6 National Parks You Should Have on Your Radar This Summer

There are 60 national parks across America. That’s not counting the hundreds of national monuments, historical sites, battlefields, memorials, trails, and more. When you count all of them together, the number of protected sites that fall under the US National Park Service is well over 400.

So it should not surprise anyone when I say that there are scores of incredible sites worth exploring in America—from sea to shining sea.

Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National parks, while beautiful, can be treacherous, and dehydration can kick in fast, especially during the hot summer months. Stay on designated trails, and never hike or travel alone without telling someone of your plans. Carefully watch weather, as it can change rapidly. Seemingly innocent rain showers can quickly cause flash flooding that can turn deadly.

Always maintain a healthy respect for the outdoors. A mistake can be unforgiving.

Whether you’re looking to explore waterfalls or rivers, volcanoes or deserts, canyons or mountaintops, there’s a national park to discover this summer.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the country. People come for the more than 800 miles of recreation trails that wind through breathtaking scenery, and beautiful wildflowers. In fact, the park is home to the largest number of flowering plants of any park in the country—more than 1,600 different species.

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

Lassen Peak is the southernmost of the Cascade Mountains’ 15 volcanoes. The mountain erupted from 1914 until 1921 and changed the landscape to what you see today around the Cinder Cone. But the park is more than just a volcano. It’s a set of peaks surrounded by a lush wilderness.

The park is a great place to get away from it all in Northern California—not that Northern California isn’t already place to get away from it all. The area around the mountains is alpine with a high desert creeping in on the eastern reaches of the park. It’s a great place to get lost, see a volcano, and find some peace and quiet away from the masses.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

Admire the grandeur and wonders of the Grand Canyon, a powerful and inspiring landscape that overpowers our senses through its immense size. You won’t find similar mixtures of color and erosional formations anywhere else. The canyon is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and about a mile deep, according to the National Park Service.

A universally recognizable iconic destination, Grand Canyon National Park is a true marvel of nature. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming.

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Capitol Reef received its name in part from the great white rock formations resembling the U.S. Capitol building and from the sheer cliffs that presented a barrier to early travelers. However, it is the park’s multi-colored sandstone that earned it the nickname, “land of the sleeping rainbow”.

The park runs along a huge buckle in the earth’s crust called the Waterpocket Fold. This noteworthy geologic feature is a wrinkle in the earth’s crust. Layer upon layer of rock folded over each other. This 100-mile-long— but relatively narrow—feature takes its name from the countless small bowl-like depressions, the small potholes that hold rainwater and snowmelt.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based and backcountry recreation amid scenic vistas and geologic wonders. The second largest man-made lake in the U.S., Lake Powell is without doubt the most scenic, stretching 186 miles across the red rock desert from Page, Arizona to Hite, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

Bryce Canyon is world-famous for its vibrant red rock spires that shoot hundreds of feet into the air. Known as hoodoos, these totem pole-like formations are collected in a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters that are easily accessible and provide breathtaking views.

While most visitors experience the scenery by car, Bryce Canyon’s magical beauty is best seen on foot. With eight marked trails, most of which can be hiked in less than a day, there are plenty of areas to explore from within.

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

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