Andrew Harper travel partner National Parks Revealed specializes in customized private journeys for those in search of authenticity and adventure within the national parks of the western U.S., Alaska and Florida. Here are four National Parks in the Rocky Mountains every traveler should add to their bucket list.
Yellowstone is our nation’s first national park, so designated in 1872. Some 640,000 years ago, an area around what is now the center of the park exploded in one of the greatest eruptions in history. Today, Yellowstone National Park is a smoldering caldera, and the park is aptly famous for its geysers, mud pots and thermal pools. And with bison, elk, bears, moose, wolves, deer, eagles and much more, it’s no wonder that Yellowstone is often referred to as America’s Serengeti. Inside the massive 3,468-square-mile park, you’ll find towering waterfalls, alpine rivers and a canyon so big it’s named the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Glacier National Park in Montana and its “cousin,” Waterton National Park in Alberta, Canada, form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a World Heritage site containing dozens of glaciers (many of which are sadly retreating and disappearing), plus more than 750 lakes, countless waterfalls and beautiful forested valleys. The incredibly scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road bisects Glacier from west to east. The park is home to nearly 2,000 species of plants and 60 native species of animals, including the mountain goat, grizzly bear and gray wolf.
Just a mere two-hour drive from Denver in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, it’s not hard to feel as if you’re on top of the world. Inside the park’s 415 square miles are dozens of towering summits, and more than 75 of them rise 12,000 feet or higher. Rocks that are as old as those found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon — nearly 2 billion years in age — cap the mountain summits. Besides the majestic mountain views, Rocky Mountain National Park has a variety of wildlife and is bisected by the Continental Divide.
Named for its stunningly vertical mountain range that rises nearly 7,000 feet from the valley floor (which itself is already more than a mile high), Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park also encompasses the valley floor known as Jackson Hole. The 485-square-mile park is home to many of the same species of wildlife found in Yellowstone. Besides the peaks, other highlights include jewel-like lakes (Jenny Lake being the most famous) and the Snake River that flows through the park, which is ideal for a scenic float trip.