It is no secret that I am a US National Park junkie. I expend a lot of effort plotting ways to visit my next park. I have currently been to 31 of the 59 US National Parks. I have featured several of my favorite national parks adventures and as time passes plan to share many more. Recently, I asked some of my fellow travel bloggers to share their favorite activities in the US National Parks.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana
Shannon of Sole Seeking
Whilst it may be the oldest national park in the United States with an establishment date of 1872, Yellowstone is still full of energy. Located in Wyoming, the park is like a Disneyland for nature-lovers, featuring star attractions including bears, bison and wolves among other eye-popping sights.
Yellowstone is most famous for its abundance of geysers. Old Faithful is so popular that a highway had to be built especially to manage the amount of traffic. However, there are plenty of other awe-inspiring springs to see before you start the pilgrimage to this holy site for its hourly display.
In the Norris Geyser Basin, you’ll find a sauna of volcanic springs varying in colour, from bright blue to vivid turquoise to striking orange. Over 3.5 kilometres of trail will lead you past bubbling baths and hissing vents. Steamboat Geyser is actually the tallest hot spring in the world with an eruption height of up to 400 feet.
As the largest hot spring in the United States and third largest in the world at 370 metres wide, the Grand Prismatic Spring will blow your mind with its incredible show of colours. It can be found in the Midway Geyser Basin approaching Old Faithful. Steam rises out of this vast boiling pot of potion as you follow the footpath around and hope not to fall into its spell-binding depths.
Touring around the geysers of Yellowstone never gets boring, but more mesmerizing. Seeing these springs will give you a greater appreciation of science and the environment. It will remind you of the complex chemical activity going on in the earth’s laboratory underneath us as we sit completely unaware, spending our lives on phones and computers.
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Sequoia National Park, California
Karilyn of No Back Home
Sequoia, as it’s locally known, is probably one of the best known forests in the world and definitely one of California’s favorite treasures. It is known for it’s big Sequoia trees, which truly are massive.
On a visit to Sequoia National Parks, there are several must dos. You must visit General Sherman, the 3000 year old tree that stands taller than the Statue of Liberty. You must walk through Grant Grove to see downed Sequoias and their exposed root systems. You must crawl through a fallen Sequoia Log and walk through a tree tunnel. And no visit would be complete without hiking the Tokopah Falls trail or spying for bears at Crescent Meadow.
But the number one activity while visiting Sequoia isn’t actually one that involves it’s namesake trees, rather it is a short hike up Moro Rock where you will be surprised with amazing views over the valley, over the broccoli tops of the Sequoias all the way to snow covered jagged peaks covering Mt Whitney in the distance.
While short, the steep 1/4 mile hike up 400 narrow stairs built into the rock will give wobbly legs to anyone with a fear of heights. There are guard rails along the path, but caution is still needed with small children. Portions of the trail are wide enough for only one hiker to pass at a time, which means it can be slow going during peak season. Don’t be deterred, as you progress up the trail, you’ll be able to see the top of the Giant Forest to the north with spectacular views in all directions. Great information panels along the way help you identify the surrounding landmarks. It is one of the most popular trails at Sequoia, and for good reason!
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Yosemite National Park, California
Gemma of Two Scots Abroad
I saw a double rainbow! A what? Yes! A double rainbow! I had never even heard of a double rainbow before that hot summers day at Yosemite National Park. I was in America for the first time and on a West to East coast camping trip with a group of strangers but it is, still to date, one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Ten of us (all girls) hiked through Yosemite National Park, through the shaded wooded area and along the streams, it really was a magical setting to get to know these strangers turned travel companions. For six hours we strolled through the beauty of this Californian National Park and then the star of the show hit us – the waterfall. But not before disaster struck! My new friend from London, Kaci, had rolled her ankle. Luckily there were strapping hiker men on hand to give her a kiddy back and lend her some sticks. I can still feel the spray from the waterfall cooling me down from the damn hot Californian sun. It was a stunning start to the three week long tour and big contrast to our next stop – Death Valley where we attempted to eat lunch before hitting the slot machines of Las Vegas.
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Mount Rainier National Park
Danielle at Gallivanting the Globe
Mount Rainier is the tallest peak in the Cascades Mountain Range, towering over 14,000 feet high. This impressive park includes an active volcano, dozens of glaciers, and several hundred lakes and rivers spanning across 5 separate regions. Living in Seattle for 5 years allowed me to visit Mount Rainier during each season. From spring through fall, I’ve hiked through only a fraction of the trails available—there’s over 50! However, I’m a much bigger fan of the winter activities. Maybe growing up in mountain-less and snow-less Florida is to blame. As long as the roads are open, guided snowshoeing tours is something you must experience! Paradise is my favorite region of the park. It has the most breathtaking lakes, flower meadows (during warmer months), and is the prime spot for winter activities. Mid-February, a couple of years ago, I headed there with a group of friends to go snowshoeing.
I didn’t have any of the equipment needed but luckily the Jackson Visitor Center will rent snowshoeing gear for a $5 donation. The guided tours are free and are offered on a first-come-first-serve basis. To ensure our group secured a spot, we opted for the first tour of the day at 11am. The route was an easy 1.5 miles and took roughly 2 hours to complete. Our Park Ranger kept us entertained with factoids about the plant and animal life in the area as well as the history of the park. We even had a thrilling, but optional, slide down the side of a steep hill.
He allowed plenty of time for us to stop and take pictures along the way. It was surprisingly warm—I was very hot in my long-sleeved shirt. Good thing I had sunscreen on my face! Up there it felt like summer except I was amongst snow covered mountains and trees. It’s a picturesque winter wonderland.
Haleakalā National Park
Mary of The World is a Book
Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii is known as the “house of the sun”. The park covers over 30,000 acres with varied landscapes that stretch from Maui’s highest point to its coastline. While many people’s favorite activity may be venturing to the park to watch the sunrise high above the clouds, it’s a bit more challenging for us who travel with kids or aren’t morning people. Though, it is still possible to enjoy the park through a day trip.
Our day trip to the park started with an ascent to the 10,000 feet summit area. The Haleakala Visitor Center at the summit was a wealth of information and offered one of the best places to enjoy the spectacular and otherworldly panorama of the mountains, clouds and crater. There are several trails at the summit including some that go down to the crater. But, my favorite activity was walking along the rim and short trails that looked out into the spectacular postcard scene. The colors and landscape were incredible. It was cold and windy during our visit but was worth it. We’ve visited many National Parks and this summit and crater view has remained one of my favorites.
We didn’t spot the endangered Hawaiian goose (nene) during our walks but did spot some silversword plants only found here. My kids’ favorite activity here other than enjoying the views was completing the Junior Rangers activity booklet and earning a badge upon completion. It is a great family activity and a fun way to learn more about the park and their
conservation efforts. Don’t miss this park when visiting Maui.
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Have you been to any of these US National Parks? If so what was your favorite activity?