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Essential Guide to US National Parks in 2023

  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 02 May 2023
  • Revised 10 July 2023
Essential Guide to US National Parks in 2023
  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 02 May 2023
  • Revised 10 July 2023
Essential Guide to US National Parks in 2023
  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 02 May 2023
  • Revised 10 July 2023

Across the USA, there is an abundance of natural wonders, yet few come close to matching the awe-inspiring beauty of America's national parks. Yellowstone was the world's first national park, yet there are now more than 400 sites to choose from in the US alone. So, whether you want to pitch up a tent to ponder the stars, seek adventure on a hike, or simply reconnect with Mother Nature in the best way possible, these incredible parks will not disappoint...

Big Cypress National Reserve, Florida

North of Everglades National Park on the western side of the peninsula sits Big Cypress National Reserve. Named for its abundance of cypress trees, it is a haven for stunning wetland scenery. The best way to explore is by kayak, where you can truly appreciate the varied nature, do a bit of bird watching, and even keep your eyes peeled for the endangered Florida panther that calls the area home. The area is also a designated dark sky park, as it is away from urban development and artificial light pollution. This means enjoying the splendour of the milky way and a sky full of stars is simply part of the package.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is deservedly one of the most famous sites on US soil. Within a second of entering this majestic red rock dreamscape, jaws will be agape, minds mesmerised. Carved by the Colorado River, this 277-mile UNESCO World Heritage Site offers endless hiking and rafting opportunities. Yet to get that perfect picture, you will want to head to Mather Point for sweeping views of the canyon. And when sunset hits, make your way to Cape Royal on the North Rim. Here, the park truly embraces its designated dark sky park label as one of the most sublime stargazing spots possible. 

Pair this peaceful park with the buzz of nearby Las Vegas, and you'll have the best of both worlds this holiday.

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho

Yellowstone National Park is the world's first national park and today remains one of the most popular spots on any US road trip. Visitors will be astounded by the unmatched beauty of its many lakes, mountains, valleys and, most notably, geysers. Yellowstone holds approximately half of the world's geysers, but the crème da la crème is the famed Old Faithful. Erupting at regular intervals since 2000, getting a glimpse of this astounding natural phenomenon couldn't be easier. Yellowstone also has countless hiking trails to take advantage of, but you may want to be aware of some of the park's residents – elk, buffalo, and grizzlies are just a few of the wildlife encounters you may have en route. 

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is a Californian hot spot. It welcomes millions of visitors each year to its dramatic waterfalls, giant sequoias, rich wildlife, and of course, awe-inspiring cliffs. Dominating the landscape are the massive granite slopes of Half Dome and El Capitan, which have become a mecca for hardcore rock climbers. But if you're not craving the rush of the rock, there are lakes, rivers, and canyons to be explored in a much more leisurely way. Many visitors also like to tackle the world-famous John Muir Trail, which starts at Yosemite and stretches all the way to Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental US. Or, if you're looking for a bit of relaxation in nature, you may want to hop aboard the Yosemite Valley Floor Tour. This two-hour open-air tram ride is led by rangers and will guide you through all the highlights of Yosemite. 

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Another designated dark sky park, Joshua Tree National Park is incredibly diverse and definitely worth a visit when on the west coast. One of the most unique national parks in the US, you will find fields of Joshua trees, stunning desert views, and huge rock formations, all under an amazing night sky. And be sure to take a trek among the cacti in the Cholla Cactus Garden. But beware of the teddy bear cholla. This is one of the most dangerous cacti, despite its cuddly name. 

Come nightfall, you will want to get in those Instagram-worthy shots of the red-tinged sky, then let the desert stars send you to sleep at one of the numerous campgrounds. To escape the desert heat, the best months to plan a visit are between March and May or October/November.

Zion National Park, Utah

For any keen hikers, Zion National Park should be top of the bucket list. The most popular trail is Angels Landing, located in Zion Canyon, and the fact that it requires a permit tells you all you need to know. This hike may not be for the faint-hearted, but its narrow ridge scaling and vertigo-inducing heights are sure to please thrill seekers. Other popular activities here are bike riding, canyoning, horse riding or cruising along the epic Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. And that's not all. Zion National Park also boasts breathtaking photo ops. Sandstone valleys, intricately carved gorges, unique rock formations, and rumbling rivers provide enviable backdrops for those perfect family holiday photos.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Laying your eyes on the majestic Rockies is one thing, but doing so in the surrounds of a stunning national park is quite another. Rocky Mountain National Park boasts equal amounts of lush greenery and barren mountainous landscape. Both hiking and climbing are popular pastimes here. But this national park not only satisfies the nature enthusiast, it also has a little something for the bookworms. At the gateway town of Estes Park sits the Stanley Hotel, which is the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's The Shining. But don't worry, no creepy twins or boys on trikes should be stalking the hallways here. 

Ready to to take a walk on the wild side? Explore the USA's national parks with one of our USA Twin and Multi-Centre Holidays 2023 & 2024 offers.

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