America’s National Parks have a unique, interesting history. The first one, Yellowstone National Park, was established in 1872 under President Ulysses S. Grant. Since then, the national parks have expanded to a level of reverence and prestige unmatched by any other natural wonder. They span all across the contiguous United States, from the ancient Smoky Mountains to the deep crevasses of the Grand Canyon. And, if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, seeing them in person is a spectacular experience. Below are five national parks to put on your short list of places to see.
1. Olympic National Park
This gorgeous preserve lies along the west coast of Washington State. Creeks and valleys finger through the forest and onto the beaches, carving out mini-waterfalls and unique terrain through the wilderness. It is the classic Pacific Northwest park, and has within it more shades of green than you’ve ever seen.
2. Zion National Park
Borrowing its name from the Hebrew word for “place of refuge”, Zion National Park is canyon that cuts deep through the southwest corner of Utah. Though it’s not as big as the Grand Canyon, it is lesser known and therefore much less crowded. Zion is best known for its gorgeous red tinted rocks. For the hiker with lots of energy and drive, Zion is the perfect place for a challenging trip.
3. Acadia National Park
This national park resides in the rocky shores of southern Maine. It’s one of the few places in the United States where you’ll find wildlife ranging from black bears to wild moose. Its terrain is pretty mountainous, as the Appalachian chain actually ends all the way up there. If you’re looking for fresh mountain air and great ocean views, Acadia is the place to be.
4. Great Smoky Mountain National Park
The Great Smoky mountains are a specific area of the Appalachians, located in sections of both Tennessee and North Carolina. Their name comes from the fact that fog is often seen hovering over the mountaintops like thick clouds of smoke in the morning hours. The landscape is truly ancient, with the oldest rocks measured being over a billion years old. Outdoor lovers who love to hearken back to simpler times will certainly have an immediate fondness for the Smokies.
5. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
In New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park, it’s not the terrain itself that matters. It’s what lies under it. The whole area is riddled with easy to explore caves, complete with great chambers, stalactites, and stalagmites. If you’re looking for a genuinely unconventional hike, look no further than Carlsbad Caverns.