These Are Five of America’s Best National Parks…And You Can See Them All By Ship
All eyes are on America, but we decided to look past the politics and towards the National Parks.
America’s vast and varied landscape is like no other and the country’s National Parks are the jewels in the crown. We’re sharing five of our favourites, all of them within easy reach of some of the USA’s most popular cruise destinations.
Yosemite National Park, California
Any California and Big Sur road trip that doesn’t incorporate a stop at Yosemite National Park isn’t worth making. Fortunately, one of America’s most iconic National Parks is within easy reach of one of the West Coast’s most popular cruise ports as well as its main highways. Whether you embark on an excursion during a port of call into San Francisco or book a pre or post-cruise stay and linger a little longer in the Golden City, Yosemite National Park is an absolute must see. The park is famous for its waterfalls, ranging from cascading giants to trickling waterways, with the best known of them all being Yosemite Falls; the highest waterfall in North America. Scenery switches from plunging valleys to sheer granite cliff faces, making for some of the most awe-inspiring hiking in the whole of the USA. Enormous sequoia trees grow as tall as 85 metres with an 8 metre girth, dwarfing those who walk amongst them.
Acadia National Park, New England
Acadia National Park is a highlight of Maine’s rugged coastline. It isn’t the largest of America’s National Parks, spanning just 49,000 acres, but nowhere else captures New England’s landscape quite so well and in such a concentrated area. Everything you associate with a holiday on the New England coastline can be found here in spades, from whitewashed lighthouses and rustic coastal towns, to scented pine forests and the red and orange scenes of fall. Make the most of Acadia National Park’s ocean-front position with kayaking and whale watching, or drive the 20 mile Park Loop Road, taking in views like nothing you’ve ever seen along the way. A visit to Acadia National Park is incomplete without witnessing the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. At 1,532 feet above sea level, the mountain is the highest point in the North Atlantic seaboard, and sees sunrise before anywhere else in the United States between the beginning of October and early March.
Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
Cruising to Alaska without visiting Denali National Park and Preserve is unforgiveable. Five hours from Anchorage and just three hours from the similarly popular port of Fairbanks, Denali occupies SIX MILLION acres of awe-inspiring scenery. Despite its spectacular size, the park is accessed by a single 92-mile road and even that ceases to allow cars after a certain point. Mind you, it’s probably for the best; the scenery here has a habit of distracting you. A shuttle bus will take you further into the park, heading towards the 20,000ft mass of Mount Denali; North America’s tallest mountain. Venture on and you’ll arrive at Wonder Lake, its glass-like waters every bit as impressive as its name suggests as they perfectly reflect the snowy peaks of the Alaskan Range and Mt Denali. Such a sprawling space lends itself as the perfect habitat for endless wildlife, from herds of moose and caribou, to the more than 350 grizzly bears that call the park home.
Haleakal National Park, Maui (Hawaii)
Haleakal? National Park may be known for its other worldly landscapes, subtropical rainforest, endless hiking trails and crashing waterfalls, but it is the 10,000ft dormant volcano that is its star attraction. The scenic journey from the port of Lahaina to the National Park is as enthralling as the park itself, so opt for a window seat! Once you arrive, climb to the summit of Mount Haleakal? and peer into its gargantuan crater, the crater floor sitting 3,000ft below your feet.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Scenic cruising doesn’t get much more impressive than sailing through Glacier Bay National Park, one of the highlights of Alaska’s Inside Passage. That said, it is a privilege not afforded to everyone; only a handful of cruise lines are permitted to cruise the park’s pristine waters. Those who are lucky enough to visit are met with 3.3 acres, with every single one providing another reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Experience Mother Nature at her finest as you sail amidst one of the most solitary and remote regions on the planet. Glaciers cover 27% of Glacier Bay National Park, numbering over a thousand and with many of them having been formed over the course of hundreds of years. Glacial fjords were once filled by ice sheets thousands of feet thick, the ice carved into the icy water over the course of centuries to leave vast crevasses in its wake. Binoculars are a must-have on a scenic cruise through Glacier Bay National Park, its shoreline home to wildlife ranging from puffins and bald eagles, to humpback whales and black bears.