TRAVELED WALLS BLOG
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September 15, 2017
AMERICA’S BEST PLACES TO VISIT FOR NATURE
America might not come to mind for everyone searching for the world’s best nature reserves and landscapes, but there’s a reason why most people from the USA don’t have a passport. In this article we reveal USA’s top 10 national parks and nature areas from the perspective of a wildlife and landscape photographer. There’s no coincidence that most of these places are located on the central west from Arizona to Washington. A handy money-saving tip if you plan to visit many USA National Parks in a year: buy the 'America the Beautiful' Pass!
White Sands National Monument
Close to the Mexican border but closer in landscape to another world, White Sands is a top 10 must see place in America. The name doesn’t lie, offering miles of rolling dunes of fine, white silica relatively unvisited due to its location. The views at sunrise and sunset are made even better by the fact that once you’re finished admiring the stunning colors you can walk back to your tent on the dunes. Yes, that’s right, you can camp here for a small fee. Don't forget to peek out of your tent in the middle of the night for the starry light show and hopefully a classic American Milky Way view.
Grand Canyon National Park
277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, Grand Canyon national park is particularly special. Coyotes, elk, and cougars inhabit the area but the main species here is human. It can get pretty crowded, especially at the south rim lookout points, but step down into the canyon and suddenly it’s like being on the moon. Day hikes and multi-day hikes are incredible, but so are the views from up above.
Yellowstone National Park
Geysers, waterfalls, wild landscapes, and an abundance of wildlife make this one of America’s most popular national parks. When you’re in the area, make sure to check out Grand Tetons National Park, especially if the weather is clear. Grand Prismatic Spring and the Old Faithful Geyser are two of the most popular sights in Yellowstone National Park, but there are literally hundreds of places that will leave you awed. Spread over 3 states with over 300 geysers, 40 major waterfalls, and spawning 12 great rivers, Yellowstone National Park really should be on any list of America's Best Nature Parks.
Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park
Though not a US national park, this Navajo-owned area is famous for its narrow and colorful slot canyons. Though most photographers know the area for the light-beams in the Upper Antelope Canyon, most people prefer the more laid-back Lower Antelope Canyon. We don’t recommend the over-priced Upper Canyon because it is such a rushed and frantic experience filled with photographers, tripods, and expectations of that one magical shot of light-beams. Additionally, there is more light in the wider Lower Canyon. Regardless, these canyons are stunning and are right next to Horseshoe Bend, offering another incredible landscape vista. Be sure to book ahead of time if you plan to see the light-beams as they only happen during certain months and hours of the day.
Not a national park but encompassing a number of state parks such as Steptoe Butte and Kamiak Butte, this whole area is a landscape gem. Rolling hills created from glacial pressure are what thousands of tourists flock here to see from May to September when the sunrise and sunset light bounces around creating fascinating contrasts on the landscape. Red farm buildings and old farming machinery add to the timeless feel of this postcard-worthy region. It's close proximity to Palouse Falls and Glacier National Park make this a great place to base yourself, especially in the small city of Spokane.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Another Navajo-owned region on the border of Utah and Arizona, and with other-worldly landscape featured in a number of ‘Wild-West’ movies, and of course Forest Gump, this is a must-see USA park. Hiking, horse-back riding, cycling, and driving are all great ways to enjoy this unique landscape, but make sure you spend a night in the campsite across from ‘The Mittens’, or at least hang around for the sunset! The loop-road drive is a fantastic way to see some of the best scenery, but paying for a guided horseback ride will take you to further-out, restricted regions where not many regular tourists get to see.
Death Valley National Park
Wild, hot, and surprisingly varied, Death Valley National Park is not the kind of place where you want to find yourself lost. Sand dunes and moving boulders aren’t the only interesting sights here, so take a map and do some research to make the most of your time here. On a side note, please take great care here and if you are planning to stray from the main roads, make sure you have a proper map along with GPS (as it has been known to fail), a 4WD vehicle, and plenty of water and gas. This place is no walk in the park, as documented in this article.
Denali National Park
The staff and strict rules here have succeeded in making this one of the safest parks to visit in the country, despite the fact that it’s in Alaska and really in the middle of nowhere. Bear safety is taken very seriously here, which is evident by their lack of fatalities in recent years. No cars are allowed beyond a certain point, meaning that wildlife remains undisturbed, but the park does provide a bus touring service which pretty much guarantees great wildlife sightings. The other draw-card here is of course the tallest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley, but unlike the wildlife, viewing this mighty mountain range depends on the weather.
Arches National Park
Huge arches carved out of the stone by the elements over millions of years never fail to attract tourists, but even in summer you’ll never feel like the place is swarmed, especially if you linger around at sunset or make it up for sunrise. Hiking tracks and paved roads lead you to all of the main arches: prepare to be impressed. Please refrain from carving you name into the rock-surface near or on any arches; you will be fined heavily if caught, but more to the point: why would you?
Glacier National Park
Last but not least, Glacier National Park in Montana never disappoints. Even in the rain or snow with low visibility this park still manages to impress. The (‘Going-to-the-Sun’) mountain road that cuts across the glacier-filled park is both jaw-dropping in beauty and in scariness – not one for the easily distracted driver! Lakes, glaciers, mountains, wildlife, and inconsistent weather are all things you should expect from this brilliant park. There are more hikes than you could complete in a week, so choose wisely! Bring some bear-spray from May to October if hiking.