Now that spring is in the air, it’s time to work your way out of hibernation and think about reinvigorating your spirit by getting reconnected with Mother Nature. Recent research has proven that just a simple walk in the forest can calm your mind and improve mental health. Scientists tell us that those who spend time in our national parks tend to feel happier and exude more self-esteem.
If you’re like most of America, you’re probably itching to get out of the house and go somewhere. Why not take advantage of the beautiful national parks we have right here in our own backyards? There’s 58 of them to choose from, and they’re all a great place to recharge your mind and fortify your spirit. Within our parks, you’ll find stunning views of nature at her finest, along with waterfalls, shimmering lakes and rivers, dense forests, tall rocky spires, cliffs and red rock formations, to name just a few.
Here are 16 of the parks …
Great Smokey Mountains: This park is located partly in North Carolina and partly in Tennessee. Deep Creek Campground is a great place if you’re prepared to stay for a few days. Its primary feature is the water and the activities that go along with it. There you will find lush forests and an abundance of wildflowers that bloom year-round. There is a myriad of streams, rivers and waterfalls along the many hiking trails. For a gorgeous view, there is an observation tower located atop Clingmans Dome, which is the highest peak.
Yellowstone National Park: This park is nearly 3,500 square miles of wilderness and recreation, all complemented with a volcanic hotspot. It lies mostly in Wyoming, but parts of this park spread into Montana and Idaho, too. This visual wonderland features dramatic hot springs and roaring geysers, alpine rivers, lush forests and dramatic canyons. In addition, Yellowstone is home to hundreds of wild animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope.
Rocky Mountain National Park: Located in northern Colorado, this park spans the Continental Divide and is made up of protected mountains, forests and alpine tundra. It is also home to the renowned beautiful drives along the Trail Ridge Road and the Old Fall River Road. These routes reward the onlooker with generous views of aspen trees and rivers. There are several hiking paths and mountain climbs in the park as well. There is a trail that goes around Bear Lake, offering breathtaking views of the peaks.
Denali National Park and Preserve: This is an enormous park encompassing six million acres of Alaskan wilderness. It features the Denali (Mt. McKinley) that soars 20,310 feet into the sky. It is the highest peak in North America. The park is home to all kinds of wildlife, such as grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolves and Dall sheep. It’s a great destination for hiking, backpacking, mountaineering and biking.
Yosemite National Park: This park is nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Known for its giant sequoia trees and for the famous Bridalveil Fall, the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome rise in a majestic fashion. Here you will find shops, eateries, camping, the Yosemite Museum and the Ansel Adams Gallery, housing Adams’ prints of his popular black-and-white landscapes of the area.
Arches National Park: This park is north of Moab in Utah. It’s bordered by the Colorado River in the southeast. This park is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, towering majestically into the sky. There are other geographical features as well, like Balanced Rock, which towers over the landscape right in the middle of the park.
Glacier National Park: This national park encompasses 1,583 square miles of wilderness area in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. There are glacier-carved peaks and valleys that run all the way to the border of Canada. There are over 700 miles of hiking trails, including a route to get to the breathtaking Hidden Lake. The wildlife is diverse, and includes mountain goats and grizzly bears. This is a great spot for hiking, backpacking, cycling and camping.
Bryce Canyon National Park: This sprawling southern Utah preserve is known for its colorful spire-shaped rock formations knows as hoodoos. The main road of the park goes right past the enormous Bryce Amphitheater. It’s a depression filled with hoodoos that lies below the Rim Trail hiking path. There are overlooks at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point. That’s a lot of points! The best time to get the prime views are at sunrise and sunset.
Voyageurs National Park: This park is located in northern Minnesota, in close proximity to the Canadian border. It’s known for its waterways, forests and the huge lakes of Rainy, Kabetogama and Namakan. There is also a series of abstract sculptures on a terraced outcrop that was created by artist, Jack Ellsworth. It’s known as the Ellsworth Rock Gardens. In the area of the remote Kettle Falls is a dam and a red-roofed hotel, both built in the early 20th century.
Joshua Tree National Park: This vast protected area is located in southern California. Here you will find stark desert landscapes dotted with rugged rock formations. The park is named for the many Joshua Trees. Keys View is a lookout point that offers views of Coachella Valley. There are also several hiking trails that weave in and out of the boulders of Hidden Valley.
Olympic National Park: It’s located on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington. From the dramatic peaks of the Olympic Mountains to the old-growth forests, this park spans across several different ecosystems. It’s popular for sightseers, as well as climbers, hikers and backpackers, as there are trails that cut through the park’s rainforests and right along its Pacific coastline.
Zion National Park: This southwest Utah nature preserve features the world-renowned steep red cliff faces. The scenic drive through the park cuts directly through the main section that leads to forest trails along the Virgin River. This river flows directly into the Emerald Pools, complete with waterfalls and a hanging garden. There is also a wading hike called Zion Narrows, that cuts through the deep chasms.
Big Bend National Park: They say that everything in Texas is big, not excluding this national park. There are over 1,200 square miles of enjoyment in this sprawling area. It includes the entire Chisos Mountain Range, as well as a large section of the Chihuahuan desert. You can take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which lead to the Sam Nail Ranch ruins, which have been taken over by the wildlife of the desert. You can also visit the Santa Elena Canyon, which was carved by the Rio Grande, leaving its mark of steep limestone cliffs. Near the Mexican border, you will find Langford Hot Springs, where there are pictographs, as well as the foundations of an old bathhouse.
Everglades National Park: This enormous park encompasses one-and-a-half million acres of wetlands. It’s located on the southern tip of the state of Florida. It’s somewhat of a thrill ride, as the wildlife is abundant, and it’s not always the friendly kind. These everglades are comprised of sawgrass marshes, coastal mangroves and pine flatwoods. Among the endangered wildlife, one may spot the leatherback turtle, the Florida panther and the West Indian manatee.
Shenandoah National Park: Extending along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, this park is a vast network of trails. In fact, these trails include a section of the famed long-distance Appalachian Trail. While the majority is forested, there are wetlands, rocky peaks (such as Hawksbill and Old Rag Mountains) and waterfalls. Shenandoah is the home to several bird species, squirrels, deer and the black bear.
Whatever park you choose, you’re bound to have a great time, and there is no more comfortable way to travel than in a rental RV from Cruise America. Spring is here, so don’t wait to make your reservations!