The top 10 national parks in the United States

September 20, 2019

Who doesn't dream of seeing the great American parks at least once in a lifetime? Here is everything you need to know, from when to go to how to get entry tickets.

Monument Valley, Usa

A trip to the United States is often motivated, apart from the will to visit iconic cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, by the will to explore its huge parks.

The choice is wide: the United States are home to 59 national parks, administered by the National Park Service. We have chosen the most significant ten, to give you inspiration for a USA tour.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is located in the state of Wyoming, stretching into Montana to the north and Idaho to the west, covering part of the Rocky Mountains.

The yellow stone which gives its name to the park comes from the sulphur widespread in the area due to active volcanic phenomena. Yellowstone park was the first national park to be established in the world, founded in 1812.

Furthermore, it was declared Unesco Heritage. It covers an area of almost nine thousand square kilometers, on a territory made up of grassy plains, forests, rivers (the most famous is the Yellowstone), lakes and a deep canyon with spectacular falls. Yellowstone is famous for the geysers and is populated by wolves, bisons, bears, moose, pumas,otters and coyotes. The endangered grizzly bear has become a symbol of the park.

Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Usa
A geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park covers an area in the state of California and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It hosts the Yosemite Valley. It is one of the most famous and popular parks of the United States due to the presence of monumental trees and marvelous waterfalls.

In 1984 it was declared Unesco Heritage Site thanks to its granitic rocks, giant sequoias and rich biodiversity.

Landscape of Yosemite National Park Usa
Landscape of Yosemite National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Colorado and it was founded in 1915. It is occupied by huge mountains and majestic forests, lakes and springs of Colorado River.

It is separated in two sections by the Continental Divide, separating the basin of the rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean from the basin of those flowing into the Pacific Ocean. This separation differentiates the features of the territory: to the east the park is drier with iced mountains, while to the west it is more verdant and covered by forests with a more humid climate.

Pine trees at Rocky Mountains National Park, Usa
Pine trees at Rocky Mountains National Park.

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, established in 1919, hosts many natural gems, including the Grand Canyon, formed by Colorado River, one of the most famous wonders of the world.

The area of the Grand Canyon was declared national monument in 1908 and the Park is a Unesco Heritage Site.

View at Grand Canyon NP, Usa
Grand Canyon is a national US monument.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is in the state of Utah. It is developed around Zion Canyon, a 800m deep gorge generated by Virgin River. It hosts a heterogeneous and spectacular environment, made up of gorges carved by the river: for example, the north-western part is occupied by Kolob Canyons.

Some of the main attractions of the park include Zion Narrows, a gorge with rock walls even 30 meters distant from one another. Zion National Park also contains one of the biggest rock archs in the world, Kolob Arch in the Kolob Canyons section.

Zion National Park, Usa
Zion National Park is a landmark of Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is a small canyon in the state of Utah. It contains Bryce Canyon, which is actually a natural amphitheater famous for its red or orange pinnacles called hoodos.

This natural sight was generated by the erosion of the sedimentary rocks by atmospheric agents such as water, ice and wind. It has been a national park since 1928, but it had already been a national monument for four years.

Rainbow and hoodos at Bryce Canyon National Park Usa
Rainbow and hoodos at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is a natural protected area in Florida, declared Unesco Heritage Site. It protects the marshy green area of the Everglades, full of evergreen oaks, gum trees, wild lemon and orange trees, as well as many species of flowers.

The wildlife of the Everglades includes flamingoes, storks, pelicans and the rare kite of the Everglades. Its waters are home to otters, manatees, Mississipi alligators and American crocodiles, while the vegetation hides Florida panthers.

Marsh at Everglades National Park, Usa
Everglades National Park, Florida.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park extends between California and a part of Nevada and is famous for hosting the lowest place on Earth. Death Valley is precisely a depression in the Great Basin, made up of older rocks in limestone and sandstone, once belonging to a lake system.

The evaporated lake which once occupied the Death Valley has been called Lake Manly. The climate is extremely arid with around 6 cm of rain per year.

Death Valley, Usa
Zabrinsky Point, Death Valley.

Joshua Tree National Park

oshua Tree National Park is located in south east California. It has been a national park since 1994 and it owes its name to a particular tree which is common in the area, the Joshua tree.

It includes different ecosystems and parts of two different deserts placed at different heights with different climates, Mojave and Colorado deserts. The south-western part hosts San Bernardino mountains.

Joshua Tree National Park is also full of several rock formations, called monadnocl and inselberg.

Tree at Joshua Tree National Park, Usa
Typical vegetation at Joshua Tree National Park.

Denali National Park

Denali National Park is in Alaska, north of Anchorage. It hosts world famous Mount Mc Kinley, once called Denali in the native language.

Before the European occupation, it was inhabited by several indigenous populations leading a semi-nomadic life. Today the park is divided into three areas: Denali Wilderness, Denali National Park and Denali National Preserve.

The wildlife of the park includes black and grizzly bear, moose, caribou, wolf, coyote, lynx, fox, beaver and eagle. The vegetation is instead made up of moss, lichen, mushrooms and evergreen forests of the taiga and a low vegetation typucal of the tundra. Due to the melting of permafrost, some sections of forest, called drunken forest, feature trees which are bent in different directions.

A curiosity: the American nomadic traveller Cristopher Mc Candless spent the last years of his life in Denali park. His experience inspired the movie Into the Wild.

Denali National Park, Usa
Denali National Park is in Alaska, north of Anchorage.

US National Parks: when to go

When you choose to tour the American parks, you generally choose to see as much as possible in one trip. The classic tour of the big US parks focuses on the west, where parks are closer to each other: we're talking about the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Joshua Tree and Yosemite.

The Rocky Mountain can be found in the states of Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho. In these states the climate varies greatly from area to area, passing from a continental climate to an arid climate. However, rainfall is scarce all year round, only slightly more abundant between November and February. In Montana and Wyoming in winter, heavy snowfall can occur.

If your destination is the parks of California, consider that in cities like Los Angeles the temperatures are mild even in the middle of winter and very sunny. San Francisco and northern California in general, while maintaining good sunshine throughout the year, tend to be cooler.

Ifyouchoose to leave in summer (fromJune to September), getready for hot climates in desertareas; alsothisis the high season, with more tourists and higherprices. Itisadvisable to book well in advance to findavailabilityofservices and facilities. Winter (November to March) is the lowseasonperiod, thereforewithlowerprices and greaterchoiceofservices: thisperiodisgood for a vacation in the USA, provided you tolerate more frequent rainfall and lower temperatures.

The best times to visit American parks are therefore spring and autumn, when the climate is milder and the crowds of tourists can be avoided.

USA National Park Pass: what is included

There is a card to visit the USA parks, the Annual Pass, valid for one year from purchase. With this card, for one year, it will be possible to enter for free in all the affiliated American parks. The pass includes the entry of only one vehicle in each park with all passengers on board.

Zion National Park, Usa
Entry to Zion National Park is included in the Annual Pass.

The partner parks are those managed by the National Park Service, namely Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches National Park, Yellowstone, Great Basin, Death Valley, Yosemite. For more information and to purchase the card, you can take a look here.

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