If you’re a fool for a place with a view, the West Coast of the US has it in spades. With so many national parks to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. A lovely conundrum for any avid traveller, but a tricky one to overcome if the pressure’s on the make the most of your trip.

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There are a few key things to bear in mind when planning your trip to one of the West Coast’s national parks. Firstly, think about the time of year. This can make a real difference to your experience. Secondly, consider what you want to get from the holiday. Are you a keen hiker, or do you prefer to soak up the vistas without the hardcore walking? From there, get researching the best places to stay and the things to pack to make sure you’ve covered all bases.

But where would your journey take you? Here are some of our favourite West Coast national parks, and their highlights, to inspire you.  

Go wild at Yosemite

Imagine yourself let loose in 12000 square miles of wilderness, and you’ll have a fairly accurate picture of what Yosemite can offer. Yes, there are some big, well noted to sights to take in, including the rearing head of the granite Half Dome (picture an otherworldly panorama that will truly take your breath away,) and the majestic Yosemite Falls for starters.

The fabulous thing about Yosemite’s Californian setting is that you can visit all year round. Places to stay are varied and plentiful, the little towns dotted in the hills are quaint beyond belief, and you can even enjoy a spot of swimming in some of the natural lagoons on summery days.

Gawp at the Grand Canyon

If you’re travelling during the summer months, leave The Grand Canyon off your list. It’s just too hot to be enjoyable. But in the cooler months, this is one eye-popping experience that will leave an impression like no other. Take a helicopter ride, and you can see all its wonders without breaking (too much) of a sweat.

It’s not just the jaw-dropping vision of the Grand Canyon itself (although it has to be said, there’s a reason why it’s such a big feature on so many people’s bucket lists.) It’s also the sense of history in the place. And we’re not just talking about human history. This is the place to go and feel absolutely tiny, and unbelievably revitalised, in one fell swoop.

Camp out at the amazing Arches

Want to feel like you’ve dropped in on another planet? Then take some time out at Arches National Park. Even if you haven’t heard of it before, you will have certainly seen images of its surreal sandstone arches one way or another.

A harsh climate limits travel to just the autumn and springtime, which you’ll be thankful for when you get there. Because all you’ll want to do when you see is strikeout, and hike through as many of the sweeping sandstone monuments while you can. If you fancy, you can even camp out under crystal clear skies and revel in the pure magic of the park.

Look to the sky at Redwood National Park

One thing’s for sure, you’ll have a sore neck after a visit to the Redwood National Park. I think we all know that the Redwood is the tallest tree in the world. The point is, do you know what the tallest trees actually look like until you’re standing in your comparatively tiny shoes, looking right up to the heavens?

Thanks to the glorious California climate, you can visit all year round. Plus, there’s more than one way to experience it, whether a little road trip is your preference, or setting out with your boots strapped onto your feet. There are little treasures to be found along the way too, including those like Enderts beach, and a multitude of idyllic spots to relax and breathe in the forest air.

Feel the heat at Yellowstone

If drama is more your kind of thing, visit Yellowstone National Park and it won’t disappoint. There’s something about standing on top of what’s classed as a supervolcano to get the blood pumping. But don’t worry, the volcano isn’t likely to erupt any time soon. For now, it’s a spectacle of hot sulphur pools and wildlife.

Avoid the intense summer heat to enjoy Yellowstone to the max and get familiar with the other creatures that wander its dreamlike landscapes before you arrive. Home to grizzly bears and buffalo, you’ll be a few steps away from potential danger around every turn. Having said that, the 4 million people who visit each year do so without incident, but it’s still worth noting that you’re visiting somewhere that should be respected for its power at every moment. And that’s exactly why it’s so thrilling.  

Go wild swimming at Zion National Park

For something completely different, why not take a trip to Zion National Park. If Yellowstone’s fiery underbelly resembled some kind of hell on earth, then Zion should feel like a slice of cool, pure heaven.

Imagine crystal clear pools, cascading waterfalls and natural grottos to inspire the purest sense of serenity. Avoid the more climatic extremes in summer and winter to get the best from your experience. Pack a pair of good walking shoes and start a list of must-see sights ready to tick off. You can do a lot of it by car too, by following the heart of Zion, simply stopping off to gape at views and take a snap as the mood takes you.  

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