In August of 2016, the US National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday. Across the United States and its territories, the National Park Service manages more than 400 unique nature escapes. Each year, some 300 million visitors enjoy these lush destinations.
In keeping with the Centennial celebrations, pharmacists everywhere have a chance to get out and appreciation the wonders President Woodrow Wilson set out to protect in August 25, 1916.
So if you need an escape from the pharmacy or have a break from pharmacy school and want to get some fresh air, here are 8 must-see national parks you should explore.
1. Visit Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.
Our nation and the world’s first national park, Yellowstone was made official by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. The park stretches more than 2 million acres spanning Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
This should be at the top of your list if you want to start seeing the best of our National Parks. The animals that call this park home will only make your trip all the more exciting. Be on the lookout for bison, wolves and even bears.
If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, the must-see attraction is obvious, Old Faithful. This cone geyser was named in 1870 and still erupts regularly today. In fact, you’ll see this beauty gush once every hour and 15 minutes on average.
2. Rent a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains.
My family and I frequent the Great Smoky Mountains. They’re only about a 2.5 hour drive from my house and we love renting cabins in this, our beautiful second mountain home, anytime during the year. Winter is great with snow covering the hills. For years I took my kids to see Dollywood all lit up with Christmas lights. Summer provides the perfect temperature for some mountain adventures.
What you should know about the Smokies is that it is an extremely popular destination and the most visited state park, so plan your visit in advance to secure the best lodging.
With the recent fire that tore through this great piece of wilderness, there’s no better time to visit and support the rebuild of the community.
For an easy introduction to this terrain, try starting with Fighting Creek Nature Trail.
3. Marvel at a World Wonder at the Grand Canyon.
We visited the Grand Canyon during a road trip of the Western United States and I still look back at the amazing sunrise photos we captured in awe. It’s the second most visited US National Park and there’s no questioning why, you can’t help but ponder just how amazing this world is when you’re staring at this mammoth hole carved out over time.
The Grand Canyon is a mile deep and only a small piece of the more than 275 mile wonder can be seen from the best viewpoints.
For any visit to this iconic spot to be complete, you should plan to wake up and take in a sunrise. I would also recommend taking unique day trips to explore the canyon. Try a helicopter tour, a mule ride to the bottom of the canyon or a white water rafting trip along the Colorado River.
4. Cruise along Going-to-the-sun Road at Glacier National Park.
In Montana’s Rocky Mountains, you’ll find Glacier National Park. Ice and snow from peaks melt down to fill the lakes below. Enjoy the typical hiking and camping options in in the peaks and valley that were carved by a glacier.
Don’t miss your chance to enjoy one of the most stunning drives in the world along Going-to-the-sun road.
5. Go where sea and mountain meet at Acadia National Park.
Acadia National Park boasts a number of superlatives, including being the oldest national park in the eastern United States. With vast and diverse terrain you’ll find yourself lost in nature.
The 2 highlights are Cadillac Mountain, the tallest on the North Atlantic seaboard, and Sand Beach. If you decide to head for the mountain, go early. You can reach the summit by hiking or by car, so even if you’re not ready to dive into nature and walk for miles, you can still see one of the most stunning views around.
The seaside villages are also a must see if you stop through Acadia.
6. Explore subterranean passageways at Mammoth Cave National Park.
If you’re looking for a quick trip, why not try out Kentucky? From bourbon to blue grass, there’s lots to love. If you’re looking for a little adventure, Mammoth Cave National Park is for you.
This is the longest cave system not just in the United States, but on Earth. You can take a tour of parts of the 400 miles of caverns and tunnels for up to 4 hours. Of course, if you’re afraid of bats this may not be for you seeing as Mammoth is a proactive sanctuary to help protect the fanged creatures and they can be found hanging around throughout.
If you want to try something a little out of the box, the Wild Cave Tour will have you maneuvering through this wonder off the nicely laid paths and stairs. But this 6-hour exploration isn’t for everyone, so do your research and make sure you're ready to squeeze and duck as you traverse this maze.
7. Go island hopping at Channel Islands National Park.
California offers a little slice of paradise at the Channel Islands National Park. This vacation spot is made of 5 separate islands surrounded by 1 mile of ocean so make sure you have a plan for your visit.
8. Ponder history at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is worth the trip to New Mexico. It offers some of the best star gazing of any national park. You can explore the building of the ancestral Pueblo peoples at Chaco and take in guided tours and evening campfire chats. You can take a peek at what life may have been like for those living in the American Southwest between 850 and 1250 A.D.
To take advantage of the clear night sky, don’t miss out on the night sky programs which let you see things by telescope.If you want to camp, hike or visit your only options for getting to these islands are by plane or boat. Perhaps the most popular is Anacapa Island, a 5-mile volcanic land mass. But once you get there, take a hike up to the peak and bask in some unforgettable views.