The West's Best National Parks

Take in the grandeur of 13 natural sanctuaries with our handy guide.

Yosemite's Tenaya Lake, image

Yosemite’s Tenaya is one of the most accessible lakes in the park.

IF YOU'RE GOING...

Take advantage of the area’s local amenities and services:

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As our country becomes ever more urbanized, developed, and just plain crowded, the respite offered by millions of acres of national parks becomes ever more important. No wonder they’re full of people—especially folks from smaller countries with even higher ratios of person per square mile. Fortunately, if you time your visit right you can enjoy those wilds practically alone and soak up some of that good stuff they were originally meant to provide: peace and quiet. On cross-country skis at Yosemite’s Glacier Point in deep winter, for example, you may spy an unexpected view of Half Dome as you round a bend in the trail. A springtime hike through Olympic National Park puts you on a temperate rain forest trail dizzy with varieties of green—from moss to oxalis to Sitka spruce. In the summer shade of a cottonwood tree at Zion National Park, you can feast on the canyon’s early evening colors in silence. Then, once you’re sated with solitude, head back to civilization at a grand lodge or a trapped-in-time town just outside the park. There you can shop, dine in style—haute or humble—or perhaps loll by a pool and write an old-fashioned postcard. For the rest of our National Parks package, check out these articles:

California’s Coastal Redwoods: explore four incredible parks
Crater Lake: a mesmerizingly blue Oregon oval
Grand Teton: Wyoming's big hits and insider tips
Hawaii Volcanoes: where to find the red stuff
Kings Canyon: a hidden Sierra getaway
Lassen Volcanic: volcanic wonders in California
Olympic: Washington's primeval temperate rain forest
Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon: without crowds
Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef: Utah’s color country

Photography by Kenny Karst, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.

This article was published in May 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information

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