U.S. national parks are, without exaggeration, some of the most beautiful places on the planet, where everyone can enjoy scenic landscapes of unspoiled wilderness, appreciate the amazing variety of landscapes and flora, and meet numerous wild animals in their natural habitat in a comfortable environment. More than 85 million people visit all of America’s national parks each year. The total number of national parks in the United States is 58, not counting other natural parks, including national monuments, nature preserves and various recreation areas. In our article, we will only tell you about the most interesting parks in the States with National Park status, which are worth seeing first during your trip to America.
Many independent travelers know that in addition to metropolitan areas and major cities, there’s more to the States. According to Ryan Zinke, official head of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service (NPS), Americans love their national parks. Tourists from around the world don’t lag behind.
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The most interesting national parks in the U.S.
1. Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains is located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee and was the most popular of all national parks in the United States in 2017. According to visitor statistics, it is the most interesting nature park, as more than 11 million people visited it in a year (mostly East Coast statesmen).
This is not unusual, as it has been the leader among all national parks in America for many years, although we know little about it except for its name.
American tourists are mostly attracted to its more than 800 miles of wilderness hiking trails and the incredible panoramic views that literally take your breath away.
2. Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has been deservedly popular with tourists from all over the world for more than 100 years. Like Disneyland, it is one of the symbols of America, and therefore, unlike the Great Smoky Mountains, is very well known outside of it. More than 6 million people come to see the Grand Canyon every year.
The Grand Canyon is an impressive 450 kilometers long, up to 29 kilometers wide and more than 1 kilometer deep. There are interesting hiking trails for visitors to the Grand Canyon Park, along which there are many viewpoints on the North and South Rim. The most popular lookout point is Maser Point in the southern part of the park, which offers a memorable view during sunset.
3. Zion National Park
Located in Utah, it is the most famous and popular of Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks. More than 4.5 million tourists come each year to this fairly small park, which is primarily known for challenging themselves and their fitness while climbing Angels Landing, the top of which offers a 360° view of the entire Zion Canyon.
There’s also a spectacularly beautiful trail along the river that winds its way through the narrowing canyon gorge. It’s called Narrows and is particularly popular during the summer vacation season because it provides a great escape from the heat.
It is no exaggeration to say that Zion is the tightest park in America, as it is located in the Virgin River Canyon with nearly vertical walls, among which a few freestanding cliffs stand out in the middle – Angels Landing, The Organ, and Cathedral Mountain.
4. Rocky Mountain National Park
It is located in Colorado and occupies a fairly large area around the mighty mountain range of the world-famous Rocky Mountains. This ridge is the continental divide of all of North America. The mountains in the park range in elevation from 7,600 feet to 14,259 feet, and there are 77 peaks above 12,000 feet.
In addition to the stunningly beautiful views, of particular interest to its 4.4 million visitors a year are the scenic lakes (there are 150) and the diverse animal and plant life, which differ greatly on the eastern and western slopes of the Rocky Mountains because of the influence of different climate types on the flood meadow, pine forest, and alpine tundra ecosystems.
5. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park in California was established by decree of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 (first as a nature preserve). It was the first time the U.S. government had established special rules for the use of scenic nature in order to preserve it intact for posterity. “No temple built by human hands can compare to Yosemite,” wrote John Muir, one of the pioneers of nature parks in America.
About four and a half million visitors come to this temple of nature each year, most of them spending time in Yosemite Valley, which is a canyon 11 kilometers long and about 1.5 kilometers wide, originally cut by the Merced River and then widened by a descending glacier.
6. Yellowstone National Park
This is the world’s first national park, which was founded in 1872. It is located in the U.S. on territory belonging to three states at once: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Today Yellowstone is one of the last large unique ecosystems on our planet in the zone of temperate northern latitude.
Yellowstone Natural Park is home to over 300 geysers in the vent of the giant supervolcano (Yellowstone Caldera), as well as scenic canyons and many beautiful waterfalls. It is also a natural habitat for wild bison, which once roamed the Great Plains in great numbers. Bears, wolves, coyotes, deer, and elk are also found here.
Each year, more than 4.2 million people come to see Yellowstone. Since it is almost impossible to see this huge national park, which we think is incredibly interesting, in one day, many tourists stay in campsites within Yellowstone, but most of them stay overnight outside the park in the surrounding towns.
Acadia National Park is located in Maine and is the first national park in the United States east of the Mississippi River. Acadia is America’s easternmost national park, so this is where you can see one of the first sunrises over the U.S. territory. The main interest among the more than 3.5 million tourists who come to the park in a year is the incredible meeting of ocean and mountains on Mount Desert Island, which is a patchwork of forests and villages.
Olympic National Park in Washington State is visited by more than 3.4 million tourists annually. This is one of the most interesting parks in America, but due to its geographical location and considerable distance from Los Angeles it is not very popular among travelers from Russia. Nevertheless, the Olympic has literally everything outdoor lovers can imagine: more than 100 kilometers of pristine Pacific coastline, ending in the northwest at Cape Flattery, a unique rain forest, mountains with glaciers and subalpine forests, and the Crescent Lake of incredible beauty.
9. Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park, located in Wyoming, adjoins the southern border of another popular national park, Yellowstone. They are so complementary that even a single ticket is sold for both of these parks, although the Grand Teton is visited by fewer people – only 3.3 million people a year. But if in Yellowstone the main actors were numerous geysers and thermal springs, but here the most interesting thing – the mountains.
The park is surrounded by a high section of the Titon Range, part of the Rocky Mountains, which rises more than 7,000 feet above the valley in Jackson Hole. The highest mountain peak of this range, which rises 4,197 feet into the sky, is called the Grand Teton. In addition, there are eight other peaks in the park that exceed 12,000 feet.
Glacier National Park in Montana completes the top ten most interesting natural parks in the U.S. that are most visited by tourists (more than 3 million people a year). It gets its name from the gradually disappearing glaciers lying on the high mountains in the vast territory of the park. In 1850, there were about 150 massive glaciers within the park’s boundaries. As of February 2018, only 26 remain, and most of them continue to gradually melt. According to some estimates, they may disappear completely by 2030, so hurry to see them!