First introduced by President Ulysses S. Grant, the US National Parks system began with Yellowstone National Park, an Original Travel favourite, and now includes 58 parks which protect approximately 52.2million acres of mountains, forests, and wilderness, not to mention the countless creatures who live within their boundaries and provide a haven for outdoorsy types looking for luxury experiences. So, strap on your most sensible shoes and get ready to explore six of our favourites...
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho)
An oldie and a goodie, Yellowstone is the original national park. It is home to 60 mammal species, 318 different types of bird and innumerable insects and critters, ranging from colossal big horn bisons to the teeny tiny pikas. Animal life aside, the park has 500 geysers, which in our opinion are some of the best in the world. Old Faithful, so called because it erupts almost every 90 minutes, may be the most famous, but others, such as Steamboat Geyser, are just as impressive, if a little less reliable. Some of our favourite hotels, including the super luxurious Amangiri, are within easy reach of Yellowstone and make for a great stop off on a family road trip.
Glacier National Park (Montana)
Personal favourite of our very own Americas Expert, Kate B, Glacier National Park is, as you would imagine, home to 37 glaciers, two mountain ranges and a huge array of wildlife. The park straddles the border between the USA and Canada, playing host to myriad outdoorsy activities. During the winter months, those with a penchant for different skiing experiences can cross-country ski in the park, and non-skiers can take to the trails on guided snow-shoe walks which take visitors across the park to its most beautiful spots. During the summer months, the trails open up for hikes, and the lakes thaw and open up to kayaking, sailing and other water-based activities.
Joshua Tree National Park (California)
The vast desert of Joshua Tree National Park is spotted with the eponymous Joshua Trees, which sprout from the seemingly barren landscape. The perfect stop off on a West Coast road trip, the park hosts mile upon mile of trails for all abilities - even those with the littlest legs - as well as rock climbing and bouldering. Expert guides can also point out fascinating rock art on a guided hike. Joshua Tree is within easy reach of some of our favourite southern California hotels and makes the perfect day trip form Los Angeles.
Yosemite National Park (California)
It would be remiss to write about six of the best national parks in the USA without mentioning Yosemite. It may not be the biggest, but its's certainly one of the best. There is so much to experience that it would be fairly easy to dedicate a whole two week luxury holiday to Yosemite National Park, but we are of the opinion that three days is long enough to see the best bits, including sunset over El Capitan (a personal favourite), the vast wildflower meadows of the Crane Flat area, and hike to any one of the countless waterfalls - best experienced in spring when melted snow turns them from perfectly acceptable to thundering colossuses.
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
One of the most spectacular sights on Earth, the Grand Canyon National Park spans over 1900sq miles, and is, on average, a mile deep. Breathtaking vistas aside, there are numerous ways to discover the national park. From a mule ride to the bottom, heli-hiking, or a helicopter tour from the bright lights of Fabulous Las Vegas, there's something for everyone here. We can also arrange a rock art hunting trip with an expert guide, or photography tours, making the Grand Canyon an ideal stop on a luxury road trip.
Denali National Park (Alaska)
Everything's bigger in America, and nowhere is this truer than in Alaska's Denali National Park. The sprawling six million acres of tundra, mountains and wilderness has just one road, meaning that getting lost is almost alarmingly easy. It's winter for most of the year in Alaska, so there is a plethora of cold weather activities on offer, including fat wheel biking, snowshoeing and skiing. In the short summer months, wildlife abounds, and it's not unusual to see a grizzly bear or two frolicking in the tundra.