This year marks the centennial of the National Park Service. We’re kicking off a year-long celebration of 100 years of stewardship by honoring some of our favorite natural areas across America. Here are our top five national parks to explore in 2016.
- Zion – Designated in 1919, Zion is Utah’s oldest and most popular national park. The park’s canyons and mesas boast an especially exquisite beauty, even in a state known for its dramatic landscapes. Breathtaking Zion Canyon is the centerpiece of the 147,000-acre parkland that protects a spectacular landscape of high plateaus, sheer canyons, and monolithic cliffs. Wildlife lovers will enjoy the sweeping views that make it easy to spot many of the areas 200 bird species.
- Bryce Canyon – Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon is best known for its vast array of geological structures called hoodoos. These colorful layers of cone-shaped limestone are formed by frost weathering and stream erosion, and offer spectacular views for park visitors. A popular year-round destination for travelers, the park allows for a range of activities including horseback riding, hiking, snowshoeing and cycling – but the best way to explore the canyon is by foot.
- Monument Valley – This Navajo nation tribal park (the Navajo equivalent to a national park) is located on the border of northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah. An iconic symbol of the American West and the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation, the park is a must-visit for travelers. The valley is host to towering sandstone rock formations that have been sculpted over time and soar up to 1,000 feet above the valley floor. Combined with the surrounding mesas, buttes, and desert territory, it truly is one of the natural wonders of the world – as well as one of the most photographed places on earth.
- Yellowstone – An American favorite, Yellowstone National Park covers nearly 3,500-sq.-mile of wilderness atop a volcanic hot spot. Mostly in Wyoming, the park spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho too. The vast natural area is loved for its dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers. It’s also home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope. Lodging within the park allows visitors an in depth experience with their natural surroundings.
- Grand Canyon – What’s not to love about the Grand Canyon? At over a mile deep, the canyon contains nearly two billion years of geological history! The climate is splendid (although temperatures can climb as high as 110 in summer months!), the views are spectacular, and there is something to be discovered at every angle. The 15th oldest national park in the United States, the canyon area has been inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within its walls for thousands of years. Of the many ways to explore the park, there’s no better way to experience the area’s fascinating past than with an expert geologist.
Ready to explore? Don’t miss these top-rated national parks tours: