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Our guide to national parks on USA's West Coast

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If you love a place with a view, the West Coast of the US has it in spades. With so many national parks to choose from, it’s tricky to know where to start...

There are a few key things to bear in mind when planning your trip to one of the West Coast’s national parks. Firstly, think about the time of year. This can make a real difference to your experience.

Next, consider what you want out of the holiday. Are you a keen hiker, or do you prefer to soak up the vistas without hardcore walking? From there, get researching the best places to stay and the things to pack to make sure you’ve covered all bases.

But where would your journey take you? Here are some of our favourite west coast national parks and highlights.

 

Go wild at Yosemite

Imagine yourself let loose in 12,000 square miles of wilderness, and you’ll have a fairly accurate picture of what Yosemite can offer. Yes, there are some big, well noted sights to take in, including the rearing head of the granite Half Dome and the majestic Yosemite Falls.

The fabulous thing about Yosemite’s Californian setting is that you can visit year-round. Places to stay are varied and plentiful, the little towns dotted in the hills are quaint, and you can even enjoy a spot of swimming in some of the natural lagoons on summery days.

 

Gawp at the Grand Canyon

If you’re travelling during the summer months, leave The Grand Canyon off your list. It might just be too hot. But in the cooler months, this is one eye-popping experience that will leave an impression like no other. Take a helicopter ride to see all its wonders without breaking a sweat.

It’s not just the jaw-dropping vision of the Grand Canyon itself, but also the sense of history in the place. We’re not just talking about human history. This is the place to go and feel tiny, and unbelievably revitalised, in one fell swoop.

 

Camp out at the Arches

Want to feel like you’ve dropped in on another planet? Then take some time out at Arches National Park. Even if you haven’t heard of it before, you will have certainly seen images of its surreal sandstone arches one way or another.

A harsh climate limits travel to just autumn and spring, which you’ll be thankful for when you get there. All you’ll want to do is hike through as many of the sweeping sandstone monuments while you can. If you fancy, you can even camp out under crystal clear skies and revel in the pure magic of the park.

Look to the sky at Redwood National Park

One thing’s for sure, you’ll have a sore neck after a visit to the Redwood National Park, to see the tallest trees in the world. The point is, do you know what the tallest trees actually look like until you’re standing in your comparatively tiny shoes, looking right up to the heavens?

Thanks to the glorious California climate, you can visit year-round. Plus, there’s more than one way to experience it, whether a little road trip is your preference, or setting out with your boots on. There are little treasures to be found along the way too, including those like Enderts beach, and a multitude of idyllic spots to relax and breathe in the delightful forest air.

Feel the heat at Yellowstone

There’s something about standing on top of what’s classed as a 'super-volcano' that will get the blood pumping. But don’t worry, the volcano isn’t likely to erupt any time soon. For now, it’s a spectacle of hot sulphur pools and wildlife.

Home to grizzly bears and buffalo, you’ll be a few steps away from potential danger around every turn. Having said that, the 4 million people who visit each year do so without incident, but it’s still worth noting that you’re visiting somewhere that should be respected for its power at every moment.


Go wild swimming at Zion National Park

For something completely different, take a trip to Zion National Park. If Yellowstone’s fiery underbelly resembled some kind of hell on earth, then Zion should feel like a slice of cool, pure heaven.

Imagine crystal clear pools, cascading waterfalls and natural grottoes to inspire the purest sense of serenity. Avoid the more climatic extremes in summer and winter to get the best from your experience. Pack a pair of good walking shoes and start a list of must-see sights ready to tick off. You can do a lot of it by car too, by following the heart of Zion, simply stopping off to take in the panoramic views and snap some unforgettable photos.

Experience our 17-day ‘Wonders of the US National Parks’ trip. Book your dream holiday here. 

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