Gin is currently writing a lot of entries about our wonderful road trip that took place during summer 2013, and she asked me to share with you my favourite National Parks we’ve visited as an introduction to the series. Here is my contribution, I hope you will enjoy it. If you want to see more of these pictures, I invite you on my blog, Seeingthrough35mm.
#10 Pictured Rock National Lakeshore, Michigan.
It is situated in Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It sits along the shore of the great Lake Superior. Pictured Rock had gotten the name from its colourful cliffs. My understanding of how the colours have come to be is rather simplified: water leaches out the minerals within the rocks, these include limonite, manganese, copper and iron among others. When the water evaporates, and the minerals became oxidised, streaks of colour are left behind.
The lakeshore also boasts lush vegetation and an impressive stretch of sand dunes, the information centre explained that loggers had to drag timber up the steep side of the dunes and drop them down the other side onto boats to be shipped away. There are beautiful pebbles on the lakeshore, as well as innumerable fossils to be found.
#9 Grand Teton, Wyoming.
The lesser known neighbour of the Yellowstone National Park. It has the iconic jagged peaks, and beautiful lakes and rivers. If you are visiting in the summer, be sure to bring plenty of mosquito repellent and antihistamine tablets, as the mozzies here are ferocious, and some happen to carry the rather unpleasant West Nile virus.
#8 Grand Canyon, Arizona.
It is one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations, a true American icon. The canyon itself is indeed Grand, as canyons go, it is the biggest we’ve come across. I have seen it described somewhere as “a geologist’s wet dream”.
It is certainly one of the most photographed parks, with iconic view points all over the rim trail. However, due to its popularity, it is almost impossible to find affordable lodging near it, even 6 month in advance. We over heard a lady saying that she had booked her room in the hotel in Grand Canyon 17 MONTHS in advance!!
#7 Antelope Canyons, Arizona.
These are not part of the National Park Service. However, they are so incredibly beautiful, it is difficult not to mention them. These canyons are part of the Navajo Parks, gotten its name from the herds of pronghorn antelopes that used to roam in this region. The gargantuan Navajo sandstones, carved out by water over millennia, resulted in these enchanting curves. During certain times of the day, the sunlight hits the crack on top of the canyon at just the right angle, beams of light are cast into the canyon, giving it the extra ethereal quality. It is a very popular destination for photographers.
#6 Zion, Utah.
This National Park offers many unique hiking experiences, they range in lengths and difficulties. However, even the most inexperienced hikers can find trails that suit their ability. The pleasant hike along the bottom of the Zion Valley offers incredible sights. We soon discovered that the view changed dramatically with each twist and turn. The colours of the rock after some rain contrast dramatically with the green cottonwood trees and blue sky. Not to be missed.
#5 Arches, Utah.
No prizes for guessing what this park is famous for!
This is one of the smaller National Parks, but still packs plenty of staggering features. There are petroglyphs on rock faces, as well as some incredible trails such as the Devil’s Garden. Thousands of unique rock formations stand in this Park, including the State Symbol of Utah, the Delicate Arch.
#4 Canyonlands, Utah.
This incredible National Park is made up of several distinct districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles District, The Maze and Horseshoe Canyon Unit.
Island in the Sky is accessible by car, and has several short and pleasant hikes, you can see some truly spectacular views along the trails. The other districts offer geologically distinct landscapes, more challenging hikes, rafting on Colorado River and its tributaries and much, much more!
#3 Yosemite, California.
This was the first National Park we had visited in the US, and its top placing was not shaken until our final few parks, yet it still occupies the top three position!
As soon as we entered the park, we were greeted by El Capitan’s imposing granite rock face. The sheer rock was surrounded by alpine vegetation and beautiful flowering meadows. The park has countless waterfalls, crystal clear pools, breath-taking hikes (literally), and abundance of wildlife.
Yosemite spans over 3000 square kilometres, is one of the biggest National parks. Each region of the park offers distinct features. One can view the entire Yosemite Valley and Half Dome at Glacier Point, see giant sequoia at Mariposa Grove, hike on Tuolomne Meadows, and visit the beautiful Mono Lake just outside of its East entrance.
#2 Bryce Canyon, Utah.
By now you might have noticed a pattern—Utah is really good with rocks!
Out all the phenomenal rock formations, the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon take the crown.
I hear you ask: What on Earth is a ‘hoodoo’?
A hoodoo is a rock spire or pillar, formed by erosion. It usually has a hard rock as the top layer, covering softer rock beneath it. The erosion is able to occur around the rocks but not from top down, so that the rocks form tall spires. In the case of Bryce Canyon, they took the idea of a single hoodoo, and multiplied it by a million, thereby increasing the amazingness exponentially!
There is a trail that leads you through the bottom of the hoodoo basin, named the Queen’s Garden, and the park claims it to be the best 1 mile hike, in the world!
#1 Yellowstone, Wyoming.
It is America’s first ever National Park, and it is not difficult to understand why. The Park has over a third of the world’s hydrothermal features, including geysers, hot-springs, mud-pools, fumidors, and not to mention, the park sits on top of the Yellowstone Caldera, which is part of the Yellowstone supervolcano. The name alone is pretty awe-inspiring!
If you, like us, are suckers for a good hydrothermal feature or two, you would absolutely fall in love with this place.
The park is a conglomerate of intense colours year round. The mineral deposits at the Mammoth hot spring, the rainbow colours of Grand Prismatic Spring, the intense green of alpine vegetation contrasting with the azure sky are just some examples. Herds of wild bison roam the park freely, as well as elks and moose. Grizzly bears and black bears casually stroll across the plains in search for berries. Yellowstone truly is the quintessential National Park, and proof, that the National Parks truly are the best idea America has ever had!
What about you ? Do you have a favourite ?