The United States has many bustling metropolises like Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York City that people flock to, though the real talent in this country lies in its national parks. With 58 different locations carved out by the National Park Service, there are an array of choices when thinking about a trip to the great outdoors. Rather than tell you to go to Yellowstone, Yosemite, or any park in Alaska (those are likely already on your radar), here is a list of a few parks that might not be on the forefront of your bucket list.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a must visit for everyone on this planet. Located in Northwestern Montana and sprawling into Canada, this national park was carved by glaciers during the Ice Age and sports an amazing landscape dotted with waterfalls, jagged mountains, and meandering rivers. Also, did I mention there are still plenty of glaciers? Keep your eyes peeled for some wildlife. You could see grizzlies, mountain goats, mountain lions, or a massive bird of prey. You can’t visit this park without driving on the Going to the Sun Rd., just make sure to take you pictures once you park, as the winding road is carved along the steep mountainside. There are dozens of spots to check out in this park, but some highlights to make sure you see are Bowman Lake, the Highline Trail, Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Glacier, or Two Medicine Lake. Honestly, there are plenty more to check out, so be sure to research your stay to tailor the getaway to your tastes.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park, located on the coast of Maine East of Augusta, is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi, dating back to 1919. Bar Harbor is a popular locale for the scenic vistas along the East Coast and boasts a number of foodie restaurants and shops for those looking to be consumers. For those looking to explore, be sure to check out Cadillac Mountain, the largest of its kind on the East Coast. There are also dozens of places to see wildlife like moose, black bears, or whales. Walk along the water on rocky beaches or carved out cliffs or go inland on some islands to take in some peaceful woodland areas. The drive along Park Loop Rd. will be a perfect way to take in the park in its entirety, and photography opportunities will be endless.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park can be found in Moab, Utah near Canyonlands National Park (an amazing spot in its own right that’s certainly worth a visit). Arches boasts a mind-boggling landscape full of crazy rock structures, beautiful colors, and plenty of trails to follow. The defining landforms in this park are what’d you’d expect, arches, but seeing is believing. The sheer scope of some of these rocks and the tenuous manner in which they have rested is hard to comprehend, but makes for some great pictures. Check out The Delicate Arch or spend a night stargazing as the skies here are some of the darkest on the planet. If in the height of summer, bring plenty of water and protection from the sun, as this park is essentially an elevated desert.
Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park is an awe-inspiring old-growth forest near the coast of Northern California. The redwood tree is the largest on the planet, reaching heights of 350 feet or higher. The forest itself is enchanting with winding roads and a number of trails that explore the ground under the massive canopy. The area is known for being foggy, as moisture from the ocean often creeps into the forest, making for an almost mystical experience. If you become claustrophobic amongst the redwoods, venture to the coast, where you can find various types of seals or even spot a whale. The Pacific Northwest should be on your bucket list, and don’t miss out on this natural gem if you make it to this region. Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina contain many of the same characteristics and is an easier trek for those East Coasters looking to stay on their side of the country.
Grand Teton National Park
The Grand Teton in Northwestern Wyoming lie just south of Yellowstone and provide some of the most picturesque peaks in the Rockies. Though it doesn’t boast the summits higher than 14,000 feet like many in Colorado, Gannett Peak, the apex here, is particularly treacherous for climbing. While hundreds of thousands of tourists converge on Yellowstone, keep this place in mind as it will be an unbelievable experience in its own right. When planning a trip here, prepare for plenty of hiking but make time for a day on the water, as a float down Snake River can be a welcomed change from the strenuous walks in this elevation.
Post by Pete McKeown, Contributor