On August 25, 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service. This year is the 100-year anniversary of America’s magical National Parks. Vacations by Marriott will be celebrating this big birthday by highlighting some of our favorite Parks that are within proximity of Marriott hotels around the nation. So take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and prepare to explore America’s National Parks.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite was first protected all the way back in 1864 and today includes nearly 1,200 square miles of mountainous Californian scenery. Millions of people visit Yosemite each year to see its high cliffs, deep valleys, tall waterfalls and ancient giant sequoia trees. The park is massive and it is therefore impossible to see everything, but must-see areas of the park include: Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in all of North America; Half Dome, Yosemite’s most popular rock formation – a giant granite dome rising more than 4,700 feet above the valley floor; El Capitan, a vertical rock formation popular with intense climbers; Brideveil Fall, named for its resemblance of a bride’s veil, the Falls stand 617-feet tall cutting across the top of a giant granite wall; and Glacier Point, one of the park’s best view points, located on the south wall of the Yosemite Valley with incredible views of other major park attractions. No matter which sites you choose to visit in the Park, you cannot go wrong at Yosemite. Marriott’s Courtyard Merced is conveniently located one and a half hours from Yosemite.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Protected since 1915 Rocky Mountain National Park is best known for its hiking (355 miles of trails!) and scenic drives (via the Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road). With one quarter of the park residing above the tree line, Rocky Mountain is home to 72 named peaks each over 12,000 feet high. Also home to herds of Bighorn, Elk, Mule Deer, Moose and more (60 total species of mammals, 280 recorded species of birds and 11 species of fish), Rocky Mountain is a great place for nature lovers. Start any trip at the Alpine Visitor Center, the highest of its kind in the entire National Parks system, sitting at 11,796-feet; buried in snow several months a year, crews start plowing out the building in May which provides a great vantage point of the surrounding peaks. Whether you choose to travel by foot or car or both, Rocky Mountain National park is guaranteed to offer up break taking views and other memorable experiences. The Renaissance Boulder Flatiron Hotel is located one hour and twenty minutes from the center of the park.
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
Zion was Utah’s first national park protected in 1909 was later joined by Bryce Canyon in 1923. Start any visit to Zion in a car, travel along the spectacular road that leads directly into the main canyon, where you can journey all the way to the canyon’s floor. Zion also houses one of the most unique hiking experiences in America along the Virgin River in the Zion Narrows; a 16-mile long section of the river allows hikers to trek below the steep rock faces along the side of the river. You can also view the Narrows from above via the one-mile long paved trail called the Narrows Trail. Other must-see Zion points of interest include Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools, Angels Landing and Court of the Patriarchs. After taking in as much of Zion as time allows for, the next step of your National Parks adventure leads you to Zion’s neighbor, Bryce Canyon National Park.
There is nowhere else on Earth like Bryce Canyon. Bryce features the world’s largest natural collection of Hoodoos, which are odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion. Start a trip to Bryce by taking in the majestic sunset over the Amphitheatre from the vantage points at Inspiration or Bryce Point. The park offers a free shuttle covering all the major viewpoints, and visitors are also able to tour the 18-miles along the rim of the canyon in their own car. There are a dozen hiking trails in the park, covering over 50 miles, hikes not to miss include The Queen’s Garden, an easy one or two hour hike past the Queen Victoria’s hoodoo; The Navajo Loop, sometimes called “the best three-mile hike in the world;” and the more strenuous Peek-A-Boo Trail, a tough yet rewarding 8.6 mile journey that offers close up views of the Wall of Windows, The Cathedral and the Three Wise Men formation. Each hike offers spectacular views and incredible natural creations unlike anything else in America. SpringHill Suite Cedar City has easy access to both Zion and Bryce, being one hour and one-and-a-half hours, respectively, from each park.
Acadia National Park
The far west is not the only place that is home America’s most famous National Parks, in 1916 the Sieur de Monts National Monument was created, which is now Acadia National Park, and was the East’s first National Park. Although Acadia is open throughout most of the year, plan accordingly as warmer months offer access to more areas of the park. Park visitors agree that taking a drive around the 27-mile Park Loop Road offers the best overview of the parking, offering access to points of interest such as Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff. 1,530 feet tall Cadillac Mountain is not only famous for being the tallest mountain on the North Atlantic; it is also the first point of the United States to greet the rising sun for 6 months out of the year. Whether you choose to hike the mountain on the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail or drive up the 3.5 mile narrow access road, go early to avoid crowds and take advantage of all the peak has to offer. Other noteworthy hikes include the Jordan Pond Nature Trail (easier) and the Jordan Point Shore Trail (more difficult) that spill out into the picturesque crystal-clear waters of Jordan Pond; as well as the Precipice Trail, which is only a 2-mile loop but offers hikers the chance to scramble up the side of Champlain Mountain using iron rungs and ladders fixed to the sides of the exposed cliffs, with the reward of an unparalleled view. Located exactly one hour driving from Acadia is the Residence Inn Bangor.