This year marks the Centennial celebration of the U.S. National Park Service, and with all of the excitement surrounding the parks on their 100th birthday, we asked the upscale guided travel company Tauck for their tips on some of the best parks to visit, and the reasons behind their popularity.
And Tauck knows the parks! Although the company offers land journeys and cruises to more than 70 countries and all seven continents, they’ve been bringing travelers to the national parks since their very first tour in 1925. Today, Tauck visits the national parks “from A to Z” (Acadia to Zion), featuring 51 National Park Service sites in 23 states, and 84% of its U.S. trips include at least one location in the Park Service’s portfolio.
Here are Tauck’s top picks in the parks:
Grand Canyon National Park
Although the South Rim sees most of the park’s visitors, the Canyon’s less crowded North Rim offers some spectacular viewpoints – and only 10% of all visitors who come to the park visit the North Rim. But no matter where you visit, the canyon is truly “grand” – an iconic, awe-inspiring national treasure that can only be fully appreciated by standing at its edge and basking in sheer wonder of its immenseness.
Yellowstone National Park
America’s first national park also became the birthplace of the National Park Service “rustic” style of resort architecture with the completion in 1904 of the Old Faithful Inn – built by young architect Robert Reamer of native lodgepole pine just a few steps from the park’s most famous feature, Old Faithful Geyser – it’s one of the largest and most imitated log structures in the world.
Yosemite National Park
At Glacier Point, you can look out over Yosemite Valley and feel you’re standing on the top of the world. The valley and mountains here will transform and inspire you, just as they did to naturalist John Muir. The famous writer, conservationist and Sierra Club founder called this wilderness “the grandest of all special temples of Nature.”
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The mountains in the most visited national park in the U.S. get their name from the dense thick fog that covers them in the morning after it rains, creating a bluish-gray tint; the Cherokee called this Appalachian range Shaconage, or “place of the blue smoke.” The park contains one of the largest protected bear habitats in the U.S. and has a population of over 1,500 black bears – just about two black bears per square mile. And… the park is also known as the “Salamander Capital of the World” with over 24 species.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, in northernmost Montana, is a remote wilderness paradise filled with alpine lakes, wildflower meadows, and rugged snow-frosted mountains reminiscent of Switzerland. And there’s an engineering marvel, the “Going-to-the-Sun Road,” that meanders through the interior. For a unique experience along this memorable byway, travel its length aboard a “Jammer,” one of the restored, bright red vintage touring buses from the 1930s.
Visiting the Parks With Tauck
No matter which park you choose, you might consider traveling with Tauck. Each of the company’s journeys is accompanied by a full-time tour director (or Tauck Director in the company’s vernacular) who provides expert commentary on the sites visited, and who functions as an on-tour concierge to handle all of your travel arrangements.
Tauck’s itineraries also feature stays at lodges and hotels right inside the parks. Often selling out a year or more in advance, these historic properties put the parks’ wonders right at your fingertips… Imagine greeting the sunrise, cup of coffee in hand, as the sun rises over the rim of the Grand Canyon just steps from your door. In addition, Tauck has also partnered with the award-winning filmmakers Ken Burns (renowned for his film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”) to bring Ken’s insights and perspectives to Tauck’s trips visiting the national parks.
Photographs courtesy of InstantHedge
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