Immerse yourself in California’s most intoxicating landscapes on a road trip that takes you from panoramic San Francisco and Sonoma wine country to Yosemite and the high sierras, before winding down to the warm shores of Big Sur and Santa Barbara.
The USA’s top 5 national parks
The United States boasts 59 stunning national parks, all of which are overseen by the National Park System. With the advanced conservation practices of the NPS, the national parks in the US are arguably some of the best protected in the world. So how does one select which of these pristine protected areas to visit? Our North America specialists have selected the five national parks that you mustn't miss.
Acadia National Park, New England
Stretching for almost 50,000 acres, Acadia National Park is a stunning area of natural beauty famed for its vast expanses of open space. There is nothing better than driving its wide open roads and absorbing the spacious coastal views, before heading inland through meadows and forests. Acadia National Park is home to numerous species of birdlife, including puffins, eagles and falcons. Get off the road, don your walking boots and hike the serene carriages with some of the park’s best vistas.
Rent a kayak and you’ll see the seals who sun themselves on rocks on the edge of the park. If you’re lucky you may even spot a whale! We can suggest many a hike or kayak route, or if you are after something special, we can even recommend a personal qualified nature guide who can take you through Acadia at your own pace, however adventurous you wish to be!
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is just three hours outside of San Francisco, but it feels like a different world. With a host of outdoor High Sierra adventures waiting, from guided hikes and horseback rides to rafting and fly-fishing, in Yosemite you are never short of things to do. You can fall silent beneath the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove, or whoop it up on the historic 1920s narrow-gauge Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad. But to really experience Yosemite’s untamed majesty, get off the beaten path and make the steep but short hike up to Artist Point where there’ll be, in all probability, just you, the wind and one of the most staggeringly beautiful views on Earth.
“Yosemite is the most visited national park in the US, which is a testimony to the amazement of the park itself. With its huge granite cliffs, gushing waterfalls, and beyond that, redwood trees and flower meadows… it is an area of outstanding natural beauty!” - Jenny Culverwell, North America Specialist.
Stay at Tenaya Lodge – set in the peaceful forest away from Yosemite Valley’s hubbub, Tenaya Lodge is a charming stone-and-timber lodge providing an escape from the milling crowds. With its warm and inviting atmosphere reminiscent of an old hunting lodge, suitably rustic décor and plenty of crackling fireplaces, Tenaya Lodge is full of home comforts. If you want something really remote, request one of the authentic Americana log cabins out amidst the tree canopies.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone was the world’s first ever national park and was the catalyst for a concept which has since spread across the globe. Yellowstone has a wealth of wildlife, so much so it is nicknamed the American Serengeti.
Wildlife enthusiasts will want to head for the Lamar Valley – the single best place in Yellowstone to view bears, wolves, elk, bison, pronghorn and bighorn sheep. Wild West adventurers can partake in everything from cruises on Lake Yellowstone to moseying along a trail on horseback, or you can experience Yellowstone like the first pioneers and enjoy a traditional cookout dinner.
Zion National Park, Utah
Situated in one of Utah’s most breath-taking areas, Zion National Park is an absolute must-see, and its soaring sandstone walls, incredible rock formations and sinuous canyons constantly reveal stunning vistas. Getting the most out of Zion means hitting the trails. Zion National Park is one of America’s most gorgeous hiking destinations, and a superb network of hiking routes will take you to highlights such as The Narrows, Angels Landing and Emerald Pools. Other exciting activities at Zion include mountain biking, climbing and horseback riding. If you are lucky enough to be in Zion in late September, you’ll be treated to an extravagant display of fall colours, as the gold of the cottonwood trees is offset by the park’s ruddy canyon walls.
“Zion National Park has some of the best panoramic views you’ll ever witness – it just cannot be beaten!” - Jenny Culverwell, North America Specialist
Stay at Zion Park Lodge – close to the trailheads, Zion Park Lodge is one of the park system’s top lodges, putting you at the heart of this adventure playground. Be sure to request one of the secluded cabins in the inner canyon, with fireplaces and a private porch where you’ll only be disturbed by the occasional grazing deer.
Denali National Park, Alaska
From the moment you enter Denali National Park, along one of the grandest roads on earth, it is simply majestic. With North America’s highest peak Mount Denali (formerly McKinley), as a constant companion, you’ll encounter wildlife such as a foraging grizzly bear, a wolf pack trailing a herd of caribou or a golden eagle soaring overhead. Spend a few days in complete wilderness, enjoying hikes into the tundra, paddling across Wonder Lake to pick blueberries, or learning how to pan for gold. Add an extra frisson of adventure by booking a once-in-a-lifetime flight by ski-plane past Denali’s massive walls of rock and ice, before landing on a glacier to take in your awesome surroundings.
“In Denali you get a real sense of being in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around you other than complete wilderness. What I love is the sound of the rain hitting the roof of the lodge as you sit by the fireplace after a day out exploring.” - Lucie Polwin, North America Specialist