Three national parks you should visit and one you should avoid.

28th of June 2020

Alright, during our time in the United States we spent a lot of time at national parks both big and small. National parks are something totally different then anything I have experienced in Europe ever before. The size of some of these compares to the size of Flanders where I live in Belgium so they are without a doubt huge. But which one should you visit? What's worth it? And what is definitely not worth it? Let's get real and talk about some highlights and pitfalls.

Yosemite

This was probably my highest anticipated park of all the ones we visited. After my trip here in 2018 getting cancelled due to the weather I was thrilled to be able to go back a year later in 2019. Yosemite is enormous with a ton of hikes and pathways to choose from even outside the valley. So I'd recommend you to take your time and look into what you want to see and where you want to go. Not everything is centred in the "valley" and this will also be the busiest spot in the park. This directly brings me to my next point, if you want to visit the valley don't go on the weekend and come early. We came on a Sunday and due to our schedule we couldn't move it around so we went in with good hopes. Eventually we ended up driving around the valley for almost  two hours to finally get a parking spot at the end of the largest bus route. We didn't calculate in the time to get parked and get  back to the visitorcenter  so by that time  the only time we had left was to grab some food and choose two smaller hikes. If you are planning on paying  a visit to Yosemite I'd highly recommend two days and I wish I could take my own advice because we only got to spend just over half a day here.

Zion

Driving through the magnificent sights of Utah, you will encounter Zion just across the border from Arizona. Zion was one of the parks we didn't look into too much beforehand and was added to our list more or less because it was in between Bryce canyon and Las Vegas. We got here pretty early but still didn't manage to get a parkingspot inside the park. We ended up parking right outside of the gate in Springdale and I'd recommend anyone to do the same. Just don't take the time to look and go straight for that overpriced spot, it will save you time. Zion has a very good way of organising their busses and from the visitorcenter you can find a bus to any trail in the park. Once again we went for two smaller trails because of the lack of time once again. Although the hikes were smaller the sights were still magnificent. All the canyons have the typical orange colour and behind every corner seems to lie one more amazing sight. I might have liked Zion the best of all the canyons we visited, and this might just be because I didn't look too much into it beforehand and my expectations were pretty much non-existent.

Death valley

This one is making the list after a lot of thinking, and no this is still not "the one you should avoid". Death valley is a weird place, getting there you drive through a lot of "nothing" and when you get there there is still a lot of nothing. It's basically your body agains the scorching California heat and in our case it was more like our van versus the heat. With a whopping 47 degrees celsius out the day we were visiting this place is taking the crown of "hottest place I have ever been". We quickly went down to bathwater (the lowest point of the park) to explore it but couldn't stay there for even 10 minutes because the heat was just way too much. The whole area has something mysterious to it though, there's barely any vegetation and barely anything survives there. Nonetheless I think it's a must-do for anyone who's visiting in the area. Words cannot describe the heat and maybe I just want other people to suffer as well.

Grand canyon

You might be confused at this one but yes I think you should avoid the Grand canyon if you can. The Grand canyon just felt the most "commercialised" out of all the canyons we have visited. Multiple parkinglots make it feel like you are entering disneyworld instead of a national park. Loads of "big bus" corporations as well dropping hundreds of tourists who just take pictures from the rim and then go back onto probably something else super-touristy. The whole rim has been paved which in my opinion makes for a less authentic and adventurous experience. We took a little trip down bright angel trail to at least get a glimpse of what it's like looking up the canyon, this was probably the funnest part of the day.   After our visit to the rim we went further up north to Page to also visit the horseshoe bend. Again this has been commercialised a lot already and prepare to pay again because the horseshoe bend parkinglot is run by the city of Page and not the Grand canyon national park.

Reflection & tips

My biggest take-away is the following "spend more time at the parks" we only gave them each a day at most which usually just wasn't enough to really take in the beauty. If I'd have to do it again in the shortest amount of time possible I'd do the following; Come in at sunset and get a spot in the campingarea inside the park. Then the next day, wake up early and explore the whole day until you can't feel your feet. Then spend another night at the camping and drive off to your next destination the next day. Another tip I'd like to give you is to purchase the national park pass for $80 when you plan on visiting at least three parks. This gives your car access to all parks run by the US government and are valid for anyone in the car, doesn't matter if there is two or six in.