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10 National Parks You Must Visit This Year

One of the major benefits of travel nursing is the opportunity to visit and explore new cities and sites. Throughout the US, there are thousands of state parks and 63 National Parks you can visit during your assignment. There is beauty to be seen and trails to be hiked at every park. Most parks have trails for beginner and experienced hikers. If you have a day or two off, or even a vacation period after your contract, consider visiting a National Park. Read on to view our top ten list of National Parks we think you should visit this year.

1 – Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

RMNP is definitely one of the most popular National Parks to visit. This park offers stunning mountain views no matter which trail you hike. It is also the only National Park with a 14er, Longs Peak, which stands at 14,259’ and offers 360-degree views of mountains as far as the eye can see. While there are a few entrances, Estes Park is the most popular. From there you can drive up to Bear Creek Road to hike the more popular trails or stay in town to shop. RMNP is one of three parks that offers badges for every trail throughout the park. What a great way to remember your visit!

2 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina/Tennessee

Part of the Appalachian Mountains, the Smokies have lots of trails and history to offer. This part is the most visited of all the National Parks and has more than 800 miles of hiking trails. If you aren’t much of a hiker, we recommend checking out at least Clingmans Dome. This site is the highest point in the park and can be driven to. You’ll be standing at an elevation of 6,643′ once you reach the top. Just like the Rockies, you can visit shops downtown such as Gatlinburg to pick up Trail Tags for each hike you do.

3 – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Bigger than the state of Rhode Island, this park offers stunning red rock views and hidden caves. If you are a pro hiker, you might want to give the Rim to Rim Hike a try! View all that Grand Canyon has to offer with this 24 Mile Hike. Beginning at the North Rim, you’ll descend 14.3 miles and 6,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon before reaching the Bright Angel Trail and climbing 4,500 feet and 9.6 miles back out to the South Rim. When you reach the bottom, you can enjoy the world’s best lemonade at Phantom Ranch. Another gorgeous view of the canyons and Colorado River can be seen at the Toroweap Overlook. This trail can be driven to, but you must have a high clearance vehicle.

4 – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Another gorgeous park with stunning mountain and lake views. The Tetons are the youngest range in the Rocky Mountains and were formed from earthquakes. There are eight peaks towering over 12,000ft. The tallest being Grand Teton at a total elevation of 13,770’. While visiting the Grand Tetons, be sure to take a day to drive up to Yellowstone National Park to view epic geysers and hot springs!

5 – Yosemite National Park, California

Known for gorgeous waterfalls and rock formations, Yosemite has lots to offer for adventurers. You may recognize a popular experience of seeing “lava” during sunset on the Internet. This phenomenon, known as “firefall,” happens at Horsetail Fall from the way the light is reflected onto it and typically occurs during mid-February. If you’re a pro hiker, you might want to give Half Dome a try! Rising nearly 5,000 feet above the park, this beast of a mountain requires a permit to hike and contains cables to pull you up the steep incline.

6 – Zion National Park & Arches National Park, Utah

Utah is home to five National Parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. For our top list, we will include Zion and Arches. Zion National Park features beautiful red rock scenery and is home to the famous Angels Landing! Once you tackle 21 switchbacks, you then begin the 500′ climb up the narrow spine. To climb this, chains are provided throughout to help pull you along the way. Once you reach the top, you’ll see fantastic views of the park. Around five hours from there is Arches! Arches National Park is home to (you guessed it) over 2,000 arches! The most popular being the Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch. We highly recommend hiking the Devils Garden Trail to view eight arches, including the Double-O and Landscape Arch. This trail is roughly 7.8 miles round trip!

7 – Denali National Park, Alaska

If you are assigned to Alaska for a contract, you must visit the gorgeous mountain views of Denali National Park! While at Denali, you’ll see the tallest mountain in America, Mount Denali (aka Mount McKinley), standing at an elevation of 20,310′! Helicopter tours are available to fly over the range to get an up close and personal look at Mt. Denali. In the winter, you can go dog sledding (mushing) throughout the park.

8 – Acadia National Park, Maine

Located along the east coast, Acadia offers stunning ocean and forest views, along with 158 miles of hiking trails. For those that love rock climbing, check out Precipice Loop! This hike rises over 1,000 feet and features wooden bridges and iron handrails to help traverse the exposed ledges. Cadillac Mountain is the tallest point in the park at 1,530 feet. There are two trails you can take to reach the summit, the North Ridge or South Ridge. While there, be sure to visit the famous Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse too!

9 – Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

This national park was formed after a volcano named Mount Mazama which erupted and collapsed over 7,000 years ago. The volcanic basin eventually filled with water and became the Crater Lake that we know today! Crater Lake is also the deepest lake in the US. You can hike up to the highest point of the park, Mount Scott, for the best panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains. If you have an extra day to explore, about 5.5 hours away is the gorgeous Multnomah Falls! It is definitely worth the drive and highly recommended!

10 – Glacier National Park, Montana

Our last national park offers more than 700 miles of hiking trails and views of glacier-carved peaks and valleys! Currently, the park has at least 35 named glaciers and 26 active glaciers. However, those numbers are decreasing so if you want to view and enjoy the glaciers, go soon! There is even a scenic drive through the park called Going to the Sun Road. This road spans 50 miles and crosses the Continental Divide! If you love stargazing, Glacier would be perfect for you. The park is an International Dark Sky Park, meaning there is no interruption from light pollution giving you a wide-open view of the night sky!

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