5 National Parks in the US You Should Visit This Summer
No trip to the USA would be complete without a visit to one of the breathtaking national parks. Often huge in area, with areas of great wilderness, wildlife and unique flora and fauna with tourist-friendly facilities and accommodation, there is truly something for everyone. The parks are located all over the country, so no matter which area of the US you’re traveling you won’t have to go far out of your way to really get involved with the great outdoors. Here are our five suggestions of stunning national parks, all worth checking out for a myriad of reasons.
Located just 75 miles from Washington DC – in fact, many stunning national parks are a mere bus or car ride away from east coast major cities – bears incredible changing foliage during the fall months, with vibrant green turning into stunning and distinctive oranges and yellows. It’s mountainous, so if you want to escape the heat of the region it’s ideal for a visit in the summertime. Numerous trails mean that the keen trekker will have no shortage of hiking options – with 12 stunning waterfalls to check out along the way. If you’re into sleeping under the stars almost all of it is open to backcountry camping, meaning you won’t have far to go to find a place to bed down for the night.
Another stunning east coast located park, Congaree is home to the largest preserved community of unique bottomland hardwood forest, helped by waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers which sweep through the park’s floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate the ecosystem. If you’re with the kids then be sure to visit the Harry Hampton Visitor Center where the little ones can become Junior Rangers, and learn about how the park is protected and conserved. Located in South Carolina, it is prone to unpredictable weather and rapid flooding, so it’s best to check with the local weather stations as you plan your visit.
Florida boasts the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. It is also home to and provides an important sanctuary too many endangered species, including the manatee (sea cow), the American crocodile and the Floridian panther (these big cats are pretty elusive so don’t expect to encounter one if you make the trip!). It needs no accolades, but in case you were wondering, it is a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty.
As well as the animals which reside here it also has interesting plant life, with no fewer than nine distinct ecosystems which encourage beautiful specimens such as bromeliads and epiphytic orchids – perfect for a budding botanist to explore. Watch out for those crocs though!
Let’s head over to the west coast now, an area of such stunning beauty that you may be happy just driving up and down highway 101 and gazing at the Pacific ocean. But it’s worth venturing inland a bit, where countless wonders await you. One such incredible national park is Crater Lake, formed nearly 8,000 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. It is the deepest lake in the USA and 9th deepest worldwide. Iconic for its deep, entrancing blue colour and small islands (Wizard Island and Phantom Ship) it is a draw for more adventurous tourists. There are plenty of trails to walk around the lake and the area, as well as areas to camp. For those with a taste for the great indoors, the Crater Lake Lodge is a wonderful old time place to relax, eat, drink and sleep.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon
Staying out west, no road trip would be complete without a visit to this mystical, ancient forest populated with gargantuan trees of great age. 800 miles of trails will leave no hiker unsatisfied, and even a few miles from the main road you feel like you are in the absolute wilderness. Venture a few miles further and you actually are!
Attractions include the world’s largest tree – General Sherman – which is about 2,100 years old, 274.9 feet tall, and 102.6 feet in circumference. Absolutely breathtaking in its size, it has to be seen to be believed. It’s also worth educating the kids on the history of the forest, so they can see how deforestation has had such an impact on our world, and how we as humans can reverse such man-made destruction – one of the most pressing issues we face today.
I only have space to mention a handful of the hundreds of national parks scattered across the continent of North America. Wherever you are, it is well worth a visit out of town. Each has its own character, history, both natural and human-related, as well as striking areas of natural beauty that will literally take your breath away.