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The Complete Guide to US National Parks

This article originally appeared on Flight Centre Australia's blog

Spanning 27 states with more than 50 different preserved areas, the national parks in the United States are a collection of boundless natural beauty that range from the sultry wetlands of the Everglades to the craggy glory of some of the nation’s highest peaks. A veritable playground for those that thrive in the outdoors, these parks are so inspiring they’re sure to turn even the slickest of city slickers into a nature lover.

* Indicates the park is free to enter. Camping or tour fees may still apply.

Alaska

  • Denali National Park

Established in 1917, Denali National Park remains an unspoilt slice of wilderness that reaches across 160 miles of the Alaska Range. Home to 37 different mammal species and 130 bird species, wildlife encounters are common. Perhaps one of the park’s most impressive sights, though, is its imposing granite mountains with jagged peaks reaching high into the clouds.

Highlights include Mount McKinley, dog sled tours and grizzly bear spotting.

  • *Gates of the Arctic National Park
  • *Glacier Bay National Park
  • *Katmai National Park
  • *Kenai Fjords National Park
  • *Kobuk Valley National Park
  • *Lake Clark National Park
  • *Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

American Samoa

  • *National Park of American Samoa

Arizona

  • Grand Canyon National Park

This national park needs no introduction. It’s known the world over as the home of the natural wonder that is the Grand Canyon, luring more than four million visitors per year to its scenic rims. Created by the Colorado River, the canyon runs 277 miles with an average depth of 1,219 metres. The size is sure to impress, but it’s the colours that will dazzle. Rock stratifications that date back to the Precambrian times showcase layers of reds, yellows, greens and black across the canyon walls.

Highlights include the Grand Canyon Skywalk, helicopter tours and any of the wilderness trails.

  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Saguaro National Park

Arkansas

  • *Hot Springs National Park

California

  • *Channel Islands National Park
  • Death Valley National Park (also located in Nevada)
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park

  • *Redwood National Park

Stand among the earth’s tallest living things at Redwood National Park along California’s northern coast. Set out on one of the park’s meandering trails, leading through lush fauna with wisps of mist creeping along the base of these forest giants. Admiring the sheer height of these plants is a rewarding experience made all the better by hidden waterfalls and rare native wildlife.

Highlights include Fern Canyon, Avenue of the Giants (including the drive-thru Chandelier Tree) and camping in the Redwoods.

  • Sequoia National Park

  • Yosemite National Park

Perhaps California’s most famous national park, Yosemite’s beauty surrounds the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range. Watch peregrine falcons soar over the sheer faces of notable rock formations, or feel the mist of crashing waterfalls that plummet from impressive heights. With nearly four million visitors per year, it’s one of the nation’s most popular parks.

Highlights include Yosemite Falls, Half Dome monolith, Glacier Point and Tuolumne Meadows.

Colorado

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park

  • Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountains are well known the world over for their jagged peaks and this national park was established in 1915 to protect their rugged beauty. The park has established a reputation for being a top spot for skiing and hiking, but did you know that it also offers up more than 100 mountain lakes and four different ecosystems?

Highlights include the Continental Divide, Trail Ridge Road and star gazing at Upper Beaver Meadows trailhead.

Florida

  • Biscayne National Park
  • Dry Tortugas National Park

  • Everglades National Park

Written by Carlie Tucker

Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.

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