All American national parks have their own integrity, their own history, and their own geological peculiarity, but they all have one thing similar: absolutely sumptuous landscapes.
So breathtaking that in my opinion, they deserve a first place on the list of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.
You won’t have enough of one trip to the United States to see them all, but you have to start somewhere: here I will tell you about the TOP 5 US national parks that you must visit.
US national parks list:
1. Grand Canyon Park
Grand Canyon National Park is Best Park, for any traveler in this world, one of the places to see at least once in a lifetime.
The one considered to be the emblem par excellence of the great American spaces extends over 16 km between the north (North Rim) and south (South Rim) of the canyon for a total area of 4,531 km2.
North Rim is more difficult to access, wilder, and less crowded. It is open from mid-May to mid-October only.
For a first visit, I recommend that you devote your time to the South Rim, which is open all year round. This is the most accessible part and offers a greater variety of spectacular points of view.
Things to see in Grand Canyon Park
The Rim Trail: This 21 km trail, very well laid out, runs along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It runs parallel to the Hermit Road which provides shuttle service to the park’s most beautiful viewpoints such as Mather Point, Hopi Point, or Mohave Point to quote only those.
Bright Angel Trail: This hike takes you down into the bowels of the canyon. The level of difficulty and the distance depends on the point of view of how far you want to go.
South Kaibab Trail: allow 5 km to get to Skeleton Point, but you can then continue and continue with the rise of Bright Angel. Here too you can go to the first point of view if you are not in shape or accompanied by young children.
Desert View Drive: a road east of Grand Canyon Village that gives access to Grandview Point, offering a 180-degree view of the canyon or Desert View on our list of the best sunsets in the American West.
The helicopter flight: the experience of a lifetime. From the south shore to the north shore, you will discover from the air the immensity of this wonder of nature.
The Grand Canyon has a free of cost shuttle service that grants you to get around easily and access certain hiking departures and magnificent panoramas. Only the Desert View Drive is not served, you will have to travel it with your vehicle.
Visiting time: count at least one day and one night to enjoy it while taking your time. Hiking enthusiasts can devote several days to it.
2. Arches Park
Guess what awaits you in this park…
Arches is a spectacular American park that brings together just over 2,000 natural arches, the largest of which is 93 m wide.
These sculptures, majestic for some, fragile for others, are the fascinating result of more than 100 million years of erosion.
Arches can be visited year-round, but like most parks in America, the summer months are the busiest. You can visit it at the end of October: the temperature is perfect.
A scenic road of approximately 29 km crosses the park and provides very easy access to all points of interest up to the Devils Garden area, where the only campsite in the park is located.
Things to see in Arches Park
Delicate Arch: The landmark of the park, and even of Utah, is accessible by a difficult rated trail, 4.8 km round trip. This place is very popular at the end of the day because the light that is projected on the arch at sunset is blazing. If you are not in shape you can go and see it from Lower Viewpoint, accessible by car, but let’s face it, it’s much less impressive.
Devil’s Garden: this sector alone contains more than 64 arches including the famous Landscape Arch measuring 30 m in height and having 93 m opening.
The Windows section: it is the heart of the park, where there is the greatest concentration of arches like Double Arch, North Window, or Turret Arch, all of which are easily accessible via short trails.
Fiery Furnace: accompanied by a park ranger, you will trudge on an unmarked path where some passages can be tricky, especially if you are prone to vertigo. It is a real labyrinth where canyons, cliffs, and peaks come together, and a 3-hour excursion with a taste of adventure as we like them.
Unlike many parks, there is no shuttle service here. You will therefore need to take your personal vehicle to get around.
Visiting time: a full day to see the main attractions and take one or two hikes. But if you have the opportunity and the time to spend a night at the campsite, don’t hesitate.
3. Zion Park
Zion is vertiginous cliffs with dazzling colors, waterfalls, natural pools, picturesque hikes, and above all a lush flora and fauna of great diversity.
And in the middle of it all flows the Virgin River, which quietly continues to carve and shape the landscapes of Zion.
If we summarize well, it looks like the image we have of paradise, right? Apparently, that’s what Mormons thought they had found when they discovered this beautiful land.
The park is divided into 3 sectors: Zion Canyon, Kolob Canyons to the north, and Kolob Terrace, the central part. I recommend that you linger on the Zion Canyon section which is the most frequented and which offers the most services and attractions.
Things to see in Zion park
The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway: 40 km long, this scenic route, considered one of the most beautiful in the American West, connects the park’s eastern entrance to Springdale. It will offer you spectacular views of the canyon.
Angels landing: it’s a hike as extreme as it is out of the ordinary. One of the most memorable I’ve done so far. Wow! The view on arrival (and throughout the course for that matter) is up to the challenge to get there. The last section is difficult and dizzying. In high season, you have to start at sunrise; otherwise, the traffic on the trail makes the experience really less pleasant.
The Narrows: in this very narrow part of the canyon you can go up the bed of the Virgin River. The water level differs according to the season and where you are going. You can have them up to the ankles, up to the waist, or more! Get the necessary information from a park ranger before setting out there.
In the high season, from mid-March to October, it is prohibited to troll in the park.
Shuttle service takes you to several points of interest and hiking departures.
Visiting time: at least one day. Hiking enthusiasts will stay for half a day or an additional 24 hours.
4. Yosemite Park
It is located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the first park to be known in the United States.
Its natural diversity and the landscapes found there are of rare beauty: waterfalls flowing from the top of immense granite cliffs, giant sequoias, or even subalpine meadows where wildlife is very present.
The park is large and it is advisable to plan your visit well so as not to miss out on its most beautiful attractions. Moreover, we have already concocted the ideal schedule for you if you had planned to visit Yosemite in 2 days.
Things to see in Yosemite park
Tioga road: a scenic high mountain road that crosses the northern section of Yosemite Park. From there, you can access the prairie of Tuolumne Meadows in particular, surrounded by vertiginous peaks and domes, or admire the view of the Tenaya Canyon from Olmsted Point.
Tunnel View: this panorama is often represented in the most famous photos of the park. We can see the huge El Capitan monoliths and Half Dome as well as the Bridalveil Falls.
Glacier Point: easily accessible, this lookout offers a striking view of the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls.
The park is open year-round but be aware that Tioga Road is closed from November until the end of May / early June, which prevents you from crossing the park from east to west.
It is strongly recommended to use the shuttle service in order to make your trips more efficient and without parking worries. A really valuable time saver.
Visiting time: 2 days and 2 nights ideally if you want to see the viewpoints and do some hiking.
5. Bryce Canyon Park
When we ask travelers what their favorite American park is, the answer is 90% Bryce Canyon.
What characterizes this park, as surprising as it is magnificent, are its “hoodoos” (or fairy chimneys) that one could describe as rocky needles in bright colors, topped with a rock hat.
It’s difficult to imagine, even having seen pictures before, how wonderful the landscape is. It is stunning what nature is capable of doing.
The park, while the length, is crossed by a scenic road of 29 km, but the most spectacular part is that of the amphitheater of Bryce, where the hundreds of fairy chimneys stand proudly.
Things to see in Canyon Park
Bryce Point: one of the most impressive viewpoints in the park. Located at an altitude of 2,529 meters, it offers an exceptional panorama of the amphitheater.
Inspiration Point: a lookout that allows a close-up view of the famous rock formations of the park.
Queen’s garden trail: a must-do hike if you want to descend into the canyon and get a closer look at these majestic sculptures.
Bryce Canyon is located over 2,500 meters above sea level, it can get quite cold. Often the park is covered with snow in winter.
It also has a free shuttle service. From May to October, I highly recommend that you take advantage of it since it will allow you to visit the park, incomplete fluidity without having to worry about finding parking at each point of interest.
Visiting time: You can visit Bryce Canyon in 24 hours and enjoy the most beautiful views and hike in the canyon.
But let’s say that these 5 parks fit perfectly into the itinerary of an unforgettable self-drive tour in the American West.
And you, what would your TOP 5 look like? Tell us about your favorites by writing to us in the comments area below.