With nearly 331 million visits to national parks in 2017, the popularity of the nation’s most landmarked sites is continuing to grow. Getting up close and personal with the country’s cherished monuments results in a very enjoyable – and educational – vacation for families, couples and solo travelers.
Perhaps trying to avoid the many hassles that are associated with flying these days, more and more Americans are hitting the road for their vacations. According to Steve Cohen, the senior vice president for Travel Insights, road trips represented 39 percent vacations taken by United States travelers last year, up 17 percent from the previous year. And for many, there is no better road trip than visiting such monumental sites as Civil War battlegrounds, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone.
The National Park system includes 417 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.
In order to assist roadies with selecting accommodations along their routes, Marriott International has launched a new interactive map that serves as a tool to help travelers easily book their national park road trips and visits. The interactive map marks national parks and monuments across the United States and conveniently pairs them with a Marriott International hotel to alleviate the stress of finding a hotel near each site.
Here are five destinations that are sure to inform and inspire.
Discover why the battle of the Alamo still captures the imaginations of Americans after more than two centuries. In December 1835, during Texas’ war for independence from Mexico, a group of Texan volunteer soldiers occupied the Alamo, a former Franciscan mission near the present day city of San Antonio. Guided by Alamo History Interpreters, guided tours explore the events that have made the story of the Alamo captivating for generations of Texans and visitors. The tour takes you through the area that was the original footprint of the Spanish mission complex, today Alamo Plaza, describing the events leading up to and including the Battle of the Alamo. The tour then concludes inside the Alamo Church.
Some of the finest mountain scenery in the Southwest is found in the 1.6-million-acre Santa Fe National Forest. Here, you can find the headwaters of Pecos, Jemez, and Gallinas Rivers; mountain streams; lakes; and trout fishing. Travel into Pecos, San Pedro Parks, Chama, and Dome Wildernesses via wilderness pack trips, saddle, or on 1,000 miles of hiking trails. Try whitewater rafting on the Rio Chama or Rio Grande from May to September. Rising from deserts, meadows and grasslands, the mesas, canyons and peaks of the Santa Fe National Forest are a place for recreation.
The Gateway Arch, a 630-foot monument , is the world’s tallest arch. Clad in stainless steel and built in the form of a weighted catenary arch, it the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri’s tallest accessible building. Built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States, and officially dedicated to “the American people,” it is the centerpiece of the Gateway Arch National Park and has become an internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis, as well as a popular tourist destination.
Dinosaurs once roamed here. Petroglyphs hint at earlier cultures. Later, homesteaders and outlaws found refuge here. Whether your passion is science, adventure, history or scenery, Dinosaur offers much to explore. Hiking in Dinosaur is an excellent way to appreciate the park’s scenery and rugged landscape. Rafting is a popular way to experience Dinosaur National Monument’s remote canyons. From origins high in the Rocky Mountains, the Green and Yampa Rivers wind their way across sagebrush covered plains before entering this outstretched arm of the Unita Mountains. The mountains force the rivers into tight channels surrounded by towering cliffs. Drops and obstructions in the rivers create rapids.
Craters of the Moon is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. The National Parks Service invites tourists to explore this “weird and scenic landscape” where yesterday’s volcanic events are likely to continue tomorrow. Craters of the Moon formed during eight major eruptive periods between 15,000 and 2000 years ago. Lava erupted from the Great Rift, a series of deep cracks that start near the visitor center and stretch 52 miles to the southeast. During this time the Craters of the Moon lava field grew to cover 618 square miles. The smaller lava fields also formed along the Great Rift during the most recent eruptive period, almost 2,000 years ago.