According to the dictionary, a National Park is “a scenic or historically important area of countryside protected by the federal government for the enjoyment of the general public or the preservation of wildlife.”
The United States has 59 National Parks that celebrates their 100th birthday on August 25, 2016.
For many Americans, a cross-country road trip in an RV with the kids (and possibly the family dog) to visit several National Parks would be a dream come true. With so many destinations to choose from, you could be gone a whole year. For those of us who don’t have that kind of time on our hands, we will have to narrow it down a bit.
According to National Geographic, the 10 most visited National Parks are:
Here is a look at each of them.
Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park.
Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep. Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size.
Yosemite National Park is in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s famed for its giant, ancient sequoia trees, and for Tunnel View, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome.
Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. Enjoy Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds – along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times.
Zion was Utah’s First National Park. Follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon. Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.
Visit Yellowstone and experience the world’s first national park. Marvel at a volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mudpots, and geysers. Explore mountains, forests, and lakes to watch wildlife and witness the drama of the natural world unfold. Discover the history that led to the conservation of our national treasures “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”
At Olympic, forest, coastal, and mountain ecosystems combine to create a spectacular wilderness park. Designated as both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations, the park serves as a living laboratory for scientists and students, as well as an incredible natural playground for visitors. Millions of people visit Olympic each year to experience its beauty, diversity, and many opportunities for adventure, exploration, and recreation. Come explore, whether for a few hours or a lifetime.
People have been drawn to the rugged coast of Maine throughout history. Awed by its beauty and diversity, early 20th-century visionaries donated the land that became Acadia National Park. The park is home to many plants and animals, and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery.
Rising above a scene rich with extraordinary wildlife, pristine lakes, and alpine terrain, the Teton Range stands monument to the people who fought to protect it. These are mountains of the imagination. Mountains that led to the creation of Grand Teton National Park where you can explore over two hundred miles of trails, float the Snake River or enjoy the serenity of this remarkable place.
As the Crown of the Continent, Glacier is the headwaters for streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and to Hudson’s Bay. What happens here affects waters in a huge section of North America.
More National Park Info
For you super outdoor enthusiasts, there are many ways to enjoy the national parks while doing the outdoor activities you love.
In case these pictures merely sparked your wanderlust, here are more breathtaking pictures of all the National Parks.
One More Thing…
If you are traveling across the country or only one state away, be sure to have an emergency medical plan in case you get hurt or sick in all that wilderness.