Discover Beauty in Your Own Backyard
Both meditative and mind-blowing, the magnificent national parks of Canada and the United States offer travelers breathtaking views while simultaneously protecting natural heritage for generations to come. From snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes to lush forests and red rock canyons, there is wonder to be found from sea to shining sea. And, while you might not be able to visit these parks in person now, we encourage you to immerse yourself in these lush locales to inspire your future travels.
The United States
The Grand Canyon encompasses just over one million acres and three distinct forest environments, measuring 277 miles long. From Grand Canyon Village, the drop measures a vertical mile, or approximately 5,000 feet from Rim to River. (No, there is no elevator to the bottom!) The width ranges 10 to 18 feet across. Putting that in practical terms, if you hike the canyon or go down by mule, it takes two days. If you hike from the South to North Rim, the trek is three days one way. For a real adventure, raft through the Canyon; the trip can take up to two weeks. That said, the park offers a variety of sight-seeing opportunities for people of all ages and fitness levels. Scenic rim tours by motor coach are an excellent way to maximize your time and see the key viewpoints.
For a quieter, less crowded visit, make the 4.5-hour drive to the North Rim. North Rim is open May 15 to October 15 and there is only one lodge in the park, so reserve well in advance. The North Rim offers numerous hiking trails and mule rides from 1 hour long to 2.5 days.
The Petrified Forest was designated a national park to preserve and protect multi-colored stones, trees, plant and animal fossils, Native American sites and petroglyphs, and portions of the Painted Desert, along with a section of Historic Route 66. The landscape is diverse in color, wide open and somewhat flat with plateaus spanning miles. Visit the Hoodoos, natural stone towers at Devil’s Playground, or do some geocaching. The National Park Service set up a series of geocaching clues that can be accessed from your own GPS system through the park website. The visitor’s center displays some amazing samples of petrified trees and clearly explains the evolutionary process of fossils – great for the kids if you are traveling as a family.
Here you will find the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world, with over 2,000 documented arches! A special experience is the park’s night skies program. Here, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye, except on nights of dense cloud cover. Arches offers visitors the opportunity to view dark skies from dusk till dawn, and there are ranger-planned night sky programs on set dates. A unique moment in time here is when the earth and sky blend into the darkness, allowing you to wonder at the beauty and vastness of the universe.
From Arches, it will take around five hours to drive to Bryce Canyon, where you will be awed and inspired by towering stone hoodoos and cliffs in dazzling shades of orange, pink and gold. The hoodoos, according to Paiute legend, were once human before a powerful god called Coyote became angry with them and turned them all to stone. Take in the formation called Thor’s Hammer on the Navajo Trail – a must-see for movie and comic book fans. The park is open year-round, but access may be restricted during winter months due to road conditions. There is nothing more beautiful than snow covering the glimmering red rocks at sunrise. The park even offers snowshoeing in winter months as part of their planned ranger program.
Zion was Utah’s first National Park. The name means “Place of peace and refuge”. The Narrows, truly the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, has white and pink walls as high as a thousand feet tall, and the river is sometimes just 20 to 30 feet wide. It is one of the most popular areas in the park and can be seen by hiking along the paved, wheelchair-accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you wish to see more, you will be walking through the Virgin River, which can involve wading upstream for a few minutes or become an all-day hike. There is only one historic lodge inside the park and two restaurants, so dining is limited. If the lodge is sold out, your agent can find a variety of lodging options nearby. From April to October transportation through the park is by shuttle only, but private cars can take the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway year-round.
There is so much more to see throughout North America, and the national parks of Canada and the United States offer a variety of opportunities to get out and explore the great outdoors. So, start planning your future exploration now – we’ll be back out there before you know it.
May 2020·By Ensemble Travel Group