Top US National Parks
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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Best known for its stunning red rock spires, Bryce Canyon offers the outdoor-loving family a host of adventures in one of America's largest national parks. The park covers a 2000-foot range of elevation, peaking at 9,100 feet along the rim.
If you're visiting for Independence Day, you might enjoy a four-hour, wrangler-guided horseback ride into the canyon, a day-long hike along a canyon trail, or a sunset stroll around the canyon's rim. Who needs fireworks with views like these?
Plan on warm temperatures for July days, with cool nights.
Entrance Fees: $25 per private car, but parking is at a real premium in Bryce Canyon -- there's just one space for every four cars that enter, so consider availing yourself of the park's free shuttle service
For more information: Visit www.nps.gov/brca or call Visitor Information at (435) 834-5322.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park is best known for its jagged mountains that rise up out of the pristine glacial lakes. This breathtaking scenery is home to numerous wild animals, including moose, black and grizzly bears, elk, bald eagles, gray wolves, coyotes and bison.
If you're making a July 4th trip, plant to enjoy backcountry camping, trail hiking, biking, bird watching, boating, fishing or horseback riding. Summer weather is typically in the high 70s and 80s, with cooler nights in the 40s. Afternoon rain showers are common.
Entrance Fees: $25 per private car, good for one week.
For more information: Visit www.nps.gov/grte or call Visitor Information at (307) 739-3300.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee
Ancient mountains, rich deciduous forest and a diversity of animal life characterize the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which sits astride the North Carolina - Tennessee border.
With over 800 miles of trails, the park is a hiker's paradise, but visitors also enjoy fishing, picnicking, bird watching and even driving through the park. The Great Smoky Mountains are a sanctuary for protected animals, including the park's 1,500 bears.
The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, although some access roads and campgrounds close in winter. If you're planning an Independence Day trip, you'll be in good company: The Smoky Mountains are America's most visited national park.
Entrance Fees: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the only major parks in the country that doesn't charge entrance fees.
For more information: Visit http://www.nps.gov/grsm/ or call Visitor Information at (865) 436-1200.
Everglades National Park, Florida
America's largest wetland, the Everglades National Park is home to a diversity of endangered (and dangerous) animals. Furry and scaly friends include the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, the Florida panther and 27 species of snakes (only 4 are poisonous, though).
If you're looking for a little adventure this Independence Day, why not take advantage of one of the Everglade's 47 designated wilderness camp sights -- most of which are accessible only by boat.
As you might imagine, summer weather in the Everglades is hot and humid, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees and humidity exceeding 90 percent. Rainy season (and not coincidentally, mosquito season) is June through October, so bring your bug spray. The Everglades National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day.
Entrance Fees: $10 per private car, good for one week.
For more information: Visit http://www.everglades.national-park.com/ or call the Visitor Information at (305) 242-7700.
Yosemite Valley National Park, California
One of the first wilderness parks in the United States, Yosemite Valley National Park covers 1,200 square miles of mountainous terrain in California's Sierra Nevada. Best known for its waterfalls, Yosemite also boasts a rich topographical terrain of valleys, meadows and ancient giant sequoias.
Yosemite is open year-round, although during the winter months (November - May), some areas are inaccessible by car due to snow. If you're planning an Independence Day visit, expect average temperatures in the mid to high 80s with occasional afternoon thundershowers.
Most of Yosemite's waterfalls come from melted snow in the high country, which means that by July, flow will be low. You'll still be able to enjoy plenty of blooming wildflowers, though, including elephant's heads, gentian and shooting stars.
Entrance Fees: $20 per private car, which is good for one week.
For more information: Visit www.yosemite.com or call Yosemite Visitor Information at (209) 372-0200.
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