Olympic National Park

America is lucky to have 392 national parks, and seeing them all is a worthy goal. If you can’t cram all that into one summer, however, here’s a list of the top 15 sights that you simply must see in our nation's parks.

Start in Port Angeles, Wash., and drive 45 minutes up the twisting, mountainous road to Hurricane Ridges in Olympic National Park. As you leave the lowlands, blanketed with old-growth forest, you’ll climb higher until you can see views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Hurricane Ridge, your final destination at about 5,200 feet, has open meadows bursting with purple lupine and red paintbrush. Hike around, look for black-tailed deer grazing in the meadow and ogle the snow-capped Olympics.Happy viewing more attractive park sights:

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon's Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in the United States. The lake is a volcanic caldera left over from an eruption 7,700 years ago. The best way to explore this pure blue gem is Crater Lake Boat Tours, available daily from July to mid-September. Be sure to bring your walking shoes. The boat tour requires 2.2 miles of hiking round trip on a strenuous trail. First-come, first-served tickets are sold at the Cleetwood Cove Trailhead parking area. Check with Xanterra Parks & Resorts for a current boat tour schedule and reservations.

 Bryce Canyon National Park

Queens Garden, named for Queen Victoria, is the least difficult hiking trail in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. It begins at Sunrise Point and descends only 320 feet. Traveling this trail, 1.8 miles round trip, you will see many hoodoos, which are pinnacles, spires or odd-shaped rocks left standing by the forces of erosion. Use your imagination and you may be able to see Her Majesty at the end of a short spur trail, overseeing the “garden” before her.

National Park Must-Sees: Petrified Forest National Park

How did living coniferous trees, tree ferns and ginkgoes turn to rainbow-colored stone? Find out on an easy guided walk along the Giant Logs Trail in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Meet in the Rainbow Forest Museum sunroom for walks at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. The 0.4-mile loop trail boasts some of the largest and most colorful logs in the park. "Old Faithful" at the top of the trail is almost 10 feet wide. This paved trail has several sets of stairs and is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs.

National Park Must-Sees: Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is a great place to spot charismatic megafauna including elk, bighorn sheep, moose and mule deer. Elk can be seen anytime. Look for them in meadows and where meadow and forest meet. Elk spend much of their time at or above treeline during the summer, moving to lower elevations in the fall, winter and spring. Favorite feeding times are dawn and dusk. Bighorn sheep are commonly seen at Sheep Lakes from May through mid-August. Moose frequent willow thickets along the Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley on the park's west side. Mule deer are common and can be seen anywhere. See more attractions and trails in the park.

 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Every evening in summer, about 400,000 Brazilian (aka Mexican) free-tail bats exit Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico in search of a smorgasbord of insects for dinner. Prior to the evening bat flight, a program is given at the cavern entrance by a park ranger. The starting time of the talk varies with sunset. Check at the visitor center for the exact time. Bat flight programs are scheduled from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October and they are free.

 Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia includes 300 square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the central Appalachians. Explore the park on horseback. Hourlong guided trail rides leave from Skyland Stables throughout the day from April 2 through November, weather permitting. The stables are near Skyland Resort. Guests must be at least 4 feet 10 inches tall and weigh less than 250 pounds to ride horses. Pony rides are available for smaller children 5 years and older, and feet must reach stirrups to ride the pony.

 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

A helicopter ride is an exhilarating way to see Kilauea, an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. Companies like Blue Hawaiian Helicopters will whisk you over the steaming Pu'u 'O'o cone and past screaming orange lava flows. Noise-canceling headsets allow you to hear the pilot’s narration and the lilting voice of Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, aka “Iz.” The pilot records every flight, so you can take home a DVD of your experience.

 Acadia National Park

Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park, Maine, is a narrow channel of solid granite that beckons visitors with its thunderous booms. When waves come in strong and quick, air gets trapped in a cavern that is higher than the inlet. When enough force pushes the waves into the cavern, the air escapes with a thunderous reverberation. Get there on the scenic 27-mile Park Loop Road system that begins at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and offers access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond and Cadillac Mountain.

 Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park in south Florida provides the perfect habitat for spotting alligators. Shark Valley, the Anhinga Trail (at Royal Palm) and Eco Pond (one mile past the Flamingo Visitor Center) are good for viewing ’gators, wading birds and other freshwater wildlife. The Everglades are also home to the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, the Florida panther and white-tailed deer.

 Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina is a waterfall lover’s delight. It has the two key ingredients essential for waterfalls: ample rainfall (more than 85 inches annually) and elevation gradient. More than 200,000 visitors hike well-worn trails to view Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, Rainbow and other popular waterfalls every year. Large waterfalls attract the crowds, but smaller cascades and falls can be found on nearly every river and stream in the park.

 Arches National Park

Arches National Park in Utah showcases more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, but none is more famous than Delicate Arch. This 52-foot-tall landmark appears on Utah license plates and was on a 1996 postage stamp commemorating Utah’s centennial. The three-mile round-trip hike to see it starts at the Wolfe Ranch parking area and will take two or three hours. The first half-mile is a wide, well-defined trail. The trail climbs gradually and levels out toward to the top of a rock face. Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail goes along a rock ledge for about 200 yards. Bring water (there is no shade) and good hiking boots.

 Glacier National Park

One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park in Montana is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park's wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana. Mountain goats hang out on the high peaks and meadows, so it’s not unusual to spot them along the road. The park is also home to bison, bighorn sheep, moose, wolves, mountain lions and coyotes.

 Biscayne National Park

Check out the fish-bejeweled coral reefs in Florida's Biscayne National Park. Snorkel around and look for 512 species of fish, which range from less than 1 inch long to more than 10 feet long. They include queen angelfish, puffers, stingrays, the bluelip parrotfish, the Caribbean reef shark and yellowtail snapper. It’s also a great place to see loggerhead sea turtles in their natural environment.

 Glacier Bay National Park

Explore the rugged wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, from a sea kayak. Wildlife abounds here. You might see humpback whales, bears, sea otters, seals or bald eagles. Kayak trips start from Bartlett Cove, or the daily tour boat can transport kayakers via the camper drop-off service. Make reservations with Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks for a rental kayak and the daily tour boat well in advance.

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