The National Park Service is marking a major milestone this year – it’s turning 100! And everyone can take part in the celebration. From Yosemite to the Great Smoky Mountains, America’s iconic national parks are wonderful places for anyone to enjoy nature, beauty and wildlife. Not only that, but you’ll see some of the most breathtaking views and scenery in the U.S. that should everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime.
America’s parks have a conservation and preservation history just as vast as their landscapes. The upcoming centennial will celebrate those who worked tirelessly to preserve this country’s flora and fauna for Americans to enjoy for generations to come. Our national parks offer an array of options, such as hiking among redwoods and boating through the Everglades—there are countess activities to partake in.
Read on for the top five parks to visit during the centennial and all you need to know to make your experience one for the books. You can even find great deals on all the things you’ll need, from travel accommodations to camping supplies – when you shop at Splender.com.
- Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is certainly one of America’s best national parks. Set within California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, it is best known for its waterfalls; but within the park, you can also find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient colossal sequoias and vast wilderness. Tunnel View, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome are just a few of the most impressive landmarks to visit inside the park. In Yosemite Village, you will find shops, restaurants, the Yosemite Museum and the Ansel Adams Gallery, offering prints of the photographer’s renowned black-and-white landscapes of the park.
How to Get There: Two airports service the area – the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport and Merced Airport. If you’re flying out to California and won’t have your own car, you may want to rent a car to get to the park as well as drive through it. Make sure to stop by the park ranger station to get a visitor guide with the major routes. But if you’re more of a lone ranger, rent a carpreferably something with four-wheel drive. (Rent your car through Splender at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.com with 3% cash back.) Note: There are also bus services to the park and shuttles within the park as well.
Where to Stay: If you plan to spend the night in Yosemite, you’ll want to book your camping reservations in advance, especially when going during peak seasons like the summer. If you’d prefer something a little more comfortable, there are several lodging options within the park—from the luxurious to the affordable – including hotels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals and tent cabins. After a long day of hiking and exploring the wilderness The Village Lodge is the perfect respite. The lodge is just a 5-minute stroll from the town’s restaurants and shops and several near-by trails. Guests can even soothe tired limbs in any of the five hot tubs or do a few laps in the outdoor pool. (Reserve your stay now at Expedia.com and receive 2% cash back.)
What to Bring: If you’ll be camping in the park, the Marmot Halo 4-Person Tent has a unique pole design that increases the usable living space for you and the rest of your party. The spacious tent includes several wall pockets to keep things organized, and the double outer vestibules provide shelter for anything that doesn’t fit inside. You also get great ventilation and stunning night views from the open air screening. (Available at Backcountry.com with 5% cash back.)
- Everglades National Park
The Florida Everglades are a truly unique place in America with an unparalleled landscape that provides important habitats for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile and the elusive Florida panther. It is also a significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds, fish and reptiles. It is a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance and the largest tropical wilderness east of the Mississippi River.
Where to Stay: There are several camping options from the Flamingo Campground to Long Pine Campground inside the park. But if you’d like to stay in a hotel, the Port of Islands Everglades Adventure Resort in Naples, Fla., is a great choice for its proximity to the Everglades. (Book your stay at Hotels.com through Splender and receive 5% cash back.)
What to Buy Before You Go: Originally published in 1947, the definitive Everglades book remains Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s The Everglades: River of Grass (Pineapple Press, 2007), considered the first and most celebrated work on the subject. Douglas brought the world’s attention to the need to preserve the Everglades at a time when most people considered the area worthless. (Purchase this book at Barnes & Noble through Splender and receive 3% cash back.) And don’t forget the bug spray! Rated one of the best sprays by Consumer Reports is the Repel Aerosol Insect Repellent. (Buy from Target.com and earn 1% cash back).
- Rocky Mountains National Park
Another one of America’s best national parks has to be the Rocky Mountains. The 355 miles of hiking trails will lead you through the park’s many treasures: meadows filled with wildflowers, majestic mountain peaks and famous wildlife like elk, moose and bighorn sheep—not to mention dizzying heights. There’s no end to outdoor activities, but this park in particular is a favorite of those who delight in nature hikes and don’t mind the steep climbs.
If you’re feeling adventurous, trek to the summit of Longs Peak, one of the tallest peaks in the country coming in at more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Start your hike in the early morning hours, and once you reach the top you can experience the most splendid sunrise. Less seasoned climbers can attempt the summits of Twin Sisters Peaks or Mount Ida, both reaching more than 11,000 feet above sea level.
How to get there: The best way to get to Rocky Mountain National Park is to fly into Denver, which is just about an hour and a half drive from the park. CheapAir.com has some of the best deals on flights into Denver. (Book your flight at CheapAir.com and receive 2% cash back.)
During your drive, you’ll come upon Estes Park before reaching the main park, but it’s just a few minutes more along Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in U.S.
Where to stay: In Estes Park, Just a 10-minute drive from the main park, is the Stanley Hotel. The hotel offers beautiful architecture and a magnificent setting, but it is probably best known for its inspirational role in the Stephen King novel, “The Shining.” The famous hotel has been featured as one of America’s most haunted hotels, and visitors and staff continue to tell ghost stories about spooky encounters there. Take the popular “Paranormal Investigations” tour for an introduction into the hotel’s paranormal activity. We’re warning you now, this is not for the faint of heart! (Reserve your room at Travelocity.com to receive 2% cash back.)
What to bring: During your harrowing sunrise climb to the top of Longs Peak, you’ll want to light up your path with a headlamp (purchase this one from REI.com and earn 4% cash back). This sleek, low-profile lamp is the first USB-rechargeable headlamp that can also run on AAA batteries, so you never have to worry about being left in the dark.
You also might want to want to pack some provisions for your day hike. This lightweight backpack from Patagonia is just the right size and sits close to the body while you’re climbing. (Order your backpack from Patagonia and receive 4% cash back).
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a mountain range rising along the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina. Throughout the park, you’ll find lush forests, breathtaking waterfalls and gorgeous mountain landscapes. Popular activities include white water rafting, fishing, ziplining, horseback riding and much more. Dozens of hiking trails and quaint mountain towns make the Smoky Mountains one of the most visited national parks in the country.
How to get there: Start your trip in the quaint mountain town of Gatlinburg, Tenn., and drive over the mountains into Cherokee, N.C., along the Newfound Gap Road. The 31-mile stretch is the only fully paved road in the park and the only road that travels through the park’s center. You can also fly into the Knoxville, Tenn., airport and rent a vehicle, and Budget Rent a Car is a fast, easy option. (Rent your car through Splender at Budget Rent a Car to receive 3% cash back.)
Where to stay: You’ll find a plethora of charming cabin rentals and bed and breakfasts when travelling through the Smokies. If Cherokee is your final destination, consider staying at Stonebrook Lodge, which is only four miles from the park. During your stay in Cherokee, take a peek at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian or journey through time at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, an authentic recreation of a Cherokee village from the 1750s. Or if you like to gamble, don’t miss Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort. (Reserve your hotel at Booking.com and receive 3% cash back.)
What to bring: Use the Garmin eTrex 10 GPS to help you get to the observation tower that tops Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park and about 0.1-mile south of Newfound Gap, offering scenic views of the mist-covered mountains. (Available at L.L. Bean with 3% cash back).
- Arches National Park
Utah’s Arches National Park features spectacularly dramatic landscapes and iconic rock formations. The incredible sandstone arches, colossal hoodoos and winding spires make this park feel almost other-worldly. From mountain biking to kayaking to hiking, or however you make your way through this redrock wonderland, getting up close and personal with these natural wonders will leave you in awe.
If you’re feeling extra ambitious, and have the time, of course, Arches National Park is about two and a half hours from the grand Monument Valley located in the northeast part of Arizona and right on the border with Utah. From there it is a less than a two-hour drive to Antelope Canyon and another two-hour drive to Coyote Buttes where you can see the epic Wave formation.
There are a number of marvelous places to see in the Southwest, but Arches National Park is definitely one of the most spectacular, offering some of the most breathtaking vistas in the world.
How to get there: Start your journey in Moab, Utah, where you can fly into the Moab airport and rent a car at Alamo Rent A Car’s kiosk. (Reserve your rental car from Alamo Rent A Car and receive 4% cash back.). The airport is only 5 miles south of the entrance to Arches along Highway 191. Once you’re there, drive the 18-mile paved scenic park highway to enjoy all of the major viewpoints and trailheads within the park.
Where to stay: If you plan to camp in the park, try the Devil’s Garden campsite. Otherwise, there are many exceptional accommodations nearby, especially in the quirky, outdoorsy town of Moab. One funky indie hotel called The Gonzo Inn has a retro ‘70s vibe and even has a pool, which is the perfect place to cool off after exploring the park. Or if it’s a view you’re after, go “glamping” at Moab Under Canvas. They offer tents and tipis with large, cozy beds, wood-burning stoves and a little porch for soaking in the scenery and gazing at the night sky. (Book either hotel on Expedia.com to receive 2% cash back.)
What to Bring: While you’re in the desert, you’ll be wise to stay hydrated. Especially if you plan to be outside and active for most of the day, it’s essential to have some water close by. This hydration pack from Moosejaw holds 70 ounces of water for the thirsty rock climber or mountain biker. It’s lightweight, easy to refill and has several compartments for storing your necessities. (Available at Moosejaw with 7% cash back.)
And of course, no trip to visit such natural beauty is complete without a camera so you can boast about your travels on social media. Phones take great pictures these days, but if you want to get really amazing photos to remember your trip, the PowerShot G16 camera from Canon fits the bill perfectly. It is compact and portable, yet it also has incredible resolution to provide the most vivid photographs. It has built-in Wi-Fi, which enables you instantly and easily share your pictures. (Purchase your camera from Canon and earn 3% cash back.)
A visit to any of these national parks will bring home memories that you’ll never forget. Whether you’re looking for an action-packed week or simply want to soak in the beauty of nature, our country’s best National Parks have it all. The only limitation to your vacation is your imagination! And because this August 25th marks the centennial, there’s no better time to plan a trip to discover some of America’s most celebrated parks, where every turn will bring more beauty than the next.
Shop through Splender now to prepare for your next adventure, and save some money while you plan!!