Yosemite is one of the most well known national parks in the world. With over 3.7 million visitors every year, this California park is an incredibly popular nature destination in the United States. Yosemite National Park is known for its awe-inspiring granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and over 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking trails. Half Dome, a massive granite cliff jutting out of the earth, is one of the famous icons of the park, along with Cathedral Peak and El Capitan. Most of Yosemite’s iconic peaks, lakes, and waterfalls are located in the tourist-heavy 7 square mile (18 sq. km) area of Yosemite Valley, but the entire park actually encompasses an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 sq. km). Yosemite has the honor of being the first national park ever designated, thanks in large part to conservationists like John Muir and Galen Clark. These men and others worked hard to protect the park both for the impressive diversity of plants and animals that lived there, and also for the enjoyment of future generations. Today, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a favorite destination for hikers, rock climbers, campers, and nature lovers of all kinds.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, located in the state of Colorado in the United States, encompasses an area of 340 square kilometers (130 square miles, or 85,000 acres) of magnificent sand dunes. The 12,000 year old sand dunes include the tallest dunes in North America, rising 230 meters (750 feet) above the valley floor. The park contains other landscape features found in the high desert, such as alpine lakes, tundra, forests, grasslands, and wetlands, all of which provide habitats for many kinds of wildlife. Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking over the dunes, though it is wise to either keep the visitor center in sight, or bring a compass, as there are no marked trails on the ever-changing dunes. The closest town with accommodation is Alamosa, 30 miles southwest of the park. There is also tent camping available within the park. The nearest international airport is located in Denver, the capital of Colorado, which is a 4 1/2 hour drive from the park.
The picturesque Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada is known for its breathtaking mountain scenery with calm clear lakes framed by jagged snow covered peaks. The national park is the largest of its kind in the Canadian Rockies, covering a total area of over 10,878 square kilometers (4,200 square miles). Within Jasper National Park lies an amazing collection of lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers, and massive mountains. Visitors to the park can enjoy a vast array of activities, including hiking and mountain biking on extensive trails, skiing at Marmot Basin, fishing, swimming, kayaking, whitewater rafting and boating on many of the lakes and rivers, plus camping in numerous areas. For those looking for some quiet relaxation, Miette Hot Springs is the perfect place to go. Tourists can visit the park via car or motorcycle, or by train. The closest international airport is in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. Also nearby is Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
The famously beautiful Glacier National Park is located in the US state of Montana. The park is massively large, encompassing over 1,000,000 acres (4,000 square km). In the mid 1800s the park was named for its roughly 150 glaciers, though only 25 remain today and it’s estimated that all the glaciers will have melted by 2030. With over 130 lakes, two mountain ranges, over 700 miles of hiking trails, and many miles of scenic road, the park is a popular hiking, camping, and scenic driving destination for all manner of tourist. The nearest airport is in Kalispell, Montana, and the Amtrak train line stops at East and West Glacier, but most visitors choose to drive to the park. The park is also home to historic chalets and hotels if you’re looking for a more relaxed than rugged experience.
Utah is known for its impossible canyons and rock formations. Arches National Park in Eastern Utah is one of the most impressive. Here, natural sandstone arches, formed over millions of years when salt beds covered the area, create an amazing orange brown landscape. The area has a rich history as well as fascinating geology, it was home to the Ute and Paiute tribes. Ute petroglyphs from around 250 years ago can still be seen today. Bryce Canyon, also in Utah, should not be overlooked as a destination if beautiful rock formations captivate you.