One thing we love about getting older is that we have more free time. Free time to do more of the things we love. Do you love traveling and exploring? We sure do!
Trips to beautiful tropical destinations are definitely popular, but did you know that you can explore some fascinating places right here in the US?
The US boasts 62 official protected National Parks in 29 states and also in the territories of American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands. They range in diversity from impressive white glacial mountain ranges to tropical islands with luscious mangroves and colorful coral reefs.
The experiences vary greatly in each park, and depending on your lifestyle and fitness level, there are sure to be several to put on your bucket list.
It was difficult to choose because believe us, we want to go to every single one of them, but we’ve narrowed it down to a list of the top 10 National Parks that we feel are more accessible and suitable for seniors.
Note: Check the alerts in effect for each park as some need reservations or are having phased re-openings due to COVID-19.
National Parks Senior Pass
This is the best part of becoming a senior. We get discounts and special rates for a variety of things. The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands offer America the Great passes that includes one for seniors.
The senior pass is a one-time lifetime $80 cost or a $20 annual cost. You choose which one better fits your travel plans. The pass is available for American citizens and permanent residents over the age of 62.
You can get your pass (after confirming citizenship and age) through the Internet, through the mail, or in person.
Having your senior pass can get you a 50% discount for some amenities in the parks like camping and guided tours. Your senior pass will also permit you to enter a National Park with up to four accompanying adults in a single car.
So here are the top 10 national parks to visit as a senior.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park in Utah is one of the most spectacular scenes nature has to offer. It has over 2000 stone arches set amidst the impressive red stone landscape and contrasting bright blue sky. You’ll feel like you’ve landed on another planet.
When to go: Between March and October are typically the months with the most visits. Arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the long lines. Also, if you’re a photography enthusiast, this place is magical during sunsets.
Things to do: Drive through the arches and peaks on the paved roads. This can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 4.5 hours depending on the route you choose.
Yellowstone National Park
Photo by Aidan B on Unsplash
Yellowstone National Park was the first official National Park when it was designated protected in 1872 and is now a United Nations World Heritage Site (UNESCO). The park spans through three states: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It is one of the most popular parks and for good reason.
The unique hydrothermal activity that happens here is simply fascinating. Plopping mud, hissing steam, and unusual smells make Yellowstone National Park a truly incomparable experience.
When to go: Most popular in the summer months, but open year-round. If you’re feeling more adventurous and want to brave the cold, you will find that the park has fewer visitors in the winter months.
Things to do: Take a guided tour, hike the trails, and even go fishing.
Mesa Verde National Park
Photo by Alec Krum on Unsplash
Another UNESCO designated site that has a truly fascinating history is the Mesa Verde National Park. It rests in Southwest Colorado and is home to some 600 impressive cave dwellings inhabited by the ancestral Puebloans from 550 A.D. to 1300 A.D.
When to go: It’s most popular in the summer months and gets less busy after September.
Things to do: We recommend you get a private tour that is catered to your needs and fitness level. Plan for approximately 4 hours.
Grand Canyon National Park
Photo by Martin Permantier on Unsplash
UNESCO certified Grand Canyon National Park is a must-see in one’s life. The impressive geological formation is billions of years in the making and is host to millions of visitors every year.
When to go: As with most National Parks, summer and vacation periods are the busiest.
Things to do: Hiking and taking photos.
Acadia National Park
Photo by Rachel C on Unsplash
Now let’s head north to the Acadia National Park in Maine. Acadia National Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Get the chance to see raptors, falcons, and a variety of other birds. Walk the beaches, and let the ocean gently caress your feet.
When to go: Fall is a great time to visit the northeastern part of the US. Enjoy the colors!
Things to do: Take a guided cruise, hike, or birdwatch.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Photo by Phillip Sauerbeck on Unsplash
Alaska, that elusive majestic state. Want to see ice, mountains, and the sea? Kenai Fjords National Park is sure to be an unforgettable experience. The best way to admire the splendor is from a boat. If you’re lucky, you may see some whales, sea lions, and a variety of other marine mammals.
When to go: For obvious reasons, winter is not recommended.
Things to do: Guided boat tour.
Badlands National Park
Photo by Thomas Fields on Unsplash
The Badlands National Park in South Dakota is where you can admire one of the world’s richest fossil beds. The rugged terrain is home to Bison, Bighorn Sheep, and a variety of wildlife who have made the Badlands their home for thousands of years.
When to go: Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit.
Things to do: Drive the Badlands Loop Road, visit the Fossil Preparation Lab.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Photo by Cody Engel on Unsplash
Do you enjoy heights? Rocky Mountain National Park is sure to awe you with its spectacular snow-covered mountain ranges.
When to go: Avoid the winter months.
Things to do: Drive the Trail Ridge Road and take lots of photos.
Everglades National Park
Photo by skeeze from Pixabay
Everglade National Park, in Florida, is a UNESCO and Internationally protected area that is home to the only subtropical land in the US. It is the habitat of many endangered species like the manatee.
When to go: Open year-round.
Things to do: Walk the Anhinga Trail, take a guided boat tour, birdwatch.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Image by Vicki Lynn from Pixabay
Feeling a little more adventurous? Want to see bats? Visiting caves is a truly unique experience and Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico is sure to leave you with lasting memories. The park is home to 119 limestone caverns. Make sure you have some good closed-toe shoes with good anti-slip soles as the caves can be wet.
When to go: Open year-round.
Things to do: Reserve a Ranger-guided tour to visit the caves.
Have you visited any of these National Parks? Do you have any suggestions for our community? Which ones are on your bucket list and why? Let’s chat about National Parks.