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Winding Along Spectacular Sights: Some of America's Top National Parks for Scenic Drives

By: Cityseeker
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These National Parks in America boast breathtaking drives through picturesque landscapes, offering a front-row seat to the nation's natural wonders, showcasing diverse terrains and iconic vistas. The roads in these parks wind past undulating peaks, rugged canyons, shimmering lakes, towering cliffs, historic buildings, and sprawling meadows, making for an unforgettable drive. The magical views accompanied by fresh mountain air are sure to leave visitors spellbound. From the comfort of your vehicle, you can pause at overlooks, stop for wildlife sightings, and capture stunning photographs that encapsulate the essence of these National Parks.

Shenandoah National Park

Deep in the Shenandoah River valley, wild landscapes forged by the Blue Ridge mountains rise and fall in dramatic intervals, even as the crisp mountain air comes alive with dulcet birdsong. This is the untamed beauty of the Shenandoah National Park, a state treasure lanced by backcountry hiking trails, breathtaking driving paths, and a vibrant wildlife. The park centers around the soaring beauty of Hawksbill Mountain, which is its highest peak at 4,050 feet (1234.44 meters). Around the mountaintops, a captivating scenery unfolds as per nature's myriad whims, ranging from a billion-year-old rocky terrain, to waterfalls of various shapes, sizes, and cascades. Under a canopy of oak and chestnut trees thrives an incredible wildlife consisting of animals like the black bear and the white-tailed deer. Those who hike through the park's enchanting trails are guaranteed a sight of the undulating mountains in the distance as they stand encircled by a mystical shade of blue.

3655 U.S. Highway 211 East, Luray, VA, United States, 22835
Joshua Tree National Park

Not far from Los Angeles, San Diego or Las Vegas, Joshua Tree National Park is a magnificent confluence of the Colorado and Mojave desert ecosystems. The park is framed by wind-blown desert terrains, enigmatic rock formations and gorgeous wilderness which enlivens its arid landscape. This desert park is home to numerous varieties of plants and animals that brave the climatic extremes and unpredictable rain. Even the park's namesake, the Joshua tree, resides here and blooms in the spring. With almost 800,000 acres (3,23,748.5 hectares) of land and three ecosystems surviving within it, the park offers glimpses of either a California Mountain Lion stalking its prey or a California Desert Bat flying overhead. Strewn across the park's seemingly-desolate expanse is a troupe of campsites, whereas its marvelous, inky black skies have been a subject of many astronomical observations. It also plays host to an array of activities like hiking, birding, and climbing.

Off Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA, United States, 92277
Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is famed for its extreme arid temperatures. While it's difficult to believe, much can survive the sweltering temperatures, which go up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Centigrade), the park's desert wildlife proves otherwise. Home to the Bighorn Sheep, Coyote and the evergreen creosote bush, the desert changes through the seasons and offers up a burst of colors in spring when the wildflowers bloom spectacularly. Top scenic spots include Zabriskie Point, overlooking the multi-hued Furnace Creek, otherworldly Twenty Mule Team Canyon and the badlands, and the desolate Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

Off California Highway 190, Death Valley National Park, CA, United States, 92328
Yosemite National Park

A World Heritage Site, Yosemite National Park is a bountiful reserve nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, over 140 miles (225 km) to the east of San Francisco. Giant sequoias tower to dizzying heights at the Mariposa Grove, while the bare walls of the hulking Domes rise from the verdant depths of the valley. From the thunderous descent of the Yosemite Falls to the wildflower-laden Tuolumne Meadows, the Yosemite National Park is a tapestry of awe-inspiring spectacles, dappled with pristine lakes and etched with canyons; a maze of stark granite walls riddled with tumbling cascades that drench the scene in a cool mist. Amid the varied habitats of the Yosemite National Park thrive a fascinating variety of flora and fauna including the endemic Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. Visited by thousands each year, the Yosemite National Park continues to inspire awe in the hearts of all those who venture here. There are several permanent campgrounds and accommodations, dining options, a visitor center, and a myriad of hiking trails at the Yosemite National Park, weaving the perks of civilization through the heart of the wilderness.

Yosemite National Park, Yosemite National Park, CA, United States, 95389
Zion National Park

Worn by the elements over millennia, the picturesque landscape of the Zion National Park is a masterpiece in shades of vermilion and cream; the rugged cliffs offset by the lush green of the valley, its depths carved by the Virgin River and sheltered by the magnanimous arch of the vivid blue sky. Frothy waterfalls tumble down the sheer drop like delicate tinsels of lace, while the weeping rocks feed hanging gardens of moss. The park's emerald pools are visions from a mystical world of wonder, their distinctive color a vibrant contrast to the warm hues of the undulating rocks. From the varied wildlife to the grottoes and monolithic towers of sandstone, Zion National Park is not only Utah's oldest but also its most popular nature reserve. Traversed by numerous trails of varying ardor, the park is a paradise for hiking enthusiasts and outdoors adventurers of every stripe.

Zion Park Boulevard, Springdale, UT, United States, 84767
Arches National Park

Resembling a sea of shapes carved out of molten fire, the Arches National Park dominates the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. With numerous sandstone arches strewn across the landscape like unflinching soldiers of a fierce natural force, the park consists of the highest density of natural arches, with the highest recorded elevation at 5,653 feet (1,723 meters) peaking at Elephant Butte. The misshapen bluffs of the Arches National Park are the result of an evaporite layer or salt bed that lies underneath the park's surface. The park's arches and spires have been birthed by the subsurface movement of salt and consistent erosion. Of the staggering number of windswept arches in the area, the famous Delicate Arch is perhaps the most evocative. Along the expanse of this amber wonderland, an eternal interplay of light and shadow persists as sunlight pierces the sandstone fins that mark the terrain.

Arches National Park Road, Moab, UT, United States, 84532
Glacier National Park

Dubbed the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem" by famous explorer George Grinnell, Glacier National Park is a truly stunning slice of pristine American wilderness spread across more than one million acres. Over 1000 species of plants and hundreds of species of animals have made this park their home, occupying diverse ecosystems like crystal clear lakes and rough grassland. Once the site of massive glacial action, the park features towering mountains such as Going-to-the-Sun and Chief Mountain, impressive landmarks that rule over the untouched nature below. The region retains significant cultural ties to the Blackfeet Tribe, whose reservation lies to the East of the park's sweeping mountain range.

West Glacier, West Glacier, MT, United States, 59936
Crater Lake National Park

The state of Oregon's only National Park, Crater Lake National Park was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, making it the fifth national park in the United States. The crown jewel of the park is its namesake, the unique Crater Lake, which at 1,943 feet (592 meters) is the deepest lake in the United States. Located in Oregon's "Ring of Fire," known for its volcanic activity, the lake and surrounding area were created when Mount Mazama collapsed into itself during a massive eruption in 5700 BCE. Apart from the lake, other park features include Mount Scott, the Pinnacles and the Pumice Desert. Recreational activities at the park include hiking, camping, boating, swimming, fishing and trolley tours.

Crater Lake National Park, Klamath Falls, OR, United States, 97604
Acadia National Park

Situated in the naturally blessed state of Maine, the Acadia National Park is a teeming mosaic of beauty and biodiversity. A jewel embedded on the Atlantic coast, this national park bears a landscape dominated by jagged headlands, lakes and verdant woodlands among other features. The park is lovingly fringed by a tapestry of peaks, including the Cadillac Mountain. An array of trails weave through the diversified terrains of this park which cradle a wealth of wildlife including beavers, coyotes, minks, raccoons, chipmunks, and porcupines. In addition, the park also shelters ponds and swathes of pristine pine forests. The mountain summits of this park offer panoramic views of its entrancing topography. The park also shelters an assemblage of plant life including algae and fungi. Acadia National Park is especially ethereal-looking come dusk when the sun pleasantly lunges into the horizon.

Off Maine State Route 3, Bar Harbor, ME, United States, 04609
Grand Teton National Park

Sprawled across 310,000 acres (130,000 hectares) of incomparable scenery and stunning alpine vistas, the Grand Teton National Park is a shining example of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Vertical hordes of native coniferous trees flood the sides of the majestic Teton Range in a feeble attempt to contain its unfettered wilderness. At the very bottom, the rugged terrain of the valley floor is willfully carpeted in an overgrown thicket of sagebrush, where gleaming lakes drink in waters supplied by mountain glaciers and continue their merry flow across the soul-stirring landscape. It is here that the park's Snake River slices through the park, winding its way through colored fields to meet its terminal in Idaho. Up above, the Grand, Middle and South Tetons unite in a passion of solidarity that dominates the Rockies. They are encircled by the smaller, yet equally magnificent alpine forms of Mount Owen, Mount Moran, and the Teewinot Mountain. A spectacular set of flora and fauna thrives in the versatile ecosystem of this park, from nearly 1000 species of vascular plants to nearly 61 species of mammals. With a rich tapestry of trails that meander through the depths of this park, and a uniquely shaped, diverse ecosystem, the Grand Teton National Park ranks among one of the top choices for back-country adventures.

103 Headquarters Loop, Jackson, WY, United States, 83012
Yellowstone National Park

The ethereal beauty of the Yellowstone National Park unfolds one panorama at a time - sometimes in visions of raw, rugged alpine features, at other times, in softer landscapes clouded with billowing smoke that emanates from hot springs and geysers. Whatever the sight, there is little that will not mesmerize anyone who traverses the bounds of this park. Deemed to be the first national park in the world, the depths of Yellowstone were home to early Native Americans for a staggering 11,000 years, before mountain men and trappers ambled up its sheer cliffs and conducted organized explorations. It stretches from the state of Wyoming and spills over the boundaries of both Montana and Idaho, a geographic testament to its profound sprawl. The Old Faithful, a cone geyser, is one of the park's main attractions, while the Yellowstone Lake stretches over a supervolcanic caldera. Speckled with gushing waterfalls, geothermal spots, majestically arched cliffs that cast arresting silhouettes, and an array of nature's vivid colors, the park is an unspoiled terrestrial spectacle.

Grand Loop Road, Yellowstone National Park, WY, United States, 82190
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the United States' most-visited national park. Sprawled across a luxuriant expanse of 522,419 acres (211,416 hectares), the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is split down the middle by the State Line that demarcates the territories of North Carolina and Tennessee. The park is renowned the world over for its remarkably diverse flora and fauna, sheltered by a series of ridges drenched in the cool spray of cascading waterfalls. Dressed in a blanket of dense forests and wildflower-laden meadows stitched together by babbling streams and gushing rivers, spellbinding vistas lay around every corner amid the ancient Appalachian mountains. The scenery transitions with the seasons from the vivid green of summer and the riotous colors of spring to the warm cast of fall and the white shroud of winter. Amid this vibrant and varied landscape, close to 80 historic buildings preserve the southern Appalachian mountain culture, of which the pioneer homestead at Cades Cove is just one. With ample opportunity for activities like hiking, biking, fishing and more, the ethereal allure of the Great Smoky Mountains is impossible to ignore.

107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
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