On August 25, 2016 the National Park Service will celebrate their 100th anniversary. Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. According to the National Park Service, the system includes 410 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.
There are incredible vacations across our country featuring everything from geological wonders to historic buildings and monuments. This year, Collette
Vacations, a tour company almost as old as the national parks designed 16 itineraries showcasing some of America’s best national parks. While we are fortunate to have several of them in our own backyard, there are a few itineraries that are just a quick flight from St. George. After reviewing several itineraries, here are my “Best of the West” Collette tour selections for 2016:
- America’s Cowboy Country: The wild west comes to life on this eight-day tour starting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and ending in Rapid City, South Dakota. Guests visit Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Badlands National Parks. Exciting activities include everything from a wildlife float trip on the Snake River to an evening sound and light show at Mt. Rushmore.
- The Colorado Rockies: This eight-night tour begins with a quick nonstop flight from St. George to Denver. National Parks include Rocky Mountain, Arches, Canyonlands, and Mesa Verde National Parks. A highlight on this tour is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, an 1881 coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive built to haul silver and gold ore from the San Juan Mountains. The tour concludes with an 8.9-mile trip to the top of Pikes Peak aboard the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the world’s highest cog railroad.
- Pacific Northwest & California: The “Emerald City” of Seattle greets passengers as they arrive for this seven-night tour. Attractions include Mount St. Helens Visitors Center; the Columbia River Gorge; Portland, Oregon; the beautiful Oregon coast including Newport and Gold Beach; the “Avenue of the Giants” in Redwood National Park; and San Francisco. The Pacific Northwest tour offers some of America’s most picturesque landscapes.
- Canadian Rockies & Glacier National Park: This six-night itinerary begins across the border in Calgary, Alberta with a visit to Waterton Lakes National Park. Special accommodations include the Prince of Wales Hotel, a National Historic Site of Canada, and the fabulous Fairmont Banff Springs Lodge. Alpine meadows, lakes, and over 70 species of mammals and 270 species of birds are waiting for visitors as they arrive in Glacier National Park. Here, the group will enjoy a ride in the iconic open air touring cars built in the 1930s on the scenic “Going to the Sun Road”. This famous stretch of highway stretches across the Continental Divide and offers spectacular views in Glacier National Park. The tour ends in Banff where the guests visit Bow Falls and Icefields Parkway.
- Alaska & The Yukon: Most of our clients travel to Alaska via cruise ship but travelers do not realize the beauty waiting to be discovered inland. This twelve-night tour begins and ends in Anchorage. Highlights include a cruise on Prince William Sound; a trip back in time to the gold rush in Skagway; Dawson City; the Top of the World Highway; a sternwheeler cruise on the Chena River; and of course, the deluxe dome car experience to Denali National Park where guests overnight at the Grande Denali Lodge for two nights.
- The Pacific Northwest’s Coastal Treasures: This nine-day tour is the perfect place to cool off this summer. The tour starts in Seattle for two nights, then it is off to the San Juan Islands aboard the Viking Star. This island chain consists of 172 islands and stops include the horse-shoe shaped Sucia Island State Park and Friday Harbor. Orca whales, river otters, and sea lions are common sightings as the cruise makes it way to Victoria, B.C. Here, guests stay for two nights and visit 55 acres of the most diverse gardens in the world: Butchart Gardens. The tour concludes with a visit to Port Angeles and Olympic National Park, one of the few rain forests in the United States.
An escorted tour through the national park areas is an excellent value, not to mention convenient. The itineraries include deluxe accommodations located near or inside the parks; prepaid admission to popular attractions; and several meals. A professional tour guide gives an informative lecture about the geology, history and culture while a driver navigates the busy roads. Passengers simply relax and enjoy the view as they make their way to some of our national treasures.
Limiting this column to just six tours was not easy. There are so many wonderful national parks to discover across the nation. I often joke about how “landlocked” we are here in Utah. What I fail to realize is that land offers some of the most beautiful scenery in country. We are so fortunate to have the national parks just a short drive or flight away.
Celece Seegmiller is the local owner of The Travel Connection located at 1363 East 170 South, Suite 202 in St. George. Contact her at 435-628-3636 or firstname.lastname@example.org