Welcome to the second of this two-part special exploring some of the best and most beautiful National Parks in the USA. The Faraway Bug put on their walking shoes and took to the trails on an unbelievable tour. In Part 1, we cruised through the Badlands, gazed at natural wonders in Yellowstone and breathed mountain air at Grand Tetons.
Now follow us in Part 2 as we journey through forests, mountains and deserts to discover what makes Yosemite, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks all so fantastically different.
Yosemite National Park, California is now in its 27th year. The first view after you enter the park is that of Yosemite falls. Standing as the tallest falls in the park, with the mighty El Capitan rock face in the background, the park hints at its greatness immediately.
Journey into the high sierra and find further views of granite mountains including the great Half Dome where the photos you take are so spectacular, it almost looks like a painting.
If climbing isn’t your bag, the valley trails could be for you. Marvel at the giant red sequoias in Mariposa Grove or walk through the lush forest paths. This is where bear or moose sightings are most likely to occur, but fear not, the park rangers do a fantastic job of patrolling the land. Elk are everywhere in Yosemite, but these gentle giants are nervous souls and the most trouble you are likely to have is with a herd of them crossing the road.
Zion NP, Utah stands on its own as an unusual blend of rich green scenery and desert sands. The word Zion means “promised land” and has long been sought out by explorers as an oasis to shelter in from the desert heat.
The park’s many paths and pools are all shaped by water from the ever-changing Virgin river. Waterfalls and flash floods can occur with the rising sweep and fall of the river, gradually eroding the steep cliffsides and creating new pathways in the valley bed. This changing landscape is in turn, responsible for the green trails and unique mix of birds, insects and animals to be found here. Mojave desert species thrive in the lower levels of Zion along with species unique to the parkland.
The variety of rock layers in Zion provide a range of natural landscapes found the keen explorer to discover. Angel’s landing is a challenging hike with Emerald Pools being a little softer climb. Pink Cliffs also feature and the neighbouring pinpoint tops of Bryce Canyon are found nearby.
Grand Canyon NP, Arizona – Everyone knows the name, but the vastness of the Grand Canyon is still surreal upon that first view. I could and did spend hours looking at those views.
The canyon is 446km long, up to 18km wide and 1.6 km deep. The jagged cut landscape comprises of rugged erosional forms, jutting out of the basin bed and dirt paths down in to the canyon where the exploration of the valley can reveal base rock layers up to 2 billion years old.
Knowing that the Grand Canyon, like all the national parks, are a constantly changing landscape make it all the more special to see. Stick around if you can for a sunset or sunrise in this beautiful place. One early morning hike saw me taking a hairy, scary walk along a dimly visible path into the canyon to find Ooh Aah point, a popular sighteeing spot. Upon the sun’s rising, the canyon slowly lit up and revealed its wonders as we watched in awe. These are the type of experiences every traveller wants to have and ones I will remember forever.
Helicopter rides, the Grand Canyon walkway and bungee jump over one of the streams are all ways to get an alternative look at the stunning canyon landscape.
Now, because I like you all so much here are a couple of tips for Grand Canyon visits… Several tourists lose their lives each year by falling into the canyon as they try to take the perfect self photo. No joke. It sounds silly, but with the uneven grounds it is easy to trip or lose your footing. Take care around the rim edges and don’t be one of those people that loses their life for a selfie.
Do any hard treks as early in the day as you can. Think of yourself at the canyon base in midday Arizona heat. Last figures showed two thirds of people caught in this situation needed assistance to get back to the top. So head out early, carry a hat, take PLENTY of water and an emergency snack. Your body will thank you for it!
For more information about any of America’s National Parks, check out the www.nps.gov website. We used this prior to visits for up to date information about the areas open and fees to enter. You’ll also find printable maps of hiking/cycling trails and ideas of things to do in each park.