The United States has a vast network of National Parks spread all around the country and territories. These vary from glacial landscapes to stunning deserts, including the entire spectrum of varied ecosystems in between. The National Parks are also excellent places to hike; with some of the most gorgeous views the U.S. can give us.
Of the 59 national parks, these are three of the best ones in which to enjoy a day hike or multi-day expedition.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
This national park forms part of the Appalachian Mountains, spanning a wide range of elevations that make hiking not only a visually attractive experience, but also a challenging one if you're up for it. With over 800 miles of trails (including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail), it is safe to say that hiking is the park's main attraction.
One of the best trails is the Mount Cammerer Loop, which is a strenuous 16-mile hike that takes you through one of the most remote sections of the Appalachian Trail. It is also one of the park's best views, composed of endless ridges of forest spreading to Tennessee. Also on the trail you can enjoy the deep pools that lie beneath tumbling waterfalls along Big Creek.
For more adventurous hikers, you can hike or climb Mount LeConte up to its 6,593-foot peak. As you go up, you'll change environments from hardwood forest to spruce and balsam. From the top, you'll see the magical view of the Appalachians, the highest mountain range in the East.
Lastly, did you know that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the U.S.? Yes, even more than The Grand Canyon (which comes in 2nd place in number of visitors).
For non-hikers, other activities include fishing, horseback riding, and touring nearly 80 historic structures.
Yosemite National Park, California
As one of the oldest national parks in the country, Yosemite features dramatic waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, and forests with Sequoia trees that defy the norm in size and age. Some of the most famous icons of the park are Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations, the glacier-carved Yosemite Valley, and the impressive Yosemite Falls, North America's tallest waterfall.
Among the best hikes there, you'll find the Upper Yosemite Falls Hike. This is a 7-mile strenuous hike that takes you all the way from the Yosemite Valley floor, right to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America. At the summit, you'll stand right at the edge from where Yosemite Creek plunges off the granite rim and falls 2,425 feet onto the valley floor. Needless to say, the views from the top and along the way are stunning and well worth the effort.
There's also the more challenging Half Dome Hike with its 17.5-mile long trail taking you up to the famous Half Dome, passing by Vernal and Nevada Falls along the way. Or, for something a little less intense, there's the Mist Trail. It takes you through both previously mentioned falls and provides a stunning view of Half Dome from the distance. As the name suggests, you will get wet with the mist from Vernal Falls, so come prepared!
Arches National Park, Utah
This national park's beauty comes from millions of years of erosion creating beautiful desert formations. Arches has the most concentrated collection of natural sandstone arches in the world, and here you'll see more than 2,000 of them. These include the famous Delicate Arch, in addition to stone columns, spires, fins, towers, and natural water-collecting basins.
Probably its most famous trail is the Devils Garden Trail, which leads to Landscape Arch. It is a short two-mile hike, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in surreal natural beauty, including one of the most beautiful arches in the park, Landscape Arch itself. It is the longest arch in the world (a football field in length), framing the surrounding landscape of sandstone hills and desert flora. Should you want to extend your hike, you can continue to Devils Garden (making the hike 5-miles round trip), where you'll see five more arches.
Lastly, as a recommendation, make sure you never hike alone and that you're properly covered by your travel insurance in case of any emergency that might arise along your hike.
What is your favorite National Park?
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