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5 epic national parks in North America you have to see

Published June 9th, 2015

The US sure knows how to supersize things, and we’re not just talking about their fast food. The Land of the Free and its friendly neighbour to the north (hello, Canada) is blessed with some of the most jaw-dropping natural scenery and wildlife on the planet. The National Parks here really have to be seen to be believed. Get out there and discover the wild in the Wild West.

Epic blue waters in Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park

The Canadian Rockies are seriously impressive at any time of the year. Jasper is the biggest National Park in the area and one of Canada’s oldest. Think pristine mountain scenery, stunning turquoise blue lakes and alpine meadows, Jasper has serious wow factor. The vast wilderness is home to grizzly bears, mountain lions, elk, bighorn sheep and mule deer amongst many others. Jump aboard Contiki’s Canada and the Rockies tour from Vancouver and you’ll get the chance to hike and go rafting in the stunning natural beauty of Jasper National Park, and drive along the epic Colombia Icefield Parkway.

Ultimate selfie at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

You may have seen pictures and heard the hype, but seriously nothing will prepare you for the surreal experience of standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and taking it in with your own eyes. It’s vast beyond comprehension, and the colours, shapes and shadows at sunset seem out of this world. Arizona’s Grand Canyon is a natural wonder like no other. Get amongst it by paying a quick visit and viewing it from the top; getting stuck in on a hike in it; kayaking through it; or for a real adventure take a helicopter flight over it. Visit with Contiki on an 8-day Western Highlights tour to see the Grand Canyon in all its glory.

All about that Banff...

Banff

Canada’s beautiful Banff National Park is the third oldest National Park in the world, and with good reason. Visitors flock here year round to get back to nature and enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery of the Canadian Rockies with striking glaciers, thick forests, and picturesque alpine valleys. A highlight of Banff National Park is the ridiculously picture-perfect turquoise blue Lake Louise with its famous mountain backdrop and landmark Chateau Lake Louise. If you’re up for a tour of this epic scenery, Contiki’s Canada and the Rockies tour takes you here as well as to neighbouring Jasper National Park.

Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite

One of California’s favourite National Parks, Yosemite has been dubbed the ‘Crown Jewel of Wild Spaces’. This national park has long been an escape for nature lovers, thrill seekers and adventurers, who flock here for the hiking, camping, climbing and even base-jumping. The distinctive scenery of steep granite cliffs, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers and pretty meadows form part of the incredible Pacific Crest Trail made famous by Reese Witherspoon in Wild. See it on a flying visit with Contiki’s 8-day San Francisco to Los Angeles Express tour.

How 'bout them South Dakota Badlands

Badlands

While South Dakota might not automatically feature on your USA must-visit list, Badlands National Park might just persuade you to venture into the mid-west. The park has a strong Indian heritage, with the Native American’s using this area as a hunting ground for over 11,000 years. The park today is an area of extreme natural beauty, with a giant imposing rock barrier formation called ‘The Wall’ which stretches for hundreds of miles through the otherwise tame South Dakota landscape. Visit Badlands on part of Contiki’s epic Chicago to San Fran Roadtrip, and you’ll get the chance to visit the famous Mt Rushmore, home of the gigantic 60ft presidential faces carved into the rock face. Like we said, everything in the USA is super-sized!

Amy Dalgleish

Wanderlust pommie, currently living the dream in sunny Byron Bay.