Park It!

Instead of the usual big-city or beach vacations, set your sights—and your GPS—on one of the country’s 59 national parks. There’s plenty for everyone in your family to enjoy, from sea to shining sea.

Our country’s national parks are as diverse as our citizens and offer a myriad of majestic sights, from the natural sandstone arches at Arches National Park in Utah to the crashing waves along the rugged coast of Maine in Acadia National Park. Here we highlight five parks that your fellow Bergenites enjoyed, providing inspiration for your summer excursion into the wild.

Acadia National Park

Location: Coastal Maine

Established: 1916

Acres: 49,052

Annual visitors: 3.3 million. Initially created as Sieur de Monts National Monument and renamed Acadia in 1929, it is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River.

“We took our daughter on a trip to Acadia when she was only 18 months old. Even though we couldn’t do some of the more challenging hiking trails, we were still able to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the park by walking the carriage roads with her in the jogging stroller. I’ll never forget the power of the waves crashing against the rocks at Thunder Hole. We loved our stay at the Bar Harbor Inn, which has amazing views of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands.” —Marisa Sandora, Ridgewood

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location: North Carolina and Tennessee border

Established: 1934

Acres: 522,419

Annual visitors: 9 million. The Great Smoky Mountains are the most-visited national park in the country.

“With historic attractions, hiking, scenic vantage points and hazy mountains as far as the eye can see, the Smokies have something for everyone. We arrived to discover nature’s undisturbed moments and some pleasant surprises: peaceful glances with a black bear; elk dashing through the forest; and the calls of birds we couldn’t identify. Our travels led to sprawling landscapes and quiet hikes along streams, rivers, and my favorite of all—cascading waterfalls.” —Karen Kleimann, Wyckoff

Mesa Verde National Park

Location: Montezuma County, Colorado

Established: 1906

Acres: 52,485

Annual visitors: 584,000. Mesa Verde is known for its Cliff Palace, believed to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.

“The Ancestral Puebloans who lived here left no written records, but the elaborate structures they built here bespeak a resourceful civilization—centuries before Columbus. My Mom and I gamely hiked a Park Ranger-guided tour, visiting the millennium-old Cliff Palace. We stayed at the park’s lodge, ate buffalo and quail for the first time, and enjoyed the full moon. It was a perfect bonding experience.” —Rita Guarna, Wood-Ridge

Olympic National Park

Location: Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Established: 1938

Acres: 922,650

Annual visitors: 3.3 million. The park consists of three distinct eco-systems: sub-alpine forest and wildflower meadow, temperate forest and Pacific shore.

“The park is vast, diverse and unforgettable. Within it is the Hoh Rainforest—it isn’t Walden but it easily could’ve been the land that inspired Thoreau. Then there’s the coastline, where forest meets ocean. Few things in nature are more dramatic than hearing the Pacific from within a dense forest, then coming to the clearing to see the waves crashing against the driftwood-lined beach. It’s a real awe-inspiring experience.” —Darius Amos, Westwood

Yosemite National Park

Location: Northern California

Established: 1890

Acres: 748,436

Annual visitors: 5 million. Part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, some of Yosemite’s peaks reach 8,000 feet above sea level, including the famed granite formation Half Dome.

“Two things stand out in my memory when I think about Yosemite: its unparalleled beauty and its unparalleled crowds. I was deeply moved by the way in which the park bound so many different groups of people together simply through an appreciation of the natural world. Ultimately, visiting Yosemite taught me that nature really is the greatest tourist attraction in the world.” —Ted Siegel, Ridgefield

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