When it comes to national parks in America, people tend to gravitate to the main attractions. The Yellowstones, the Yosemites, the Grand Canyons. But if you take the time to do your research, you’ll find a few lesser known natural wonders that aren’t clogged with photo-snapping tourists.
Here’s our guide to some of the State’s best national parks. A few classic highlights and a few hidden gems – just the way we like it.
1. Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Think big; towering geysers, wild grizzly bears and spectacular prismatic springs, all nestled between grand mountain ranges and alpine lakes. Yellowstone is a spectacular feat of nature.
Home to half of the world’s geysers and a huge variety of wildlife – wolves, bison, elk and grizzly bears,Yellowstone was the first area in the world rewarded with National Park status. Thousands of years of volcanic activity have created the park’s geothermal hot spring system and famous towering geyser, resulting in an incredible area to explore.
Visit extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and then slip off into the majestic wilderness to discover the home of some of the world’s endangered species.
2. Acadia National Park – Maine
Previously home to the great Mountain Lion, take a walk in his paws to discover granite peaks, pine forests and the wonderful lakes of Maine’s coastal national park.
Located on the jagged east coast, Acadia reserves much of Mount Desert Island. Encouraged to leave vehicles on the mainland, you will find plenty of trails for hikers and bikers threading the rugged landscape. Enjoy views from the pink granite summit of Cadillac Mountain, a spot perfectly positioned for a spectacular first sighting of the sun rising over the United States.
This little park packs a punch regarding its list of things to see. Travel the original 1930s carriage roads and granite bridges, visit the beautiful sandy beach, and keep an eye out for all sorts of wildlife from red squirrels, white-tailed deer and black bears. Opportune trip timing can even see you spotting whales off the coast and watching peregrines soar the skies.
3. Yosemite National Park – California
On a scale your camera will struggle to make sense of, this is the home of spectacular glacier-hewn valleys which have proudly been rewarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Hanging valleys, granite domes, and deep U-shaped valleys see this park internationally recognised for its spectacular illustration on the effects of glacier erosion. Yosemite is home to five of the world’s highest waterfalls, over 300 lakes, mountain meadows and giant sequoia groves. Time will only allow you to see a slice of this ancient playground.
For nature’s answer to outdoor cinema find a spot on the forest floor to watch extreme adventurers scale thousands of feet of granite rock in their efforts to climb some of the world’s most famous routes. Picture perfect.
4. Mount Rainier National Park – Washington
Dominating the skyline for miles around and positioned as the centre piece of this beautiful alpine woodland park is Mount Rainier. The tallest peak in the Cascade Range, it dwarfs its neighbors with 14 410ft glacier faceted slopes, and slips in and out of view behind the clouds, coaxing intrepid mountain climbers to tackle its difficult accent.
The mountain can also be enjoyed with a relaxed hike amongst subalpine wildflower meadows, thousand year old trees, and waterfalls. Whilst hiking on the various routes, keep an ear out for cracking glacier debris echoing through the valleys, and an eye out for Cascade foxes and black bears.
5. Glacier National Park – Montana
Welcome to hikers’ paradise. Over 700 miles of trails lead you out into the wilderness where you find yourself among pristine forests, alpine meadows and spectacular lakes. A wonderful 400m boardwalk allows you to explore deep into ancient hemlock rainforest.
Glacier National Park encompasses sections of two mountain ranges, providing you with spectacular views of one of the world’s most active avalanche areas, as well as the option to traverse a spectacular mountain pass. Abundant wildlife viewing tips this park into being one of nature’s most beautiful creations.
Feature image c/o Jeff Krause, Flickr