No matter what time of the year you plan to travel, national parks throughout the United States are great places to visit. These bucket-list spots are full of wonder and rich in history. Our nation is home to 419 national parks. If you plan on traveling to each one in the future, it may take some time. To help narrow down your list, here are the national parks you may want to visit first.
- The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona: President Teddy Roosevelt coined the saying, “[This is] the one great sight which every American should see.” Made an official national monument and park in 1908, the Grand Canyon was created by the Colorado River. Today, visitors can look at the majestic sights of the various canyons, rivers, and tributaries. In addition, you can camp, visit Grand Canyon Village, walk the Trail of Time, whitewater raft on the river, and more. All of these exciting sights and activities make the Grand Canyon National Park one of the most visited destinations in the world.
- Yosemite National Park in California: Nearly 1,200 square miles in size, Yosemite National Park is known for its waterfalls, valleys, wilderness, and more. Favorite spots among travelers are Glacier Point, Crane Flat Area, and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. These three areas are just a few spots from which to view the beauty of the land and waterfalls, the groves of sequoia trees (in fact, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias houses over 500 trees alone), and rock formations. All of the national parks listed have sights that can’t be missed, but the sights of Yosemite National Park are ones that stand out from the others.
- Denali National Park in Alaska: Located in Anchorage, Alaska, Denali National Park is home to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest mountain. Visitors can take part in other activities, such as hiking and zip-lining. However, a trip to the Denali National Park wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Husky Homestead. Iditarod Champion, Jeff King, runs the Husky Homestead, which gives travelers a chance to learn about The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, cuddle with Alaskan Husky puppies, and see racing sleds, Arctic survival gear, and more. The well-known race is yearly, in early March. Mushers and their team of 14 dogs must travel from Anchorage to Nome in 8 to 15 days or more. Want more of a relaxing trip to Denali? A visit to Anchorage allows people a chance to see the mountain range from a distance.
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia: A little closer to the Tarheel state is the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Part of the Cumberland Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, the Cumberland Gap is known for being a key passageway through the lower central section of the Appalachian Mountains. It was first used by Native Americans and later on by explorers, pioneers, and frontiersmen, including Daniel Boone. Today, travelers can see sites that have been called “the first great gateway to the west,” camp, bike, and hike at the Wilderness Road State Park and be in three states at once at the Tri-State Peak.
- Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in North Carolina: North Carolina is home to many national parks. In fact, one is just a half-hour or so away in Greensboro. The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is the site of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse during the Revolutionary War. Major General Nathanael Greene’s militia and the Continental Army fought against Lord Charles Earl Cornwallis and his army on March 15, 1781. Today people of all ages can do a self-guided cell-phone tour, visit the Hoskins Farmstead (an 18th-century farmstead owned originally by Joseph and Hannah Hoskins), and walk throughout the battlefield. History and military fans will spend hours at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park learning all the unique information the site has to offer.
These five national parks are just a few of the many sites to visit throughout the United States. Start with the ones closest to you, then keep venturing out from there. You’ll be glad you did.