U.S. National Parks
Perhaps no country in the world is known for such zeal in protecting natural reserves as the United States. U.S. national parks are the country’s equivalent of a gold reserve, and they are both a constant magnet for tourists and a source of national pride. Is it worth talking about the beauty of American nature reserves, many of which are familiar from movies, pictures in books and postcards, and someone is certainly lucky to see the majesty of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Falls or Yellowstone Geysers. In general, the national parks of America should be included in any program of visiting the country and not limited to cities. Parks are monitored by the U.S. National Park Service, which is responsible for keeping them in good condition, which any tourist can easily appreciate. Below is a list of the most popular national parks in the United States.
The most famous and one of the most popular national parks in the United States, with over 4 million visitors a year, so it is second only to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the densely populated eastern part of the country. The Grand Canyon is home to perhaps the most famous natural attraction in the country – the legendary Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, which is 446 kilometers long and 1,600 meters deep. Many call the canyon one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and it itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park itself was formed in 1919 and has an area of 4,926.66 km.
The canyon was formed as a result of extensive soil erosion caused by the rise of the Colorado Plateau and the movement of the river of the same name. In total, the formation of the canyon took about 10 million years, and its very appearance cannot fail to impress the imagination, because the canyon is not a simple lifeless gorge, but has a completely bizarre relief, distinguished by a characteristic “brick” color. Various hiking trails lead to the bottom of the canyon, which have so-called shelters – shelters from the weather, toilets, springs with drinking water, etc. Many visitors to the park go on long weather with overnight stays in tents. You should not start the descent at 7-8 a.m. in the morning if you want to reach the bottom of the canyon and return in the evening (probably after dark). There are occasional rangers on the trails. The two main hiking areas are to the south (South rim, the main one) and to the north of the canyon (Northern rim). South rim is the famous Skywalk, which is a kind of horseshoe at a height of over 1200 meters with glass floor and sides. By the way, entrance to the Grand Canyon is paid – $25 for 1 car and $ 12 per person otherwise, for 7 days. In addition, South rim has an airport and a train station connecting the canyon to the city of Williams. The nearest major city is Flagstaff.
One of the oldest and most beautiful national parks in the United States, Yosemite was founded in 1890. It is located in California, on the western slopes of the large Sierra Nevada mountain range and features truly fabulous landscapes, for which majestic granite cliffs, often absolutely vertical, famous Yosemite waterfalls, lakes with crystal water, forests with sequoyadendrons, etc. are responsible. The Yosemite Valley, which attracts about 3.7 million tourists every year, is especially impressive. By the way, it is located just 6 hours away from Los Angeles, which largely explains such a tourist flow.
The altitude difference is quite impressive – from 600 to 4000 meters, so you can find completely different types of vegetation in the park: from the alpine belt at the highest altitudes to shrub thickets on the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada. The modern appearance of the park was formed by erosion and glaciers, which, in particular, created the famous Yosemite Valley (which, however, occupies only 1 percent of the total area of the national park). Through the valley flows the Merced River, and thanks to its scenic beauty and fairly accessible, it is here where the main masses of tourists flock. In total, the park has 1,300 kilometers of trails for hiking and 560 kilometers of roads. Climbers especially like the El Capitan granite massif in Yosemite Valley; the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove and Glacier Point are a separate “kind” of park attractions. The Yosemite Falls, located in the Yosemite Valley, are 739 meters high, making them the highest waterfall in the United States. The falls consist of three segments, and the power of its water flows reaches its peak in late spring. By the way, there are shuttle buses running inside the park on certain routes.
The oldest national park on the planet, Yellowstone was founded back in 1872, and 106 years later it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is famous for its impressive landscapes, rich and completely wild nature, and magnificent geysers, among which Old Faithful geyser holds a special place. The park stretches over an impressive 8,983 square kilometers. Most of it is in Wyoming, but it also extends into Montana and Idaho. At an altitude of 2376 meters the park has its largest water reservoir – Yellowstone Lake, formed on the site of the caldera of the same name, the largest supervolcano on the continent. Besides there are a lot of small rivers, lakes, valleys, canyons and mountaintops in the park, which is very rich in flora and fauna – there are bears, wolves, elks, bison and other animals, so you should be careful. Yellowstone Park is mostly forested, and during the hot summer months there are occasional fires – in 1988, for example, almost a third of the park burned out, causing severe damage to the local biosphere.
Perhaps the main calling card of Yellowstone National Park is the so-called Great Prismatic Spring. The area of this hot spring is 2,200 meters, which is the third largest in the world; the water temperature reaches 70 degrees Celsius. However, its main “chip” is an amazingly bright color palette: in summer the banks of the spring have a bright orange color, and in winter they acquire a dark green hue due to the activity of a special kind of bacteria. You should also definitely visit the park’s numerous geysers, because it is Yellowstone that has the largest of all active geysers on the planet – Steamboat geyser throwing out hot water up to 90 meters high. Well known is Old Faithful geyser, which erupts every hour and a half for an hour and a half to five minutes.
Death Valley in the United States is not just a national park, but also a brand. Spread over an area of 13,647.6 square kilometers in California and parts of Nevada, Death’s Length is the largest national park in the country, if you don’t count those in Alaska. However, compared to Yosemite National Park, which is relatively close by, Death Valley doesn’t get many visitors (about 800,000 annually). This is largely due to the incredibly arid climate, lifeless landscapes, scorched by the sun; although Death Valley (the park also includes Panamint Valley and Salina Valley) looks mysterious and appealing in its own way.
In the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, gold and metal ore were mined in this rugged area, but by the dawn of the twentieth century, these activities had ceased, and the Valley’s towns had fallen into disrepair. In 1933 Death Valley became a national monument, and in 1994 it became a national park. It contains the famous Badwater Point, the deepest depression in North America and the second deepest in the western hemisphere (85 meters below sea level). A popular attraction is also the Scotty Castle, a Mexican-style mansion built in the 1920s for tourism purposes and later became a hotel (Death Valley was becoming a popular winter destination at the time). Separately, Death Valley’s moving stones, found at the bottom of a dried-up lake, Reisterack Playa, are famous. So far, no one has been able to explain why it is the stones themselves, without anyone else’s help, move across the desert surface, leaving distinctive traces that last for 3-4 years.
The Everglades is the southernmost national park in the United States, located at the tip of the Florida Peninsula in the subtropical belt. In fact, it covers only one-fifth of the Everglades Natural Area in the south of the peninsula, but that’s enough to be the third largest national park in the United States and to attract about a million people annually. Yes, it doesn’t compare to Yellowstone, but popular resorts like Miami, Key West, and Disney World are located near the Everglades, so this national park is often visited by many Florida vacationers.
However, the park does have something to boast of – this area is not only an impressive size of swamps and marshes, but also interesting mangroves, tropical forest, small rivers and many lakes. In the local humid subtropical climate, various species of plants and animals feel comfortable. For example, Everglades is home to crocodiles and alligators, as well as manatees and other wildlife. It is also home to the rarest species of Florida panthers. The national park itself has an elaborate system of roads, trails, and visitor centers (Ernest Coe Visitor Center in Homestead; Flamingo Visitor Center in Flamingo; Shark Valley Visitor Center in Miami; and Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City). The entire infrastructure is designed so as not to disturb the fragile ecosystem of the park. Of particular note is the variety of water activities you can try out in the park, from simple boat rides to kayaking and fishing.
Zion National Park, located in Utah, is famous for its namesake canyon, which may not be equal to the Grand Canyon, but has its charms too. The area of the national park is 590 square kilometers and is annually visited by more than 2 and a half million tourists. Zion itself is 24 kilometers long and about 800 meters wide, but the bronze-colored canyon, once paved by the Virginia River, looks spectacular. The proximity to the Grand Canyon, of course, contributes greatly to the large number of visitors. Also within the national park is the inaccessible Kolob Canyon. Zion Canyon was once inhabited by Native American tribes and settled by Mormons in the latter part of the 19th century. This region was declared a national park in 1919, and subsequently a transportation infrastructure was created here, for example, the tunnel Zion – Mount Carmel length of 1.8 kilometers. There are various hiking trails in the park, one of which can be used by pets.
Glacier is a beautiful national park in the mountainous state of Montana, located in the northernmost part of the United States on the border with Canada. Despite its great remoteness from major tourist centers, the park is visited by no small number of people-about two million visitors a year, attracted by the wild, rugged mountain and rock scenery with its many magnificent lakes and rivers. The park covers an area of 4,101 square kilometers right on the border with Canada, so tourists from that country can often be found here as well. It includes two “offshoots” of the Rocky Mountains and about 130 lakes of various sizes. The largest and most picturesque are Lakes MacDonald and St. Mary’s. There used to be about 150 glaciers in the Glacier area, but in the twentieth century many of them disappeared as a result of a milder climate. The region began turning into a popular recreation spot in the early twentieth century, gaining national park status in 1910. Today people come here mainly for hiking, as well as other types of recreation, such as fishing. As for the Glacier’s wildlife, it is home to dangerous grizzly bears, baribals, wolverines, ibex, caribou, and other Rocky Mountain wildlife. By the way, there are guided tours of the park in vintage red buses known as Red Jammers.
The Hawaiian Islands are famous not only for their legendary beaches, surfing, and Hawaiian dancing to ukulele tunes, but also for their unique natural landscapes, among which volcanoes occupy a special place. First of all, this applies to volcanoes in the south of the largest island of the archipelago – Hawaii. On the territory of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can see how the activity of volcanoes affects the look of the land. For example, the many black beaches and cliffs resemble a lunar rather than an earthly landscape. The park includes two active volcanoes – Mauna Loa, 4,169 meters high, and Kilauea, not very high, but one of the most active in the world. Probably many have seen footage of red-hot lava flowing into the ocean water. This unreal by its beauty phenomenon occurs just here. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is, among other things, a unique biosystem that is home to various (and often unique) plant and animal species.
Great Smoky Mountains
This is the most visited national park in the United States, located in the eastern part of the country in the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, the border between which actually crosses the park in half. Since this park is relatively close to the densely populated cities on the East Coast of the United States, the number of its visitors is off the charts – about 9 and a half million a year. This is mostly due to the natural beauty of the area and the tourist attraction of the famous Appalachian Trail, which runs in part through the national park.
Covering 2,108.76 square miles, Great Smoky Mountains is one of the most scenic regions of the Appalachian mountain system. The highest point is Mount Klinkmangs Dome (2,045 meters). Appalachian Mountains are considered one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, so you can see the remains of ancient rocks everywhere. The national park is almost entirely forested, and a good portion of it has not been touched by human activities at all. Among the most striking representatives of fauna are black bears, white-tailed deer, foxes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, coyotes and bats. Tourists should be wary not only of bears, but also of poisonous snakes and ticks. Great Smoky Mountains area was declared a national park in 1934 and is the only one in the U.S. that is free for tourists. The national park can be accessed through the towns of Gatlinberg and Townshend, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina.
Canyonlands National Park is the second largest park in Utah and has hundreds of colorful canyons, hills, arches and spires and hoodoos. The park was founded on September 12, 1964. The park has an area of 1,366.21 square miles. The park is visited by almost half a million tourists a year.
The national park’s gorges are not much inferior to the Grand Canyon in size. Paintings have been found on some of the cliffs, which were created more than 3,000 years ago by groups of nomadic hunters who moved across the southwest mainland.
The Colorado River and its tributaries divide the park into four areas: “Island in the Sky,” “Needles,” “Maze,” and “Rivers.” Although these areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character and offers different opportunities to explore, with some of the most challenging roadways and river rapids in the world.
U.S. Reserves and National Parks
There are about three hundred preserves, wildlife refuges and national parks in the United States, which leaves no doubt about the country’s special attitude toward the richness of its fauna and flora. Every year hundreds of millions of tourists flock to the New World to see and enjoy the natural beauty of national parks, 14 of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
U.S. wilderness areas are areas where human activities are restricted, but not completely prohibited, such as in Russia. Protected areas of national parks are accessible to tourists. They even offer hiking trails and guided tours.
Map of U.S. national parks (click on photo to enlarge)
The largest and most popular are the following reserves and parks:
Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone).
Yellowstone National Park is the oldest in the United States (founded back in 1872). It lies on the territory of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. There are a huge number of geysers (about half of all existing on the planet), hot springs, large and small waterfalls, and the famous Yellowstone Caldera. This is the largest supervolcano, asleep for several thousand years. At its center is Yellowstone Lake, which is one of the most remarkable lakes in the highlands of North America.
Yellowstone National Park
This park (also a wildlife refuge) stretches from north to south for more than a hundred kilometers, and from west to east – about 87 kilometers. This area is home to many species of animals (bears, deer, elk and other mammals), birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
Yellowstone’s scenic beauty attracts a huge number of tourists beginning in May and ending in September.
Heads and Tails in Yellowstone
Yosemite National Park (Yosemite).
Yosemite National Park stretches along the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that makes up the western belt of the Cordilleras. About 95% of the park is untouched nature and has been protected by UNESCO since 1984. Of particular interest to tourists is the small, compared to the total area of the park, Yosemite Valley. Its unique locations attract hikers, rock climbers, fishing enthusiasts, and rafters.
The park is home to groves of sequoia dendron, one of the tallest tree species on the planet, several thousand years old. Yosemite, Bridlevale, Snow Creek, and other waterfalls are also present in large numbers.
Yosemite National Park – video
Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains, which translates to “Great Smoky Mountains,” is a popular national park. It is located in the eastern part of the United States in the states of North Carolina and Tennessee. Surprisingly picturesque places, dense forests, a variety of fauna, and sights that tell about the ancient history of the indigenous population and the history of European settlement in America attract people from all over the world every year.
The main symbol of the park is the famous Appalachian Trail which is more than 3500 kilometers long. And the total length of other hiking trails is about 1,300 km.
Great Smoky Mountains
Glacier National Park
The Gleicher National Park, located near the Canadian border in Montana, is no less popular in the United States. The area of the park is huge (about 4,000 km²) and the natural landscapes are very diverse. The Rocky Mountain ranges are predominant. Here from a safe distance you can see and appreciate the scale of the glaciers formed thousands of years ago. Most of the most beautiful lakes appeared here precisely because of their movement.
Rivers with numerous waterfalls originate in the glaciers. You can see all the beauty of nature of the park on foot, water routes, as well as from the air. The most famous route is romantically called “The Road to the Sun”.
Glacier National Park.
An imposing national park in its entirety located in Washington State, it combines completely different natural ecosystems. In the central part are the glaciated Olympic Mountains, rich in subalpine meadows, and closer to the west are ancient dense forests. There are deserted wild beaches on the Pacific coast, beautiful clear lakes, fast rivers with waterfalls, and an abundance of diverse vegetation.
The animal life is represented by many species of fish, mollusks, birds, and mammals. There are endemic species, such as the Olympic salamander, the Olympic ermine, and the Olympic marmot. There are opportunities to visit Indian reservations in the reserve park.
“Grand Canyon” refers to the ancient national parks of the United States with the largest canyon on the planet. Territorially it is located in Arizona. It is an amazing place with a unique landscape formed many millions of years ago. There is always work for archaeological scientists, who regularly find fossilized remains of ancient animals and plants in the rocks. The climates of the northern and southern parts are very different. On this basis, it should be noted that the southern part can be visited year-round. There are also Indian reservations in the south.
For tourists in the “Grand Canyon” is prepared a lot of entertainment for all tastes: walking and horseback riding tours, helicopter and hot air balloon tours, visiting the beautiful lakes, viewing platforms.
Grand Canyon in 4K
Located in Utah, Zion National Park gained its official status in 1919. Its calling card is the canyon through which the Virginia River flows. Its almost steep walls are formed by Navajo sandstone rocks of copper-red hues.
The ten-kilometer road into the canyon leads to the ancient Indian temple of Sinawawa, a Paiute deity represented by a coyote. Then the road becomes narrower, beginning to hike into Zion Nerrous Canyon.
Another of the park’s many attractions is Angel’s Haven Peak. It offers an impressive view of the entire park. And the size of Zion, although relatively small, is more than 500 m².
Zion National Park.
This national park is located in Colorado and covers an area of about 1000 km². It was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1915. Many tourists prefer to get acquainted with its attractive contrasting nature. The fact is that geographically and climatically the territory of the park is conditionally divided into two parts: western and eastern. The west is dominated by a wooded area (the most common tree species is pine), which provides a humid climate. The eastern part has a mountainous surface, where karas and ice peaks are not uncommon. The tops of the mountains reach more than 3.5 km in height. The climate here is predominantly dry.
Rocky Mountain has a large number of lakes and rivers, including the famous Colorado River. Animals of different sizes inhabit the park. There are some very large ones: a variety of deer and bighorn sheep. The vegetation changes greatly as you move from west to east, from forests to alpine meadows.
The park is open to visitors year-round, but the warmest and most comfortable time is considered the two summer months: July and August. The rest of the time is often cold and rainy and snowy.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Acadia National Park.
Acadia National Park differs from others in that its main area is on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, Mount Desert, Maine. You can see a wide variety of natural landscapes in the park: the ocean coast, glacial lakes, marshes, mountain ranges. And that’s with Acadia’s total area of only 191.8 km²!
The park has coniferous forests (formed by pines and spruces) and broad-leaved forests, among which there are maple, beech and oak groves. The animal world is represented by small and large marine and land mammals (seals, whales, beavers, squirrels, marmots, bears, foxes, moose, lynx and others), birds (including once almost extinct here peregrine falcons), fish, reptiles and amphibians.
From November to April, most of the tourist routes do not function because of the harsh winter weather, which is often accompanied by strong winds, storms, and snowfalls. Therefore, the greatest influx of tourists is observed in July, August and September.
Acadia National Park.
Another popular national park, Grand Teton, is located in northwestern Wyoming. It occupies a huge tract of land of 130,000 hectares. The park’s nature has been untouched for many years since its founding in February 1929. Together with the bordering Yellowstone Park Reserve it forms a unique natural ecosystem of the Greater Yellowstone, in which many species of fauna and flora live and breed freely.
The most striking sights of the park are the Rocky Mountains, or more precisely, their section called the Teton Mountain Range. Its highest point is called the same as the park itself – Grand Teton. It has a glacier, which is several hundred years old. It, like other glaciers in the mountains of the park, is likely to melt in about 70 years due to natural causes.
The vast area of the park is home to a large number and species diversity of animals of all classes: mammals, birds, and others. Grand Teton differs from the other parks not only by its natural features, but also by allowing the hunting of elk. This is done in order to regulate the number of these animals in order to preserve the vegetation in the areas where they graze.
The park is open to the public year-round with campgrounds and many hiking trails.
In the U.S., there is a special supervisory body that oversees all national parks and wilderness areas in the country: the U.S. National Park Service. This service ensures the integrity and preservation of subordinate territories, as well as provides and regulates tourist activities in them. Many U.S. parks and wilderness areas are unique (e.g., Grand Canyon, Wrangell-St. Elias, Death Valley), so preserving their topography, waters, flora, and fauna is important to the country and the world.