Grand Canyon National Park
Spanning a huge 4,926km2 the magnificent Grand Canyon is a spectacular display of geologic colour and erosional forms, which have continued to be carved by the Colorado River over millions of years.
The diverse landscape and elevations mean the Canyon is home to a wide variety of wildlife including mountain lions, elk, coyotes, eagles, turkeys, rattlesnakes and lizards.
For those that only have a couple of hours to spend, check out the glass Grand Canyon Skywalk, hop aboard the historic Grand Canyon Railway, or take a scenic helicopter ride. Those with a little more time can check out one of the many picturesque hiking trails, or even have a go at Colorado River rafting.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
This family-friendly park covers a total of 16.8km2 between the main park and the northern extension of Fall Creek and offers an abundance of activities such as hiking, fishing, camping, birdwatching, mountain-biking and some dog-friendly trails. The giant “virgin” redwoods are the park’s main feature, averaging 1,400-1,800 years old reaching up to 91 metres tall and 4.9 metres wide. Explore The Garden of Eden located in the San Lorenzo River, a popular swimming hole. Fall Creek offers numerous hiking trails running along the creek and its mini waterfalls and a Disc Golf course as well.
Yosemite National Park
Waterfalls, deep valleys, meadows, ancient sequoias and vast wilderness make up the beauty that is the grand Yosemite National Park. Not only is this national treasure picturesque but it’s home to over 400 species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. A 3,027km2 outdoor playground year round – guests can enjoy breathtaking hikes, camping, fishing, rafting, climbing and biking in the warmer months, and snow sports and activities in the winter. Highlights include Tunnel View, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome.
Acadia National Park
The first eastern National Park, Acadia offers a unique coastal setting and is home to the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Comprised 198km2 of mountains, ocean shoreline, woodlands and lakes this national park boasts a diverse collection of wildlife such as moose, bears, whales and seabirds. Visitors can enjoy hiking granite peaks, biking historic carriage roads, or simply relaxing and enjoying the scenery of Otter Cliff, Thunder Hole or Jordan Pond.
Mammoth Cave National Park
This unique attraction is unlike any of the others on this list. It is comprised of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known in the world with more than 600 kilometres of chambers, labyrinths and passageway explored. Offering more of a gloomy and mysterious experience, highlights include the Frozen Niagara section, known for waterfall-like flowstone formations, and Gothic Avenue, its ceiling covered in 19th-century visitors’ signatures. Trails take in other park features like the Green and Nolin rivers and the sinkholes of Cedar Sink. Many of these attractions can be explored during many of the available lighted tours ranging from 1-6 hours.
Grand Teton National Park
Spanning over 1,300km2 the Teton Range overlooks a spectacular scene of pristine lakes and alpine terrain that make up Grand Teton National Park. The lush surrounds make it the perfect home to a wide range of wildlife such moose, bears, wolves, elk, and big horn sheep. Visitors can explore over two hundred miles of trails, float the Snake River or simply enjoy the serenity of this remarkable place.
Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming, Montana & Idaho USA
A volcanic hot spot, Yellowstone offers a wide range of experiences featuring colourful hot springs, mudpots, and gushing geysers. Alongside these unique attractions visitors can also explore 8,991 km² of dramatic canyons, mountains, forests, and alpine lakes and observe wildlife including antelope, elk, bears and wolves. Depending on which side you’re exploring from highlights include the Old Faithful Geyser, Tower Fall, Yellowstone Lake, and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Zion National Park
A stunning display of massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky, Zion is as picturesque as it is enchanting in its rich history. For almost all of the approximately 10,000 years humans have lived in and around Zion. Archaeologists have identified sites and artefacts from the Archaic culture, dating from about 7,000 BC. This national park spans over 593km2 and is home to kangaroo rat, bats, bighorn sheep, and rock squirrels. Discover the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the waterfalls and hanging garden of Emerald Pools, and if you’re up to it, give the Zion Narrows wading hike a go for a truly extraordinary experience.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Discover the world’s largest natural collection of crimson-coloured hoodoos, unique spire-shaped rock formations, that make this sprawling reserve in southern Utah truly one-of-a-kind. The park spans over 145km2 and its wildlife include Utah prairie dog, North American porcupine, Uintah chipmunk, Green Basin rattlesnake and common sage lizard. Take in the view from any of the overlooks, Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point, best observed at sunrise or sunset.
Mesa Verde National Park
Spanish for green table, Mesa Verde, is best known for its incredible display of well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Built beneath the overhanging cliffs the Ancestral Pueblo people resided in these structures ranging in size from one-room units to villages of more than 150 rooms for over 700 years from 600-1300 AD. The park protects over 5,000 known archaeological sites spanning an area of over 200km2. Highlights are Cliff Palace, the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, the panoramic canyon views of Sun Point Overlook and Petroglyph Point Trail.