured landscapes, an abundance of wildlife and a strong Native American culture. The Petrified Forest is easily reached on the drive between the Wild West town of Holbrook and historic Gallup in Arizona.

Featured on ‘Route 66 in Reverse – Los Angeles to Chicago

13 Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountain National Park 

A paradise for adventure enthusiasts and outdoor lovers, the Rocky Mountain National Park is a vast natural playground that spans the Continents Divide and encompasses alpine tundra, emerald forests and mountains. Enjoy a scenic drive passing jagged mountains and mirror-like lakes, relax during a spot of fishing or follow a nature trail on foot or horseback. The park is also home to an abundance of wildlife; scout for bighorn sheep, elk moose and a range of mountain birds including Clark’s Nutcracker and Mountain Chickadee.

Featured in ‘Elk Mountain Ranch Holiday

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