Ready to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and head to the country? Some of the most beautiful national parks in the world call the West Coast their home. Since 1872, national parks have been protected under law to ensure that future generations can experience the wilderness that once covered the entire United States.
Most parks are open all year round and offer a wide range of outdoor activities depending on the season such as: hiking, rock climbing, rafting, skiing, snowboarding and camping amongst others. With so many national parks scattered across the United States, 58 to be exact, it can be hard to choose which one to visit on your vacation. We have listed some of our favorite national parks in the Western United States to help you plan your trip.
227 miles long and over a mile deep, this natural wonder is Arizona’s most iconic landmark. With over 5.9 million people visiting the Grand Canyon each year, it is no surprise that there is so much to do. Check out some of the premier hiking trails, ride a mule or go rafting on the Colorado River. With the national park only being 70 miles north of Flagstaff, it is the perfect destination for a daytrip or weekend getaway!
The South Rim of the park is the most popular due to its easy access and shops in the Grand Canyon Village. Check out the amazing viewing points and catch the free shuttle to explore other lookouts and hiking trails. There is a range of hikes that you can choose from, all ranging in difficulty and duration. For a short hike with a great view, either walk along the Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge or Grandview Trail to the first overlook. If you are up for a challenge, hike the Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point and get a great view of the Colorado River. Grand Canyon helicopter tours, guided hikes and Colorado river rafting trips are also a great way to explore the national park.
On the border of California and Nevada, Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth. It is also the largest national park on the mainland US, with over 3.3 million acres of sand dunes, below-sea-level salt flats and colorful sandstone canyons located within the park.
Wake up early and take a drive to see the sunrise stretching over the desert at Zabriskie Point before heading to the lowest point in the continental US, Badwater Basin, and marvel at the massive salt flats up to 280 miles below sea level.
While there are no official hiking trails, it is easy enough to follow paths made by past travelers. Explore the region’s beauty and walk along the sand dunes to Mosaic Canyon or the Oasis. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not check out the all-day hike to the summit of Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley.
Death Valley is home to one of the darkest night skies in the United States which makes it the perfect place to gaze at the Milky Way or watch a meteor shower. During spring and winter, park rangers offer special night programs that include stargazing using high powered telescopes as well as informational talks.
Death Valley is approximately 70 miles west of Las Vegas and the perfect place for a weekend getaway to escape the city lights!
Named after the unique trees that call the park home, Joshua Tree National Park is where the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert meet. The park is an oasis in the middle of the desert offering a variety of outdoor activities with climbing and hiking being the most popular activities. There are a number of different trails in the park ranging in duration and difficulty.
Explore the Indian Cove Nature Trail to discover the Joshua Tree’s unique plants and keep an eye out for wildlife, as desert tortoises and bighorn sheep can often be spotted off this path. Check out some of the amazing boulders and rock designs on the Skull Rock Trail and the Arch Rock Trail. Head to the highest point in Joshua Tree, Keys View, and see the sun set over Coachella Valley, Palm Springs and the surrounding landscape. If one day in Joshua Tree isn’t enough for you, don’t worry, there are nine established camp sites within the park that allow you to sleep under the stars of the Milky Way.
Joshua Tree is located outside of Palm Springs and the perfect place to spend the day exploring the unique landscape of the dessert.
Approximately 60 miles northeast of Fresno, the iconic Yosemite National Park is located within the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. This world heritage site, with its granite cliffs, dramatic waterfalls and abundant wildlife attracts over 5 million visitors every year.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Yosemite National Park, with more than 800 miles of hiking trails that lead you to incredible views of the various mountain peaks and waterfalls. There are also guided hikes available within the park. Another fun summer activity you can undertake is rafting. Immerse yourself in some of the breath-taking sights and sounds while floating down the Merced River.
If you really want to get out into the wilderness, join a backpacking trip and spend up to four days exploring the national park. During the winter months, the most popular activities are skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and snowtubing.
Those among you desiring to be history buffs should check out the Yosemite museum and the Happy Isles Nature Center, both of which provide great insight into the history of the park. In addition to the astounding natural surroundings, the park also has many restaurants and hotels allowing you to dine and stay in this breath-taking setting.
Book your bus ticket to Fresno
Onboard services are subject to availability.