America's National Parks are the envy of the world.
Let’s face it, children adore camping. For the bigger kids among us, especially those city dwellers grinding out a 9 to 5, a stay at one of our national parks is the perfect detox. Our expansive national parks are jewels in the crown of our tourist industry. But with 61 to choose from it's tricky deciding which ones to visit and when. Here at Trtl, we've whittled down some of the best national parks you'll love this summer and fall.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Signed into law as a national park by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, America’s first ever national park spans almost 3,500 square miles of lakes, rivers, canyons, waterfalls and mountain ranges.
Hot springs and geysers are among the highlights you’ll encounter. The hiking trails alone stretch to 1,300 miles where you’re likely to spot wild animals such as grey wolves, grizzly bears, buffalo, wild horses and moose.
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Activities include kayaking and wildlife spotting and Yellowstone even has its own super-volcano.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, Yellowstone’s official address is in Wyoming but it actually covers three states — if you include the 3% in Montana to the north and northwest and 1% to the west in Idaho.
Entry to Yellowstone is $30 per vehicle and, once inside, you’ll find that all swimming and hiking is free.
During summer months, the best way to get around is by car if not opting for a bus tour. A round trip, called The Grand Loop, will take anywhere between 4 and 7 hours.
Staying longer? Yellowstone is an amazing geothermal wonderland and with 12 campgrounds and more than 2,000 campsites it affords the perfect place to rest or toast marshmallows under the stars.
GETTING THERE: Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming is served by American Airlines, Delta, SkyWest and United. From there, enjoy a 56-mile scenic drive to the Southern entrance to Yellowstone.
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Made up of six million acres of wilderness with a single main road running through it, Denali is one of the most remote of America’s national parks.
Mt McKinley, also known as Denali, is North America’s highest peak. It towers 20,310 feet above sea level amid a vast region of alpine tundra, crystal clear glacial lakes and is home to around 500 species of flowering plants including lupines, bluebells and fireweed.
Fantastic walking trails are best enjoyed when the wild flowers are in blossom during June and July when sunshine can last up to 20 hours.
As the temperatures drop later in the year you increase your chances of seeing the Northern lights, but the winters are super cold and the paths impassable.
GETTING THERE: Some tour operators offer “flightseeing” packages from Anchorage to Denali. A Kantishna Air Taxi, for example, takes 2 hours to Kantishna, inside Denali. Glass-domed trains also operate from Anchorage and take 7.5 hours. You can also drive there in 5 hours or take a bus.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
It may not be the largest of the country’s national parks at just 265,000 acres, but it is many people’s favorite. It has an abundance of breathtaking hiking trails — over 350 miles of them – through forests of pine and spruce. Along the way you might see some elk, moose or bighorn sheep. 72 peaks rise into the Colorado sky, some higher than 12,000 feet.
The 48-mile drive along Trail Ridge Rd will prove one of the highlights beneath snow-capped peaks.
Later, you might want to head indoors and take a tour of the Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King got the inspiration for his novel The Shining. ending a night with his wife in room 217, they were the only guests at the hotel as it was due to shut for the winter months. A nightmare woke King and inspired the plot of the famous novel, later adapted for the screen by Stanley Kubrick.
GETTING THERE: The closest airports are Denver International Airport, which is just 1.5 hours from the national park and offers plenty of options for onward transportation.
The Indiana Dunes, Indiana
America’s newest national park, the Indiana Dunes may seem like the baby of the bunch. But it has been over a century in the making.
The original campaign for its inclusion was scrapped because the Great War took precedence and National Park status was eventually granted earlier this year.
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A 15,000-acre expanse of rolling dunes, freshwater beaches and oak savannah, the Indiana Dunes plays host to hundreds of rare plants and to over 350 species or bird. Enjoy seeing geese, ducks, herons, gulls, grebes, hawks and vultures and plenty more.
Kayaking and horseback riding is popular and there’s camping for overnight visitors. The Chicago skyline is quite the view from the eight beaches, which are backed by 200ft high sand dunes.
GETTING THERE: Flights into Chicago are numerous from which The Indiana Dunes are an hour’s drive give or take. The national park can also be reached by rail using the South Shore Line in around 90 minutes.
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