National Parks are known for preserving and protecting resources while providing world class recreation. Did you know they also have some incredible scenic drives! What makes these drives great is that they bring the parks to people of all physical abilities, not just for those ready to hit the trails for an all day adventure. Here you can see several generations of families enjoy these cherished resources while creating memories with the people they care about the most. You can also find others like myself having gone through surgery still able to enjoy the parks and get out and enjoy nature even with limited mobility. Having this thought in mind, I wanted to share six of these places fit for everyone yet providing the jaw dropping factor we have come to enjoy from the National Park Service.
6) Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is unique for the fact that they have two scenic drives! The first is labeled “scenic drive” on the map. It is an 8-mile road that goes directly south of the Fruita Visitor Center. There you will find excellent views of the water pocket fold, the geological formation this park is known for.
For the more adventurous, Drive the Cathedral Valley Loop! This 57 mile loop 4X4 only road begins with a river ford then towards the Bentonite Hills. As the day goes on you will pass many great features like Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. The Upper South Desert Overlook looked like a view you would expect out of the Lion King! There is also an old pickup truck left that makes for great photos! It will take at least 6 hours to do this scenic drive and you will leave here in awe. Most likely you will not see another person all day so come prepared with plenty of food and water. It is also advisable to get the pamphlet “Self Guided Auto Tour of Cathedral Valley” at the Fruitia Visitor Center and follow the directions. There are many side roads that you can easily get yourself lost so stay on the main road.
5) Yosemite National Park
I love entering Yosemite from the south. You get a chance to see some of the park without huge crowds before going through a tunnel. As soon as you get out of the tunnel, it’s WOW! Here you need to park at the Tunnel View Parking Lot and just soak up perhaps the most grandeur of views of the National Park System! This view is just awe inspiring as you stare out at Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome. After taking in this experience continue driving down into Yosemite Valley. This one way loop is just incredible. You have huge cliffs on both sides and this beautiful valley with rivers, lush grass fields with people playing, trails, waterfalls and a million other memories just waiting to be made.
4) Scenic Highway 20, North Cascades National Park
This incredible drive cuts through the heart North Cascades National Park and is typically open sometime in April through Mid-November depending on the amount of snow they receive in the winter. You can expect to see non-stop breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains on this drive. Diablo Lake Overlook is not to be missed! The photos you take here will have all your friends and family wanting to go here too.
3) Lassen Volcanic National Park
The Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway is just beautiful! It’s highest point is 8512’ in elevation had snow here in July still blocking off parking lots and hiking trails. There are several lakes, hiking trails, Sulphur Works steam vents, wildflowers and wildlife everywhere to enjoy.
2) Rocky Mountain National Park
Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is the highest paved road in the Continental U.S. It has 11 miles above 11,500 feet and crests at 12,183 feet giving views like no other place I have ever seen! There are pullouts that make you feel like you are part of the mountain tops as you look out over the Rockies. The drive up is just as spectacular! We saw lots of elk along the way and found ourselves just starring out the car in amazement.
1) Going-To-The=Sun Road, Glacier National Park
The Going-To-The-Sun Road is my all time favorite drive! I get so excited each time we go to Glacier knowing this will be on the list. They say it takes two hours to drive the 50 mile length of the Going-To-The-Sun Road but we have never went that fast! There is more breathtaking views on this road that any other place I can think of! There is mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife, three visitor centers, rivers and lakes that add up to the best drive in the U.S!
The road is open year-round at parts, the pass however typically does not open until June and will close in early October depending on weather. If you don’t want to drive then opt on taking one of the classic Red Jammer tours. This way everyone can enjoy looking around and not focused on driving.
What are you waiting for? Start planning your next road trip to one of these great National Parks! There is something for everyone to enjoy while taking in spectacular scenery. Do you have a favorite not listed? Possibly so, there are 59 great National Parks to explore!