Olympic National Park in Washington State covers more than 4,000 square kilometres of mostly pristine and undeveloped wilderness and it’s a place where visitors love to roam and adventure amongst its wooded forests and magnificent Pacific shorelines. Olympic has a little bit of everything where its spectacular wilderness, majestic mountain peaks, and miles of sandy beaches offer endless possibilities for outdoor recreation, sightseeing, wildlife watching and so much more. The park is home to literally dozens of species of mammals and aquatic life and it’s not uncommon to see elk locking antlers, salmon surging upstream on their way to spawn, and black deer scampering through the forests.
At the heart of the peninsula you’ll find opportunities to hike and backpack through lush temperate rain forests, climb misty mountain peaks, fish for trout in crystal clear lakes and maybe meet up with some of the local residents including the wild deer, elk, marmot bears and mountain goats that all call this wonderful park home. On the western edge of the peninsula, enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean as you stroll past craggy tide-worn cliffs and explore the fascinating tidal pools at Kalaloch’s Beach and Mora’s Hole in the Wall, and if you’re luck you might even spot some whales breaching the surface of the mighty Pacific Ocean.
Mount Rainier National Park is a Washington icon whose dominating feature is of course the magnificent 14,410 foot Mount Rainier, an active volcano and the tallest peak in the Cascade mountain range. Mount Rainier is the most glaciated mountain peak in the US spawning five major river systems and the mountains, forests and river valleys of the national park provide a home to over 65 species of mammals as well as, 14 species of amphibians, 182 species of birds and 14 species of fish. Mount Rainier National Park’s spectacular setting against the sensational backdrop of the Cascade Mountains provides the perfect opportunity for an amazing range of outdoor pursuits including hiking, biking, climbing, fishing and boating. Sign up for a Ranger led program to discover lots more about the park’s history and its geology, wildlife, and fascinating ecology – maybe even find out lots more about the night sky with a stargazing trip to the slopes of Mount Rainier. Popular spots within the Park include the Paradise hike and Paradise Jackson Visitor Centre, the Sunrise lookout with its stunning views of the Cascade Mountains and the surrounding valleys and the Silver Falls Trail. From active volcanic peaks and icy glaciers to lush forest trails and magnificent river valleys, it’s all here just waiting to be explored at Mount Rainier National Park.
To experience one of the snowiest inhabited places in the USA, visit Crater Lake National Park in the Cascade Mountains. Crater Lake National Park features some of the most stunning scenery on Earth: a deep, pure lake, sheer cliffs over 600 meters high and two picturesque islands. Reaching a depth of 592 meters, Crater Lake is the deepest, and some say the most spectacular lake in the United States – President Roosevelt referred to the park as one of his wonders of the world and it was the first National Park signed into law during Each winter, the hardiest skiers and snowshoers test their skills on a 50-kilometer, three-day loop around the rim of Crater Lake while summer guests get to enjoy the wonders of the park with more leisurely pursuits. Hiking camping, fishing and even swimming in the brilliant blue waters of the lake are all popular activities. There’s only one spot where it’s legal to access the shore for swimming and that’s at the end of the Cleetwood Cove Trail where you’ll find a 20 foot rocky ledge waiting to test your nerve – will you be brave enough to climb up onto the ledge and jump or dive into the lake below? Popular pursuits and visitor spots include Wizard Island, Toketee Falls, the Pinnacles Overlook Hike, and the Rim Drive- a scenic 33 mile clockwise drive around the rim of the crater.
Few landscapes in the world have the incredible vistas found in Grand Teton National Park. This National Park in Wyoming boasts jagged peaks, crystal-clear alpine lakes and vivid evergreen forests, creating a landscape as beautiful as it is diverse. Outlined by the ragged, pointed peaks of the Grand Teton Mountains, this park is a dream for outdoor enthusiasts where hundreds of kilometres of hiking and backpacking trails will lead you deep into the striking Teton Range and grant you spectacular views that can stretch out over nearby Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the iconic Yellowstone National Park way off in the distance. There’s lots of ways to experience Grand Teton National Park, unleash your inner cowboy with a guided horseback ride through the valleys or take a casual backpacking trip along one of the park’s scenic hiking trails. Cast your line into the waters of at Jackson Lake and see what’s biting or get everyone together for an exciting rafting ride along the Snake River – lots to see and lots to do and with six visitor centres dotted across the park there’s always someone on hand to help you plan the next day’s Grand Teton Adventure.
An American icon Yellowstone was first spotted by Lewis and Clark in 1807 and was established as Yellowstone National Park in 1872, it is the oldest, and arguably the most famous National Park in the USA.
Yellowstone National Park spreads itself across the three states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and this national treasure contains nearly 9,000 square kilometres of crystalline lakes, striking canyons, vast grasslands and thundering waterfalls. However, the park is undoubtedly most famous for its geysers and no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a visit to see “Old Faithfull” erupt. Watching this amazing geyser spout high above the ground is a Yellowstone National Park tradition and a highlight of any visit to the Park. Yellowstone welcomes more than 3 million visitors each year who come from all across the world to see Old Faithful erupt, the Mammoth Hot Springs steam and the hundreds of mud pots bubble. The park boasts hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails meandering through its sprawling valleys and along the ledges of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The further out you venture, the higher your chances of spotting some of the park’s famed wildlife (such as bison, elk and bears) will be. Other highlights of Yellowstone National Park include the waterfalls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the hot pools and geysers on Firehole Lake Drive, Yellowstone Lake, and the bison and wolf spotting mecca of the Lamar Valley.
Powerful and inspiring, Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona is no doubt on every traveller’s must-see list. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is arguably one of the USA’s most famous landmarks and encompasses nearly 5,000 square kilometres of plummeting canyons, multi-coloured rocks, dramatic cliffs and stunning ravines.
Sign up for a ranger-led program to learn about geologic history, majestic birds of prey, animals living in the extreme environment and the area’s early inhabitants. On the South Rim there’s no need to drive around as handy shuttle buses take you around the Grand Canyon Village and out to the scenic overlooks and hiking trailheads. Popular overlooks include Mather Point, Pipe Creek Vista, Toroweap Overlook and the Yavapai Observation Station. Even though everyone’s favourite activity at Grand Canyon is to stand on the edge and overlook the beautiful landscape below, there are many other ways to enjoy the park’s natural splendour. Take a horseback ride along the South Rim trail or an exciting white-water rafting trip down the powerful Colorado River. Other popular ways to explore this amazing natural wonder include jeep tours, hiking, and of course the exciting bird’s eye view Grand Canyon helicopter trips!
The spectacular scenery, steep canyons, sharp buttes and distinctive layered rock formations of the Badlands National Park attracts visitors from across far and wide. It’s a dramatic environment that was once home to ancient mammals such as the rhino and the sabre toothed cat whose fossils now remain scattered in pockets throughout the park.
Today, the Badlands National Park is home to incredible collection wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets. Keep your eyes peeled for them as you traverse the striated buttes and make your way along one of the park’s popular hiking trails that includes the hour long Notch Trail the 1-kilometer Door Trail or the ½-kilometer Window Trail — all of which are great for hikers of all skills. The Ben Reifel Visitor Centre, the Fossil Exhibit Trail, the Badlands Wall and the Yellow Mound Overlook are some of the park’s main highlights and other popular ways to explore the park include biking and driving along the Badlands Loop Road. The Badlands National Park also has ample camping spots and offers fantastic star gazing opportunities thanks to its unspoilt dark skies.
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most unique parks in the United States because its home to the largest concentration of hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) anywhere on Earth. These limestone-rich pillars range from average human height to more than 10 stories high. Because of Bryce Canyon’s unique erosional patterns, hoodoos are more abundant here than anywhere else in the world.
Bryce Canyon is made up of a series of natural amphitheatres, the most famous of which is the Bryce Amphitheatre. Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point and Sunrise Point are probably the park’s most popular viewpoints and all are accessible from the seasonal Bryce Canyon shuttle buses. There are a handful of opportunities to hike or horseback ride through the canyon with local guides. The most popular trail is The Navajo Loop Trail because it loops its way through a multitude of hoodoos and slot canyons. The reds and oranges of the canyon walls combined with the green of the Douglas fir trees makes for some memorable vistas. Many people combine the Navajo Loop Trail with other trails for a longer outing. More leisurely hikes can be enjoyed along the canyon rim. Unlike the deeper canyon trails, a rim trail hike gives you an opportunity to enjoy the splendour of the hoodoos from above. Sign up for a ranger led hike or educational program to gain a deeper understanding of the park – maybe even take one of the guided full moon night hikes for some stunning stargazing thanks to the park’s unpolluted dark skies.
Located in the southwestern portion of Utah, Zion National Park is one of the most visited Parks in the United States famous for its unparalleled views of an otherworldly landscape: dramatic cliffs, sandstone canyons and towering rock formations. Take your own car or hop aboard the seasonal shuttle to see some of the most stunning rock formations the park has to offer including the Great White Throne, Weeping Rock, the Emerald Pools and the Temple of Sinawava.
At the Grotto shuttle stop, get your first look onto the steep mountain called Angels Landing. The Angels Landing hike is at first quite moderate, but after a while you will be climbing up a narrow path holding onto the chains that are provided for guidance. It might sound a little scary but the panoramic view out over the Zion Valley is truly breath-taking. Take a little break at the Zion Lodge before you hop onto the shuttle to go to the starting point of your next hike – Weeping Rock. This easy hike is a great pick for families. After a short walk, reach an overhanging rock formation from which water seeps through and constantly drips, hence the name. All around, rare ferns and other plants grow that only exist here in this micro-climate created by the wet rock. Another family-friendly option is the Lower Emerald Pool trail, which has a nice waterfall view. If time permits its fun to try the Emerald Pools Virgin River walking trip, parts of the hike are spent wading, walking and maybe even swimming in the river. Other exciting Zion National Park activities include camping and backpacking, canyoneering, climbing and horseback riding.
Volcanoes are living proof that the Earth hasn’t finished forming. You can witness it with your own eyes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, located on the south eastern shore of the Big Island. Here, hot, molten lava carves pathways through the stark landscape, steaming as it meets the ocean.
Recognized as a World Heritage Site, the park is a refuge for the island’s native plants and animals and an important link to its human past. Stop in the Kīlauea Visitor Center or Jaggar Museum to learn more about the land and the indigenous people who once thrived amid such mighty forces. If you have only a few hours to spend in the park, hop in the car and follow Crater Rim Drive to explore the summit of Kīlauea volcano. This scenic byway traces the summit caldera, passing through desert and lush tropical rain forest. The route then crosses the caldera floor, guiding you to many scenic overlooks. Along the way, you’ll find a number of short hiking trails that allow you a closer look at the unique landscape. Other highlights of the Volcanoes National Park include the Kilaukea’iki Crater, the Thurston Lava Tube, the Chain of Craters Road, Lava Watching and the Sulphur Banks Trail.