The National Parks of America offer the mind and body a chance to refocus in our hectic world. The beauty of nature causes us to shift our relationship with the world and our place in it. Time spent exploring gives families the opportunity to reconnect with each other and life on a deeper level. Discovering natural wonders and exploring historic monuments delivers its own set of unique opportunities to broaden the mind, body and spirit.
Learning about the area is the first step in your adventure within any of the 61 national park areas protected by the National Park Service. Information available online through the Park Service or other outlets will enrich your time, as well as, broaden your experience. Four national parks demonstrate the bold diversity of the United States terrain and culture. While every park preserves the natural beauty of America, these stand out.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
As you enter the Smoky Mountains, you’re traveling into an area steeped in culture, tradition and breath-taking vistas. With no entry fee or closing time, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited in the country. An estimated ten million people or more come to the park each year for the opportunity to explore the mountains, forests and streams.
The expansive park (1/2 million acres), spreads across North Carolina and Tennessee. There are many activities and prime viewing locations throughout the park. Begin your journey at one of the three entrances located near Gatlinburg, stopping at the Visitor Centers, and set off on the many spots to explore, with scenic drives, nature walks, horseback riding and the multitude of hiking trails, with stunning views, waterfalls, and lush forests.
- For a glimpse of the forest’s inhabitants, visit Cades Cove where deer, black bears and other animals can be seen near the old mountain farming communities.
- Travel up to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower for stunning views of the mountain range in every direction. Seven states are visible on a clear day from this point.
- The drive along Newfound Gap Road provides an opportunity to view the scenery and enjoy the mountain vistas from your car.
- Experience the mountaintop forest by hiking the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail on the way to Clingmans Dome.
- There are many areas, such as the Chimney Tops Picnic Area, to enjoy a casual picnic meal with your family.
Continue your experience through the evening in a Gatlinburg cabin rental.The hundreds of luxury cabins available offer decks with hot tubs, game rooms, electronic entertainments, fireplaces and fully equipped kitchens so that your family can recount the day’s adventure together.
Yellowstone National Park
As the first national park, Yellowstone’s establishment in 1872 affirmed a belief in nature conservation. As explorers documented the area, the importance of preserving this massive region (2,219,789 acres) for the enjoyment of all Americans became clear.
Within the park, the grand loop road gives visitors an overall experience. There are many roadside picnic areas for guests to enjoy. For hikers, the park is networked with thousands of miles of trails. Each offers unique learning and experiential opportunities for hikers of various skill levels. Whether you go on a day hike or more rigorous backcountry exploration, you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in the unique world of the park’s environs and wildlife.
- Any of the 9 Visitor Centers is a great place to start your adventure.
- If staying overnight, there are over 2,000 campsites and 12 campgrounds to choose from.
- Watch for wildlife as there are two species of bear and 67 other mammals including pronghorn, bison, elk and moose.
- The 1,100 species of native plants in the park are home to 322 species of birds.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Visiting the spectacular mountain environment within Rocky Mountain National Park, is a breath-taking experience. The park’s 415 square miles of mountain terrain is networked with trails to give visitors of every experience level the feeling of being on the top of the world. There are over 100 mountain peaks that are over 11,000 ft. where visitors can experience the incredible beauty of the area. As the park never closes, over three million people experience this great American wilderness area annually.
- Trail Ridge Road offers many overlooks for visitors to experience both the subalpine and alpine environments.
- During the spring and summer, the mountains spring to life with wildflowers, mule deer, elks and other animals.
- The park is also an active sporting destination so plan your visit as there are many activities for everyone to enjoy.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is a popular destination in northern Arizona. Scientists estimate that the mile-deep gorge was formed as the Colorado River cut a deep channel through layers of rock between five and six million years ago. While enjoyed by visitors since the park’s establishment in 1919, the Grand Canyon offers geologists a unique opportunity. As the steep sides of the Colorado River have been eroding for millions of years, they are able to study a cross-section of some of the oldest exposed rock on earth.
- Although it is not the deepest, widest or longest in the world, it is still one of the biggest at 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep.
- While many visitors come to the area for the hiking trails, rafting adventures are also popular.
- As you journey in the park, it’s interesting to note that the rocks found on the upper rim are about 230 million years old. Those at the bottom are approximately two billion years old.
The National Park Service was established to preserve areas in the United States of unique nature wonder. For more than 100 years, these parks have served as sources of inspiration and learning for the visitors. When life starts moving too quickly, gather the family for an adventure in nature. As you journey into a park, you’ll learn a lot about the natural world and spend meaningful time together.