In 1916, the United States created the National Park Service to ensure that future generations can enjoy the country’s native histories and natural beauty, from magnificent mountain ranges to pristine tropical beaches. Today, there are 59 National Parks (plus many more federally protected nature areas) across the United States, which collectively drew 325 million visitors in 2016 – an all-time record.
To commemorate National Park Week and Earth Day on April 22, 2017, we’re celebrating these beloved playgrounds and the infinite number of things to do while vacationing there. Inspirato Members can travel with the club to 11 destinations within an easy drive — or even closer — to some of the most fascinating U.S. National Parks.
There are national parks in countries all over the world — Inspirato’s accommodations in Punta de Mita, Iguassu Falls, and Qing Cheng, China, are all near protected areas — but the U.S. is the pioneer of the national park system. Below, find out our top 10 places where Inspirato Members can travel to experience these treasured landscapes.
Big Sky, Montana
Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872, the world’s first national park spans more than 2.2 million acres and is accessible from two Inspirato destinations: Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from the south; and Big Sky, which is about 51 miles from the park’s west entrance. From there, it’s a quick drive to the iconic Old Faithful geyser, miles of hiking trails, and excellent fly fishing on the Firehole River.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park
This breathtaking park makes up most of the Jackson Hole valley. Famous for its namesake jagged mountain peaks, Grand Teton is an excellent place to look for wildlife such as elk, bison, moose, bald eagles, and many more, concentrated in various parts of the park. Inspirato Members also love to float down the Snake River and boat on Jenny Lake.
Kohala Coast, Big Island, Hawaii
Volcanoes National Park
Visitors to Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island have a front row seat to the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, which have been active since the 1980s. Most park visitors take their vehicles or a bike along the Crater Rim Drive or Chain of Craters Road; these paved, maintained roads pass volcanic craters and scenic overlooks throughout the park. Be sure to stop and (safely!) view active lava flows along these routes.
Wailea, Maui, Hawaii
Haleakalā National Park
This park on Maui is roughly split into two sections. The Summit District, sacred to native Hawaiians, is the mountainous area around Haleakalā volcano; head here for hiking, lava flows, and the chance to glimpse some of the many endemic species that live at high elevations (the volcano’s summit is at 10,023 feet). Reservations are required up to 60 days in advance for the immensely popular — and breathtakingly gorgeous — sunrise at the summit of the volcano. Back at sea level, the Kīpahulu District along the coast offers beautiful views, cultural demonstrations, and pleasant nature trails.
Palm Springs/Coachella Valley, California
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is best known for its namesake trees: twisted, fantastical-looking specimens with prickly barbs in place of leaves. But beyond otherworldly vegetation, the stark beauty of this desert oasis — about an hour’s drive from Palm Springs — attracts visitors to its miles of nature trails, isolated campgrounds, and rock-climbing options. Visit at night for unparalleled stargazing in the remote wilderness.
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands National Park covers 7,000+ acres — or about 60% — of the island of St. John. On land, pristine beaches border crystal-clear bays, but heading below the surface reveals an entirely different experience. In fact, more than 40% of the park is underwater; the snorkel trail at Trunk Bay is a must-do. Members visiting the park via ferry from Tortola must pay fees to the cross the border both ways (St. John is a U.S. property, Tortola is British), but the cost is more than worth it.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park & Mesa Verde National Park
These parks are a bit of a drive from Telluride (each about an hour and 45 minutes), but their beauty and intrigue are not to be missed. At Black Canyon, 2-million-year-old rock formations line its namesake gorge, which at its deepest plunges 2,722 feet below the rim. Mesa Verde’s main lure is the 600 fantastically preserved cliff dwellings of the ancestral Pueblo people, who inhabited what’s now the park 1,400 years ago.
Santa Barbara, California
Channel Islands National Park
Five islands and the surrounding water comprise this one-of-a-kind park, accessible only by park-owned boat or plane. Its isolated location off the coast of Santa Barbara has helped numerous types of wildflowers, birds, mammals, fish, sharks, and other marine life develop into unique subspecies – many of which can’t be found anywhere else. Explore tide pools, kayaking routes, snorkeling areas, hilly hikes, and picnic spots, all set against panoramic ocean views.
Mt. Rainier National Park & Olympic National Park
These stunning parks contrast Seattle’s bustling urban landscape. The summit of Mount Rainier soars up to 14,410 feet above sea level, making it Washington’s highest peak, the 5th tallest in the contiguous United States, and a mecca for adventure seekers. Olympic, on the other hand, comprises nearly 1 million acres of both mountainous and rainforest terrain on the Olympic Peninsula immediately to the west of Seattle.
Biscayne National Park & Everglades National Park
Biscayne National Park — the northernmost point of the Florida Keys — is just 40 miles south of Miami, offering convenient respite from the city. 95% of the park is covered by water, with visitors exploring the park’s mangroves, islands, and coral reefs via boat, kayak, and snorkel. Everglades National Park is a bit further away, located at the southern tip of mainland Florida. Swamps and marshes teem with endangered wildlife from crocodiles to manatees. Rent a canoe to explore the trails by water, the best way to get around.
Visiting a national park — in the United States or anywhere in the world — is a fantastic reason to take a vacation and appreciate the Earth’s natural beauty. Explore all of Inspirato’s 175+ destinations around the globe and find your next reason to get away.