Canyons, Glaciers and Old Faithful: Celebrate 100 Years of the National Park Service With America’s Top National Parks
In 1916, the U.S. government put together a faction of bureaucratic nature-lovers tasked with preserving and overseeing national parks all over the country. These men and women were called the National Park Service; a group of self-proclaimed conservationists devoting years of their lives to making sure future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature the same way they did in the 20th century. And 2016 is the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service and in celebration of its 100th year in existence, Entertainment Voice has put together a guide to some of our favorite National Parks from coast to coast.
Denali National Park
About as wild and unique of an enclosure as there ever was, Denali National Park in Alaska is six million acres of natural beauty. The catch? There’s a singular road bisecting the entire park. If you’re looking for a more dramatic way to see the sites, try flightseeing. Take a ride in a single-engine Cessna high above the snowcapped peaks. You can also stop off on a glacier to ski or maybe just have a quick snowball fight. Take the Denali Park Road up to Savage Lake for a leisurely day hike with excellent views of the Denali Mountain. Sleep above it all at Grande Denali Lodge, a large-scale hotel overlooking the park. Denali Backcountry Lodge, on the other hand, offers an all-inclusive stay right in the heart of the preserve.
Glacier National Park
Montana is filled with some incredible vistas, many of which are within its very own Glacier National Park. One of the best ways to take in these remarkable glacier-abundant surroundings is by way of Going-to-the-Sun Road. As a marvel of early 1900’s engineering, this road is carved into the side of mountain faces and traverses the entirety of the park. Due to Glacier’s year-round cold water temperatures, most of its 131 named lakes have remarkably pristine water, making it possible to clearly see the bottom of a 30-feet deep lake. Other water-based sites to take in include Cracker Lake and Grinnell Glacier. Like Yellowstone, Glacier has its own version of glamping with Under Canvas; be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to unwind in style. As the largest hotel on-site, Many Glacier is another hotel directly inside the park with over 200 rooms decorated in a rustic, comfortable atmosphere among the seclusion of a lakeside wilderness.
Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park houses arguably the most famous landmark in America. Aside from just taking in the majesty that is the Grand Canyon other available activities include biking, hiking, river running and even mule rides. Those looking for a more casual jaunt from the North Rim to the South Rim would enjoy Grand Canyon Railway. As far as accommodations go, there are plenty of options such as North Rim Campground, North Rim Lodge and cabin rentals; or for the super adventurous, try Phantom Ranch, which is only accessible by mule, on foot or via the Colorado River.
The South Rim is easily the most visited area of the park. With hotels like El Tovar, which is perched on the edge of the rim, Bright Angel Lodge featuring the beautifully modern Buckley O’Neill and Red Horse Cabins and the gorgeously situated Desert View Campground, there’s certainly no shortage of options to find that perfect place to rest your head at the Grand Canyon.
Grand Teton National Park
Also in Wyoming is Grand Teton National Park. This park exists as an ode to the majesty of mountains and alpine terrain. The park boasts over 200 miles of trails for exploring including plenty of areas with bears roaming free where safety is always a priority. Check out Jackson Lake (a registered historic landmark) and Paintbrush Canyon trail for something truly inspiring. Look no farther than Colter Bay Village for a chance to experience true cabin-style living among the trees and alongside nature.
Great Smoky Mountains
At the edge of North Carolina and Tennessee amid the slew of wildflowers and black bears, you’ll have the opportunity to discover historic gems like Cades Cove where an abundance of white-tailed deer, coyotes, groundhogs and other animals frequently roam. At America’s most visited park, camping is available alongside an 11-mile road that circles the valley, which is great for biking and car touring. Check out Laurel Falls to catch a glimpse of a tame, yet gorgeous waterfall. Local accommodations include Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel featuring its own award-winning brewery and Butterfly Gap Retreat that offers a boutique feel in the form of a scenic mountain hideaway.
Mount Rainier National Park
This park’s namesake comes from the 14,000 plus feet of mountain that towers over the land. Mount Rainier contributes more than a name, though, it’s also an active volcano and spawns six major rivers throughout the state and beyond. Those who are more adventurous should seek out a glacial climbing trip or one of many wilderness hikes. Alexander’s Lodge is your classic countryside resort complete with a spa, banquet areas and plenty of post-hiking amenities.
Olympic National Park
Covering a sizeable portion of land just outside of Seattle, Olympic National Park is ripe with unimaginably lush forests, wild coastlines and other attractions the Pacific Northwest has to boast about. Olympic is not only famous for its gorgeously green forests but also the tidepools that form on various beaches throughout the park. You can also take advantage of their Night Sky programs where one can take a full moon hike or discover the astronomy visible from the region. The Kalaloch Lodge is a coastal resort with stays in their hotel, cabins or lodges, perfect for a beachside getaway in the park.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado’s own Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 square miles of mountainous glory. There’s plenty to do on your feet here with over 300 miles of hiking trails like Cascade Falls or Deer Mountain hike. It’s highly recommended that you strap on your boots and hit the trail to enjoy the exquisite flora and fauna that reside here. Check out nearby Estes Park for a slightly different experience including live music and vintage markets. Devil’s Thumb Ranch is the perfect place to enjoy a full spa or lay your head after a long day of roaming replete. The Inn at Silver Creek is another good option for those seeking a more classic mountain hotel vibe.
Yellowstone National Park
Another one of our country’s most beloved parks, Yellowstone stretches across the great states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. As the world’s first national park, Yellowstone is famous for its hot springs, mudpots and geysers, the most well-known of which is Old Faithful. During the summer, be sure to enjoy a guided tour of the grounds or a relaxed fishing session; you can even strap on a helmet for a rough and tumble bike trail ride. Yellowstone Under Canvas is a new way to experience camping in this famous park. Comfortable enough to contend with a luxury hotel room, this unique outdoor adventure will allow you to sleep under the stars with just a canvas tent between you and nature. For a more traditional approach, try Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins as they celebrate their 125th anniversary this year.
Yosemite National Park
As California’s premier park, Yosemite puts forth a challenge to any outdoor enthusiast. Known for its giant sequoias, world famous rock faces (El Capitan), epic glaciers and unforgettable biodiversity, Yosemite has become a favorite for adventurists. Try kayaking Tenaya Lake for instance or rafting Merced River or perhaps a leisurely drive along Tioga Road. The Majestic Yosemite Hotel serves as the park’s only four-diamond hotel offering the highest level of service in the area. Also among the park is Yosemite Valley Lodge, perfect for your next family visit.
Zion National Park
Utah’s Zion National Park is without a doubt one of the most naturally beautiful places in America, filled with superb rock formations like the 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs or Horse Ranch Mountain. Take advantage of this splendid canyon country by going on a guided canyoneering trip, or take a dip in one of many natural springs along the Emerald Pools trail. The word “zion” translates to place of peace and refuge and this is how Zion Lodge describes itself. Smack in the middle of the national park, Zion Lodge couldn’t be more idyllic a place to relax during your Utah adventure.
As outdoor enthusiasts, it would be a shame to miss out on this opportunity to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our beloved national parks. As the NPS continues to fight hard to preserve the natural treasures, it’s now on us to take a trip, enjoy the surroundings and appreciate nature at its finest.