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The variety of diverse landscape across the United States is best witnessed at any one of the country's 62 national parks. President Theodore Roosevelt had the right idea when he established the U.S. Forest Service to protect millions of acres of public land. Since then, generations of visitors have followed the footsteps of the people who shaped our history and helped forge our innate connection to the land. These five U.S. national parks are the most popular destinations for travelers looking to explore the great outdoors.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Picture-perfect mountain vistas feature deep-blue alpine lakes and some of the best hiking trails in the country. The park is 415 square miles and attracts over four million visitors every year participating in rock-climbing, backcountry skiing, hiking, camping, and wildlife-spotting. Bighorn sheep, elk, and mule deer call these mountains home, so you'll want to keep your camera ready. The park offers 355 miles of hiking trails with varying difficulty. Bear Lake Loop is an easy hike featuring an interpretive nature trail around the lake.
Zion National Park
No place is better able to transport you back in time to America's ancient western roots than Zion National Park. History is around every corner of the red sandstone cliffs and narrow slot canyons where both Native Americans and cowboys once roamed. This park in southwestern Utah draws roughly 4.5 million visitors to its stunning peaks and valleys every year and it's easy to see why. If the unique red-rock formations contrasting with the blue sky above aren't impressive enough, the dramatic Narrows will have you mesmerized. The soaring walls and sandstone grottos are sure to entice you to walk and explore.
Yosemite National Park
California's Yosemite National Park welcomes about 4.5 million visitors to its dramatic landscape each year. From giant sequoias to spectacular waterfalls, the park is a wonder to experience year-round. The towering granite walls of El Capitan challenge rock climbers, while the rock formation's iconic natural beauty inspires artists and photographers alike. Camping in Yosemite is popular. The park offers a variety of campground and RV options, as well as few cool cabin rental villages. Sunset Inn's cabins are the ideal getaway since they're near the park but situated far from the crowds in the forest.
Grand Canyon National Park
There is no place in America more magnificent than the Grand Canyon. This national park in Arizona celebrated its 100th birthday in 2019 and impressively attracts around six million visitors each year. The timeless beauty of the Grand Canyon conjures up images of days gone by when ancient cultures thrived and fearless pioneers wandered its colorful rims and valleys. The geological detail of deep gorges carved by the Colorado River along with the unrivaled pine forests, mesas, and perennial streams offers an almost otherworldly experience you won't find anywhere else.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee offer a spectacular and unique microcosm of plant and animal diversity. Sightings of black bears, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys are common while you explore the verdant landscape. Visitors flock to Cades Cove for a glimpse of roaring cascades and authentic log cabins along the scenic 11-mile loop road. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has over 800 miles of trails and 2,100 miles of streams waiting to discover. Head over to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Smoky Mountains, for views that will take your breath away. It is no wonder the park receives over 12 million visitors each year.