This year is the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday. With the date landing on August 25th, 2016, there are lots of programs and initiatives being organised by the NPS this summer, and there’s free entry to all national parks over the birthday weekend (25th – 28th August).
With all this going on, there’s never been a better time to support North America’s national parks and explore some of the country’s most incredible landscapes. We’ve chosen some of our favourite parks for you to visit this summer, and with Alamo Rent A Car you can plan the road trip of a lifetime.
Great Smoky Mountains
Right on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, America’s Great Smoky Mountains are a hive of activity, with hiking trails, waterfalls, fishing streams, campgrounds and all kinds of wildlife to discover. One of the most exciting trails through the mountains is the Trillium Gap Trail. There are fewer things more refreshing than the splash of a waterfall on a hot summer’s day, and on this trail you’ll get the chance to walk behind the beautiful Grotto Falls, before being rewarded with incredible views of Mount Le Conte. Away from the hiking trails, go picnicking, wildlife viewing, horseback riding and view historic log buildings.
It’s on the bucket list for many visitors to the USA, and the Grand Canyon National Park is certainly an impressive landscape. You can get up close and personal with the canyon’s jagged cliffs by taking backcountry hikes, river tours, and by getting to know the infamous Bighorn Sheep that populate the area. While the Grand Canyon’s South Rim is stunning, many head to the mountain plateau of the North Rim, to appreciate some of the finest views over the national park. The variety of the landscape is incredible, with wild flora carpeting much of the plateau and the layers of colourful rock, exposed from centuries of erosion, clearly visible. Go early in the morning or at dusk, to watch the sunrise and sunset, for the most wonderful views of the park.
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The Rocky Mountains are known for being the archetypal national park. Their snow-capped mountains, thick forests and glassy, clear lakes make them extremely photogenic during any season. Since the area was a dedicated national park in 1915, summer has always been, for good reason, the peak time to visit the Rockies, with over one million visitors in a six-week period. In July, thousands of tiny wildflowers make the most of the warmer weather by blooming intensely for just six weeks, covering the lower plateaus with bursts of colour. These mountains support some of America’s most varied species of wildlife, so look out for elks, beavers, black bears, moose and mountain lions, amongst others.
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Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, Yosemite National Park does nothing in half measures. With giant sequoia trees, huge waterfalls and colossal mountains, there are plenty of opportunities for fun activities, such as camping, fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking and wildlife watching, with birdwatching being especially popular. On 25th August, the park will celebrate the 100th birthday of the NPS with a public commemoration ceremony, interactive programs and activities. For a unique experience of the park, check out the naturalist guides, who offer custom adventures and outdoor experiences for families and groups.
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Zion National Park is a really unique part of North America’s landscape. Located in southwest Utah, its vertical red sandstone cliffs are surrounded by luscious greenery. Zion is notable for its fantastic canyoneering opportunities, and over time it’s become known as one of the best places in the USA to practice the sport. For beginners, guides to the park often point to The Narrows. This part of the canyon is 2,000 feet deep, but only 20 to 30 feet wide in some parts. You can take a thrilling upstream hike through The Narrows, or traverse the area’s steep cliffs. Before attempting any activity in the park, you should get as much information as you can from a ranger at the visitor’s centre.
Spend your summer exploring the National Parks of the USA. With Alamo Rent A Car you’re free to plan your own adventure.