Continuing our countdown of the top 10 must see sites in US national parks with number 6 through 10. Part 1 covered 1 through 5 with must see flashpacking destinations that included Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Lake Powell and Medano Creek in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Continue exploring our beautiful backyard with these incredible sites.
#6 The Badlands
Badlands National Park, Interior, SD
Where is Badlands National Park
Located 75 miles east of Rapid City in southwestern South Dakota, The Badlands National Park protects over 200,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles.
What are the Badlands
The Badlands of South Dakota are an absolutely desolate landscape of dusk and rock, scraped clear of sediment or vegetation by years of water and wind erosion. The Badlands are a near martian experience with huge shears of rock jutting out of bare earth.
Why you must see the Badlands
Besides the stunning visual of the exposed rock, archeological enthusiasts will find the badlands a giant playground. As early as 75 million years ago the rocks in Badlands National Park were deposited. Over time, the fossils buried deep inside the rock slowly began to reveal themselves due to erosion. In modern times, park paleontologists have begun studying these clues to what ancient life in the area was like. Today, iconic animals such as the American Bison, Black-footed Ferret, and Pronghorn thrive here. Dinosaur lovers or any type of fossil lovers will absolutely adore this park; it is like going back in time. They have exhibits of all of the fossils that have been found in The Badlands and more continue to be discovered. For a more modern cultural experience, you can also see live exhibitions by the Oglala Sioux Tribe on select dates.
#7 Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay National Park, Gustavus, AK
Where is Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve lies west of Juneau in the town of Gustavus, AK. Glacier Bay is one of just a few national parks that cannot be reached by automobile. There are a small number of air taxis and charters that provide flights into Gustavus. Visitors also arrive regularly in Glacier Bay on cruise ships, tour boats, charter boats and their own vessels.
What is Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay National Park consists of beautiful mountains, ancient glaciers, temperate rainforest, diverse coastlines, and endless fjords. Situated in a 25 million acre World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park is one of the top sites along Alaska’s famed Inside Passage. There are endless opportunities to explore and adventure, from the coast to the mountains, in Glacier Bay.
Why you must see Glacier Bay
The best way to take in Glacier Bay is a boat tour. Pack warm clothes, rain gear, binoculars, and cameras and be prepared to be in awe at all of the wonderful sights you get to see. Glacier Bay boasts some of the wildest places left on our planet. Areas like South Marble Island are known for packs of sea lions. From out in the bay, along the island’s edge, you can spot black bears, grizzly bears, moose, and wolves. Higher up in the cliffs you’ll spot mountain goats in their white coats. Glacier Bay is an experience for all the senses and it's common to hear chunks of glaciers breaking off and dropping into the sea. It is a sight and sound that you don’t want to miss.
#8 Black Canyon
Gunnison National Park, Montrose, CO
Where is Gunnison National Park
Gunnison National Park is in Western Colorado. There are two main entrances to the Black Canyon. For the South Rim, Take Hwy 50 east of Montrose and then 347 N. For the North Rim, take Hwy 92 11 miles southwest of Crawford and then Black Canyon Road approximately 3 miles. From there, follow the road signs to the park. The last 7 miles are unpaved.
What is the Black Canyon
The Black Canyon is part of a deep, steep-walled gorge carved by the Gunnison River. Although there are canyons in the US that are longer and deeper, portions of this gorge only receive 33 minutes of sunlight on the very sunniest days, giving the canyon its name.
Why you must see the Black Canyon
The Black Canyon's Painted Wall cliff and the dramatic drops of the Gunnison River (averaging 43 ft per mile!) are viewable from the roads and trails of both the north and south rims. The Chasm View park has a dramatic 240 ft per mile drop of the river. There are numerous trail options along the rims offering different views, lengths and difficulties. The view of the canyon from along the rims is beautiful, but exploring the inner canyon is a rewarding adventure like no other. This portion is more dangerous and requires a wilderness permit. However, it requires skill, experience, and preparation to be successful. Only experienced climbers should undertake this challenge.
#9 Horseshoe Bend
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, AZ
Where is Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is located off of US Highway 89 in Arizona, between mile markers 545 and 544. US Highway 89, the land north of the trail to the Horseshoe Bend overlook, and the parking area for the trailhead are in The City of Page, AZ. Grand Canyon National Park begins nine miles downstream.
What is Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is a picturesque turning point carved out into sheer rock faces by the Colorado River. It’s a barrier-free rim allowing visitors to walk straight up to the edge of the river that cuts the Grand Canyon and gaze down at the crystal blue-green water below.
Why you must see Horseshoe Bend
This view of the Colorado River is the most personal you will ever have. At this viewpoint, you can see the waters of the Colorado River in all their sparkling glory and power as they move along toward the Grand Canyon. Here an unstoppable force met an immovable object, namely, a sandstone escarpment. Since this rock formation wasn’t going to budge anytime soon, the river did the most logical thing it could: it flowed around it. The result is this 270° bend in the river with sheer rock faces on each side. So make sure you go and appreciate this magnificent view for how powerful and miraculous it truly is!
#10 Grand View Point
Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT
Where is Canyonlands National Park
The Colorado River and its tributaries divide the Canyonlands National Park into four areas: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. From US 191 north of Moab, UT 313 leads to Island in the Sky. Grandview Point lies at the southernmost point of the Island in the Sky scenic drive.
What is Grand View Point
From Grand View Point you can see all four areas of the park including the White Rim, features in The Maze and The Needles, and the distant mountains. A short, paved sidewalk leads to a spectacular viewpoint. From there you can hike an additional mile to a second viewpoint.
Why you must see Grand View Point
Island In The Sky is the area sitting atop a massive 1,500 foot tall mesa and is accessible by an easy half mile trail, marked by cairns and driftwood. Grand View point is where the narrow mesa top peninsula of land ends two thousand feet above the rivers below offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Never Stop Exploring!
With fewer options for international travel, take this time to enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds that our nation has to offer. Keep in mind that all of these natural wonders are changing each day due to sun, wind or water. Many are already suffering rapid deterioration and a few years may make a major difference in what these majestic monuments look like.
Check the National Park Services site to be sure about any COVID-19 restrictions and plan your trip accordingly. Honor the requirements for your health and the health of other nature lovers.
When you’re ready to explore off the beaten path, check out our Adventure Collection for all your travel gear.