During today’s uncertain times of COVID-19, traveling has become more difficult than ever. But while many borders remained closed in other countries, you can still take this opportunity to travel in America. America’s National Parks are vast, varied, and beautiful. They contribute more than $35 billion into the national economy, making them a strong choice for helping rebuild our economical value while exploring nature, traveling, and learning more about the greatness that’s in your own backyard. If you’re going with a group, consider a school bus rental and don’t forget to use travel planning apps to keep your trips organized. From the Smoky Mountains to Yosemite, there’s something for everyone. With that in mind, here are five American National Parks that belong on your radar:
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is something out of a fairytale. Cascading rivers, wildflower meadows, and panoramic views of Mt. Whitney frames your Sequoia journey. This Southern Sierra Nevada Park boasts some of the most impressive sights in the United States. The Giant Forest is home to the world’s largest trees, scattered across nearly 50,000 acres of the western slope of the Sierras.
These gentle giants can live for more than 2,000 years, have the thickest bark of any tree on earth, and are disease and fire-resistant—in fact, they can actually thrive in forest fires. But it’s not just trees you’ll find in Sequoia—you’ll also find California’s longest cave. The Crystal Cave is just one of 200 marble caverns in the area, and is chock full of glowing mineralogical features.
Glacier Bay Park & Reserve
Alaska’s Glacier Bay Park & Reserve has every diverse ecosystem you can dream of: rugged coastlines, grandiose glaciers, deep fjords, rugged mountains, and teeming rainforest. This park covers 3.3 million acres, which means you could go back time and time again and explore something different each time. This biosphere reserve offers a glimpse into the pure heart of the Alaskan wild. Whale and wildlife watching, sea kayaking, salmon fishing, hiking, and rafting are just a few of the excursions that will keep you immersed in this wildlife preserve.
Grand Canyon National Park
No list feels complete without a mention of the Grand Canyon National Park. This iconic Arizona staple boasts rippling canyons of red and gold and its magnificent landscape is sure to leave a lifelong impression. Hike narrow trails around sandstone cliffs, ride a mule through sagebrush, or trace the Colorado River during a rafting adventure. This national park has plenty of activities for you to try. For instance, a rafting adventure gets you on the ground floor of the Grand Canyon, with trips lasting anywhere from four to ten days and ending with riverside camping. The Grand Canyon is also arguably one of the best places in the world for sunset-watching, where you’ll see the light turn red and gold over the cliffs and desert.
Olympic National Park
The Olympic National Park feels like another realm entirely. Stretches of isolated coastlines, mossy rainforest, and alpine peaks combine to create an otherworldly experience. Several American Indian tribes call this place home and have strong cultural ties here; you can learn more about them at the Makah Museum, which holds hundreds of ancient artifacts. After a hike through the rainforest, soak in one of three mineral hot spring pools. With such a diverse environment and ecosystem, keep an eye out for unique wildlife, like the Olympic marmot and Roosevelt elk.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
You’re in for an optical illusion at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, where you’ll find acres of san stretched across a snow-peaked backdrop. Elegant, wind-shaped sand dunes rise as high as 700 feet, and adults and children alike will tap into their playful side in this natural playground. The Great Sand Dunes are made of 29 different rock and mineral types, including sulfur and turquoise, and some tours allow you to see its genetic makeup with a magnifying glass. Like many of the parks listed here, there are plenty of activities for you to engage in. Go sledding down the dunes, or tubing along the Medano Creek. Wildlife lovers will be rewarded by a host of unique animals, including the bald eagle, coyote, and elk. In the spring and fall, migrating sandhill cranes can be seen.