Five Best National Parks to Visit?

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nimo956
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Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by nimo956 »

I live in the Northeast and have only ever been to Acadia National Park in Maine. I'm looking to start a tradition of visiting some of the beautiful national parks in the US/Canada out west. What would be the top 5 places to start? I'm looking for beautiful, lush scenery for photography coupled with day hiking. I'm not really into rock climbing or camping in a tent for days on end at this stage.
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Da5id
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Da5id »

Nicest I've been to are:

Volcano's National Park (Hawaii)
Katmai National Park (Alaska, more for wildlife, go during salmon run for grizzly bear viewing)
Denali National Park (Alaska)
Yellowstone+Grand Tetons (might as well do both at once)
Yosemite
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VictoriaF
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by VictoriaF »

This summer, I will be traveling around the Western U.S. with some friends from Europe. They have created an optimal program to see as much as possible in two weeks. Among National Parks (NP) we will be visiting:
- NP Joshua Tree
- NP Death Valley - Badwater
- Grand Canyon - South Rim
- Monument Valley
- Antelope Canyon
- Grand Canyon - North Rim
- NP Zion
- NP Bryce Canyon
- NP Arches
- NP Canyonlands
- NP Grand Teton
- NP Yellow Stone
- NP Yosemite
- NP Sequoia

Knowing my friends, I have confidence that they have picked up (some of) the best parks to visit.

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alpenglow
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by alpenglow »

It's really tough to choose, but here are my top 5 (excluding Acadia).

* Yosemite (#1 favorite)
* Yellowstone
* Glacier
* Arches
* Bryce

I also really enjoyed Zion, Tetons, Death Valley, and Mount Rainier. Again - tough to chose. Visit as many as you can!!
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Raybo
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Raybo »

Since you mentioned Canada, I'd suggest the Icefield Parkway and Kootenay NP in Canada.

Also, Glacier National Park, before all the glaciers melt.

Hiking among the giant Redwoods in Jedediah Smith State Park in Northern California.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by psystal »

You can't go wrong with the usual suspects: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Denali, Sequoia/Redwoods, Bryce. You could spend weeks in those parks.

However, I'd add two (slightly) less frequented parks: Crater Lake and Isle Royale. Crater Lake remains perhaps the single most beautiful place I've ever been, and there's nothing quite like jumping in those waters. Isle Royale is as isolated as it gets, and the stars are incredible. I've never felt so absolutely free as I did on that island. It's best to hike deeper in and tent camp, but you can also stay in a lodge or use a yurt at one of the larger base camps. Renting a kayak for the trip will allow you to get around the island faster and transport a bit more food.
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Youngblood
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Youngblood »

VictoriaF wrote:This summer, I will be traveling around the Western U.S. with some friends from Europe. They have created an optimal program to see as much as possible in two weeks. Among National Parks (NP) we will be visiting:
- NP Joshua Tree
- NP Death Valley - Badwater
- Grand Canyon - South Rim
- Monument Valley
- Antelope Canyon
- Grand Canyon - North Rim
- NP Zion
- NP Bryce Canyon
- NP Arches
- NP Canyonlands
- NP Grand Teton
- NP Yellow Stone
- NP Yosemite
- NP Sequoia

Knowing my friends, I have confidence that they have picked up (some of) the best parks to visit.

Victoria
Wow, great selection! I've enjoyed them all except for Antelope Canyon (never heard of it).
Amazing whirlwind tour but, I hope you plan on going back to spend more time in every one.

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VictoriaF
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by VictoriaF »

Youngblood wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:This summer, I will be traveling around the Western U.S. with some friends from Europe. They have created an optimal program to see as much as possible in two weeks. Among National Parks (NP) we will be visiting:
- NP Joshua Tree
- NP Death Valley - Badwater
- Grand Canyon - South Rim
- Monument Valley
- Antelope Canyon
- Grand Canyon - North Rim
- NP Zion
- NP Bryce Canyon
- NP Arches
- NP Canyonlands
- NP Grand Teton
- NP Yellow Stone
- NP Yosemite
- NP Sequoia

Knowing my friends, I have confidence that they have picked up (some of) the best parks to visit.

Victoria
Wow, great selection! I've enjoyed them all except for Antelope Canyon (never heard of it).
Amazing whirlwind tour but, I hope you plan on going back to spend more time in every one.

YB
Thank you for good wishes! When I travel on my own, I spend a lot of time in each spot, but this time, I'll be doing something different. And as you suggest, it's likely that I'll want to come back and do it again.

Victoria
Last edited by VictoriaF on Fri Apr 01, 2016 9:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by quantAndHold »

alpenglow wrote:It's really tough to choose, but here are my top 5 (excluding Acadia).

* Yosemite (#1 favorite)
* Yellowstone
* Glacier
* Arches
* Bryce

I also really enjoyed Zion, Tetons, Death Valley, and Mount Rainier. Again - tough to chose. Visit as many as you can!!
This, although I'd slip the Grand Canyon in after Glacier and before Arches.
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necrotic
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by necrotic »

Zion
Yellowstone
Crater Lake
Great Smoky Mountains
Arches
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zzcooper123
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by zzcooper123 »

Make sure you read: "Conserving America's National Parks"
by Scott Abella before you go. Will make your visit much more interesting.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Rob5TCP »

The list provides many of the best.

I found Yosemite and nearby Sequoia to be among the most diverse and my favorite.

Utah - Zion and Bryce; Arches, Moab, Canyonland
Cal -- Redwood National Park, Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon,
Wash - Mt. Rainer and Olympus
Alberta, Canada: Jasper and especially Banff NP along with Lake Louise and the Icefields are all with a few hours of each other
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by gkaplan »

psystal wrote:You can't go wrong with the usual suspects: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Denali, Sequoia/Redwoods, Bryce. You could spend weeks in those parks.

However, I'd add two (slightly) less frequented parks: Crater Lake and Isle Royale. Crater Lake remains perhaps the single most beautiful place I've ever been, and there's nothing quite like jumping in those waters. Isle Royale is as isolated as it gets, and the stars are incredible. I've never felt so absolutely free as I did on that island. It's best to hike deeper in and tent camp, but you can also stay in a lodge or use a yurt at one of the larger base camps. Renting a kayak for the trip will allow you to get around the island faster and transport a bit more food.

Be aware that you need to book Crater Lake far in advance. My brother, his wife, her sister, and I are driving down in July to Ashland, Oregon, for the Shakespeare Festival, and we thought we would take in Crater Lake after the two days in Ashland, but it was too late to book. This was several weeks ago.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by chisey »

necrotic wrote: Great Smoky Mountains
Most visited national park in the country. Beautiful and underrated. And I'm not just saying that because visitors' dollars help my local economy.

8-)
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by fishmonger »

I haven't been to many of the western parks, but for its sheer singularity, I would do the Grand Canyon.

Acadia is one of our favorite places in the world. Heading there in July for the 4th time!
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by thomasbayarea »

Yosemite - The problem with such a beautiful park is that it takes multiple visits to truly appreciate it. I have been to Yosemite over a dozen times now (I live close) and every time I discover something new. That park is truly special in my book - none others have come close - but it look several tries before I "got it". For the most part in Yosemite, tourists ride shuttle buses from point to point, buy their souvenirs, take their selfies and leave. I strongly suggest venturing out some more :sharebeer
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by midareff »

Grand Canyon
Yosemite
Brice
Zion
Arches

In the Brice - Zion area I would also take a half day boat ride on Lake Powell.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by mhc »

Yellowstone/Tetons
Arches/Canyonland
Glacier
Mesa Verde
Mount Rushmore/Badlands

I grouped together NP's that were close to each other. If you see one of them, you might as well see the other.

I chose these because they each have something unique that is hard to see else where. All the NP's are amazing.

I hope to see Dry Tortugas this summer.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by whaleknives »

They're all wonderful, but it's best if you can avoid the busy times and seasons. Can you imagine how annoying this would be:

Image
"Many hikers can reach the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park each year by following an 8.5 mile trail from the valley floor, climbing several hundred feet of granite stairs, and ascending the steep peak with the aid of post-mounted braided steel cables. (Wikimedia/Bonzo McGrue) "
https://weather.com/travel/news/scaries ... s-20141002
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by PoppyA »

Isle Royal - oh yes, the stars!
Death Valley - extreme
Mesa Verde - my personal favorite - ancient cliff dwellers
Andersonville POW camp - historical and unexpected
Crater Lake - striking to the imagination
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Hikes_With_Dogs »

Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of them. They are all so different and unique in their own way.

Adding to the list I haven't seen yet: Big Bend in Texas.

Yoho/Banff/Jasper in Canada.

One of my goals in life is to go to ALL of them. :)
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by blmarsha123 »

nimo956 wrote:I live in the Northeast and have only ever been to Acadia National Park in Maine. I'm looking to start a tradition of visiting some of the beautiful national parks in the US/Canada out west. What would be the top 5 places to start? I'm looking for beautiful, lush scenery for photography coupled with day hiking. I'm not really into rock climbing or camping in a tent for days on end at this stage.
All of the parks mentioned heretofore are beautiful (Yellowstone and Grand Teton are two of my favorites). As for lush scenery, I would recommend Muir Woods (if in the Yosemite, central CA area) and Glacier.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by TxAg »

Zion and Glacier are my favorites. Big Bend is special, too.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by thomasbayarea »

whaleknives wrote:Image
I have climbed the cables of half dome several years now. After they setup the daily permit limit, it is not crowded at all.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by William4u »

PoppyA wrote:Isle Royal - oh yes, the stars!
Death Valley - extreme
Mesa Verde - my personal favorite - ancient cliff dwellers
Andersonville POW camp - historical and unexpected
Crater Lake - striking to the imagination
Everyone who has been to Isle Royal says that it surprised them in how amazing it was. I need to get up there!
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by psystal »

gkaplan wrote:
psystal wrote:You can't go wrong with the usual suspects: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Denali, Sequoia/Redwoods, Bryce. You could spend weeks in those parks.

However, I'd add two (slightly) less frequented parks: Crater Lake and Isle Royale. Crater Lake remains perhaps the single most beautiful place I've ever been, and there's nothing quite like jumping in those waters. Isle Royale is as isolated as it gets, and the stars are incredible. I've never felt so absolutely free as I did on that island. It's best to hike deeper in and tent camp, but you can also stay in a lodge or use a yurt at one of the larger base camps. Renting a kayak for the trip will allow you to get around the island faster and transport a bit more food.

Be aware that you need to book Crater Lake far in advance. My brother, his wife, her sister, and I are driving down in July to Ashland, Oregon, for the Shakespeare Festival, and we thought we would take in Crater Lake after the two days in Ashland, but it was too late to book. This was several weeks ago.
This is true. You could try Jo's Motel, which is about 20 minutes outside of the park. It's far less glamorous, but also more affordable.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by psystal »

William4u wrote:
PoppyA wrote:Isle Royal - oh yes, the stars!
Death Valley - extreme
Mesa Verde - my personal favorite - ancient cliff dwellers
Andersonville POW camp - historical and unexpected
Crater Lake - striking to the imagination
Everyone who has been to Isle Royal says that it surprised them in how amazing it was. I need to get up there!
Make sure you take a week, and that you're well prepared. Seriously. My first trip was organized by a friend who failed to check the fire hazard status before we left, and upon arriving at the island we realized we couldn't start a fire all weekend. He also failed to pack a camp stove. A ranger took pity on us when he saw we were eating cold hot dogs, and let me use his cabin's stove to boil a gallon of water for Ramen, but I had to carry the (hot) pot half a mile back to our camp.

Still an amazing trip, though.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by LetItRide »

whaleknives wrote:They're all wonderful, but it's best if you can avoid the busy times and seasons. Can you imagine how annoying this would be:

Image
"Many hikers can reach the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park each year by following an 8.5 mile trail from the valley floor, climbing several hundred feet of granite stairs, and ascending the steep peak with the aid of post-mounted braided steel cables. (Wikimedia/Bonzo McGrue) "
https://weather.com/travel/news/scaries ... s-20141002
That is a great picture (and reference). I was one of the many that were caught in this traffic jam. Definitely, try to avoid the busy times!
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by jane1 »

Yellowstone
Grand Canyon
Glacier
Banff (Canada)
Arches/Canyonlands
Bryce, Zion
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by AnilG »

Every year during summer, we go on a road trip for 4-6 weeks camping at national parks and other nature attractions. Last Year, we visited Glacier, Waterton, Banff, and Jasper. The year before we visited Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Grand Teton and Yellowstone. This summer, we were initially thinking of Grand Canyon and Death Valley. Now having second thought as these places might be too hot during summer. We might go back to Grand Teton and Yellowstone to cover areas we missed last time.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by dm200 »

alpenglow wrote:It's really tough to choose, but here are my top 5 (excluding Acadia).

* Yosemite (#1 favorite)
* Yellowstone
* Glacier
* Arches
* Bryce

I also really enjoyed Zion, Tetons, Death Valley, and Mount Rainier. Again - tough to chose. Visit as many as you can!!
Of the ones you list, Yosemite is the only one I have visited, BUT (even though we live on the East Coast), we (in one case by myself on a business trip to Northern CA) have been there 3 or 4 times. Wonderful!!!
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Christine_NM »

All of the above, plus Rocky Mountain National Park near Denver for scenery and day hiking and Mesa Verde NP in CO for something you won't see anywhere else. If you get tired of lush scenery (and forest fire warnings), there is also Carlsbad Caverns NP in NM and Big Bend in TX.

It is very hard to pick the 5 best of the West. A lot depends on how crowded a park is when you are there or if some areas of the park have been closed off.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by bap »

So hard to narrow it down. Here are a few of my faves so far:

Kenai Fjords
Yellowstone/Teton
Glacier
Denali
Monument Valley
Grand Canyon
Arches
Petrified Forest/Painted Desert - sadly, has gone downhill lately. get there before it is gone.
Four Corners Monument - not spectacularly beautiful, but a cool thing to do

Enjoy your trip.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by halfnine »

In addition to which I would definitely consider when as well. For instance, I would consider Yosemite at its best after a good winter of snow and sometime around the end of May when the water flow is at is fullest. I've also quite enjoyed Yellowstone during the winter when one can snowmobile in.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by letsgobobby »

America only... and it's very hard to choose just 5. It also depends on what you enjoy doing. North Cascades, for instance, is only accessible by boat or foot. So if you like hiking, it's a glorious place. Mt. Rainier is easier if you want to stay in a car.

I'm going to pick 5 based on broadest appeal, iconic stature, and uniqueness even within our glorious NPS. In no particular order:

Yosemite - spectacular glacial valley, soaring mountains, waterfalls, high sierra camps (you must do these), Tuolumne meadows
Yellowstone - wildlife, geothermal activity, the first national park, sheer variety of terrain
Grand Canyon - I've been a dozen times and never tire of the views, the hikes into the ditch, the great view at dinner from the restaurants, Havasu falls and stays at the Havasupai reservation.
Death Valley - otherworldly, so big, makes you feel very small - deafening quiet at the Racetrack, offroading in Titus Canyon, scrambling dry washes and slot canyons - a blast
Olympic - temperate rainforests, beautiful mountains, untouched wild seashore, tidepooling,

I have excluded Alaska because I have never been outside of the cruise stops, I'm sure there are some beautiful spots there.

Hard to not include places like Glacier (which is a hiker's paradise, just mind the bears), Zion, overlooked King's Canyon and Sequoia, Mt. Rainier (practically my backyard), and my personal favorite North Cascades just because of the incredible hiking and lack of people (only 20,000 visitors last year) in the backcountry.

Hawaii is very unique but the parks are not all that big, you can hike into Haleakala and stay in cabins in the crater which - if you can get reservations - would make it #6 on my top 5 list. But if all you do is drive to the top and drive back down, it's not that special. Hiking in with the nenes and silver sword makes it a bucket list trip.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Fletch »

My top tier favorites:
Yellowstone-Teton (best visit was just before the park closes for the winter, minimal traffic and people)
Yosemite
Glacier
Banff to Jasper (Canadian Rockies)
Mesa Verde

Second tier favorites:
Grand Canyon (south rim)
Bryce
Bandolier National Monument
Crater Lake
Olympic
Big Bend
Rocky Mountain
Arches
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Acoma Pueblo (not a NP or NM)

Sorry, hard to choose. They are all so different and it depends on the time of year you visit.

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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by radiowave »

We did a 2.5 week trip a few years ago:

Albuquerque -> Canyon de Chelle (sp) Monument Valley, Grand Canyon north rim, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands and Arches then back to NM via Santa Fe. A bit of a drive but one of the very best in the US. Note the drive up UT Route 12 from Bryce to Capital Reef is one of the most spectacular I've driven. And there is an excellent restaurant in Torry UT (El Diablo).
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Doom&Gloom »

mhc wrote:Yellowstone/Tetons
Arches/Canyonland
Glacier
Mesa Verde
Mount Rushmore/Badlands

I grouped together NP's that were close to each other. If you see one of them, you might as well see the other.

I chose these because they each have something unique that is hard to see else where. All the NP's are amazing.

I hope to see Dry Tortugas this summer.
The Dry Tortugas is one of my top five. It lacks much of the grandiosity and scenery of the other National Parks, but it is unique and awesome IMO. I hope you get to make the trip.

Mt Rushmore was one of the biggest disappointments to me--maybe the only one. It has been so exposed in movies and other media that not much was left to the visit itself. I'm sure most other people do not feel the same way.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by mbk734 »

The parks are clustered together on the west side of the country. Utah Parks are close together and beautiful. Yellowstone and Grand Canyon are iconic. The Alaska parks are huge but remote and somewhat difficult to get to. Yosemite and Redwood in California are nice too.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by enebyberg »

Yellowstone + Teton
Yosemite
Glacier
Zion
Arches

Bonus - Mesa Verde
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by traveltoomuch »

thomasbayarea wrote:Yosemite -.... I strongly suggest venturing out some more :sharebeer
+1. Off-season is a great time to be in Yosemite valley. In the summer, head for the high country - you'll see a tenth of the crowds. Stay in the Tuolumne Meadows "lodge" or White Wolf. If you're up for some long day hikes, hit some of the High Sierra Camps.

Sequoia/King's Canyon should be seen.

I just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon (south rim), Wupatki National Monument, and Monument/Mystery Valley (Navajo tribal park). Canyon de Chelly and Antelope Canyon are on my list following that trip.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by oldcomputerguy »

Since I live within a half hour's drive, I have to chime in and put in a vote for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by dm200 »

traveltoomuch wrote:
thomasbayarea wrote:Yosemite -.... I strongly suggest venturing out some more :sharebeer
+1. Off-season is a great time to be in Yosemite valley. In the summer, head for the high country - you'll see a tenth of the crowds. Stay in the Tuolumne Meadows "lodge" or White Wolf. If you're up for some long day hikes, hit some of the High Sierra Camps.
Sequoia/King's Canyon should be seen.
I just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon (south rim), Wupatki National Monument, and Monument/Mystery Valley (Navajo tribal park). Canyon de Chelly and Antelope Canyon are on my list following that trip.
The "Big Trees" (Sequoias) in California are really worth "experiencing". There are some in Yosemite - so try to see the big trees if you do go to Yosemite.

The trees in Kings Canyon/Sequoia are even better - so, if you can do so, I would try to swing through those parks and see these magnificent trees.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Watty »

radiowave wrote:We did a 2.5 week trip a few years ago:

Albuquerque -> Canyon de Chelle (sp) Monument Valley, Grand Canyon north rim, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands and Arches then back to NM via Santa Fe. A bit of a drive but one of the very best in the US. Note the drive up UT Route 12 from Bryce to Capital Reef is one of the most spectacular I've driven. And there is an excellent restaurant in Torry UT (El Diablo).
+1 on Canyon De Chelly

https://www.nps.gov/cach/index.htm

I was looking to see if someone had mentioned that. It has been a long time since I was there but you may need to reserve tours ahead of time so check on that. Be sure you know which time zone any tours are in. It gets real confusing with daylight savings time since Arizona, the federal park, and the Navajo Nation may or may not follow daylight savings time. I missed a tour because of confusion about that.

It is best not to speed on the Navajo reservation.
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Random Poster »

I'm surprised by how much press Glacier is getting in this thread.

It is a decent park, but I don't think that it is anything overwhelmingly special. The mountains, hikes, and glaciers are better in Banff, Yoho, and Jasper just a few hours north.
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William4u
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by William4u »

Fletch wrote:Second tier favorites:
Grand Canyon (south rim)
Bryce
Bandolier National Monument
Crater Lake
Olympic
Big Bend
Rocky Mountain
Arches
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Acoma Pueblo (not a NP or NM)

Sorry, hard to choose. They are all so different and it depends on the time of year you visit.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a little gem. It is between Yellowstone and Sun Valley, and is worth stopping by.

https://www.google.com/search?q=Craters ... l+Monument
Northern Flicker
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by Northern Flicker »

In the lower 48:

King's Canyon/Sequoia
North Cascades
Olympic
Grand Canyon
Zion
Grand Teton/Yellowstone
Glacier
Bryce
Rocky Mountain
Yosemite

would be my top 10.
radiowave
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by radiowave »

I'm surprised no one has nominated Cape Hatteras National Sea Shore in North Carolina outer banks (well ok it's not officially a national park), but some of the best beach anywhere.
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dm200
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by dm200 »

In Northern California - and up the Pacific Coast further north, I recommend visiting areas of the Pacific Redwoords.
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nimo956
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Re: Five Best National Parks to Visit?

Post by nimo956 »

Thanks for all the recommendations! I want to see everything eventually, but am leaning towards Yosemite for my first trip. That seems like it'd be the easiest to get to, since I can fly direct to San Francisco and just drive from there.
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