Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Despite its proximity to the nation’s bustling, urban capital, Shenandoah is a little piece of paradise in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Blessed with more than 60 peaks, 100 species of trees and countless animal species, it’s the crowning glory of the Appalachian range. But this long, narrow strip of concentrated nature is perhaps best known for its knockout scenery, with millions flocking to it, particularly in spring and fall, to witness the kaleidoscope of blooming flowers and changing leaves.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park is one of the West’s great wilderness areas. Ninety-five percent of this largely roadless marvel is untouched and undeveloped, making it the perfect place for camping and backcountry exploration. In winter, snow-based activities are popular, and during the other three seasons, visitors love to discover its wooded expanses and extensive shoreline. Home to dozens of species of mammals and aquatic life, it’s not uncommon to see elk locking antlers, whales breaching the surface of the sea and salmon surging upstream. And Olympic’s relatively close proximity to urban areas makes it an easy and affordable destination for overnight stays or weekend trips.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Located in the heart of North America, Voyageurs National Park looks as beautiful today as it did when French trappers arrived in Minnesota back in the 17th and 18th centuries. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the thick, verdant forest, canoe along the intricate water routes and admire the starry night skies. Explore the lakes and rivers of Voyageurs National Park and experience the beauty by renting a canoe or kayak from one of the outfitters found in and around the park. Voyageurs also features numerous hiking trails which can be traversed by ski or snowshoe in the winter and campgrounds.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park along the Atlantic coast is renowned for its incredible rocky beaches. Some of the best views on the U.S. East Coast are on Mount Desert Island, where beaches and cliffs give way to dense forests and mountaintops, one of which is 466 meters high. Venture to the summits using more than 204 kilometers of hiking trails to take in the green landscapes of Maine and the allure of the mighty ocean. Visit a garden, nature center and museum to learn how donated land became a jewel in the National Park Service collection. Listen to rangers talk about its history and 21st century changes.
Yosemite National Park, California
Established in 1864, Yosemite National Park in California has more than 3,000 square kilometers of thundering waterfalls, deep valleys, towering giant sequoias and incredible granite peaks. The jewel in the crown of California’s national parks, Yosemite has been stunning visitors since the first two travelers laid eyes on it in 1855. Now, every year over 4 million people stand in awe of its unique natural treasures, which have been documented by everyone from early conservationist John Muir to legendary photographer Ansel Adams. Carved into the center of the Sierra Nevada Mountains by ancient geological forces, Yosemite’s splendor and biodiversity are so grand that it was even designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.