Discover the national parks in the United States. Red rock canyons and endless valleys, from Bryce to Grand Canyon, from Yosemite to Death Valley, Monument Valley and Yellowstone, passing through the Arches. We are certain you will be mesmerized by the majesty and the beauty of the American national parks.
The Great Beauty
We honestly can’t find any other words to describe the splendor of the American national parks.
United States us a country with the most parks and protected areas in the world and not even a dozen trips would be enough to see them all. What you can do, however, is let Xplore advise you on which parks to include in your journey on the American roads.
Red rocks, rainforests, steep canyons, gigantic cacti, active volcanoes, geysers, white sand dunes and millennial sequoias…The national parks in the USA are all this and more, and their beauty will leave you breathless.
Not to mention countless activities you can enjoy there, from trekking to canyoning, from rafting to horseback tours...Ask us for an estimate and start packing your bags!
The most famous canyon in the world and the Colorado River – a true nature’s marvel.
The Grand Canyon is located in the northern Arizona. Considered one of the seven wonders of the world, the park became a forest reserve in 1893 and in 1919 it was declared a national park.
Its grandness and majesty are synonymous of the United States themselves – the park really does occupy an impressive area of 4860 square kilometres, it is 2000m high and the canyon extends for almost 500km. At certain points it is as much as 25km wide and 2km deep.
The sight we get to enjoy today is result of erosion processes that for thousands of years the Colorado exerted on the seemingly unbreakable rocks of this area. The exposed rock layers are in fact a historic document of the geological formation of this zone. From the bottom to the top, various rocks, corresponding to a certain era, create a unique play of colors that becomes even more impressive thanks to the dance of light and shadow created by the sun as it moves across the sky.
The Colorado River is 450km long and it divides the park into two very distinct zones: the South Rim, which is more accessible for tourists, with the most important viewpoints and the starting point for most classic excursions, and the North Rim, which is less visited, even though many consider it to have the best observation points. Even though they are relatively close to each other, the two sides represent two completely different worlds in terms of vegetation, rocks and fauna.
The park is open for tourists throughout the year (the north slope is closed in winter). In the South Rim, the weather is freezing in the winter and very hot in summer (up to 40 degrees) while the North Rim is much more diverse and unpredictable.
There are so many excursions you can take in the park: naturalistic walks on foot, on horse or mule, rafting in the Colorado river, exciting air excursions in helicopters or small airplanes. And for those who are passionate about culture, the park also has several museums: the Tusayan Museum is dedicated to the Native American civilization that lived in the Canyon some 800 years ago.
The largest and the oldest national park, a true wonder of geysers, forests and bears.
The Yellowstone National Park is located in Northern Wyoming.
In this area 640.000 years ago there was a massive volcanic eruption that led to the formation of what is today the Yellowstone park. Once considered the area of “bursting flames of hell,” in 1871 Ferdinand Hayden came back from an expedition with some photos and convinced the National Congress that it was an area worth protecting and that there were no devils there…
That is how in 1872 the first national park in the United States was born. It extends over 9000 sq km, at 2400m altitude. It is located at the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and contains alternating landscapes of planes and vast evergreen forests, rivers, waterfalls and geysers.
The park also offers great wildlife variety with buffalos, brown bears, grizzlies, birds and moose, which live in absolute peace in their ideal habitat. Yellowstone is, in fact, the largest animal preserve in the United States and the bear is its symbol.
The Yellowstone park is located on a volcanic plateau, where the rain that infiltrates the soil reemerges in form of hot springs that, due to the presence of various microorganisms, takes on different colors, creating distinctive fumaroles and spectacular geysers. The largest and the most famous is the Old Faithful, which for almost 100 years has been going on and off approximately every hour, sending thousands of liters of boiling water up to 50 meters in the air. Furthermore, the largest mountain lake in the United States is located at the center of the park.
For a thorough visit of this park a single day is not enough, and if you want to stay longer there are so many things you can do. You can take a 230km car trip through the park, fish in the Yellowstone lake, rent a bike and go cycling along designated paths, do some bird watching, rent a canoe or a small motorboat on the Yellowstone lake or take a horseback ride for an hour or two.
The Navajo Indian reservation features a scenery that was celebrated by so many Westerns.
Monument Valley occupies an area that in distant eras was actually the ocean floor, and in time it gradually eroded due to various atmospheric influences, like water, wind and ice.
That is how the world’s most spectacular red mountains were created. These rocks were transformed by nature into strange shapes that have become part of the Navajo legend, but also the ideal scenery for Westerns. In fact, so many movies of the genre were filmed precisely in the park.
The valley in which the park is situated is not a conventional valley, but instead an endless plane interrupted only by the rock formations that rise from the ground and stand high against the horizon. Due to extremely dry weather and very rare precipitation, the vegetation is very scarce and only a few trees, bushes and wild flowers manage to survive in this area.
At the time when the Indian reservations were first created, the American government reserved for the Navajo this piece of land and in 1958 the Monument Valley became the official Navajo reservation.
The desert landscape, red and rugged, is particularly fascinating at dawn and at sunset, when the sunrays penetrate the arches and caverns of rock formations and create fantastic plays of light.
A sight that is not to be missed.
The Monument Valley area features a 25km long road that winds through the valley and can be travelled in an hour and a half. Alternatively, you can use the off-road means of travel. The valley has eleven viewpoints that you can visit along the road and that offer the best view of the monoliths.
A park in the Sierra Nevada between spectacular waterfalls, forests and granite walls.
Yosemite National Park is located in California, at about a 4-hour drive from San Francisco and some 90km from Fresno.
It was declared a national park in 1890 as one of the first parks recognized by the Congress; from that moment on the number of visitors was in a constant rise, so much so that today the flow of people has been organized so as to prevent a massive impact on the environment.
The park occupies an area of over 3000 sq km and it is located between 600mt and 4000mt altitude. Yosemite includes a spectacular piece of Sierra Nevada, the mountain range that runs parallel with the Nevada border for some 400km. It offers a natural sight of absolutely classic beauty: magnificent waterfalls, gigantic granite formations, spectacular forests, countless prairies and giant redwood forests, the most famous of which is Mariposa Grove. Since it includes areas of different altitude, the park offers a very diverse flora and fauna: bears, wolves, deer and so many other mammals, birds and reptiles, not to mention over 1400 species of flowers that grow here.
Yosetime Park has something for everyone, from nature lovers to the most tireless athletes. The former will never get tired of walking between magical rock formations that feature the highest waterfalls in America, of admiring the gigantic sequoias and finding out which is the best viewpoint in the park.
The athletes, on the other hand, can go skiing, snowboarding or ice skating in the winter and in the summer they can pick between fishing and rafting, horseback riding or mountain biking along 1300km of paths waiting for you to discover them.
Result of an geological evolution that started 500 million years ago (once the entire region was underwater, and after a series of caving in and emersion processes it was subjected to massive glacial erosion), the park offers many gems, such as the Yosemite Valley, famous for its spectacular walls of rocks and waterfalls, and Mariposa Grove, in which you can find hundreds of giant sequoias.
A natural treasure offering delightful views of red rock peaks
Bryce Canyon is one of the smallest and simultaneaously one of the most visited parks in the USA. Located in Southwest Utah, at 400km from Las Vegas, it was declared a national park in 1924 and named after the pioneer Ebenezer Bryce. Only 6km long, Bryce Canyon offers an incredible panorama of gigantic rock formations in red, orange, pink and even blue hues, which at sunset become even more brilliant and suggestive.
The park offers various field trip options: hikes ranging from simple and short ones to longer, more demanding treks, horseback rides along the Navajo Loop Trail or some other path, and there is even a possibility of flying over the park in one of the small airplanes that take off from the nearby civilian airport.
In 60 million years the clay and sediments have created calcareous, sandy and muddy rocks, which, exposed to rain and wind, have taken strange shapes, like peaks and pinnacles, which are commonly called “hoodoo.”
Everything is enveloped in an absolutely natural atmosphere, with pine trees and prairies at 2500m of altitude. The best time to visit the park is sunset, when everything looks like it is on fire.
Even if you have already visited Grand Canyon, you should definitely make a quick trip to Bryce Canyon as well, because this breath-taking view of rocky labyrinths, with its red hues contrasted by the greenery of the surrounding nature where lynxes, deer and prairie dogs live, will blow your mind.
Everything is even more fascinating in the spring, thanks to the remaining patches of snow melting atop the pinnacles, in a stunning contrast with the landscape of the canyon.
The famous and scorching Valley of Death
In 1849 a group of pioneers travelling westward, during the famous Gold Rush, entered by mistake a valley at the border between Nevada and California, and many of them never came out alive. That is how Death Valley got its name. It first became a national monument in 1933 and it was only in 1994 that it was declared a national park.
It can easily seem that a place with such a name wold be a gloomy, desolate one, a barren, monotonous and hostile desert – but that would be such a mistake!
As much as 900 sq km, of the 8000 sq km which is the total park area, is at 86m below sea level, constituting the lowest point in the entire northern hemisphere. And then, just 20km away, you will find peaks at 3000m of altitude.
The temperatures are infernal in the summer, ranging between 40 and 50 degrees. The highest temperature ever was measured in 1933 and it was 57 degrees. But don’t think for a second that, because of that, Death Valley is a place with no attractions at all.
This is a desert zone surrounded by high mountains, wide salty expansions, dried up lakes, deep and multicolored canyons, sand dunes and abandoned mines: all this makes Death Valley one of the most complete parks of the Southwest. One should also not underestimate the richness of the flora and fauna – in the springtime, the slopes are covered in flowers, palm trees and cacti, there are infinite animal species living here, from the serpent to the viper, all the way to the Coyote and the Roadrunner.
In addition to being an interesting tourist attraction, the Death Valley is an area that provides important scientific information about distant periods of our planet and about the natural forces that still today model it and change its geological structure.
Consider the fact that in the womb of this land there are giant underground lakes that sometimes emerge in form of ponds and puddles even during the hotter months. Oftentimes, some of the rarest aquatic species in the world find their natural habitat right here.
Arches National Park
Natural rock arches and labyrinthic canyons
Created in 1929 as the Arches National Monument, in 1971 it was redefined and its limits were extended as it was introduced to the list of the American national parks.
The Arches National Park is a park with the highest concentration of sandstone arches in the world: there are over 200 of these here, and the most famous one is the spectacular and oblong Landscape Arch, which is 30m high and 91m long.
The park, which at 300 sq km is relatively small, can be reached via Highway 191. Most of the spectacular arches can be easily reached using one of the roads and paths that run across the park. Due to the heat and lack of water, not many tourists dare spend the night here, although camping is allowed upon obtaining a free permit.
Unlike other regions where the erosion created spiked and sharp formations, here the atmospheric agents have modelled rounded and smoothened shapes, scattered from a great number of arches of different sizes. The most famous and the most visited one is the Delicate Arch, featured on Utah license plates. It is 14 m high but it is located on high ground close to an overhang, which makes it even more impressive.
Thanks to the spectacular and suggestive structure, the Arches National Park was used as setting for many movie scenes, such as Thelma and Louise with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade with Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.
Canyon de Chelly
A park at the heart of an Indian reservation
Canyon de Chelly is unique among American national parks for one reason: it does not actually belong to the US Park Service, but to the Navajo people, who live off it. There are many people and entire families living and working the land within the Canyon, hidden behind its imposing, layered and multicolored walls. It is also the only national park in America where human beings are the essential part of the ecosystem and not just visitors who came to enjoy the spectacular views.
The park is located at the heart of the Diné land, between the four Sacred Mountains. Instead of rising from the plain like mountains do, the canyon is hidden from the outside world, and you can’t even see it until your reach its very borders. This tentacle canyon contains several dwellings of the ancestral Puebloans (350 AD) and several cliff dwellings carved in the canyon walls, going back to approximately year 1200.
Canyon de Chelly is one of the most important places you can visit in the land of the Navajo. For millennia, the Diné people have been coming here to receive strength and power through the canyon’s rocky walls. The past and the present of the Navajo are hidden in this canyon; some of the most important events in their history took place right here: it is here that the Sacred Beings taught the Navajo how to live, and even today they are observed with utmost reverence and gratitude.
Canyon de Chelly is not a single canyon, but several of them. There are three main branches: Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto and Monument Canyon. Each of them originate at the base of the mountains to the East.
Some of the animals living in this park include pumas, bears, lynx, coyotes and foxes, who are at the top of the food chain, right after man. Near water, you can also find beavers and raccoons.
Zion National Park
Narrow canyons made of red sandstone and wooded slopes
Zion National Park is located in Utah, at the border of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert. Zion is an ancient Hebraic word indicating a shelter or a sanctuary: the park is, in fact, an oasis of peace that extends over almost 600 sq km.
Its particular geographic location makes it a perfect home for many animal species, as well as for a rich and distinct flora.
The park was first discovered by Mormon pioneers who stopped in Utah to get some peace and rest. One part stayed in this land, which was once hostile and isolated from the rest of the world precisely because they were looking for a place where they would live in peace, and so they named it Zion.
White, pink and red rocks of Zion have such a robust, solemn and majestic look that only a few rare photographs actually manage to capture with all due grace the glory of the imposing canyons, deserts, water courses and waterfalls.
The valley that borders the park is served by a road called Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, but it is not open to private vehicles.
Coming in from the Eastern entrance to the park you can admire the succession of these diverse environments: from a classic American desert complete with cacti and yucca plants, to the fascinating sight of the sandstone and the intense and wild beauty of its canyons, many of which are still inaccessible.
There are two main routes within the park: the first one crosses Zion Canyon, which is a narrow and deep canyon created by the erosive action of the Virgin River, which is, at certain points, as much as 1000m high; and the second one passes through the Kolob Canyons, located at the Nortwestern section of the park and made exclusively of red rocks.
Sequoia National Park
Ancient trees and a magnificent forest
The twin parks of Sequoia and Kings Canyon are located in California, at some 300km east of San Francisco, and are among the favourite spots in the whole of the Western USA.
The two parks have completely different physical traits: Sequoia is home to the world-famous giant redwood trees, whereas Kings Canyon is known for its precipitous canyons.
The Sequoia National Park was the second national park to be officially protected by the Congress, in 1890, while the Kings Canyon was the third. These two parks offer an insight into rich, incredibly diverse and fascinating flora and fauna. The park extends on different altitudes, ranging from 500m to 3000m, which allows so many different species to find their natural habitat. For example, in this park, you can encounter pumas and brown bears, but also mouflons and groundhogs.
Within the park, you can make a nice trip of approximately 80km, but you can also fish, ride a horse or make use of some 1300km of trekking paths.
However, the true attraction of this place are sequoias, the oldest and the biggest living creatures on the Earth. The Sequoia National Park is home to the three biggest trees in the world: General Sherman is 83m high, has a 11m diameter and it is 3500 years old. Then there is Washington Tree and General Grant Three, the latter of which is also traditionally considered the national Christmas tree. The Giant Forest Museum teaches the visitors a little bit about the history and the environment of the sequoias, and it is also the starting point of most walking paths.
One of the natural attractions you should not miss is definitely the Crystal Cave, a 3-mile cave discovered in 1918, which you can enter and admire the 10.000 year old rock formations.
Mesa Verde National Park
Native Anasazi settlements between the rocks.
Located in Colorado, some 16km from the town of Cortez, named Mesa Verde by the Spanish, this park is a large calcareous plateau dominating the plane. Extending for 211km, this archeological park reflects over 700 years of a people’s history. Between years 600 and 1200, the Anasazi Native Americans have occupied this area, creating a community and building stone villages nestled in the alcoves of the canyon, and precisely thanks to this natural protection the settlements have been preserved in an excellent state.
The settlements in the rock slopes remained unknown until 1849, when a lieutenant of the American Army stumbled upon them by accident; the magnificent Cliff Palace was then discovered by two local looking for the cattle they lost during a snowstorm in December 1888.
A trip to the villages built in narrow, difficult to reach places involves the visitors in an ancestral, mysterious atmosphere, which makes them experience the reality that left a profound mark on Indian societies that were driven away from the prairies by the white man. The area is interesting from an archeological point of view due to these ancient settlements, but also because of the old railroad that starts at Durango and passes through the wooded canyons on the way to the colorful town of Silverstone.
In the Mesa Verde park, you can visit the settlements on your own, or guided by a ranger. It would be a good idea to make a short stop at the Far View Visitor center, where you can get the information that will help you move around easily. The Chapin Mesa Museum is another must-see, where the archeological site and the customs of this ancient people are explained and where you will see an interesting anthropological and archeological collection.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Nature wins, next to Seattle
Located in the far Northeast of the United States, in the Washington State, Olympic National Park was declared as such in 1983 by the president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even before him, another Roosevelt, this time Theodore, declared the Olympic National Forest a national monument in 1909, supposedly to protect a species of deer, called elk, which is today known as the “Roosevelt elk.”
In this magnificent park that comes in hundreds of shades of green you can admire the last trees in the world that belong to a temperate rainforest, which, 100 meters high, rise from the foothills of rugged glacier mountains.
Even though it gets many visitors both from the backcountry and the Pacific coast, the park offers plenty of places and things to do that allow you to get in touch with the most uncontaminated nature at any time of the year. In the summer you can explore the walking paths, bicycle routes, paddle a kayak down the rivers or in the lakes Quinault and Crescent, go whale-watching on the shore or fish for the Chinook salmon or cutthroat trout, which, however, have to be released back into water once captured.
In the winter, you can go alpine skiing or cross-country skiing – in fact, the Olympic National Park is one of the few American national parks that have an actual ski station. The remarkable and luscious vegetation, however, comes with a price, which means precipitation. The park is one of the rainiest and the snowiest regions in the world – each year it gets as much as 510cm of rain.
DENALI NATIONAL PARK
Into the (real) wild
Denali National Park & Preserve is the piece de resistance of the Alaska Interior, extending over 24.280 sq km, which is more than the size of Massachusetts.
Originally the hunting ground of the Athabasca, the area was conquered by the gold prospectors in the early 1900s, causing great devastation, after which the naturalist Charles Sheldon with a series of environmental protection actions created Mt. McKinley National Park, and the name was changed to the current one in 1980.
It is precisely Mt. McKinley that dominates the park. With its 6193 meters it is the highest peak in the Northern America. Called Denali by many inhabitants of Alaska and “the Great” by the native Athabasca, the mountain is the symbol of unblemished nature ruling this state.
This enormous area has a very rich fauna and wolves, foxes, moose, caribou and grizzlies can often be seen through the window of the bus that takes the visitors along the Park Road, which is the only road, and a dirt one at that, that crosses the park for 148km.
Denali National Park also contains many fossils and footprints of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals from a period from 65 and 100 million years ago.
You can pick among many activities and excursions the rangers organize, such as dog sled rides, guided walks of different length and difficulty level, panoramic flights in helicopter that lands on a glacier, as well as rafting.
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Lava rivers into the Ocean
Founded in 1916 as the first Hawaiian national park and declared as the UNESCO World Heritage in 1982, the Volcanoes National Park is one of the main nature attractions in the largest of the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island.
The park covers 1350 sq km and contains two of the most active volcanoes in the world, the Kilauea and the Mauna Loa, from which the river of magma has been flowing incessantly for thousands of years, causing the island to continuously expand.
The fiery lava reaches the sea, it cools and solidifies, with spectacular vapor clouds above the water that boil for kilometers. The sight of these fiery-red rivers that flow down the mountain slopes, contrasted by dark skies, is even more breathtaking at night.
The Volcanoes National Park can be discovered using its 240 kilometers of paths, lava tunnels and asphalt roads, one of which leads to the summit of Kilauea, the only volcano in the world whose top can be reached by car.
The world and untouched nature always instills certain spirituality and this is particularly true for this park, where they say resides Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes, who is believed to take shape of an old woman or a beautiful girl.
If you pass her by your car can break down, but if you give her a ride, she will come in but then, at some point, she will disappear. People still bring offerings to the edge of the crater Halema’uma’u as a sign of veneration of a goddess that protects the land.
Ready for Gators?
The Everglades National Park is the third largest national park in the continental United States and with its 6200 sq km it occupies the larger part of the Southern point of Florida.
The park consists of a large and flat flooded meadow (glade in fact means “swampy terrain covered in grass) dominated by canes, and due to its singularity on global level it was declared the World Heritage Site as a biosphere reserve.
The Everglades are the ideal habitat for a rich fauna, from the famous alligators to different kinds of wading and birds, such as herons, ibises, flamingos, and pelicans, all the way to reptiles, tortoises, sharks, dolphins and crocodiles. Some 86% of the park is a natural area comprised of fresh water, swamps, forests and the mangrove labyrinth that is the Ten Thousands Islands area. Many areas are not open for visitors and it is therefore difficult to go outside the set tourist circuits.
If you want to watch some animals and immerse yourself completely into the ecosystem, you can take an excursion along the Main Park Road on a bike, in a canoe, in airboat, swamp buggy or take an organized tour in bus or boat, such as the Tunnel Tour of the mangroves which starts at Everglades City.
Hidden at the very heart of the park there is an ex missile base from the Cold War era, which was constructed in 1964 with the purpose of protecting Miami from potential air raids from Cuba. The base is open for visitors.
Do not miss the Pa-hay-okee Overlook, especially at sunset. This elevated platform dominates one of the most beautiful meanders of the Everglades river of grass.
Acadia National Park
A national park with a thousand landscapes
Located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Maine, the park occupies two thirds of Mount Desert Island, the Isle au Haut, the Baker Island and, finally, a part of the land, the Schoodic Peninsula.
Native Americans had lived in these areas for approximately 12.000 years, before the European settlement which took place in the second half of the 1800s thanks to the artists that came to paint the natural beauty of the Mount Desert Island.
The natives were called Wabanaki, meaning “People of the Dawn,” since the Cadillac Mountain, another wonder of this area, is the first place the sun hits in the United States, as well as the highest point of the entire Atlantic Coast, all the way to Rio de Janeiro, offering a breath-taking view.
Acadia became a national park in 1919 thanks to the efforts of the local residents and today covers an area of 190 sq km, unfolding in truly diverse landscapes: here you will find numerous lakes and reflecting pools that create an extraordinary contrast with green forests and mountains of pink granite that extend along the coast.
The park is also famous for the historic Carriage Roads, which are large paths immersed in the nature and closed for car traffic. You can explore them on foot, on a bike or a horse, or even in a carriage, as they once used to.
Whether you opt for a guided visit with a ranger or a trip in the kayak, you will definitely be dazzled by the magic of Acadia National Park.
Canyonlands National Park
The land formed by the weathering agents
It is incredible what weathering agents can do over time!
This park is the proof: surreal-looking rocks, narrow gorges and incredible canyons are the protagonists of this incredible land, crossed as it is by two rivers – the Green River and the Colorado, which come together at the center of the park, in the area called Confluence.
Canyonlands is divided into three different areas that take name after their main landscape feature: Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze.
Don’t worry, the first one is not really an island suspended in the sky, but when you see it you will realize why they named it like that: it is an area of huge panoramic points, with peaks extending almost 700m over the two rivers, creating overhangs. When you are up there, it feels like you are really flying.
The second zone is called The Needles because of the pillars that rise from the ground as red and white sandstone towers, creating a truly unique landscape. There are almost 100km of paths across the area from which you can see not just the canyon but also the basins and the arches, and if you venture a bit more deeply you will even find ruins with pictographs, which add a human touch to this extraordinarily wild landscape.
The last area is called The Maze, for a simple reason. It is the most remote and the least accessible area of the entire West, with canyons that form actual labyrinths, sandstone swirls and sedimentary rocks that are 350 million years old. Only one in every 100 visitors actually goes to this area, since it requires special equipment and good physical shape.
It is certain that those few ones that decide to face this area of the park experience the same magnificent feeling the first explorers felt and get to enjoy the scenery that is a true work of art.
Glacier National Park
The park of 26 glaciers
The Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in America. Located in Montana, close to the Canadian border, it was founded in 1910 by the first American environmentalist movements.
With its 26 alpine glaciers, over 700 lakes, streams and cascades, rich vegetation and hundreds of animals species, this place is a paradise for every nature lover.
The Going-To-The-Sun Road is a truly spectacular one, an 80km-long panoramic road that separates the western portion of the park from the east. Literally carved in the side of the mountain, the road includes some of the most narrow and precipitous points in the United States, passes the evergreen forests, flowering meadows and snowfields until it arrives to the breath-taking panoramic views.
The heart of the park is the unmissable Many Glacier, formed by three gorgeous valleys criss-crossed by streams and cascades. Here you will find the park’s most accessible glaciers and see some wild animals, such as bears and goats drawn by the surrounding lakes.
Be careful, though, because this natural wonder is about to change radically: the great glaciers melted by the end of the last ice age and the current ones, which are far smaller, are slowly melting too. Global warming and the consequent melting is an increasingly urgent phenomenon and new studies conducted precisely at the Glacier National Park are showing troubling results. If things don’t change, it is believed that by the year 2030 the park will lose all the glaciers.
So, you better hurry up…don’t miss the unique beauty of this park!
Grand Teton National Park
Under the giants, pure nature!
When you are in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, all you can do is walk around with your nose in the air. Jackson Hole Valley is a beautiful, verdant valley surrounded by the rock wall that in some points goes up to 4000mt high! Whatever you decide to do in the park, these giants of American alpinism will watch over you, offering a natural wonder that will leave you breathless.
Together with some other parks, such as the neighboring Yellowstone National Park, are part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a protected area of more than 72000 sq km that safeguards many plant and animal species: here you can find plateaus in sagebrush, fields of wild flowers, numerous mountain lakes and lush forests inhabited by grizzlies, deer, moose, pumas, buffalos and many other species.
Considering the variety of the landscape, the park offers different activities, from trips in canoe, to bicycle rides and horseback riding, and in the winter, under the highest peaks of the Teton Range, the park offers 14 miles of ski runs for cross-country, downhill and snowshoeing!
Where did the Grand Teton get its name? The name probably comes from the Canadian fur trappers that called the three peaks in the park, the South, the Middle and the Grand, “Les Trois Tetons,” which in French means “Three Breasts,” due to their shape.
You don’t believe us? Go and see for yourself and start exploring this wonderful park!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The land of the blue smoke
Ancient mountain peaks perennially wrapped in a heather-colored haze – this is precisely the reason why the first inhabitants of these lands, the Cherokee, called it Shaconage, meaning the Land of the blue smoke, known today as the Great Smoky Mountains.
It became a national park in 1934 and today it is one of the most popular ones in the United States. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also a Biosphere Reserve not only because it hosts the oldest mountain range in the world, the Appalachian, but because of its impeccable ecosystem where, in perfect harmony, live some 1500 plant species and 60 mammal species, including black bears, deer and the distinct wapiti.
The park occupies an area of 2000 sq km between Tennessee and North Carolina, and it is mainly covered in forests. Kilometers of roads and paths offer the visitors a chance to completely immerse themselves in nature.
One of the interesting points in the park is certainly Cades Cove Loop, a valley with the biggest concentration of historic buildings in the park, such as the old granaries, churches, mills and barns completely surrounded by vegetation: a fascinating and unique landscape that is definitely worth visiting.
You can also pick one of the many excursions the park offers: we recommend those taking you to the park’s magnificent waterfalls. Grotto Falls and Rainbow Falls are among the most stunning ones. These mist-covered falls are surrounded by thick vegetation and huge boulders through which runs the crystal water…all in all, a suggestive sight that we recommend you do not miss.
Finally, you will be pleased to learn that the Great Smoky National Park is one of the few parks in the USA where entrance is free and it will always be free thanks to a clause that the Rockefeller family insisted upon when they donated five million dollars for the construction of the park.
Take advantage of it!
Joshua tree National Park
Welcome to the South of California
Joshua Tree National Park, located in Southeastern California, is named after an oddly-shaped tree. Very common in this area, the tree was made famous by the cover of the first major U2 album named – you guessed it - The Joshua Tree.
A national monument since 1936, it was declared a national park in 1994, with the passage of the California Desert Protection Act.
One of the things that makes this park unique is the presence of two different deserts – Colorado and Mojave, both offering breathtaking sunsets, green oases bathed in springs and creeks, fantastic views and, obviously, forests of Joshua Tree.
Don’t miss the Hidden Valley, a true corner of paradise created by gigantic boulders waiting for you to climb them!
And if you prefer having your feet firmly on the ground, further along you will find the Lost Palms Oasis, the oasis with the largest number of palm trees in the entire park, where you will be able to relax and soak in the allure of this park.
Saguaro National Park
Park of the giant cacti and magical atmosphere
They can be 15m tall, weigh 7 tons and live up to 200 years: they are Saguaro, the gigantic cacti that have become, and for a good reason, a symbol of the American Southwest. They are so unique and majestic that they gave name to the park that hosts them and protects them, in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
In the center of the park lies the city of Tucson, which divides it in two sectors, East and West, with two distinct ecosystems. In the Western section, the saguaro are younger and chunkier, while in the Eastern section there are fewer of them but they grow taller thanks to more frequent rain coming from the Rincon Mountain.
In the Western section, the Tucson Mountain District, you will find the Bayada Loop Drive, a dirt road circuit that extends for almost 10km allowing you to make short stops at some of the viewpoints and to pass through the Saguaro forest. There are other paths as well, some of which are short, such as the Cactus Garden Trail, and some are longer, passing through less frequented areas, all the way to the Tucson Mountain.
The landscape of the Rincon Mountain District, on the other hand, has its own unique nature: the Sonoran Desert gradually gives room to the evergreen forest after which the eastern section is named, and wildlife, as well as vegetation, becomes more diverse. The main road in this area is the Cactus Forest Drive, an amazing 13km-loop from which other paths part, leading you to discover the park even further.
Whether you are in a car, on a horse or on foot, you will be pleasantly surprised by the wonders of this park.
Another thing to visit while in the area are the Old Tucson Studios, a movie set built in 1939 for filming Westerns movies, which has remained the same since then. A magical place that instils all the allure of the West!
White Sands National Monument
The largest gypsum desert in the world
Trovarsi al White Sands National Monument è come ritrovarsi in un sogno: 450 chilometri di dune bianche come la neve alte fino a 20 metri che si perdono all'orizzonte e poi ... il silenzio. In questo angolo di paradiso fatto di sabbia soffice e finissima, spesso non si incontra nessuno per chilometri: è come ritrovarsi in una dimensione parallela, quasi onirica dove puoi divertirti a scalare le dune per poi scivolare giù con gli appositi dischi, immergerti in questo paesaggio diventandone parte, rincorrere il vento e scattare foto uniche. Il White Sands National Monument si trova in New Mexico e il centro abitato più vicino, Alamogordo, è a 20 km di distanza. Questa zona protetta fa parte del Tularosa Basin, una depressione chiusa tra le catene dei Monti Sacramento da un lato e delle montagne San Andreas dall'altro. Questa particolare conformazione del territorio ha contribuito alla formazione del White Sands: il gesso che forma le dune, generalmente è solubile in acqua, ma la zona è caratterizzata dall'assenza di fiumi e canali di scolo verso il mare. Di conseguenza i sedimenti delle acque piovane rimangono intrappolati nella depressione del Tularosa Basin e una volta evaporata l'acqua si creano veri e propri depositi di gesso che, spinti ed erosi dal vento costante, creano questo meraviglioso paesaggio. Tra i vari itinerari, citiamo l'Alikali Flat Trail o Big Loop, un percorso di circa 8 km che ti porta a scoprire gli angoli più selvaggi della zona inoltrandosi tanto da essere soprannominata The Heart of the Sands. Non perderti l'emozione di vivere la magia di questo luogo al tramonto: le dune cambiano lentamente colore e, come se catturassero i raggi del sole, lasciano spazio alla sera regalando uno spettacolo a cui tutti dovrebbero assistere almeno una volta nella vita.