There are so many amazing places to visit around the world that it can sometimes be hard to choose just one region. This post will help complicate that even further by providing even more destinations all over North America. These aren’t necessarily the best, just a few great ones you don’t want to miss, regardless of whether they’re on top of most people’s bucket lists or if very few people even consider their existence.
Zion is not the most popular park in Utah, but it’s no less scenic than the others and certainly less crowded. It’s landscape is a cross between the nearby Arches NP and the Grand Canyon, but a lot milder than the latter in terms of climate. It’s ideal for hiking, offering a wide variety of hikes for any skill and effort level, from the easy but stunning Riverside Walk to the famously treacherous Angel’s Landing.
Places to see: Angels Landing (tricky hike, great view), Checkerboard Mesa (just off the highway), the Narrows (if you don’t mind getting wet).
Banff and Jasper, Alberta:
These two are so near one another and that they can be considered a single park, since a multi-day trip to the area would surely include parts of both. This huge section of the Canadian Rockies is known for its bright blue alpine lakes, numerous trails for day hikes or extended backpacking trips, and the multitude of wildlife that inhabits the region, including bears, lynx, cougars, wolverines, moose, reindeer, and bighorn sheep. It’s ideal for camping in the spring and summer if you’re okay with having to hide your food from bears, and snow sports in the winter.
Places to see: Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, Medicine Lake, Maligne Canyon, Columbia Icefield, Sunwapta Falls, Pyramid Mountain.
Half Dome is easily the most iconic location in this park, but there is much more to the park. From waterfalls to valley overlooks to camping to climbing, this park has it all. Overlooks off the highway offer sweeping views of the glacial valleys, while hiking trails take you right through them. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can take on climbing one of the cliffs or peaks, or raft down the river that flows through the glacier’s path along the bottom of the valley.
Places to see: Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Tuolumne Meadows, Cathedral Peak, Glacier Point, Vernal Falls, Mariposa Grove, El Capitan.
This huge Alaskan park encompasses a wide variety of terrain, including tundra, evergreen forests, grasslands, snow-capped mountains, and glaciers. The wildlife is unique and especially abundant. You can find grizzlies, black bears, wolves, moose, reindeer, elk, bighorn sheep, eagles, and much more. Your options are almost unlimited, and no one visit to the park will be enough to discover everything worth seeing. Hiking is a good option of course, on or off the trails. There are bus tours around the park, as well as plane tours over the more inaccessible areas. Camping and backpacking in Denali is an unforgettable experience, although bears can be an issue. Camping in a van or RV is easier of course, but the roads limit where you can go. Whatever you decide to do, remember that it is huge and it is wild; you don’t want to get stranded if you miss the shuttle.
Places to see: Mt. McKinley (you don’t need to climb it to see it), Savage River (established trail but lots of wildlife), Mt Healy Overlook (short climb, great view).
Yellowstone is a two-faced park: on one side are immeasurable amounts of raw, untamed landscapes, spectacular natural scenery, and diverse wildlife; on the other side are literally millions of tourists, many of which are willing to ruin everyone else’s experience, as well as the park itself, for little more than a selfie. It is one of, unfortunately, many parks where some tourists have no respect whatsoever for the place and the wildlife. However, while avoiding the crowds can be tricky, if you can manage it it’s certainly worthwhile. There are too many great places in Yellowstone to include in one brief list, but check out my Yellowstone Travel Guide for suggestions, tips, and useful information. If you’re done with that, here’s another helpful post on making the best of a trip to Yellowstone.