Ivan De Domenico—National Parks

With its vast acres of undeveloped land and wide-open spaces, it is no surprise that the United States was a pioneer in preserving and conserving significant parcels of land to be enjoyed by all.  These magnificent parks, which highlight the pristine beauty of many different topographies and biomes unique to the US, are a major international tourist draw. National parks were, at their inception in the late 19th century, a uniquely American concept, and the attraction endures. Here are a few that highlight the variety of natural wonders on display:

California’s Yosemite is widely considered to be the crown jewel of the national park system. It proudly offers visitors the opportunity to view Yosemite Falls, otherwise known as America’s highest waterfall, and El Capitan, considered the tallest uninterrupted granite monolith in the world. This is definitely a park to visit to check off some bucket list items.

Grand Canyon
Two billion years of geologic history are on exhibition here, with 40 layers of rock displayed via buttes, spires and cliffs. The 277-mile gorge, carved by the Colorado River, is a must-see from any vista, though a hike to the river, a mile below the rim, is especially thrilling.

Six-million-acre Denali provides the best chance to experience wildlife of any national park. With vehicles only permitted on the first 15 miles of the single, mostly unpaved, 92-mile road through the subarctic wilderness, this may very well be the most pristine of all of the national parks. Great for visitors looking for a hike.

Hawai’i Volcanoes
This park contains two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Visitors can watch as erupting Kilauea send up plumes of gas and its lava lights up the night sky. The park is home to a plethora of rare native species, like Hawaiian honeycreepers and hawksbill sea turtles. Petroglyphs and 13th-century ruins round out the variety of magnificent viewing opportunities for visitors. There is really something for everyone here.

Comprised of the United States side of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, in addition to abundant alpine lakes, plunging waterfalls, mountain peaks and a spectacular springtime wildflower display.

In case one gets the mistaken idea that all of the magnificent national parks were west of the Continental Divide, Acadia National Park, in Maine, debunks that notion. This park encompasses 47,000 acres of rugged Atlantic coast on Mount Desert Island. Comprised of fog-shrouded granite boulders and lush spruce-fir forests, Acadia is an east coast gem.