I have to tell you a secret: this top ten list wasn't compiled by polls or science, it's strictly my own.
10. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee and North Carolina
Growing up in Tennessee I pretty much spent my summers in the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg. My family would meet up with friends and we would spend a week holed up in a cabin at the top of a mountain. Cabins with names like "Awesome View", offered just that. With wrap around decks, views of the rolling mountains and gorgeous sunsets every evening. During the day we would venture into town to shop, see a movie, play mini-golf, go to the aquarium. However my most favorite memory is taking a four-hour horseback ride.
9. Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
The tallest sand dunes in North America are here, rising up to above 700 feet. The park also hides alpine lakes, aspens, grasslands, wetlands, and even a waterfall. One of the popular activities is to try and sled down the dunes. This park is also said to be the quietest national park in the States.
8. Glacier National Park, Montana
Located close to the Canadian border, this park covers over 1,000,000 acres, 130 lakes, and many different species of plants and animals. Day hikes, back-country camping, fishing, and more can be done in this park.
7. Arches National Park, Utah
Has preserves of over 200 natural sandstone arches, like the one pictured to the right, in over 75,000 acres. Climbing on the arches is now prohibited. However you can partake in backpacking, biking, hiking, and camping.
6. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Mountains, lakes, wildlife, forests, tundras, the Colorado River, hiking, and camping. Other activities include horseback riding, and rock climbing in the summer. In the winter you can cross-country ski and go snowshoeing.
5. Denali National Park, Alaska
Home to the highest mountain peak in North America, Mount McKinley (Denali), over 400,000 people visit the park annually. This park is home to over 6 million acres and many different landscapes and animals. Denali allows for wildlife viewing, hiking, and backpacking. Dog-sledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are offered in the wintertime.
4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Home to the 40 mile long Teton Range on 310,000 acres in the vast land of Wyoming. Only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, this park also has the well-known valley of Jackson Hole. The Grand Tetons have over 1,000 drive-in camp sights and 200 plus miles of hiking. Mountaineers, campers, hikers, boaters, fishermen and winter sports enthusiasts can all find something to do in this park.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Over 2,000,000 acres, Old Faithful, lakes, canyons, rivers, mountains, an active volcano, Grizzly bears, wolves, bison, elk, boating, fishing, hiking and camping.
Just prepare to stay awhile.
2. Yosemite National Park, California
Over 700,000 acres of valleys, canyons, waterfalls, streams, and Giant Sequoia groves including El Capitan, Half Dome, Mirror Lake (pictured on the left), Glacier Point, and Yosemite Falls. There are countless opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, camping and to see deer, Black Bears, and other animals.
1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
A 277 mile long, 18 mile wide, 1 mile deep canyon carved out by the Colorado River.
A place that cannot be described adequately with words.
You just have to see it to believe it.
(I cried the first time I saw it...)