America’s national parks are one of the country’s greatest treasures, filled with wide-open spaces offering plenty of room to roam, cultural and recreational activities, and breathtaking vistas.
Visits to national parks exceeded 300 million in 2019, for the fifth year in a row, according to figures from the National Park Service. People genuinely love being outdoors at our National Parks and other natural areas, monuments, and historic sites administered by the Park Service that are found across the country.
The top five most-visited national parks in 2019 were the Great Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Zion, and Yosemite. The National Park Service has modified its operations on a park-by-park basis following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities. While most facilities and events are closed or canceled, some of the outdoor spaces remain accessible to the public.
Here is a look at some of these parks.
Great Smoky Mountains. Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned for its diverse plant and animal life, the beauty of its landscape, and the remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. Blooming wildflowers can be found in the park nearly year-round. Cades Cove, a broad green valley, offers some of the best opportunities for spotting wildlife. An 11-mile one-way loop circles the cove. Currently, the park is closed except for the Foothills Parkway and the Spur.
Grand Canyon. Carved by the Colorado River, the immense and colorful Grand Canyon, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, is truly one of the world’s most inspiring places. The canyon’s South Rim, about four hours from Phoenix, affords panoramic views. Scenic drives include Desert View, a 25-mile trip east along the canyon rim that’s studded with breathtaking overlooks and home to the Tusayan Museum, which highlights the stories of the region’s Native Americans.
Rocky Mountain National Park, in northern Colorado, has more than 300 miles of hiking trails for every age and ability level, wildflowers, and wildlife such as elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. Trail Ridge Road, the highest road in any national park, covers 48 miles. It crests at just over 12,000 feet, affording a sweeping view of the Rocky Mountains. Fishing is permitted in many of the lakes and streams, and the park’s waters are home to four species of trout.
Zion National Park, in southwestern Utah, has been used as a location for numerous films, including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Noteworthy features include the expansive Zion Canyon and spectacular natural rock arches. Zion Canyon is the most visited part of the park, with hikes for all levels of ability. Some of the best views are along the 3½-mile round-trip Pa’rus Trail. It’s paved, handicapped accessible, and the park’s only trail that allows both bicycles and pets on leashes.
Yosemite National Park, in California, is known for its waterfalls, grand meadows, and massive sequoias. Yosemite Valley’s Tunnel View provides a picture-postcard vantage point, the spot where three of the park’s most famous natural features are visible together—the granite El Capitan and Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. Mariposa Grove, near the south entrance, is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite and is home to more than 500 mature trees.
Before visiting any park, check with the individual parks regarding changes to their operations. If you choose to visit a national park, please ensure that you follow CDC and state and local guidelines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and practice.
For help navigating any travel plans, contact your travel advisor or connect with one through WorldVia at worldvia.com.