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  • Women's Adventure Travels

Top US National Parks to Visit - Part 2

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

Whether hitting the road or renting an RV with your boo, we've got some national parks for you.

You can safely social distance in these wide-open spaces, flex your sense of adventure, and fill your Insta feed for months to come. The best part is that there is no passport necessary, nor any TSA standing in your way. So, start packing!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Say WAT – Cuyahoga Valley National Park was first established as a national recreation area in 1974 and was then re-designated as a national park in 2000. The park is rich in history. The park sits between Akron and Cleveland in Ohio, includes 87 miles of the Ohio and Erie Canal, and has had over12,000 years of human occupation.

Park Points

Size and Vibe: Covering only 50.89 square miles, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers rivers, grasslands, forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands within its borders. Elevations in the park range from 590 feet to 1,164 feet above sea level.

The river, known as the “river that burned,” runs 100 miles in the park. The notorious Cuyahoga River has been a massive influence in the shaping and changing of the valley.

Cuyahoga also provides a home to animals in northeast Ohio, covered by urban areas. Raccoons, muskrats, red foxes, beavers, bald eagles, and great blue herons are but a few species living in the park.

Best time of year to go - One of the most colorful national parks during the fall, Cuyahoga Valley, is a must-see in autumn. Mostly covered by trees and water, so all you can see is yellow, orange, and red.

How many people per year - 2.42 million (2016)

Game On! - There are a lot of activities rooted in demonstrating the history of Cuyahoga Valley. Visitors can take a train ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, pay a visit to the Canal Exploration Center, or bike down the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. On the Cuyahoga River, visitors enjoy canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. On land, visitors go hiking, picnicking, and questing.

Picture Perfect - Starting, one of the most popular attractions in the national park is Brandywine Falls. Standing 65 feet tall, the falls have a bridal veil effect and offer different viewpoints from upper and lower boardwalks. The next photo spot is Beaver Marsh, a successful restoration story, as it was once a junkyard.

Another popular area and great photo opportunity is the Ledges Trail and Overlook, taking visitors on the edges of sandstone structures and next to towering rocks. Finally, Everett Road Covered Bridge is a perfect backdrop for your Instagram post!

Closest Small City - Cuyahoga Falls, OH Closest Big City - Akron, OH

Closest Airport - Akron Fulton International Airport

Arches National Park

Say WAT – Arches is in Moab, Utah, and is a part of the Moab experience, a gateway town to two national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. Established as a national park in 1971, Arches National Park bears over 10,000 years of human history on its shoulders.

Park Points –

Size and Vibe: This national park covers 119.8 square miles of pure desert. The park is in the Colorado Plateau Desert in eastern Utah, also known as Canyon Country. Elevations in the park range from 4,085 feet to 5,653 feet above sea level. In the park, you’ll find pinnacles, balanced rocks, gigantic fins, and arches.

As the name implies, Arches National Park features many unique arches. More than 2,000 natural sandstone arches are precise, and the national park holds the largest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. This desert landscape is dense with wildlife. The park is home to many species, including desert bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, lizards, desert cottontails, jackrabbits, and coyotes.

Best time of year to go – The best time of year to visit is during the fall or spring. Temperatures are cooler, compared to the summer when temperatures surpass 100 degrees. Plus, ranger programs are open, and the area hosts a Red Rock Arts Festival during the fall.

How many people per year – 1.66 million (2019)

Game On! –

Rock formations and arches in the national park make for some great adventures. Conquer the rocks and arches with canyoneering, hiking, and rock climbing! Or if you’re more interested in seeing the park for its beauty, take a scenic drive, take part in a ranger program, or go on a commercial tour. Many visitors also like to camp, backpack, bike, and horseback ride in the park.

Picture Perfect –

Besides the thousands of natural arches, there are countless spots where you can get a great photo. Park Avenue is one such popular viewpoint and hiking trail named because it resembles New York City’s Park Avenue with towering skyscrapers.

The next viewpoint, La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, provides a 360-degree view of arches inside and outside the park. Balanced Rock is one of the most iconic spots in the park. Standing 128 feet tall, the upper portion of the rock is as large as three school buses. Finally, you have to grab that snap of the recognizable Delicate Arch.

Closest Small City – Moab, UT Closest Big City – Provo, UT

Closest Airport – Grand Junction Regional Airport. Closest International Airport – Salt Lake City International Airport

Bryce Canyon National Park

Say WAT – Known for its natural amphitheaters and hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park is another of Utah’s national parks. It was first established in 1923 as a national monument but was quickly given national park status a year later in 1924.

Park Points –

Size and Vibe

Bryce Canyon is 55.98 square miles of colorful rocks, forests, meadows, and rock formation covers in the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southwestern Utah.

Bryce features the most extensive collection in the world of hoodoos, which are tall, thin spires of rock. Pronghorn, prairie dogs, rattlesnakes, and short-horned lizards are a few of the unique animals living in the park.

Best time of year to go

The best time to visit Bryce Canyon is in the summer, specifically May through September, because temperatures are mild and pleasant. Comparably, the rest of the year can be quite cold, with temperatures no higher than an average high of 58.

How many people per year – 2.59 million (2019)

Game On! –

This canyon takes a good bit of physical effort to explore, especially on foot. The park has plenty of moderate and strenuous trails to hike. For a bit of education and adventure, visitors can partake in ranger programs or visit the park’s museum. Camping, horseback riding, ATV rides, and scenic drives are also popular activities.

Picture Perfect –

There are no bad spots to take a picture in the park. The Natural Bridge is a massive 85–foot arch carved in red rock. Thor’s Hammer is the best-known hoodoo in the park. Along the Navajo Loop trail, you can take many mesmerizing pictures of the canyon’s rippling walls. Finally, to capture the bigger picture, Bryce Point, a spot that highlights Bryce Canyon Amphitheater from a bird’s eye view.

Closest Small City – Tropic, UT Closest Big City – Cedar City, UT

Closest Airport – Cedar City Regional Airport. Closest International Airport – McCarran International Airport

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Say WAT – These two parks in the southern Sierra Nevada of California came to be in two different centuries, but their borders overlapped. Sequoia National Park became America’s second national park in 1890, and Kings Canyon National Park was created in 1940. Because of their proximity, the National Parks Service began to administer them jointly in 1943.

Park Points –

Size and Vibe: These two parks encompass roughly 1,353 square miles, with 97% wilderness. The parks house canyons, rivers, glaciers, and underground caverns. Sequoia is a heavily forested area known for hosting the world's most massive trees, the Giant Sequoias. They grow to be about 30 feet in diameter and over 250 feet tall. Kings Canyon also offers outstanding heights, hosting the United States' deepest canyon at over a mile and a half deep.

Sequoia originally came to be to protect the Giant Sequoia Trees, making it the first national park formed to preserve a living thing. Besides the giant trees, these parks are home to black bears, badgers, sheep, muskrats, and opossums crawling through the parks.

Best time of year to go – The best time of year to visit Sequoia & Kings is early summer in May and June as there is a beautiful display of wildflowers and the melted snow from winter makes the park's waterfalls and streams flow heavily. Caves and attractions are also open during this time.

How many people per year – 1.25 million (2019)

Game On! –

Being 97% wilderness, most of Sequoia and Kings Canyon are only reachable by foot or horseback riding. It takes a physical toll, but the adventures are well worth the effort. Hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding are some of the many ways visitors make their way around the park. Other activities include the Dark Sky Festival, cave tours, skiing, and snowshoeing.

Picture Perfect –

Paradise Valley in Kings Canyon offers a stunning view with a landscape similar to Yosemite's National Park. Another top spot lies at one of the parks' granite domes, Moro Rock. Climb a quarter-mile staircase to an overlook above the valleys and mountains below. The third stop is an 80-foot waterfall named Grizzly Falls, a favored place for picnics as well.

When visiting the Giant Forest of Sequoias, be sure to grab a photo of yourself with the world's largest tree by volume, the General Sherman Tree.

Closest City – Porterville, CA Closest Big City – Visalia, CA

Closest Airport – Meadows Field Airport. Closest International Airport – Fresno Yosemite International Airport

Shenandoah National Park

Say WAT – Shenandoah National Park's history harkens back long before its establishment in 1935. People have lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Northern Virginia, the mountain range in Shenandoah, for over 9,000 years.

Park Points –

Size and Vibe: The park is mostly forested, covering 311.2 square miles of wetlands, waterfalls, rocky peaks, and 70 overlooks. It is also best known for it's Skyline Drive along 105 miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Since the early 1700s, there has been an abundance of wildlife reported living in the park. Human settlers made a dent on the wealth, eliminating the American bison and elk. However, the park is still home to about 300 species of birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals. White-tailed deer, the big brown bat, skunks, Carolina chickadees, and wild turkeys are other notable species within the park's borders.

Best time of year to go – Shenandoah is another national park famous for its autumn foliage. So, embrace the mild weather and head out between September and November.

How many people per year – 1.26 million (2018)

Game On! –

Coasting along Blue Ridge Mountain's Skyline Drive is one of the top attractions and activities in the park. Dive deeper in with a hike or a bike or opt to settle in with backcountry camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Picture Perfect –

The Skyline Drive, with its 70 overlooks, is as pitch-perfect for pictures. The first notable outlook is Hazel Mountain Overlook at mile 33. You can stand on rocks and boulders with a view of the mountains in the distance. At mile 55.5, you can hit the Point Overlook. Finally, the Dark Hollow Falls is a series of waterfalls and cascades in the park. It's also a popular hike with a 1.5-mile round trip.

Closest Small City – Front Royal, VA Closest Big City – Harrisonburg, VA

Closest Airport – Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. Closest International Airport – Washington Dulles International Airport

Badlands National Park

Say WAT – Located in South Dakota, The Badlands, nicknamed the Land of Stone and Light, was first established in 1939 and later given national park status in 1978.

Park Points –

Size and Vibe: The park covers 379 square miles of geologic formations, prairies, deep canyons, and grasslands. While the tall spires and rugged peaks are the highlights of the park's landscape, the grasslands make up about 50 percent of the park.

Badlands preserves the world's most significant fossil beds from the Age of Mammals. Rhinos, wild horses, and saber-toothed cats used to roam the Badlands. Today, you are more likely to see bison, prairie dogs, and bighorn sheep in the park. The park is also home to some of the most endangered species in North America, including the black-footed ferret.

Best time of year to go – Near the end of the summer, the park reaches higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Visit in the fall for fewer crowds and cooler temperatures. Spring can be good, or a visit can come with heavy rainstorms and hail.

How many people per year – 970.1 thousand (2019)

Game On! –

Camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing are everyday activities in the park. Like many other national parks, Badlands has an iconic scenic drive and has many scenic outlooks, called the Loop Road.

Picture Perfect –

The first iconic view entering the park is the Big Badlands Overlook. You can enjoy expansive views of the park's geologic formations. Panorama Point is another hot spot that gives you 360-degree views of the park. Yellow Mound's overlook offers an explosion of color with bands of yellow, orange, and beige rock. Finally, Cedar Pass brings you to the campgrounds and the Cedar Pass Lodge and the bottom of the park's formations and to a completely different view.

Closest City – Rapid City, SD

Closest Airport – Rapid City Regional Airport. Closest International Airport – Casper/Natrona County International Airport

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Say WAT – Great Sand Dunes National Park lies on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley in central Colorado. It was established in 1932 as a national monument and was given national park status in 2004.

Park Points –

Size and Vibe: The park spans over 232 square miles with elevations ranging from 7,520 feet to 13,604 feet above the sea and is mostly covered by dunes, aspen forests, and grasslands.

A definitive nod to it's name, the park is known for its huge dunes, some of the tallest in North America. Star Dune, its highest tallest dune, is 750 feet from its base to its summit and is the tallest dune in North America.

Best time of year to go – The Park's greatest attraction is Medano Creek, which is at peak flow during the early summer months of May and June when the temps are moderate. Head out then and midweek when crowds are thinner.

How many people per year – 527.5 thousand (2019)

Game On! –

In the dunes, adventure enthusiasts go sandboarding, sand sledding, hiking, and horseback riding. For something wet and wild, head over to Medano Creek for inner-tubing or guests kick it with fishing or backpacking.

Picture Perfect –

Medano Creek is dry the majority of the year. So grab a snap to capture the condition. Pose on Star Dune or capture Mount Heard, which is above the dunes for an unforgettable view.

Closest Small City – Alamosa, CO Closest Big City – Pueblo, CO

Closest Airport – San Luis Valley Regional Airport. Closest International Airport – Denver International Airport

Mammoth Cave National Park

Say WAT – Located in central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave was established as a national park in 1941. The park estimates that there is potential for 600 more miles in the cave system, making it the world's most extended known cave system with new caves continuing to be discovered.

Park Points –

Size and Vibe: The park's surface area only covers about 80 square miles, with the underground area being more extensive. The lowest elevation of the cave is 421 feet below sea level. Above ground, the park consists of forests, rivers, streams, and springs.

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to many animals. Above ground, you'll find many familiar woodland creatures like deer, raccoon, rabbits, and red foxes. Below ground is a different story. Mammoth Cave has several rare and unusual animals living in its dark corners, including eyeless fish, ghostly white spiders, and blind beetles. The cave protects endangered species such as the Kentucky Cave Shrimp and the Indiana Brown Bat.

Best time of year to go – The cave is open for operation during the winter and summer months only, with winter being it's best seasons as it's less.

How many people per year – 2 million with 500,000 touring the cave

Game On! –

While the park's main attraction and activity involve exploring the cave, surface activities exist as well. Visitors head to Green and Nolin River for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. The park also has horseback riding biking, camping, and cave tours.

Picture Perfect –

A top spot for pix is at the entrance of Mammoth Cave next to its soft, mossy rock exterior and waterfall. Inside the cave, you'll want to stop at the Rotunda, one of the cave's largest rooms. Once inside, inside the cave, capture the Ruins of Karnak, wall formations sculpted by the trickling of water down cave walls. Finally, hike along the Echo River Trail to the end to get a picture at Mammoth Cave is above ground at the Echo River Spring.

Closest Small City – Glasgow, KY Closest Big City – Louisville, KY

Closest Airport – Bowling Green Regional Airport. Closest International Airport – Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport

Death Valley National Park

Say WAT – Straddling eastern California and Nevada, Death Valley National Park was established in 1934 and is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the United States.