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.
The Grand Canyon is a spectacular destination beyond compare. Located within Grand Canyon National Park in the state of Arizona in the United States, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, 18 miles (29 km) wide, and over 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) deep. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and Wonder of the Natural World was carved by the Colorado River over an estimated 17 million years. Now, it tells two billion years of geological history through the layers exposed on its walls. Visitors to the Grand Canyon can enjoy the view from a popular viewpoint on the South Rim. Rafting the Colorado River, or descending the walls of the canyon by hiking or horseback-riding are also popular activities. Helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon are also available for tourist willing to splurge. The closest international airports to the Grand Canyon are in Las Vegas, Nevada; and Phoenix, Arizona. From there, visitors can reach the park by car.
Torres del Paine is a national park located in south Patagonia, Chile. The park is known for its immense rock towers and peaks, part of the Andes mountain range. The name Torres del Paine means Towers of Blue (Paine is an indigenous name for the color blue). The most famous peaks in the park are Cordillera del Paine, a set of stark peaks, and the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Blue), a set of jagged, horn-like mountain tops. Also in the park are a glacier, a lake, and rivers. The most popular activity in the park are the multi day hikes, especially the Base Of Las Torres trek. Tourists can reach the national park via dailiy bus service from the city of Puerto Natales. Accommodations in the park consist of basic lodgings called “Refugios” and camping.
Nestled quietly within Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, is the incredibly beautiful Moriane Lake. This glacially-fed lake is rather small, with a surface area of only 0.5 square kilometers (0.19 square miles). Lake Moriane is a striking blue-green color, caused by the presence of glacial rock flour that refracts sunlight. The alpine lake is located at an elevation of 1,885 meters (6,183 feet), and is surrounded by stark mountain peaks. Visitors to this picturesque lake can enjoy hiking in the area, and also check out the other amazing aspects of Banff National Park, such as the lovely Lake Louise.
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.
On the east coast of the island state of Tasmania, south of Australia, you will find the lovely Freycinet National Park, home to the stunning Wineglass Bay. Some notable feature of Wineglass Bay, besides its distinctive “wineglass” shape, are some interesting pink granite peaks standing in a line on the beach. These are called “The Hazards”, and the beach they stand on is often referred to as Hazards Beach. Australians have long known about this haven for fishing, boating, sea kayaking, rock climbing, and fun in the sun, but so far this lovely slice of heaven isn’t on the rest of the world’s radar. That’s partially due to this area of Tasmania being somewhat hard to travel to. The nearest airport is in Launceston, a 2 hour drive from Freycinet 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.