The US National Park Service is pretty expansive. There are 58 National Parks in the US, along with thousands of federal recreation sites. I wasn’t always interested in the National Parks, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty and escape that nature provides. After spending some time in Europe and abroad, we were determined to explore more of our own country, and what better way than through the parks. Today I am highlighting 5 parks spanning both coasts that highlight the beauty and diversity of the US NPS.
Zion National Park
Located in Utah, Zion Canyon is awe inspiring with its towering red, sand and white striped rock. Pair that beautiful scenery with unique and diverse hikes, abundant wildlife, an excellent shuttle system, and well placed bathrooms and water filling stations and I cannot say enough nice things about Zion. We spent 3 days in Zion, tackling Kayenta Trail, Emerald Pools, The Narrows and the Observation Point hike. Zion quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite national parks.
For more on Zion, check out this post: Beginners Guide: Zion National Park in 3 Days
Shenandoah National Park
Although the rolling blue green Appalachian Mountains are a stark contrast from the Rockies out west, they are beautiful in their own right. Along the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail that extends from Georgia to Maine, Shenandoah is one of only 2 National Parks along that stretch. Located in Virginia, just 75 miles from Washington DC, we explored Shenandoah over Memorial Day Weekend. Most known for the beautiful Skyline Drive, there are plenty of look out vistas and points of interest. In addition, there are plenty of rewarding hiking opportunities for all skill levels in the park. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears and various types of wildlife here!
Mount Rainier National Park
A day trip from our time in Seattle during our Pacific Northwest Roadtrip gave us only enough time to scratch the surface of Mt Rainier National Park. We enjoyed a 10 mile hike to Green Lake and some additional treks along the Carbon River. The glacier peaked mountains, waterfalls and lush greenery made for an ideal escape from the city. It was gorgeous and I am anticipating another, longer visit to the park at some point.
Acadia National Park
Located on Maine’s Mt Desert Island, Acadia does not have soaring mountains (Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak stands at only 1,530 feet). Rather, Acadia has a beautiful rocky, rugged coastline. It also boasts the first viewing of sunrise in the US, beautiful lakes and sweeping views of the ocean. Many of the main highlights in Acadia are accessible by car or short hike. Some of our favorite stops were Ocean Path from Sand Beach to Otter Point, lunch and popovers at Jordan Pond House, Schoodic Point and of course the view from Cadillac Mountain on a clear day. For those seeking more adventure seeking, try the Beehive Trail or Precipice hike which utilizes iron rungs to help climbers up exposed rock faces.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall is a dream with abundant sunshine, moderate temps and bright yellow aspens. If you manage to hit the fall colors just right, it appears as if a paintbrush of orange, reds and yellows had covered the mountainsides. Rocky Mountain National Park covers 415 square miles of beautiful landscapes. On our most recent trip we completed the hike from Bear Lake Trail head to Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes. Rocky Mountain National Park should definitely be on your list of places to see.
For more on RMNP, check out the post: Hiking to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
There are so many parks to explore in the US. We have yet to explore many still on our list, with the top being Yosemite and Glacier. Tell me what else is worthy of a spot on the top 5 list.
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