Nowhere is North America’s diverse landscape more evident than in its immense variety of national parks. Many national parks are also designated World Heritage sites and a few even straddle the Canada/United States border. Whether visitors are looking for leisurely sunbathing, snowy ski vacations, desert vistas, or vast northern wilderness, they’ll easily find it in more than one of these beautiful parks.
Shenandoah National Park - Virginia, US: Visitors can choose to explore this park surrounded by the Blue Ridge mountains on foot via one of 500 trail miles or remain in their vehicles during the 105-mile Skyline drive, an especially beautiful scenic drive best taken when the leaves change color in fall.
Death Valley National Park - California, US: Death Valley is an area of extremes. This is the hottest and driest national park in the US, including Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Death Valley’s unpolluted dark skies also make this an unforgettable location for stargazers. The underground mystery tour of Scotty’s Castle, originally built for a Chicago millionaire in the 1930s, is one of Death Valley’s most popular tourist attractions.
Zion National Park - Utah, US: This southwestern Utah park will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2009 and has always been a favorite hiking and climbing destination. Zion’s multicolored and majestic canyon walls are often compared to giant sand castles. Visitors may also choose to observe these spectacular rock formations from inside their vehicles during the Zion Canyon scenic drive.
Acadia National Park - Maine, US: This well-preserved island group off Maine’s Atlantic coast is New England’s only national park, and features the area’s best day hiking trails. An Ice Age glacier first carved Acadia’s stone bridges, unpolluted waters, and steep ocean views over 18,000 years ago. Carriages in the Park offers another unique way to see this park’s spectacular scenery and wildlife.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Ohio, US: The rolling hills and lush forests of Ohio’s only national park seem a world away from the nearby cities of Akron and Cleveland. Cuyahoga Riverboat Tours, the vintage trains of the Cuyahoga valley scenic railroad, the pioneer Hale farm and village, two ski slopes, and several hiking trails are just a few of this park’s attractions.
Banff National Park - Alberta, Canada: Banff is not only Canada’s oldest national park, but one of the most visited national parks in the world. This is also one of Canada’s few year-round parks, where wintertime activities of skiing, curling, and snowshoeing are just as popular as hiking, camping, and golfing during the summer.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park - Nova Scotia, Canada: The Cabot Trail’s spectacular scenery and the historic Acadian village of Cheticamp are just a few of the highlights of this northern Cape Breton Island Park. Atlantic Canada’s first national park is one of the few areas in the region where mountains, waterfalls, and vast forests can be explored.
Prince Edward Island National Park - Prince Edward Island, Canada: This park along Prince Edward Island’s north shore is best known for its popular beaches and as the site of Green Gables, the home that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel, Anne of Green Gables. Other highlights of this park are the Green Gables golf course and the Victoria-era mansion of Dalvay-by-the-Sea.
Point Pelee National Park - Ontario, Canada: This peninsula located at Canada’s southernmost point and extending into Lake Erie is best known as a popular bird watching destination where over 360 different bird species have been spotted during springtime migration. Point Pelee is located in the same latitudinal position as northern California and the forest scenery has been compared to that of the Carolinas.
Northeast Greenland National Park, Greenland: Encompassing the territory’s entire northeastern section, Greenland’s only national park is the largest in the world - larger than 163 countries put together. A permit from the Danish Polar Center is required before visiting this park’s unparalleled northern wildlife and scenery because of its lack of services, isolated location, and international biosphere reserve designation.