Are closed borders bringing you down? While the pandemic continues to deprive US citizens of making their dream to travel the world a reality, consider taking this time to explore in your own backyard (or country at least). The majority of U.S. National Parks are welcoming back visitors and these wide open landscapes also make it easy to social distance. And feel free to make it a road trip if you’d feel more comfortable staying out of airports for a little bit longer— the journey is half the fun anyway! Check out these top 10 National Parks and find out how you can still have the trip of a lifetime.
Home to some of the most iconic granite cliff structures and breathtaking waterfalls, Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains is the perfect place for either a solo day hike or a longer backpacking trail. Some of the most popular hikes in Yosemite include Vernal Fall, Mirror Lake, and the treacherous Half Dome (for experienced hikers with permits only). Other attractions to take advantage of post-Covid include museum tours, ice skating, skiing, ziplining, and even skydiving! As the Covid-19 travel restrictions continue, you can currently visit Yosemite, however you must make reservations to visit the park.
Find out how to prepare for a trip to Yosemite on The Wandering Blonde!
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is home of an underground super volcano that features canyons, forests, and alpine rivers. However, Yellowstone is most famous for the Old Faithful (a massive erupting geyser) and the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring (the largest hot spring in the U.S.). In addition to some amazing sightseeing and photo opportunities, this is the perfect place to take a hike, go rafting, horseback ride, and camp overnight, all while being surrounded by gorgeous nature views. While Yellowstone did close their entrances amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, they've currently reopened with a 3-phase reopening plan.
Get some Yellowstone itinerary suggestions from the Full Suitcase!
Glacier National Park is located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains and is full of stunning scenery from the clear blue lakes to the lush green valleys, and of course the incredible towering glaciers. Some of the top sights to see are Lake McDonald and Avalanche Lake, and most popular hikes include the Trail of the Cedars and the Highline Trail. There’s also plenty of other activities to do in this beautiful place such as biking, boating, and camping. Glacier Park is currently only partially open with limited boating, restaurant and lodging options. However, camping, guided hiking, and horseback riding remain available.
Check out a local’s guide to Glacier on The Blonde Abroad!
4. Grand Canyon
You certainly can’t forget about Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. This spectacular place has probably sat on your bucket list for a while now, and with closed borders, this is the perfect time to check it off! The park is a hiker’s dream, but other attractions include rafting on the Colorado River and taking a tour by jeep or even helicopter. And at the end of a long day, Lipan Point is the most popular view of the canyon at sunset. As of now, the South Rim entrance to the park is open 24/7 with overnight accommodations available, but the Grand Canyon's travel restrictions are changing by the day - make sure to stay up-to-date by referring to the National Park Service resources.
You might be thinking.. what's the coolest thing you could do when visiting the Grand Canyon? My suggestion? Rent a houseboat and live on the gorgeous green water of Lake Powell. The daytime views are always incredible, the weather is perfect, the water is clean and great for swimming, and the stargazing is absolutely out of this world.
Learn more about hiking the Grand Canyon on Nomadic Matt!
Last but not least, Zion National Park in Utah is yet another remarkable place to consider planning a trip to. This park is lined with huge red-rock canyons to explore, and filled with forest trails along the Virgin River which leads to a series of waterfalls and hanging gardens. Two of the more difficult trails with well-worth it views are Angel’s Landing and The Narrows, while trails that are much easier to tackle include the Riverside Walk, the Weeping Rock trail, and the Lower Emerald Pools trail. While the Kolob Canyons Area, Scenic Drive and Visitor Center remained closed, the park has since reopened their shuttle services to visitors.
Find out more about exploring Zion from Allison Anderson!
6. Grand Teton National Park
Jackson Hole's backcountry is a wild wonderland. The park offers more than 200 miles of trails that weave through lakes, prairies, and the Grand Teton mountain range. Visit the Cascade Canyon Trail for the best views of the park's stunning topography. If you're a kayaker, try floating down Snake River, it's beautiful and relaxing.
Find out more about exploring Grand Teton from National Geographic!
7. Bryce Canyon National Park
This park features a whimsical array of limestone rock formations created by erosion and rain. These are appealing to those who love to explore slot canyons, windows, fins, and the tall skinny spires, hoodoos. In fact, Bryce Canyon is home the the most hoodoos in the world. This park emphasizes hiking so if you're not a big hiker, this might not be the best place for you. However, this interesting landscape is one that cannot be missed.
Find out more about exploring Bryce Canyon from The National Park Service!
8. Arches National Park
This national park is home to some of the most picturesque landscapes in all the national parks. There are a wide variety of hiking trails fit for hikers of all experience levels. The way the shadows contrast with the arches makes the park an exciting place for photographers. For the best pictures, come t dusk to see the sun setting on the orange rock features.
Find out more about exploring Arches National Park from Discover Moab!
9. Rocky Mountain National Park
This park features over 350 miles of hiking trails through forests, lakes, and high altitudes soaring over 12,000 feet into the Colorado sky. There really is something so special about breathing in fresh mountain air; nothing is quite like it. When you want to come back down to earth, visitors can enjoy homemade ice cream and meander through the little village of Estes Park.
Find out more about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park from Full Suitcase!
10. Haleakala National Park
Looking into a more tropical vacation? Come to this national park on Maui for views unlike any other. Watch the best sunrise of your life from more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Explore massive waterfalls and hiking trails inside the crater to see some insane terrain. This national park really has a mix of everything so it's definitely one to visit.
Find out more about exploring Haleakala National Park from Go Hawaii!
Tips for Traveling to the National Parks
Check to see if the park requires you to make a reservation in advance.
Be sure to check the park’s guidelines on bringing a pet with you.
Look up what attractions, transportation, and food services are open and what is currently closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The parks are huge and you won’t be able to see everything if you’re planning a short trip, so make an itinerary and decide what sites you want to be sure to hit while you’re there.
Schedule a guided tour if you don’t feel comfortable exploring the park on your own.
Take advantage of apps to prepare you for your adventure. Most National Parks have their own app you can download!
If you’re planning to go to more than one national park this year, then it is worth it for you to look into purchasing an annual park pass.
Don’t forget to bring a backpack, food, and plenty of water!
National parks help to provide you with a little taste of nature. Each park has its own beautiful landmarks, topography, and sights you can't see anywhere else. Succumb to the wild outdoors and consider traveling domestically in 2021. Each national park has something for everyone; now you just have to pick your favorite!
What are your favorite national parks in the USA? Let us know in the comments below.
This article was written by Featured Wrighter, Annika Rowe.