True national treasures, national parks are a source of pride and pleasure for visitors eager to experience the wonder and mystery of these thrilling outdoor destinations. Whether you’re traveling domestically or abroad, national parks are a great day trip or the sole focus of an extended stay. Both experienced adventures and first-time visitors will enjoy these exciting national parks!
US National Parks
Yosemite National Park
This prized national park on the United States’ west coast is just one of many reasons to visit Northern California any time of year. Yosemite is among the most popular national parks and a must-see for anyone who wishes to experience the best of the world-famous US national park system.
Yosemite contains spectacular natural features including old-growth Sequoia forests, an expansive water system featuring 25 waterfalls, and towering snow-covered peaks. Visitors can choose from a network of over 280 hiking paths for 750 miles of traversable land adorned with breathtaking landmarks like Snow Creek Falls and the Royal Arch Cascade.
Yosemite is just a couple dozen miles from comfortable accommodations like bed and breakfasts and shabby chic inns in Wawona and Mariposa, California. The strikingly beautiful Wawona Hotel, with its Victorian-era rooms and a palatial outdoor pool, is sure to please any traveler.
Yellowstone National Park
To visit Yellowstone is to partake in a rich heritage spanning millennia. For centuries, Native American tribes including the Nez Perce, Blackfeet, and Shoshone called the land this expansive Wyoming park sits on home.
Atop a subterranean volcanic hot spot and encompassing nearly 3,500 square miles, Yellowstone attracts spectators the world over to witness rare natural phenomena. These include hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, travertine terraces, and perhaps most notably, spectacular exploding geysers. Though they have cute names like Daisy and Comet, geyser eruptions are powerful events marked by the ejection of boiling hot water as high as 75 feet! Geographical landmarks like Hayden Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the otherworldly Lower Geyser Basin are also worth checking out.
Canadian National Parks
Banff National Park
Canada’s Banff National Park is the birthplace of Canada’s park system. Intersected by the rugged peaks of the Canadian Rockies, it’s an ideal space to hike, cycle, and camp. Access to this expansive wilderness is aided by paved and well-maintained hiking and cycling trails. View the park’s mountains, broad valleys, glaciers, alpine meadows, and hundreds of wildlife species from the seat of your mountain or fat tire bike rental. Cycling trails range from easy to difficult.
Banff offers visitors thrilling experiences, even at night. Enjoy the crisp nighttime Canadian air while hunting for the perfect stargazing spot. Popular locations include Vermilion Lakes, Lake Minnewanka, and Two Jack Lake. Miles from urban centers, Banff has little to no light pollution, helping bring star systems into full focus—even without a telescope! Although, you’re more than welcome to bring one.
Australian National Parks
Purnululu and Nambung National Parks
If you’re seeking outdoor thrills beyond the Western Hemisphere, Australia’s national park system is modeled after its North American counterparts, but with unique ecosystems found nowhere else. Australia’s western wilderness features natural formations such as the sandstone cone karsts in Purnululu called the Bungle Bungle Range. And Nambung Park boasts the distinctive and mysterious limestone structures of The Pinnacles, formed over centuries as ancient marine life decomposed.
Nambung National Park’s desert ecosystem is home to an abundance of wildlife species including birds, reptiles, and mammals including the red kangaroo and the dingo. Purnululu is home to a number of jaw-dropping geographic features, including The Window and Echidna Chasm, formed over millennia by tectonic and erosive forces to create stunning photograph-worthy sights.
Affordable and ideally-located lodging exists for both parks. The highly-rated Pinnacles Edge resort can be enjoyed for as little as $149 Australian dollars a night ($100 American dollars) and is complete with an outdoor pool and balconies equipped with grills and cooking tools. If you’re not in the mood to cook, a seafood restaurant is right on site. Purnululu’s Bungle Bungle Savannah Lodge is just minutes from its namesake landmark and the stunning Cathedral Gorge.