Visiting national parks within the USA is such a unique and breathtaking experience that you shouldn’t miss under any circumstances. Spectacular, fascinating and magical sceneries, a crazy adventure that you will for sure never forget ! Many of us embark on this extraordinary journey and the thing is, once you have started you won’t be able to stop! But the good news is that the federal agency of the U.S government: National Park Service (NPS) oversee 409 areas of which 59 are designated national parks. Enough to satisfy our thirst of adventures!
–Here are 6 tips to follow to have the best experience possible–
1 – PLAN YOUR VISITS USING THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE’S WEBSITE
This website is a real gold mine of informations. You will find all the details (fees, hours of operation, weather, what to do etc.) you need to plan your visits and it is really easy to use (website).
2 – BUY THE ANNUAL PASS
The pass “America the beautiful” is worth buying if you are going to visit more than 3 national parks. It will save you a lot of money as the entrance fee, for most of the parks (Grand canyon, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, Zion etc…) are $30/vehicle in high season and $25/vehicle in low season. If we wouldn’t have bought it we would have spent $224.
– Cost : $80
– Where to get it : Online or at the first park that you will visit.
– Validity : 1 full year from month of purchase (through last day of that month).
– Who it covers : The pass owner and three accompanying adults.
– Tip : There are fee-free days yearly. Check out the NPS’s website to find out when they are (here).
3 – PLAN AT LEAST 2 DAYS BY PARKS
Most parks are huge and may require more than an hour and half to get from one point to another by car.
For example, the area of the Grand Canyon is 4926 km². So that is why we highly recommend you to plan at least 2 entire days (only for the big ones) so you won’t miss a thing!
4 – BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION WITHIN OR NEAR THE PARK
If you plan to visit a park for two days or more, try to find an accommodation that is located within or really near. This is quite expensive to book a lodging in a national park area but it is really worth it! Do not make the mistake to book a room that is located more than 20 miles away in order to save a few dollars. You will waste a lot of times (and money for the gaz) and you won’t enjoy your visit properly believe me! If you are on a budget the best way is to camp. And what an exciting thing to do in a national park!
5 – BOOK YOUR ACCOMODATION IN ADVANCE
If you are visiting a national park in high season (May through September) like most of people, we highly recommend to book your accommodation in advance as the lodging are fully booked a long time ahead!
6 – MAKE SURE TO HAVE THE EQUIPMENT NEEDED
Even if you do not intend to hike the trails within the national parks, make sure to have at least a comfy pair of shoe, even if it is just to get off your car once in a while you will have to walk a little bit at some point.
And if you are visiting while summertime bring a jacket as well as it is getting cold at the end of the day and even in the Death Valley.
– THE MOST FAMOUS –
GRAND CANYON, Arizona
The most famous of all! Despite the fact that there are tons and tons of people visiting the park all at the same time, seating at the edge of a cliff dangling legs and scanning the horizon while the sunset, is a very special and priceless moment in your life!
MONUMENT VALLEY, Arizona
A trip to the USA wouldn’t be complete without a visit at one of the most iconic park of the country! It was a dream come true to drive on this famous road. After seeing a thousand pictures of it and in western movies we finally made it here.
If you love mountains, rivers and green landscapes this park was made for you! Yosemite is the third largest park in the United States and the second oldest in American history, it was classified national park in 1890.
Its waterfalls and spectacular granitic domes attract thousands of hikers and climbers each year.
DEATH VALLEY, California
Death Valley is probably one of the most wonderful place I have ever seen in my entire life so far! It was for sure the national park I liked the most on our trip.
There are no words to describe this breathtaking land and don’t let its name fool you, you won’t die there. At least if your car have the air conditioning and if you bring a lot of water (we drank a whole water tank in one day).
JOSHUA TREE, California
My favorite! Well I do not know if I have a favorite one actually as they are all different, but Joshua Tree has definitely stollen my heart.
It was one of the parks I wanted to visit the most and it didn’t disappointed at all!
LAKE POWELL, Arizona & Utah
Lake Powell is a reservoir on the Colorado River, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona. It is a major vacation spot that around 2 million people visit every year.
The main city is Page and the most famous attractions are Antelope Canyon, Glenn Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Rainbow bridge. There are plenty of activities to do such as swimming, kayaking, fishing etc.
Zion is known for its deep canyons dug by the Virgin river and its colorful rocks aged from 10 billions years. It is located only one hour from Bryce canyon.
– NOT TO BE MISSED –
WHITE SANDS, New Mexico
One of my favorite! I do not know if it’s the fact that it was the first national park we ever visited, but let me tell you that this is quite an unusual experience to wander down those huge white sands dunes.
We felt a strong feeling of being on another planet! Definitely a must seen.
GREAT SAND DUNES, Colorado
I can proudly say that we climbed the tallest dunes of North America! This was quite a powerful adventure and unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the top.
MESA VERDE, Colorado
We didn’t plan to visit this park (because we never heard of it before) until the day we pick up our rental car and that we plan our road trip for the upcoming 3 weeks. We basically just stopped there because it was located right in the middle of the road to go to Monument Valley from Great Sand Dunes but we were glad we did as we really liked it.
This national park is a world heritage site, it protects some of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites of the United States.
MONO LAKE, California
This is not a national park but it’s definitely worth paying a visit to the strangest lake ever if you are on your way to visit Yosemite National Park.
Mono Lake is located just 13 miles of the east entrance, near the town of Lee Vining on the Highway 395.
RED ROCK CANYON, Nevada
If you are in Vegas for a few days and you wan’t to avoid the hustle and bustle of the strip, this small parc is a great way to get your wilderness fix. It is located just 20 min away from Sin City and can be visited in just a few hours as the scenic drive is just a 13 miles length.
VALLEY OF FIRE, Nevada
Same here, this parc is great for a one day getaway to escape all the casino madness. It is located 1 hour north from Vegas. If you have to choose between this one and red Rock Canyon, I really advice you to pick this one as it is the most impressive.