The U.S. is home to hundreds of national parks and monuments. These areas offer great experiences for families, but the sheer amount can make it hard to choose which ones to visit.
National parks and national monuments are great opportunities for the preservation and exploration of our world. But a list of hundreds of these national treasures can be overwhelming. The good news is there are a handful of both parks and monuments that should top anyone’s list.
Once you have the parks and monuments picked, you’ll need to pack. A trip, even just a day trip, to any one of these places takes some serious planning and packing. You’ll want to make sure you have all the bases covered, even understanding tire blowout insurance claims.
Can’t-Miss National Parks
Not just any piece of ground or growth of trees can become a national park. There are four pieces of criteria that a site has to meet to be set aside for protection and enjoyment. The area has to be an example of the history, culture, or resources of the area, and it has to offer recreation or scientific advantages.
Regardless, these areas are nearly untouched areas of our world left to be enjoyed by many future generations. Exploring our national parks is one of the best things to do in 2022, and you should start with any one of these four parks.
#1 – Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of Utah’s national parks. Zion was the state’s first park and offers some of the most breathtaking views in the entire state.
The park is such a diverse area in both history and ecology. In just one park, you can see steep red cliffs, walk across areas of sweeping desert, and peer into deep canyons. Zion has a rich history as well, everything from the early settlements of indigenous people of the area to the westward expansion of the U.S.
It’s also a great place to hike and camp, be a part of the natural world, and wonder at its expanse.
Next on the list is the first U.S. national park itself. One of the biggest attractions of this park is the massive geothermal areas and activities. In a single visit, you can see numerous geysers like Old Faithful and geothermal basins.
Yellowstone is also home to hundreds of different types of animals. Visitors can see bison cross in front of their vehicles or see elk strolling through tall grass. The more elusive predators of the area can be difficult to spot, but people search every corner of the park for a glimpse of wolves and bears.
Few other parks offer the kind of animal experience that Yellowstone does. The best part? These animals are at home in their gorgeous habitat, and you get to see them up close.
#3 – Denali National Park
The next park is up north in the beauty of Alaska. Denali National Park spans over 6 million acres of land and houses the highest mountain in the U.S.
The Alaskan climate is perfectly encapsulated within this special park. There are huge expanses of lush plant life and other areas of glaciers and snow-capped mountains.
This park is a dream for climbers of both rock and ice. If you don’t get excited by the prospect of climbing steep cliffs or walls of ice, there are plenty of driving and hiking trails to explore.
#4 – Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is unlike anything else in the world. The canyon itself spans thousands of miles and can reach 6,000 feet at its deepest point. The beauty and size of the canyon are the biggest draws, but there are opportunities to hike and even ride into the canyon to explore it more closely.
This park can get a little crowded, as over 6 million people visit it each year, but it is worth the time and energy to see it.
Can’t-Miss National Monuments
National monuments are similar to national parks. Just like parks, these monuments are historically, scientifically, or culturally significant areas of our country. The biggest difference between monuments and parks is in how they are created. Only U.S. presidents can create national monuments.
Some of these monuments are naturally occurring elements, like the seven wonders of the world, and others are structures made by man. In total, the U.S. has 129 national monuments to choose from, but there are a few that really can’t be missed.
#1 – Canyon de Chelly National Monument
This national monument is in Chinle, Arizona. The Canyon de Chelly National Monument was set aside to celebrate and commemorate the Hopi and Navajo tribes native to the area.
There are nine scenic overlooks. These overlooks include the beauty of the deserts, giant cliffs, and canyon rims.
#2 – Craters of the Moon National Monument
The second must-see national monument is found in southern Idaho. President Coolidge declared the “Craters of the Moon” a national monument in 1924.
The area of this monument includes three major lava fields and includes the deepest known rift crack in the world. This 800-foot drop showcases lava tubes and other internal workings of volcanoes.
This area boasts hiking trails, caves, and scenic overlooks. It is unlike any other place in the world.
#3 – Devil’s Tower National Monument
Devil’s Tower can be found in the northeastern part of Wyoming. This towering, sheer tower is considered sacred to the native peoples of the Black Hills.
When visiting Devil’s Tower, you can learn about the history, oral stories, and ceremonies of the people from this area. In addition to the immersive culture and history lesson, you can adventure through this amazing place and attempt a steep rock climb.
#4 – Effigy Mounds National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument is another sacred space for indigenous people in Iowa. Here there are over 200 mounds built by Native Americans in the Mississippi River Valley.
A visit here is a chance to learn about the sacred ceremonies and burial practices the people groups of the area used. Today, there are dozens of Native American tribes associated with this area, so there is more than ample opportunity to learn about these groups as well.
Checklist for Exploring
A trip to any one of these national parks or monuments is a chance to experience something unlike anything else on this planet. Each park and monument is meant to protect a beautiful area of nature, a habitat for hundreds of animals, or take a moment in history and make it stand still.
These areas can be visited in a quick trip or used as a lengthy stay away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. No matter how long your stay is, there are a few essentials you should have before exploring.
For your time in the actual park or around the monument, you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of water and light layers to add or remove as the day progresses. Most of these parks and monuments are in warmer climates. The temperatures in these areas can shift quickly as the sun begins to set or as you move from mountaintops to deserts.
All of these areas are filled with dozens of hiking trails or other outdoor activities, so you’ll need proper shoes. You’ll want to make sure you have comfortable, durable walking or hiking shoes. Not only will your feet thank you at the end of the day, but you’ll be able to see a lot more of these beautiful areas.
The last thing to pack is the right insurance, including checking into roadside assistance coverage. It may seem strange, but all of these areas are accessible by vehicle and include bumpy roads. This puts your car at risk of blowouts. The last thing you want is a flat tire sidelining your exciting trip to see Yellowstone.
Make sure you have insurance that can handle tire blowouts and that you know how to file a claim. You’ll have peace of mind, and you’ll know that even a blown tire won’t keep you from that national park or monument.
Laura Gunn writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, CompareCarInsurance.com. She and her family travel often, and their favorite places to go are national parks.