America’s renowned National Park Service celebrates its 102nd birthday this year; over a century of protecting the many places of awe-inspiring natural beauty that the country has to offer. The 59 national parks saw over 331 million people visit last year, and if you’re one of the millions to visit in the future, here’s where you should start.
1. Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming, Montana & Idaho
You have to begin with the world’s first ever national park. Marvel at Old Faithful, the legendary geyser that erupts every 35 - 120 minutes, the colourful hot springs, the mountains, forests, wolves, bears and bison. And you’ll see exactly why those clever guys back in 1916 decided to conserve this national, and international, treasure.
2. Glacier National Park, Montana
This place is just… wow, really. It’s a hiker’s heaven with well over 1000 kilometres of trails through pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, clear lakes and glacial carved valleys.
3. Zion National Park, Utah
The jaw-dropping Zion Canyon is the centrepiece of this spectacular park that protects a landscape of high plateaus, colourful sandstone cliffs and narrow, winding ravines.
4. Yosemite National Park, California
Standing at Glacier Point overlooking Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls will give you the kind of perspective that everyone needs once in a while - reminding you that you’re merely a speck on the face of this impressive planet. Explore some of the famous trails like El Capitan, take an expletive-inducing visit to the towering sequoia tree and attempt to keep your eyes on the road as you drive through the park’s stunning wilderness.
5. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Likely the most famous of the national parks in America, the Grand Canyon is an unmissable attraction. Its immense size is a thing to behold from above and just as impressive from the many hiking trails and river voyages below.
6. Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park has it all - snow capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, rugged coastline and… a bevy of Twilight fanatics. This beautiful area of the country is famous for more than its scenery thanks to the book series set there.
7. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
While possibly the least Insta-friendly landscape, a chance to see a volcano up close and scarily personal is one not to be missed. This national park on Big Island is home to two active volcanoes and it’s often possible to watch the lava flow into the ocean dependant on local conditions. There’s also plenty of hiking trails through old lava tubes, recently formed lava flows and over the still smoking crater floors.