Top Five National Parks in the USA15 November, 2013
Beyond neon lights and nebulus cities, the USA is home to some of the most spectacular natural scenery on the planet. Much of this is protected by the U.S National Park Service that has maintained and run the fifty-nine National Parks situated around the country since 1916. Dealing with over 200 million visitors a year, the National Park Service ensures that these landscapes of natural beauty are preserved and fostered for the appreciation of future generations. But which one to visit? Before one embarks upon a trip to the USA there are a variety of things to consider. Checking the various visa and green card requirements is perhaps the most important of all, help for which can be found at sites like this one. But knowing where to go, beyond the familiar cities popular with tourists, can be tricky. So here’s some help: we have gone through the country’s National Parks ourselves and come up with the five that are most worthy of your attention…
Yellowstone, Wyoming – Yellowstone is one of the most famous national parks and also the oldest and largest. Situated in the heart of the Rockies, Yellowstone exhibits lakes, rivers, mountains and valleys and was inhabited by Native Americans for 11,000 years before Europeans turned up. It is perhaps best known for the largest super-volcano in America, the Yellowstone Caldera. Yellowstone is also one of the largest intact eco-systems in the Northern Hemisphere and is home to hundreds or mammals, reptiles and birds and the largest bison herd in North America. Yellowstone will celebrate a century of national park status in 2017.
Yosemite, California – Yosemite National Park stretches over and across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. In 1864 President Lincoln signed a grant to protect Yosemite Valley and its surrounding areas, which led the way for the USA’s national park system. Yosemite Valley was a granted the status of World Heritage Site in 1984 due its fantastic array of waterfalls and cliffs. Mainly made up of ancient granite rock, deep narrow canyons in the park were created about 10 million years ago by the shifting of tectonic plates. When glaciers formed in its meadows, the slow movements of the ice led to the stunningly smooth u-shape of the valley that grants it this No. 2 spot.
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Grand Canyon, Arizona – As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is probably the most famous natural landmark in America. The canyon is a colossal 18 miles wide, over 250 miles long and more than a mile deep at points. Like the other national parks, the Grand Canyon was home to Native Americans for centuries before settlers from the ‘Old World’ arrived, principally living in the many caves dotted about. Today, the view of the Grand Canyon is one of the most recognisable sights in the world, with nearly five million visitors every year.
Sequoia, California – Sequoia National Park is often regarded as one of the most striking and most mystical of the national parks. Instantly recognisable in pictures due to its host of giant sequoia trees, the park is home to the General Sherman tree, one of the largest in the world. The General Sherman stands amongst five of the other biggest trees in the world in the ‘Giant Forest’, giving a grandeur to the park. These sequoia trees cover the park, many of which are over 4,000 years old. Between these great rows of trunks reaching for the sun each, it is said, can find his own harmony and unity within the nature about them. Little caves can be spotted at the feet of the sequoias, rugged tracks weave throughout and, at points, you can look over to the King’s Canyon. Like the other national parks, Sequoia allows a glimpse of life before Euro-American Settlement.
Zion, Utah – Zion National Park is also instantly recognisable through its soft pink and red sandstone cliffs, canyons and arches and, by the top of Angel Landing, that offers a surreal view of the park at sunset. In 1909 President Taft named the park ‘Mukuntuweap’, after a national monument there, but it was later changed to ‘Zion’ in 1918, so as not to detract visitors who couldn’t pronounce its name. Zion offers a great amount of animal and plant diversity through its four different ‘life zones’: woodland, coniferous forest, desert, and riparian.