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Visiting America’s Top National Parks

Living here in America, we have the opportunity to visit hundreds of national parks each year. Some are parks that you can drive through in a day, and others may take a few days to take in all the sights. Below are the top five national parks that have been visited in the past year across the U.S.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In 2008, over 9 million tourists visited the park  in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to tour the “hiker’s paradise”. When you can visit nature and enjoy wildlife from bears to salamanders for FREE, is it no wonder that so many people got out to visit the park.

One of the best places to visit is Cade’s Cove. This is a “U”-shaped, eleven mile, one lane and one way road situated within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Although it is a short distance, it is possible to take up to three hours to travel. When wildlife is sighted, like a bear, which is common, the line of cars stops to admire the cute but very dangerous bear. It is only when the bear moves on that the cars continue on. There are many signs posted and travelers are warned to stay inside their cars, because the bears are very prevalent and dangerous.

As travelers are working their way through the cove they will enjoy some of the most beautiful views in this part of the Appalachian Mountains. Great Smoky allows for many diverse hiking trails. Visitors can hike to the rock summit of Chimney Tops and climb to Clingmans Dome where they will reach the highest point along the Appalachian Trail. The park also boasts a lot of historic charm as well, boasting several pioneer homes and several historic churches. Cade’s Cove is so popular that it stands only second in touristry to Las Vegas.

Grand Canyon National Park

As one traveler has stated, “There are probably 1,000 or more Grand Canyon reviews, and a bazillion Grand Canyon pictures, but you cannot do justice to the scenery with words or photos…this is something you really have to see for yourself.”

We all have sites that are on our checklist that we must see in our lifetime. This list may include the Statue of Liberty, Mr. Rushmore, Hawaii, Yellowstone, and many other American treasures. and the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon,  Arizona is no exception to this.

Visiting the Canyon at the end of September and during the early morning hours is the best time to see the sights. Not only do you not have to compete for a parking space and viewing space, but the Canyon is literally alive at this time. Wildlife are waking up and are active, the fresh scent of nature lingers in the air, and you are in a solitary place.  The Colorado River lingers at the bottom of the canyon and it is hard to comprehend that such a small River, in comparison, carved out such a tremendous canyon.

The best place to explore what the Canyon truly has to offer is along the North Rim. This is where it is more remote and rugged, and you may even get the chance to ride a mule along a trail. There are also several hiking trails to take advantage of. One in particular is Bright Angel Trail. You will have the opportunity to truly test your skills and see native animals in their natual habitats. If exploring nature from up above is more your style, take advantage of a Papillon Helicopter Tour. This will undoubtedly be a once in a lifetime experience being able to see the entire panorama of the Canyon.

Yosemite National Park

There are many reasons to visit Yosemite in California. Some of them being; “shortly after entering the park, all concerns melt away”, “this place is so beautiful it is nearly surreal”,  and because many call it “the gem of the U.S. National Park system”.

Yosemite is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S., due not only to its proximity to L.A., but because it boasts wonderful scenery and limitless activities available to all age levels and skill levels. As you drive through the main passageway through the park, you will have the opportunity to experience a whole host of views. You will take in beautiful waterfalls, cliffs, mountains, rivers, and rock work to marvel at as you drive past. Along with many national parks, this drive may be a little nervewracking, seeing as how one side has a sharp drop-off and a guard rail and the other side hugs the cliff directly. To unwind after this stressful drive, take an easy hike up to Bridal Veil Falls that leads you right up to the base of the waterfall. It’s rumored that if, while standing at the base of the waterfall, the mist hits you, you will find your true love.

Along the drive you will have the chance to drive across a beautiful river, spot campers having a picnic at one of the many tables, and taking advantage of the bridge spanning the river and jumping in for a swim.

Olympic National Park

Come visit this real-life “wonderland”, with its beaches, mountains, and forests available everywhere you turn.

Olympic National Park located close to Port Angeles in Washington is almost one million acres in size, a huge wilderness, and has no roads that go directly through the middle of it. To experience the park to its fullest, it is essential to get out of the car and experiene nature on foot. The park ranges from the Olympic Mountains to Washington’s wilderness coast. With such diversity, the park offers visitors anything and everything to see. It also includes the only true termerpate rainforest in the lower 48 states.

The park is divided into 13 areas, all accessible from little spur roads and entrances along the highway. The entrance fee is about $10 per vehicle and the pass is good in all 13 areas. To further entice the outdoor enthusiast, there are 16 campgrounds and over 600 miles of trails to explore.

Yellowstone National Park

Come visit the world’s original national park  in Ashton, Idaho encircled in a maze of thermal geysers and hot springs. You’ll be surrounded by wildlife you’ve never seen before, and you will be up close and personal. Yellowstone is one of the most memorable parks you’ll ever visit.

The park is the result of vast volcanic action, but the only recent volcanic activity is the thermals that surround the park. The thermals are created by rain and melting snow that seep down into the ground until it hits the hot magma where it’s heated to boiling temperatures, then works its way up to the surface as an occasional outburst, as a geyser or in a continuous flow.

Old Faithful is the park’s most famous geyser. It gets its name from its predictability. It erupts pretty predictably, every 92 minutes, and has been doing this for decades. You have to be early to this show, though, because it gets quite crowded, and the geyser is sometimes a few minutes early or late.

Although these are just five of the parks that surround us, they are definitely must sees. But, don’t just visit these parks, make sure to get around to all the national parks that you can. It is truly enriching and gives you an appreciation for the wonderful world around us.