Spring is here and it’s time to finally get outside and explore. There really is so much to see. In the United States, you’ll find deserts, mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers that are ripe for discovery. Get out there and go for a hike, walk, kayak, run — Just do something. See the world. Put down your iPad and shut off your Roku, the hot, new Netflix show will still be there when you get back. In The US, we are lucky to have fifty-nine National Parks. That’s an awful lot to discover (plus the monuments, protected spaces, BLM land…).
If you happened to see Ken Burns’ documentary series on the creation of the National Park system, you’ll know that a lot of dedicated people worked diligently to preserve specific areas of our country. These spaces are free of mini-malls, hotels, and the neon glow of fast food restaurants. They are left to remain as they have always been for future generations to enjoy.
Usually, in order to fun their work, the National Park Service charges admission to these parks. But, for two weekends this month (15th-16th and 22-23rd) you can visit all of them for free. Depending on where you live, take a road trip to Yellowstone, Sequoia, or the Grand Canyon. You’ll be pretty happy you did. Feel free to take out your phone and take some photos for Instagram too. Just make sure you make time to actually enjoy the sights in person. You might never get a chance to come back.
According to Lonely Planet, there are ten National Parks people visited in 2016 more than any others. They’re located in all corners of the country from Maine to Arizona and are just waiting to be discovered by you in this visual tour (and in real life).
10.) Glacier National Park (Montana)
If you visit Glacier National Park in Montana, you’ll see tremendous mountains and lakes that were carved by the glacial activity during the last ice age. While you’re there, make sure to visit Chief Mountain and also take the six mile hike that leads directly to Grinnell Glacier.
9.) Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
There’s definitely a lot to see at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. If you don’t feel like getting out of your car to see the sights, there’s a 43-mile loop drive that offers breathtaking views of the park. The Blacktail Ponds overlook is a great place to spot all manner of woodland creatures, including: moose and osprey.
8.) Acadia National Park (Maine)
Of all the sights to see in Acadia National Park (in Maine), the 1,530 foot tall Cadillac Mountain draws the most visitors. The tallest mountain in the park, visitors can hike to the peak in less than an hour. Insider tip: if walking isn’t your thing, you can also drive to the top.
7.) Olympic National Park (Washington)
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"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life." -Hermann Hesse Second growth along the Duckabush #ontheolympicpeninsula
There’s something for everyone at this National Park located in Washington state. For visitors who enjoy the outdoors, there’s hiking, kayaking, tide-pooling, and climbing (you can even surf). Be sure to visit the Hoh rainforest or check out the sunset at Hurricane Ridge.
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6.) Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is one of the most famous National Parks anywhere on earth. One of the main reasons for its fame is the five-hundred geysers in the park, including Old Faithful. Another can’t miss sight is the Mammoth Hot Springs and its vast boiling hot pools. Also, the bears — of which there are many.
5.) Zion National Park (Utah)
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Next month, May 16th, it will be 1 year since the accident. . The last few days, I’ve been SUPER indecisive. Basic choices have been physically exhausting. Stay home, go out, be alone, be with people, tv, picnic, nap, hike, run?? Nothing has sounded good. It’s been frustrating. Work has been hard because it means sitting still and focusing. I was getting impatient with people or things I normally wouldn’t. Last night I went out to dinner with 2 friends and at the table, the dam broke. I didn’t expect it. I knew something was coming on, but sobbing in the restaurant surprised me. It started to make sense though. The weird indecisive mood, being irritated by almost everything…it was because I was sad. Deeply. And none of the usual things were helping. I was annoyed at those things for not making me feel better, for not offering any relief. I left dinner early and called another sweet friend who listened to me talk through the sobs. I was scared. A year was coming up and I didn’t know how I was going to handle it…how much it was going to hurt. It felt like I was bracing myself for a tidal wave. My friend’s advice was to be still, and let it come. She was right. I went home, sat on my floor, and cried. One of my dear friends from dinner came and sat with me. She listened, told me it was ok. I opened up the box of his things, letters, clothes, pictures…that I hadn’t looked at yet. It did hurt, but every word I shared and every tear that fell lifted the weight off my heart. At the end of the night, I was tired. I put everything back in the box, put the box back in the closet way up high, hugged my friend goodnight and went to sleep. . Grief continues to do what it does. The wave did crash over me, and I’m ok. I can wear myself out zigzagging back and forth trying to avoid it, or I can turn and face it, close my eyes, rest, and let it come. I asked for help this time, which has gotten much easier since last year, and my friends came through. To anyone walking through this right now, don’t give up. Don’t hide from the pain, let it come…don’t be afraid. You’ll be ok. Ask for help, let yourself be loved. You are SO loved. We're doing this. 💛🌾 . 📷 @kateoliverphotos
Zion National Park, Located in Utah, is a hikers dream. If you visit, make sure you find a time to hike the Narrows. But be prepared to spend a lot of your time walking through shallow canyon water. Gear rentals are easy and this is a can’t miss adventure.
4.) Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
It might seem obvious based on the name, but Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Colorado. The most popular attraction at the park is Trail Ridge Road and its breathtaking views of the park. Don’t miss it.
3.) Yosemite National Park (California)
Yosemite, like Yellowstone, is one of the most famous of all the National Parks. If you plan to visit this California destination, be sure you don’t miss the numerous sights, including: Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, and Glacier Point.
2.) Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
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This should come as no surprise, but the biggest attraction at Grand Canyon National Park is the Canyon itself. One of the most famous ways to see the canyon is by taking a mule trip. But, for those with a fear of heights, river tours offer amazing views of the canyon from below.
1.) Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee)
This is by far the most visited National Park in the country. According to Lonely Planet, more than eleven million people visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016. That’s more than double the amount that visited the second park on the list (Grand Canyon). It’s the perfect destination for adventurous people who live on the east coast (as well as anyone who travels there) because of its hiking, camping, and beautiful vistas.