Ever since the original colonists inhabited the Eastern coast, there has been a sense of mystique surrounding the West. Today the feeling is no different. Those who live in the fast-paced life of places like New York City yearn to escape the concrete jungle and explore the pristine pockets of nature contained within the country’s national parks. These national parks provide a serene atmosphere to decompress from the stresses of urban life. Here are 3 national parks you need to see on your next trip west.
Going to the Sun Road
Recently rated as one of the top road trip destinations, Going to the Sun Road cuts right through Glacier National Park. This ascending to an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet drivers are faced wit breathtaking scenery. However the high altitude also presents some unique challenges. Motorists can experience altitude sickness and extreme driver fatigue. But it is worth it!
The Land of the Giants
Sequoia National Park is nestled in the southern Sierra Nevada. This 400,000 acre national park, dedicated in 1890, has been the playground of wildlife and nature enthusiasts alike for over 120 years. The park is known around the world for its groves of massive Sequoia trees, one of which is the General Sherman tree. This tree sits in the Giant Forest, which is home to 5 of the 10 tallest trees in the world. Looking up at the tips of these trees as the tips tickle the heavens really puts our place relative to the vastness of nature in perspective. Also within the park is Mt. Whitney which, at 14,505 ft above sea level, is the tallest mountain in the continental United States.
Whether you love hiking, fishing, backpacking, or just camping in the great outdoors, this beautiful park has something for you. One of the most-traveled hiking trails is the Sherman Tree Trail, which circles around the famous General Sherman tree. Another popular attraction is the tunnel log. This tunnel was cut out of a fallen Sequoia tree and shows the sheer size of these majestic giants. If waterfalls are your fancy you can check out Tokopah falls, which sits at the end of a 1.7 mile hike.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is another one of the West’s natural gems. Located in California, this massive park spans close to 750,000 acres, with one edge reaching the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Over 3 million people visit this slice of pristine beauty each year, and for good reason. There is plenty to do at Yosemite. The park offers over 800 miles of hiking trails. Each trail has something unique to offer, whether it be a stroll through giant Sequoias or passing by Yosemite’s internationally renowned granite formations.
For those who would prefer to stay in the car, there is a $20 fee to use the designated car trails. There is still plenty to explore; however, you are restricted to the 7 square miles of the Yosemite valley. Ditch the car and travel off the beaten path to truly experience all that Yosemite has to offer.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is America’s most well-known national park. Located in what is now Wyoming, the area was first discovered by the Lewis and Clark Corps. and was the first official national park. When you take your first step in Yellowstone you will be in complete awe at its vastness. At 2.2 million acres it is bigger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
Throughout these acres are perhaps the widest spectrum of wildlife offered in America. You can find majestic animals such as moose, elk, and bison, along with 2 different species of bear. Other animals include over 65 different mammals, 300 different types of birds, and 16 species of fish. In other words Yellowstone is a animal watcher’s paradise.
The park offers plenty of lodging options. It has 12 different campgrounds that contain a total of over 2000 campsites. At any given time there is a small community of nature enthusiasts soaking in the stunning beauty of America’s backyard.
Of course the main attraction of Yellowstone is Old Faithful. The park is home to a total of 300 geysers and 10,000 thermal features. These unique features are powered by a massive underground caldera of lava contained under Yellowstone. Scientists have dubbed this as one of the world’s “Supervolcanoes”, which would virtually destroy America if it ever erupted. Enjoy all of this natural beauty by hiking one of the several stunning trails that encapsulate all the park has to offer.
All 3 of these parks are must-sees on your next trip west. Why just rush to the typical coastal city destinations when you can meander through the western frontier? Live like a modern Lewis and Clack and experience the breathtaking beauty America has to offer by visiting these 3 national parks.
By: Vincent Stokes