The U.S. West Coast is the land of beautiful natural landscapes. This is the most picturesque part of the country. As modern city dwellers, we strive to get closer to nature everywhere we go. I’m sure you are the same!
It is a refreshing change of scenery and a rejuvenating experience that we suggest to all our friends. And the West Coast is the treasure trove when it comes to the wildness of pre-conquest America. Frankly, it’s impossible to choose only one National Park on the coast when they bring such diversity and unique views. But why choose only one at all when you can devote a vacation or two to visit numerous colorful and refreshing places to grasp the diversity of the country?
The West Coast National Parks provide a bountiful supply of natural wonders. The Coasts gather distinctive sceneries from a variety of Earth’s locations. If you have no opportunity to visit the deserts of Sahara, the warm tropical beaches, lively populous rainforests, the unpredictable geysers of foreign lands, or the massive maintained forests all around the world, a simple car trip along the West Coast will show you all these wonders! The best National Parks in the west cover all these amazing sceneries of our planet! And I’ll gladly share them with you!
What does a typical tourist think of when going to the West Coast? California and all that jazz, right? We are not unique in that aspect as well. We’ve seen the touristy hot spots of California, Oregon, and even Washington. But we always try to find some less popular sites just as great (if not better!). In this area, natural parks were the real hit.
After thorough planning, we’ve estimated the most exciting spots along the coast and decided to try them out. But, of course, such an extensive exploration was not done in one go! This article is the culmination of days and days of enjoying the peace and fun of national parks.
Trust me; hiking is not the only thing to do there!
Death Valley National Park
What to do: Visit salty Bad Water Basin, Devil’s Golf Course, take pictures of the Artist’s Palette area.
Dunes, heat, and rocks. All these fill the vast expanses of the Death Valley National Park, one of the best National Parks in California. To explore the location, a massive SUV would be your perfect choice. However, in case you have no such vehicle, seek organized group tours. This is the largest nation in the 48 states of the lower U.S. part.
In Death Valley, you face the highest temperatures that last for months and explore the lowest part of the country, the Bad Water Basin. Just a year ago, Death Valley reached an unprecedented temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit! This is the hottest valley on Earth! So, be sure to bring lots of water, sunscreen, and hide in the shade when visiting.
Of course, you can explore the area on foot as well. I’ve done so to imagine myself as a character from a fascinating book called Dune. The surroundings and atmosphere are suitable! The Valley hike I can recommend is the route to Telescope Peak that stretches for 13. Mind that this is an elevation route; hard for novices. Here’s the detailed route description. Don’t get lost! Another hike to show the beauty of the Valley is the Golden Canyon.
Although this West Coast National Park bears a deadly name, it is full of fascinating life forms that can survive in one of the harshest climates on Earth. Thus, a particularly bright blue fish known as Devils Hole Pupfish that survives in hot and oxygen-lacking water is of interest to scientists and tourists.
Entrance fee: $35
Yosemite National Park
What to do: take photos of the Tunnel View, meet sunset at Taft Point, enjoy the view from Glacier Point.
From the hot dunes of the Death Valley, I’d like to teleport to the misty and cooler Yosemite National Park. Personally, I fell in love with the views at first glance. I’m sure you’ll also appreciate the grandness of Yosemite forests and the misty abyss stretching alongside the cliffs.
Usually, guides recommend starting the hike or tour from the Yosemite Valley with its picturesque El Capitan and Half Dome peaks. I’d like to add a bit of my own experience and send you to the Tunnel View first. This is exactly the place that makes you fall in love with this national park. No more words, I’ll leave this picture here, and you’ll understand.
I suggest visiting a few waterfalls in this location, such as Nevada, Vernal, and Yosemite Falls.
Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle
Sequoia National Park
What to do: visit the biggest tree in the world, touch an enormous sequoia, skiing in winter
As we go, the trees become larger and larger. If you are impressed by the grandeur of Yosemite forests, the Sequoia Park will be an even bigger hit for you! Do you know those photos where you stand in front of a gigantic tree trunk? You can take such a picture of your own here. For me, this was the first sequoia forest of such scale.
For the ultimate sequoia experience at the best National Parks in US, visit the largest of all – General Sherman Tree. Unfortunately, it is fenced off, but simply standing near this giant puts everything into perspective. You can start a short hike along the Congress Trail from this tree. At some point, you’ll have to cross a giant fallen tree through a tunnel in it! If this is not the ultimate nature experience, I don’t know what is.
After this hike, you must come up to Moro Rock. After feeling dwarfed by the enormous sequoias, you’ll feel like a giant on the top of the world views the amazing view from it. The park is entirely located around 7-8K feet in elevation, and the Rock brings you above it all!
Entrance fee: $35 per vehicle
Olympic National Park
What to do: enjoy the rainforest wildlife, hike alongside the Hurricane Ridge Trail for picturesque views, head to the beach.
Do you remember that I mentioned rainforest in the beginning? Who would’ve thought that Washington will be home to one ancient park – one of the few left temperate rainforests! The other three existing are all located in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s a unique place right in front of you!
The park is located on the Olympic Peninsula. In summer, it’s an open park with everything accessible to visitors. Here, alongside the wild rainforest, you’ll find sandy and rocky beaches covered by the sea fog where the pure marine power crashes waves in a hypnotizing rhythm. Thus, I recommend visiting the Peninsular in summer for safety reasons on the local beach trails.
Overall, the 900,000 acres of the park are packed with miles and miles of hiking tracks. But if you come with children or are too tired to hike, you can have fun completing certain ranger activities to get a badge. You can explore the shores looking for starfish, crabs, and other dwellers when the seas are calm. The local wildlife is also fascinating: keep your eyes open for elks, otters, and other animals.
Glacier National Park
What to do: just enjoy the beauty of its grounds
Do you know why the Glacier National Park is known as the Crown of the Continent? That’s because it is a true jewel of the local wildlife and one of the top National Parks. It gathered some of the most stunning views of the Northern West Coast.
True to its name, the park is the homeland of 26 glaciers. In addition, it impresses with the colorful views of flower meadows, sheer blue lakes, and some cute bears (is observed from afar, of course). You can take a look at the infamous Grizzly bears and huge black bears, as well as all kinds of local wildlife. Birdwatching enthusiasts will find many interesting species here.
When it comes to the things to do at Glacier National Park, I recommend simply enjoying the views. The sanctuary is stunning. You can do it either on foot or take a shuttle that courses between the end of the Highline Trail and the entrance parking lot at the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you are an avid hiker, you can enjoy the 700 miles of hiking trails as long as you’ve got the strength for that.
If you decide to stay for a few days, you can stop at one of several campgrounds. This year, the following sites are open.
Entrance fee: $35 per vehicle
Yellowstone National Park
Location: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
What to do: enjoy natural wonders: hot springs, mud puddles, geysers, thermal pools. Take notice of bison herds and other wild animals.
The list of the best National Parks would not be complete without Yellowstone National Park. This is the country’s first national park, after all! And after over a century of existence, it remains one of the most popular locations in the whole country, not only the West Coast.
There’s nothing as colorful as this national park. Here, the numerous geysers remind you of the dangerous landscape of young Earth, thermal pools shine with every imaginable color, and the wilderness engulfs you. Personally, I put emphasis on these three aspects of Yellowstone. You may find lots of other things to enjoy there. Actually, I believe that one visit is not enough to enjoy this exemplary park fully. It is full of geothermal natural wonders that you can rarely find in a place as accessible as Yellowstone.
For spotting wildlife in its habitat, you’ll need to visit the Lamar Valley. The hot spring mecca is the Grand Prismatic and the safest geyser to come close to is the Old Faithful. It erupts every 90 minutes – time for your visit!
Yellowstone is huge. So, you better come in a comfortable car with camping gear. Besides, it’s the perfect park for a family vacation.
Also, a small tip from the local tourists: the stronger you smell sulfur, the closer you are to some natural wonder. You may even stumble upon a non-touristy sping!
Entrance fee: $35 per vehicle + several fee-free days this year
Zion National Park, Ut – This park offers breathtaking a red canyon, incredible heights, and the abyss below. A true feast for the eye from the observation points!
Bryce Canyon National Park, Ut– This is a park in the shape of an amphitheater with thousands and thousands of hoodoos. Stay here for the night to capture the best night sky in the whole country!
Rocky Mountains National Park, Co – This park offers amazing mountain trails for hiking and riding. Stop for a short snow fight and continue to the highest observational peak – Longs Peak.
North Cascades National Park – Another fascinating mountain scenery. Advised to visit in October due to the beautiful coverage of autumn foliage. The park offers amazing views and uncrowded hiking trails.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the list of famous national parks on the West Coast. It was truly hard to choose only a few. However, I believe these six locations offer a diverse view of the local parks and how different they can be. I recommend not rushing through them in one go. Instead, make several trips and enjoy camping in each park! Have a nice vacation amidst nature!