The western USA contains over 70% of the country’s national parks, according to The Wandering Daughter. The landscapes of these parks vastly vary from state to state and even park to park. From the Grand Canyon to the Redwoods, the arguably most popular parks are located in the west.
Yosemite National Park: California
Known for views of Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite is the most-visited national park in California. Everything in this park is centrally located in the valley, where the temperature rises compared to the drive in through the mountains. The best way to get around this park is to find one parking spot and then either rent bicycles or use the park’s shuttle system. Adrenaline-seeking travelers can apply for a permit to hike Half Dome, but if you miss out on that opportunity the Mist Trail offers challenging terrain and incredible views overlooking the park from Vernal Falls. Visitors looking for a more mellow day at the park can visit the sandy Sentinel Beach. There are camping opportunities in the park, or outside the park in less-populated–and gorgeous–Mammoth Lakes.
Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park is an accessible park for everyone. No matter your ability level, you will be able to enjoy the vast views looking into the canyon and catching glimpses of the Colorado River. Just about anyone can stroll along the paved Rim Trail to try to grasp the enormity of the canyon. Thrill-seekers can hike down into the canyon and even camp in the canyon on a guided tour. If hiking isn’t your activity of choice, consider taking a burro, whitewater raft, or even a helicopter ride. You can park your RV at Trailer Village where they offer full RV hookups on the South Rim.
Zion National Park: Utah
Of the “mighty five” national parks in Utah, Zion is the most popular, and for good reason. There is a hiking trail to fit every type of hiker in this park. The Pa’rus Trail is a paved, dog-friendly trail along the river. Dog-friendly trails are almost unheard of in national parks, which makes this a popular walk for visitors wanting to explore with their furry friends. The two most popular hikes in the park are Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. Angel’s Landing is not for the faint of heart; there is even a “chain section” at the top with sheer drops on both sides. If you have any fear of heights, stick to the Narrows. The Narrows is a hike up a river through the canyon. You will walk in ankle to chest-deep water on this trail, making it a unique journey. There are three campgrounds in the park as well as one in nearby Springdale, a cute tourist town with shops and restaurants.
Redwoods National Park: California
Star Wars fans will recognize the tall trees of the Redwoods from Return of the Jedi. The reason they chose to film this in Redwoods National Park is because the large trees seem to go on forever, making it other-wordly. Drive through the Tall Tree Grove and visit Enderts Beach for a picnic and possible sea lion or whale sightings. If you want to get on the water yourself, consider a kayak tour on the Smith River. There are four campgrounds in Redwoods National Park that allow RVs but do not have hookups.
Yellowstone National Park: Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
Yellowstone was the first established national park in the world. Spanning three states, “Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states” according to the National Park Service. Visitors will undoubtedly see bison roaming the park, and possibly an elk or bear as well. On various hikes in the park you will see many hydrothermal features including hot springs, geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles. Old Faithful, the most popular geyser in the world, can be viewed while getting a quick lunch at the food court. The park has numerous campgrounds and one RV park called Fishing Bridge RV Park.
To explore the remainder of the national parks in the West, visit the National Parks Service. Since the west is home to the most popular national parks, keep in mind whether you want to join the crowds at a heavily-visited park, or be secluded in a less populated one.