As our country celebrates the centennial of the National Park Service this August 25, 2016, the 59 natural treasures that make up our national park system are as popular as ever as a source of adventure and inspiration. To help trigger your wanderlust, we’ve handpicked five to feature from among our favorites. With so many national marvels to choose from, we think you’d be selling yourself short to limit your travels to these five parks alone, but we urge you to include at least a few of these on your bucket list:
Yellowstone National Park: America’s first national park, Yellowstone is home to Earth’s largest active geyser field and spans three states including Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Within its 2 million plus acres, you’ll also find plenty of hot springs, waterfalls, alpine lakes, canyons, and wild animals including black bears, bison, elk, bighorn sheep, wolves, moose, and more. Looking for a place to soak in the warm natural hot springs while you revel in the wilderness? Find it at the Boiling River, where water from the Mammoth Hot Springs enters the Gardner River to allow hot and cool waters to mix to a comfortable bathing temperature. Camping options abound in Yellowstone, with 12 campgrounds and over 2,000 campsites in addition to the park’s many backcountry campsites. For details on where to camp in Yellowstone, visit http://bit.ly/YellowstoneCamping.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: In 2015 alone, well over 10 million visitors were drawn to the majestic beauty found in the Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a subrange of the Appalachians. Split nearly equally between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S. and provides free admission thanks to a grant from the Rockefeller family. Heavily forested and containing over 1,500 species of flowering plants, the park also features more than 800 miles of hiking trails, an abundance of waterfalls, refreshing swimming holes, and almost 80 historic buildings. A favorite camping destination is Cades Cove, which offers some of the best wildlife sightings in the park.
Rocky Mountain National Park: Located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, spectacular mountain views are the hallmark of this national park. Other attractions are its alpine lakes, plentiful wildlife, varied ecology, glaciers, and easily accessible trails and campsites. Scores of peaks stand more than 12,000 feet throughout the park, including the 14,259-foot summit, Longs Peak. Horseback riding, rock climbing, hiking, and fishing are popular warm weather activities, as are skiing, alpine touring and snowshoeing in the winter. The park contains more than 300 miles of scenic hiking trails and five campgrounds as well as dozens of backcountry sites designated for camping.
Yosemite National Park: Featuring magnificent granite cliffs, clear streams, lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and giant Sequoia trees, this ancestral home of the Miwok in the Sierra Nevada of California has often been touted as the beautiful national park in the country. Teeming with diverse plants and wildlife, Yosemite’s 761,266 plus acres were key to the development of the national park concept. Only about four hours from the Bay Area, the camp provides 13 popular campgrounds (some can be reserved, others operate on a first-come, first-serve basis) and plenty of hikes to spectacular destinations such as Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Cathedral Lakes.
Zion National Park: Where the Colorado Plateau, the Mojave Desert, and the Great Basin converge in southwestern Utah is a fifteen mile-long area with a unique topography and rich history that attract more than two million visitors every year. Resplendent with sandstone canyons set against a backdrop of vivid blue sky, Zion National Park is also known for its jagged cliffs, tropical waterfalls and natural arches. You’ll find three campgrounds within the park: South and Watchman Campgrounds in Zion Canyon, and the Lava Point Campground on the lesser-travelled but beautiful Kolob Terrace Road.
Determined not to let summer pass you by without experiencing “America at its best” at one or more of our national parks—but first need a reliable car, truck or motorcycle for your travels? SF Police Credit Union is offering auto loans for both new and pre-owned vehicles with rates as low as 1.74 % APR* along with flexible financing terms and no payments for 90 days. For members who are short on time, we also provide a convenient Free Auto Buying Service. For details and to apply for an SFPCU auto loan, visit us at http://bit.ly/SFPCUAutoLoans.
*APR = Annual Percentage Rate