The moment you drive through the entrance of a national park you feel something special. Maybe it’s the mountain air, the smell of trees, or the sound of waves crashing on the rocks. Most likely it’s because you’re about to see something great. Something indescribable. A canyon so deep and two billion years of geological history in the walls. Trees so large that it couldn’t fit into buildings. Some of these places offer life-changing experiences.
If you‘re planning on visiting one of US National parks in 2019. you are in for a big dilemma. Each of the 59 protected areas in The United States offers a different type of adventure.
Go through this short list of natural attractions we recommend and see what each of them has to offer. You will be one of the 300 million visitors in the next year, so plan your visit in advance if you‘re no fan of big crowds.
1. Little River Canyon, AB
Little River is the wildest and the cleanest river in the south. It is located on the top of Lookout Mountain and it‘s the longest mountaintop river in the States. It is a home of three large waterfalls: Little River Falls, De Sotto Falls, and Grace‘s High Falls. Latter is Alabama‘s highest waterfall at 133 feet. Activities are fishing, hiking, bird watching, kayaking, cycling, hunting, and horseback riding. Avoid visiting after dry summers, as the water level can get low.
2. Denali National Park, AL
Spectacular corner of Alaska‘s wilderness. Lush with wildlife that is easy to spot and amazing scenery. You can only self-drive through the park for 2 days a year if you win a place on the list in a lottery. So, the organised bus trip is the easiest way to get there. Only a one-third of a visitors get a chance to see the mountain itself cause of the weather and the clouds. If you are in that lucky group it is something you‘ll never forget. Without a doubt, Denali is worth your time and money.
3. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Grand Canyon, a gorge of the Colorado River is on the list of the seven natural wonders of the world. Located in northwestern part of Arizona, it was officially named a national park in 1919 and is the second most-visited national park in the U.S… North Rim and South Rim are the public areas of the park. The rest of the park is accessible only through dirt roads or hiking. Only 10% of people that visit South Rim visit North Rim, but it is equally breathtaking. It is open from mid-May to mid-October and it takes a little extra effort to get there, but it‘s just worth it. Visit it as soon as you can cause pictures don‘t do it justice.
4.Redwood National and State Parks, CA
Parks are amazing beautiful rainforests located along the northern California coast. great place with many hiking trails of all durations and for different abilities. Sequoias and redwoods that remind you just how tiny we are. The parks protect almost 40000 acres of old growth redwood forest. Here you can see some of the most magnificent trees in the world of great age and beauty. You will take back home a magical and unforgettable experience of a lifetime. We recommend that you visit it on weekdays when there are fewer visitors, so it doesn‘t destroy the silence and the beauty of this place.
5. Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
Located in the northern California, near the northern end of Sacramento Valley. Home to the Lassen Peak, the largest plug-dome volcano on the face of the planet. This park is also the only place in the world where you can find all four types of volcanoes. Thermal area of the park, Bumpass Hell, is a must-see. Moderate hike, maybe a 3-mile round trip, will take you to this ” mini Yellowstone ” culminating in the amazing scenery of colourful sulfurous hell hole. Don‘t skip a visit to Manzanita Lake, calm and beautiful, or an incredible Kings Creek Falls.
6. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is nothing short of amazing. It is a majestic protected natural environment. Wildlife is abundant, the scenery is out of this world. This part of Rocky Mountains has montane and subalpine forests, over 160 riparian lakes and alpine tundra at the top.
7. Dry Tortugas National Park, FL
Dry Tortugas is one of the smallest, one of the most remote and also one of the least visited parks. It is located about 70 miles west of Key West. It consists of seven small islands, with sandbanks around it and the surrounding water. The water is shallow, warm and clear. These ideal conditions have formed beautiful coral reefs, which are surrounded by tropical fish.
In the Garden Key Island is Fort Jefferson, a fortress built to protect the southern coastline of the United States. But because of errors in the construction and because the fort weapon was already obsolete before it was completed, it has never been in use. The area is the National Park because of its historical importance, and because of the great variety of birds, fish and other aquatic life.
8. Everglades National Park, FL
Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. In fact, it is a 90-mile wide river, which rises in the catchment area of the Kissimmee River, south of Orlando. The river is only a few centimetres deep and covered by green marsh grasses in many places.
Downstream, in the shadow of the largest mangrove forest in the world, the freshwater mixes with saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay. The park also contains a part of Florida Bay and part of the island area known as Ten Thousand Islands.
Thanks to the unique ecosystem of the park you can find a lot of rare birds and other animals, including the American alligator.
9. Chattahoochee River Area, GA
National Recreation Area preserves locations along the Chattahoochee River, between Atlanta and Lake Sidney Lanier. Like Cochran Shoals, Marietta Paper Mill, Island Ford, Medlock Bridge, Palisades, and others. The river is a famous trout fishing stream and attractive for boating, rafting, and canoeing.
10. Haleakalā National Park, HI
Photo © Andy Simonds
Haleakala National Park, located in the eastern part of Maui, consists of two parts. The Haleakala Crater, 3,055 meters high, and the highest point of the island. It is the largest dormant volcano in the world. Volcanic activity ensured that the valley is filled with lava flows and conical hills. The name Haleakala means “House of the Sun”. The area between the east side of the volcano summit and the ocean is called the Kipahulu Valley. In the rainforest of the Upper Kipahulu Valley are common native plant and animal species. The area is a Biological Reserve, and not accessible to the public. The lower part of the valley is open. There you will find beautiful lakes, picturesque ravine Ohe’o Gulch, and two beautiful waterfalls.
11. Kalaupapa National Historical Park, HI
Located on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. In the past, it was the refuge for more than 8000 people afflicted by leprosy epidemic. Now it is a home for a few survivors, who are forced to live their lives in isolation.
Nature of Kalaupapa is stunning, with some of the highest sea cliffs in the world, crater lake and volcanic crater, caves and lava tubes, valleys and rainforests.
Island is also a home for more than 30 endangered species like a green sea turtle, humpback whale, or monk seal.
12. Yellowstone National Park, MT, ID, WY
Yellowstone is one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. Here you will find not only geysers, hot springs and mud pots but also magnificent forests, fascinating meadows, a beautiful lake and a large canyon with waterfalls. Animals in the park include bison, elk, deer, swans, pelicans, grizzly and brown bears. It contains half of all geothermal phenomena on earth. A large part of Yellowstone National Park is the Yellowstone Caldera. It is the largest active volcanic structure on the continent. The most famous geyser is The Old Faithful, and it erupts every 92 minutes. It sprays a huge amount of bubbling water up to 45 metres in the air. Other geysers erupt only once in 6 to 8 months, so The Old Faithfull is maybe the best place in the world to see constant volcanic activity.
13. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
In the middle of the state of Kentucky is a subterranean maze of interconnected caves and passages. With more than 350 miles mapped, Mammoth Cave is the longest and most searched cave system in the world. Explorers are still discovering new areas, and the total length of all the caves and corridors may go up to 1,000 miles. The name “Mammoth” has been in use since the early 19th century and refers to the vast size of the cave system.
Above ground, the park consists of several hills which lie between beautiful wooded valleys. The park from east to west is intersected by Green River. Green River is, from a biological viewpoint, considered as one of the most interesting rivers of the United States. Another important river, Nolin River, is located in the north-west corner. There are many hiking trails, and you can rent bikes, or go canoeing and horseback riding.
14. Acadia National Park, ME
Despite being one of the smaller parks within the National Parks system, it offers a variety of nature and activities. One of the main attractions are the rough granite cliffs and small beaches along the shoreline. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the ocean and the bays that surround the park and see many islands, even the small fiord Somes Sound. The interior is nice; it consists of beautiful green mountains, streams and lakes. You can see the most beautiful parts of the park during a trip on a cart pulled by horses. That is a tradition that exists for many decades. Likewise, you can make a car tour that goes partly along the beautiful coastline. You can walk a lot, cycle, perform basic rock climbing, swim, rent a boat. In winter you can take part in winter activities like snowmobiling and snowshoeing. The territory of the park is not continuous but is spread over several islands and a peninsula.
15. Appalachian Trail, GA – ME
The Appalachian Trail or the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the 2175 miles long marked long-distance hiking trail through the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States. It extends from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The idea for the trail came from Benton MacKaye, a forestry expert and conservationist who described his plan in 1921. His idea was to create a long trail that would connect many farms and wilderness camps with each other, and give the city residents the opportunity to explore nature. His ideas were published in the New York Evening Post. This article attracted the attention of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. This led to the opening of the first section of the route on October 7, 1923, from Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park to Arden.
16. Isle Royale National Park, MI
Isle Royale National Park lies in the immense Lake Superior in Michigan. It is only accessible by boat or seaplane. With less than 18,000 visitors per year, it is one of the least-visited parks within the National Parks system. The park consists of the island of Isle Royale, more than 200 smaller islands and the surrounding waters. Nature is still completely untouched. The island is covered with dense forests, crystal clear lakes, and it has a rugged coastline with numerous bays and coves. The park is especially popular with backpackers trekking for several days. Also++++ canoeists, kayakers and those who sail around the island by motorboat or sailboat.
17. Death Valley National Park, NV&CA
Death Valley is the hottest, driest and lowest place in all of North America. Despite this fearsome image, this National Park is very popular with nature lovers. The valley is largely below sea level. Valley is surrounded by high mountain peaks that are often covered with snow.
Unique flora and fauna have adapted to extreme conditions. You’ll enjoy beautiful sand dunes, exceptional rock formations, stunning desert landscapes, craters and also places of cultural backgrounds. The highest temperature ever measured in the park – in July 1913 – was 134 degrees Fahrenheit. The extreme heat of Death Valley is particularly marked in Badwater; This salt flat is 85.5 meters below sea level and is the lowest point of the entire Western Hemisphere. Other popular destinations include the viewpoints Dante’s View, where you‘ll have a panoramic view over the valley, and Zabriskie Point, where you can see irregularly shaped colourful rocks in the desert. The beautiful sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells are also visited by many tourists.
18. Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Joshua Tree National Park consists of three ecosystems. The eastern half of the park is located in the Colorado Desert. It isa low-lying area in which abundant creosote bush dominates the arid landscape. The western half is in the upper Mojave Desert, where it is slightly cooler and wetter. Few areas illustrate the contrast between high and low-lying desert more clearly. The third ecosystem is formed by the five oases of fan palms. They are scattered in the park it the few places where water comes close to the surface. The park was established to protect the Joshua Tree. That is, unlike the name suggests, not a tree but a large plant, which belongs to the Yucca’s family. The irregularly shaped Joshua Tree is one of the most characteristic plants in the Mohave Desert. The largest ones are about 12 meters high and are estimated to be about 900 years old. The Joshua Tree is a very important link in the ecosystem of the desert. The plant is home to numerous birds, mammals, insects and lizards.
The park is very popular with backpackers, even with its lack of water. Short walks in the wilderness are popular, and tourists can also go biking and rock climbing.
19. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
The Great Smoky Mountains are part of the 2,700-kilometer-long mountain range the Appalachian Mountains. That is one of the oldest mountain ranges of the world. The rocks that form the scenery are some 900 million years old.
The landscape is ‘lifted’ by the collision of the continents of Africa and North America about 300 million years ago. The mountains have probably reached a height of about 6,000 metres. By prolonged erosion processes, height has decreased significantly. There are 16 peaks that are higher than 1,800 meters. The park consists of many mountains and ridges that are separated from each other by deep valleys. The original inhabitants – the Cherokee Indians – called this area Shaconage, which means “place of blue smoke”. This misty haze is formed by the water vapour that is separated by dense forest in the mountains and valleys. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. It is a home for more than 4,000 plant species, 130 different species of trees, 65 species of mammals, 230 species of birds, dozens of species of reptiles and more species of salamanders than anywhere else in the world. It is not just a US National Park, as well as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.
20. Devils Tower National Monument, WY
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed the giant monolith Devils Tower, located in the northeast of the state of Wyoming, for the first National Monument in the United States. The monolith word comes from the Greek ‘monos (only) and “lithos” (stone). The steep walls are 264 meters high, the top has an area of 1.5 acres and circumference – measured at the base – is approximately 1,600 meters. The summit is located at 1,558 meters above sea level.
In 2005 an attempt was made to change the name of the monument to the Bear Lodge National Historic Landmark. That name would give recognition to the historical connection of the Native Americans to the monolith. Because of the suspicion that a name change would harm tourism, this proposal did not make it. Devils Tower played a major role in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) by Steven Spielberg.
21. Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Mount Rainier is the highest volcano in the Cascades, the mountain range that stretches from northern California to Canada. It is a steep volcano, which is composed of several layers of lava and other volcanic products. About 5700 years ago, a major eruption led to the collapse of the north side of the volcano. Even after the volcano continued to erupt from time to time, the last major eruption occurred about 1,000 years ago. The summit of Mount Rainier is covered with eternal snow, and along mountain slopes are 27 glaciers. The volcano is surrounded by mountain pastures, which are covered with colourful wildflowers during the short summer. In the lower areas you’ll find beautiful forests; in the northwest of the park is even a temperate rainforest. You can find several mountain lakes, rivers and waterfalls in the park. Because of the huge amounts of snow, large parts of the park are only accessible for a few months each year. The main activities in the park include hiking, mountaineering and skiing.
22. Glacier National Park, MT
Glacier National Park is a spectacularly beautiful, unspoilt nature with glaciers, rugged mountain peaks, many lakes and waterfalls, lush forests and meadows with beautiful flowers. There are many animals, such as beavers, otters, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and elk. Also, the park is one of the last areas in the US where the huge grizzly bear still occurs in the wild. Today, there are still about 50 glaciers in the park. The biggest of those is Grinnell Glacier.
23. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
Carlsbad Caverns is one of the largest and most beautiful cave systems in the world. There are now more than 100 different caves mapped. One of the caves is The Big Room, the largest underground space in the world. Many caves and rooms are decorated with exceptionally beautiful stalactite formations. Several trails were built in The caves and the tourists can visit a part of the cave system in this way. The park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert in the northern portion of the Guadalupe Mountains. Above ground, the landscape consists of rugged, hilly terrain with desert vegetation.
24. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH
The Cuyahoga River is 90 miles long, but because the river is winding, start and end points are only 30 miles apart. “Ka-ih-OGH-ha”, as the Indians called the river, translates to English as “Crooked” (bent, twisted). The river is surrounded by rolling hills, forests and open areas. Villages with historic houses and barns breathe the atmosphere of the past. Of the total 90 miles of the river, there are 22 within the national park.
The area around the river has been inhabited by people for 12,000 years. The Cuyahoga River was a major transportation artery for the Indians.
25. Badlands National Park, SD
The Lakota Indians called this area “mako sica”. The early French pioneers called it “les terres à traverser mauvaises”. Both names translate as badlands. The main highlight is The Wall, a narrow, strangely shaped rock about 60 miles long, which runs along the White River. The rocks are made up of differently coloured horizontal layers. The lower layers are 70 million years old, the upper layers originate from about 30 million years ago. The bizarre shapes of the rocks are mainly caused by water erosion. This process is ongoing. Geologists expect the Badlands will be completely worn away in about 500,000 years.
On both sides of the Wall, you will find a vast, rolling prairie landscape, with more than 50 different types of grassland. The vegetation is typical for areas that are too dry for trees, but too wet for deserts. A mixed-grass prairie has both long and short grass and a rich variety of other plants. It is an ideal area for prairie dogs, Pronghorn antelope, bison, bighorn sheep and coyotes.
26. Crater Lake National Park, OR
Crater Lake is a caldera, a volcanic basin. It originates from 7,700 years ago when the 3,660 meters high Mount Mazama collapsed following a volcanic eruption. Rain and snow filled the caldera with deep blue water. The lake has a diameter of 5 miles and is surrounded by steep cliffs that extend up to 600 meters above the surface of the water. On average, the lake is 457 meters deep. At one point the lake reaches a depth of 589 meters, and it is the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh deepest lake in the world. There are no streams or rivers discharging into the lake, and it snows a lot in this area (approximately 1,350 centimetres per year). This makes Crater Lake one of the clearest lakes in the world, and the lake has a beautiful, striking deep blue colour. During the long winter, many roads are impassable in the park, the best months to visit here are July, August and September.
27. Arches National Park, UT
Nowhere in the world are so many natural rock arches as within the boundaries of Arches National Park. Besides the many arches in the park, there are all sorts of unusually shaped rock formations. A large part of the park is easily accessible via an 18-mile way and several hiking trails. There are areas that you can visit only after making a long trek. In summer the temperatures are often so high that even a short walk is pretty strenuous. The best time to visit the park is in spring or autumn.
There are more than 2000 arches in this area. The largest arch in the park, Landscape Arch, has a span of 93 meters.