America is home to some of the world’s most beautiful national parks. Unfortunately, park visitation decreased dramatically during the pandemic. However, as cases decrease, and we slowly resume normal life, our national parks are already beginning to get more tourist attention. So far in 2022, park visitation has increased by 60 million visitors compared to 2020.
After being cooped up inside for almost two years, I urge every nature lover to plan a trip out to one or more of America’s greatest natural wonders. What could be better than peeling off the mask and trekking through the Great Smoky Mountains? Hopefully our list of recommendations can inspire future plans!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
North Carolina & Tennessee
Home to the southern peaks of the Appalachian mountains, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park bestrides the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee. Getting its name from the breathtaking blue smokey clouds which hover over the highest peaks, the mountains were once known as "shaconage" to the Cherokee people, meaning "place of blue smoke".
As the most highly-visited national park in America, the Great Smoky Mountains are home to various activities. Visitors can enjoy kid-friendly hiking tours, waterfalls, horseback riding, and even get a close look at some wildlife on a tour of the gorgeous valley of Cades Cove. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains this June to help celebrate the park's 88th anniversary!
Grand Canyon National Park
Attracting approximately six million people per year, the Grand Canyon is the second-most visited national park in America. These brilliant canyons were formed over the span of six million years and are home to hundreds of thousands of fossils and artifacts which can be found along the frequently-studied landscape.
Larger than the state of Rhode Island, the magnitude of the park is an astounding 177 miles long. It expands 18 miles wide, with valleys of up to a mile deep. If you plan on visiting this remarkable attraction, we suggest checking out the skywalk, which allows visitors to get an aerial view of the park from an arched glass platform stretching about 70 feet past the ridge. President Teddy Roosevelt himself stood amazed before the canyons, stating, “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”
Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872, Yellowstone was the nation’s first national park. Well-known for its gorgeous and easily accessible landscape, including trails which are stroller and wheelchair-friendly, Yellowstone is the perfect destination for your next family trip.
On your visit, you can plan to find waterfalls, geysers, mud spots, rivers, valleys, canyons, and so much more. The park itself sits on top of a volcano, which is responsible for many of the hot springs and geothermal scenery which can be enjoyed. The area is estimated to contain approximately 25% of the world's geysers.
Glacier National Park
Established in 1910, Glacier National Park is home to the backbone of the Montana Rocky Mountains. This park is for the adventurous, consisting of a rugged and wild landscape. Visitors can appreciate up to 734 miles of trail, 25 glaciers, and over 200 lakes. You can also enjoy biking down the park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50-mile two lane highway, perfect for getting a view of the sunset and the beautiful mountain landscape. At the base of Glacier mountain is the town of Whitefish, which was named by National Geographic as one of the top 25 ski towns in the world.
Katmai National Park & Preserve
This Alaskan treasure has earned its spot on our list because of its unbeatable wildlife scenery. Katmai is home to moose, caribou, foxes, wolves, river otters, weasels, beavers, and most famously, about 2,200 brown bears. Katmai has the most spectacular opportunities for bear viewing, as they often gather at Brooks River during the summer months, where they enjoy daily hunting of river salmon. Visitors can even spot humpback whales and other marine life off of Katmai's coast.
Visit the park in early October to partake in Katmai’s yearly Fat Bear Week competition, where you can bet on which bears have put on the most weight during the summer. If visiting Brooks Camp, the park’s headquarters, make sure to check in at the visitor center for the mandatory bear safety orientation, and make sure to also stop by the King Salmon Visitor Center for more information on the park’s facilities and activities.
Zion National Park
Zion, Utah’s first national park, is best known for its incredible landscape and diverse wildlife. Before being granted national park status in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson, Zion was known as Mukuntuweap National Monument. It has since become a very popular attraction and is enjoyed today for its scenic canyon and country beauty.
Visitors can take a swim in the beautiful Virgin River, which flows through some challenging hiking areas known as "The Narrows" and "The Subway". The park is open 24/7 year-round, and can be a worthwhile stop on your next trip to Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, or even on your way from the Grand Canyon!
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
Established in 1890, Sequoia became America’s second national park. The legislation was signed by President Benjamin Harrison in an attempt to protect the park from deforestation. In 1940, neighboring park Kings Canyon became an official national park as well, and today both parks have merged into one.
The park is famed for having some of the tallest trees in the world and is actually home to the tallest known standing tree in the world, the General Sherman. This tree measures a humbling 275 feet tall. Visitors can also enjoy the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which is a 50 mile route into one of the deepest canyons in the country. The road can only be traveled by car, but is a great opportunity to get photos and spend time with family.