National Parks are some of the most beautiful places on earth. Visiting one is an excellent destination for families, as they are affordable, family-friendly and fun. For 80 bucks you can purchase the America the Beautiful annual pass that covers entrances fees for all passengers in your vehicle and is valid for one full year from month of purchase. What a steal of a deal, right? The pass also provides admittance to other federal recreation sites which you can find more details on the recreation.gov website. Zion, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon are my top favorites. We have 59 national parks here in the US. I have visited nine so far and have plans to explore four more later this year. It was not easy narrowing down to only four favorites because each park is impressive and unique in its way that I love them all. What is your favorite park and why?
Oh, Zion, your striking beauty makes my heart skip a beat. Hands down Zion is the most beautiful national park I have visited and my top favorite. Sorry, Yosemite! Zion is like stumbling upon a hidden world it has it all rock towers, checkerboard mesa, scenic trails, sandstone canyons, weeping rocks, river, and wildlife! It has something for everyone’s enjoyment level. You can hike your way around the park or relax on a free comfortable air-conditioned (seasonal) shuttle bus with big glass window and glass roof. The shuttle bus runs every 15 minutes at nine different stopping points throughout the park. No need to break a sweat if you do not have to, right!
For the brave, adventurous souls like myself that love adventure on epic scales there are The Narrows where you hike through bone-chilling water up to your calves to experience views of mesmerizing sharp cliffs or hiking trails that take you up 1400 feet high. I am speaking of the famous Angel’s Landing where you can enjoy views on an epic scale that is if you make it through the 26 switchbacks called Walter Wiggles. Oh, those wiggles… I only made it up 9 of the wiggles and had to stop. I gave it my all, but the odds were against me – 10 lbs. of boobies, desert heat and extra fat on my back. Ha! And let us not forget that I was hiking up the side of a mountain. No worries, I will try again someday when the temps are more comfortable. To truly enjoy Zion, I recommend you spend two full days in the park that is my plan for the next visit. There was so much I wanted to see and do but did not have enough time. If you LOVE taking photos add an extra two-hours to your itinerary your future self will thank you.
Zion is located on the far southwest corner of Utah and a short scenic drive to Bryce Canyon. If you have the time, I do recommend you visit both parks they are too close not to explore them both. The nearest airport is McCarran International in Las Vegas three-hour drive. You can fly into Salt Lake City International in Utah, but it is a four-and-a-half-hour drive. I would choose SLC if I were visiting the other three parks in Utah – Arches, Canyonland and Capital Reef. Arches and Canyonland are about a 30-minute drive from each other, and Capital Reef is about a 2-hour drive. If you drive from Arches to Zion or Bryce, it’s about a 5-hour drive.
Yosemite is beautiful. Everything about this park is striking from its awe towering waterfalls, giant Sequoia trees, unique rock formation, valley, fields, and forest. Yosemite is home to one of the largest piece of granite in the world – El Capitan. It is also home to Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome – a climber’s paradise. This was the very first place I saw rock climbers in action. Barely visible through the eyes of my binoculars little ants on the wall is the best way to describe them. I remember being so amazed at how high they climbed and imagined how beautiful the views were at that vantage point. Brave souls they are!
This park is enormous and packed with crowds, but my experience here was enjoyable and pretty quiet. Each person in their zone was soundlessly communing with nature quenching their thirst with the beautiful waters of life all around them. When I visited Yosemite a couple of years ago, it was the second national park that I had been too. I joined a tour company that picked me up and dropped me back off at my hotel in San Francisco which was a great experience. It allowed me to sit back, relax and take in all the beauty that was around me. But, it also limited me on the time I had to explore because we had a schedule to adhere too. All in all, it was terrific, but I have to go back and experience this place without limits. I do still remember my experience like it was yesterday. My most memorable moment was seeing a black bear run across the road as our bus was leaving the park. I was hoping to see a bear, and it happens when I least expected it!
The Grand Canyon was the first national park that I visited. My memories of this place are extra special. It was my first solo trip, first time hiking and the first time I saw the Colorado River. I remember thinking to myself, as I sat on the edge of the cliff eating a fresh deli sandwich and purple grapes that I wanted to see the views from the bottom of the Canyon. I wanted to float the mighty Colorado River, and I got a chance to do just that on my recent road trip. The views at the bottom are just as stunning as the top! I was able to see deep inside the canyon walls, exposing its natural arches and petroglyphs carved into the prehistoric rock made by Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont groups. And I saw wild horses too! I had a wonderful time drifting through one of the largest canyons in the world learning about the years past. I have seen the north, and south rim of the Grand Canyon wouldn’t it be cool to hike it from rim to rim now? Is this on your bucket list – it sure is mines!
Hoodoos, Hoodoos and more Hoodoos! What the heck are hoodoos? Tall skinny rocks that protrude from the bottom of an arid basin or badland. Formed from years of erosion through rainwater and frost-wedging. You can find hoodoos all over the world but Bryce Canyon has the largest collection. Most of the hoodoos at Bryce stands over a 100ft tall. Can you imagine standing next to something so tall and stunning? If you hike one of the many trails you can enjoy close encounters with the bright orange giants. I opted to drive through the park stopping along its 18 scenic overlooks enjoying the unique canyons from above. The drive took me through perfectly lined forest trees with the bright orange hoodoos as the backdrop. I can not even begin to put into words how magical this place is. You have to go see it for yourself! Bryce Canyon offers shuttle services as well which I will enjoy on my next visit. Visiting Bryce was like visiting another world and I enjoyed every experience that I had. When you enter the park, you will receive a colorful map highlighting all the stopping points throughout the park. It helps you save time for exploring and eliminate the guesswork of what to see and do next. I also recommend you stop by the visitor center for more information, clean restrooms, and souvenirs.
When was the last time you saw something so impressively beautiful that it took your breath away? My words nor my photos will never be able to convey what you will truly experience at a national park – as you gaze up at awe towering mountains, majestic waterfalls and picturesque valleys to driving through a forest and the stillness and silence melts your heart away. Exploring this great country that we live in and experiencing its beautify has left me with humble and grateful heart. If you have never experienced the natural wonders and most beautiful places in our nation I do hope you get a chance to go someday you will not be disappointed, and it will be money well spent!
“Get Lost in Nature, and You Will Find Yourself”