By: Rick Hess/Mae Case, DI
You don’t have to be a seasoned outdoorsman to appreciate the majestic beauty of our national parks. There are 58 national parks throughout the country, and while most know of the marquee destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite, less well known destinations, like Grand Teton National Park and Crater Lake National Park, have just as much to boast about when it comes to sightseeing and outdoor activities for visitors craving adventure. As this month marks the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, and as summer quickly winds down yet again, we celebrate the pockets of natural magnificence found within our borders.
Of course one of the top destinations this summer was the Grand Canyon. Spreading over 227 miles, this amazing natural landscape is best viewed at sunrise or sunset. But why stop there? Many travelers cross the border into Utah and make their way into Zion National Park, where 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs inspire awe in hikers and mountain climbers. Both of these summer destinations are amazing and we suggest that if you see one, you should definitely see the other.
Yosemite is particularly famous for Half Dome and Glacier Point, landmarks that bring hundreds of visitors daily. There are many other beautiful spots to camp and hike, such as the breathtaking Mist Trail. Just to the southeast of Yosemite is Sequoia National Park, with over 8,000 enormous sequoia trees in the Giant Forest, including the world’s largest living tree, the General Sherman tree. The national parks and forests of the Sierra Nevada Mountains are truly a hiker’s playground and Sequoia National Park continues to be one of the most visited parks each summer.
Grand Teton National Park’s summer is quite spectacular. The blooming mountain meadows in August are a must see. Some of the mountain peaks reach 7,000 feet and at the base you will find Jenny and Jackson Lake where you may even run into elk. Just north of Grand Teton is Yellowstone National Park. According to National Geographic, the 2.2 million acres of Yellowstone are home to “craggy peaks, explosive geysers, alpine lakes, deep forests, and a wealth of wild animals. The stars are bison, bears, sheep, moose, and wolves.”
In the Pacific Northwest, a top summer destination was once a volcano that destroyed itself over 6,000 years ago. Crater Lake National Park contains the deepest lake within the U.S. and is beautiful in the summer. If, however, you want to visit an active volcano, head to Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, which, believe it or not, also draws huge summer crowds. Dry lava beds and active lava flows provide a stark contrast to the typical rainforest hikes that we associate with Hawaii.
As the National Park Service turns 100, we at Design Institute of San Diego are taking the time to reflect on the organization’s importance and relevance going forward. Preserving these amazing national parks allows us to leave the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and surround ourselves with nature at its finest. A visit to a national park is not only recreational but educational, thanks to the conservation of natural and cultural resources. If you haven’t yet visited a national park, this weekend is the perfect opportunity. Celebrate the final days of summer with free admission to every national park through August 28!