Travel experts predict 2022 will mark a triumphant return of the summer vacation.
At the top of travelers’ bucket lists are America’s national parks. The National Park Service system includes 423 areas covering more than 85 million acres. In addition to national parks, areas also include monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, along with the White House.
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In 2021, the National Park Service reported 297,115,406 visitors, with Blue Ridge Parkway leading the list. Forty-four parks set record visitation numbers. On average, visitors spent 4.6 hours on each park visit.
Below are five national parks to consider visiting in 2022 (and beyond):
Yellowstone National Park
President Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872, making 2022 its 150th anniversary. Known for its hydrothermal and geologic features, Yellowstone’s most popular natural attraction is Old Faithful. The geyser erupts an average of 20 times per day. The park spans a whopping 3,472 square miles.
- Location: Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
- Closest Regional Airports: West Yellowstone Airport and Yellowstone Regional Airport
- Closest Major Airport: Billings-Logan International Airport
Yosemite National Park
Covering 1,187 square miles of mountainous terrain in the Sierra Nevadas, Yosemite is predominantly a seasonal destination. As snow and ice melt in the late spring, summertime waterfalls create spectacular vistas through the valleys. Yosemite also is home to ancient giant sequoia trees, which visitors can access by hiking or a free shuttle.
- Location: California
- Closest Regional Airport: Mammoth Yosemite Airport
- Closest Major Airports: Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Merced Regional Airport
Glacier National Park
A hiker’s paradise, Glacier National Park features 734 miles of trails that offer stunning views of pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains and reflective lakes… all within one photo op. The scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, an aptly named thoroughfare through the 1,583-square-mile park, offers opportunities to see wildlife from the comforts of a vehicle.
- Location: Montana
- Closest Regional Airport: Glacier Park International Airport
- Closest Major Airports: Missoula Montana Airport and Great Falls International Airport
Grand Canyon National Park
Millions of years of geological history are displayed on the Grand Canyon’s steep, rugged walls. The canyon is so deep – 1 mile in some spots – that visitors often cannot see the Colorado River at the bottom. The park includes 1,904 square miles, but most tourists stick to the South Rim, which features visitor centers, hiking trails and postcard-perfect views.
- Location: Arizona
- Closest Regional Airports: H.A. Clark Memorial Field and Grand Canyon Airport
- Closest Major Airports: Flagstaff Pulliam Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Grand Teton National Park
A playground for outdoor enthusiasts, Grand Teton National Park spans 485 square miles and features backcountry hiking, camping, biking, mountain climbing, skiing, horseback riding, rafting and boating. Visitors regularly spot wildlife like grizzly bears, black bears, bison, moose, elk and more, so a camera is a must-have accessory.
- Location: Wyoming
- Closest Regional Airport: Jackson Hole Airport
- Closest Major Airports: Idaho Falls Regional Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport
Bonus: Staycation in Everglades National Park
Just a quick drive from Naples is Everglades National Park, the nation’s largest subtropical wilderness. The park’s 2,410 square miles are a haven for bird watchers, kayakers, boaters, hikers, bikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Nearby, the Big Cypress National Preserve is a rich marine estuary fostering plant communities that are home to diverse wildlife.
- Location: South Florida
- Closest Regional Airport: Naples Airport (aerial tours available via helicopter)
- Closest Major Airport: Southwest Florida International Airport
National parks are often in remote areas, far from major metropolitan areas and large commercial airports. Many affluent leisure travelers are opting to fly privately directly into regional airports, which puts passengers just minutes from park entrances. However or whenever you get there, it’s always a good time to visit America’s national parks.
Stephen Myers, of Naples, is an FAA-certified pilot and executive vice president at Elite Jets in Naples.