America is full of hundreds of beautiful sights and attractions, but perhaps the most famous of all are the American National Parks. President Woodrow Wilson created the “National Park System” in 1916 to protect prehistoric artifacts and to conserve the environment and natural scenery. The United States currently has 61 national parks all across the country, and all the parks are maintained by the “National Park Service” who are a subdivision of the Department of the Interior.
So, as fall is just around the corner and yellow and red leaves are beginning to drop, here are the top 5 national parks to visit during this time:
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia: Est. 1935
Shenandoah is most known for the beautiful fall foliage. The best time to visit the park is before late October as that is when all the trees start losing their red, yellow, and orange leaves. The most beautiful place in the park is often said to by Skyline Drive, a long road that twists through lush forests and hidden hiking trails.
Some fun facts:
The entire park has 236 miles (380 km) of roads and over 500 miles (804 km) of hiking trails
The oldest cliff in the park (Blue Ridge Mountain) is thought to be over 500 million years old!
In 2018, 1,140,000 people visited the park. People can visit and camp overnight, but they cannot leave any trash or tools behind
The park is home to more than 200 species of birds and 50 species of mammals and reptiles
Everglades National Park, Florida: Est. 1947
The Everglades are mostly known for their marshes and swamps and mangrove forests.
While most visit the park during the summer months, many people don’t know that the Everglades are equally beautiful in the fall when all the leaves change colors. The Everglades are the largest government protected wilderness area on the east coast of the United States.
Some fun facts:
The Everglades is the only place in the whole world where alligators and crocodiles live in harmony
Over 7,000,000 people living in Florida get their drinking water from the glaciers in the Everglade mountains
The Everglades cover nearly 1,500,000 acres (610,000 hectares) of land and river
There are about 68 different types of mosquitoes living here
Arches National Park, Utah: Est. 1929
Arches National Park is quite different from the other parks on the east coast of the United States. Named after the more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches located throughout, the park does not get typical fall colors. Instead visitors can expect calming sunsets and slightly cool yet refreshing breezes.
Some fun facts:
The entire park is about 120 sq. miles (310 sq. km)
You can find many salt beds throughout the park that got left behind over 300 million years ago when an inland ocean receded. These salt beds can be thousands of feet thick!
The most famous arch in the park is “Delicate Arch”. The Olympic torch runner for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah passed through it
The park has hiking trails for everyone! From wheelchair accessible paths to steep rock climbing, there is an activity perfect for each person
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado: Est. 1932
Great Sand Dunes Park is filled with...sand dunes! You can also find pine forests, grasslands, and wetlands here. While the whole park in not filled with dunes, they are the biggest tourist attraction, especially since they overlook the colorful fall trees!
Some fun facts:
The highest sand dune here can reach 750 feet (22,860 cm)
Many people like to go fat biking here. Fat biking is biking on rougher terrain with bikes that have thicker tires, similar to mountain biking.
Sometimes, after a heavy rainstorm with lightning and thunder, you can find pieces of glass that formed when the lightning hit the sand!
Some say that when small sand avalanches occur, the dunes sound like they are singing
Lake Clark National Park, Alaska: Est. 1980
Lake Clark National Park is known for its many volcanoes, grizzly bears, and shimmering lakes. During the fall, the lakes reflect the majestic changing leaves in the turquoise water. Lake Clark, the lake after which the park is named, is almost 50 miles (80 km) long . Here people can go kayaking, fishing, and swimming.
Some fun facts:
Scientists think that humans lived in Lake Clark Park almost 10,000 years ago!
There are so many threats from bears in the park, that visitors are given a guide on how to stay safe around them
Compared to other parks, Lake Clark has much fewer visitors. In fact, only about 22,000 people visit it each year. (If you are looking for a place that is not crowded, this is the one!)
This is also one of the only parks that has no entrance fee! You can come and go without paying!
Prehistoric: a time in the past where there were no written records of events
Subdivision: a smaller section of a larger group
Department of the Interior: department of the United States government that manages government land and resources (like national parks!)
Foliage: the leaves of a plant or tree
Lush: an area that has many healthy plants, grass, and trees
Mammals: a type of animal that produces milk for its babies (like humans)
Marshes: an area that has soft but wet land
Mangrove Forests: a forest whose trees grow along the coast of the river
Wilderness: a place in its completely natural state with no houses of buildings
Harmony: when people or animals are peaceful with each other
Sandstone: rocks made of sand
Salt Beds: deposits of salt/rock in the ground
Receded: to go farther and farther away
Sand Dunes: tall hills of sand, like in a desert
Terrain: the type of land (rocky, flat)
Avalanches: sand that falls down the dunes very fast, can be very dangerous
Majestic: very beautiful
Kayaking: a narrow boat that you use with a double paddle
Shimmering: to shine with a moving glow, like how the sun shines on a lake
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Annik Brar is a student at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. studying International Affairs and Psychology. In her free time, she manages a support page for people with Type 1 Diabetes. She also loves photography and traveling and can speak Punjabi and Hindi fluently!