When was the last time you and your family visited a national park? With summer fast approaching, we’ve put together a list of the nation’s top five national parks to pump you up for that summer road trip…
Acadia National Park, Maine: Located on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is the oldest National Park east of the Mississippi River. Many people time their visit to check out the spectacle of Thunder Hole. If you arrive as the tide is coming in, you can witness the surf crashing into the naturally-formed inlet and shoot out of the hole with a loud boom, sometimes as high as 40 feet. At night, visitors enjoy a magical light show courtesy of the phosphorescent sands on Sand Beach. Visitors can also head to Bar Harbor and hop aboard a tour boat for a day of whale-watching.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee: Each year, an estimated nine million people visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it the busiest national park in the nation. Designated both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve the 800 square miles that make up the park include 800 miles of hiking trails. While many visitors prefer to take in the majestic beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains from their car, many venture out onto the hiking trails to get a glimpse of “a little bit of the world as it once was”.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: When you go hiking or camping at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, you enter a surreal world of hoodoos and other rock formations sculpted by millions of years of freezing and thawing rainwater. The park is popular with campers who spend their nights gazing at billions of stars and the Milky Way that slashes across the moonless sky. Hikers can explore terrain that includes ancient bristlecone pines (some as old as 5,000 years or more). In the winter, the park attracts hundreds of winter hikers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
Yosemite National Park, California: While lobbying to preserve California’s Yosemite region as a national park, naturalist John Muir wrote, “No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite.” As a result of his hard work, the region gained national park status in 1890. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site plays host to an estimated 4 million visitors each year. The park attracts campers, hikers and rock climbers with nerves of steel who take on the parks treacherous rock formations like Half Dome and El Capitan.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the Big Island: Designated both an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world: Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Very few sites are as spectacular as that of witnessing an eruption of these two giants. Kilauea, erupting constantly since 1983, has added over 500 acres of new land to the island over the last 30 years.