With epic hiking trails, shimmering lakes, world-famous mountains and enchanting wildlife, these 10 National Parks offer mile after mile of adventure
1. Banff National Park, Canada
Canada’s oldest and best-known National Park, Banff is 2,564 sq mi of mountains, glaciers, lakes and forests. Highlights include the emerald green Lake Louise (pictured), Mount Forbes and the Castleguard Caves, Canada’s biggest cave system. Offering a taste of Canada’s best wilderness, the park is a hotbed for hiking, paddling, climbing and mountain biking, and in winter it plays host to some of the country’s best skiing.
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, USA
This Utah park is best-known for its hoodoos; tall, thin spires of rock that protrude from the ground, caused by thousands of years of erosion and weathering. The result is a magical amphitheater of red, white and orange rocks that no photograph can do justice. Its relatively remote location means it gets far fewer visitors than most of the USA’s National Parks, so expect to have the paths and campsites (almost) to yourself.
3. Plitvice Lakes National Park
Croatia’s largest National Park and a Unesco Heritage site, Plitvice is best known for its 16 green-blue lakes which tumble into each other in a series of Kodak-worthy cascades. The lakes themselves take around six hours to explore, though catching a boat will cut two hours off the time, and there’s numerous other hiking trails within the Park. Wildlife in the park includes brown bears, wolves, eagles, owls, lynx and wild cat.
4. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
This 764 sq mi Park is Uganda’s most-visited, with its 95 species of mammals and 500+ species of birds, pulls in wildlife lovers from all over the world. The big attractions include hippopotami, elephants, African leopards, Congo lions, and chimpanzees. It’s also famed for its volcanic cones, deep craters and crater lakes, including the Katwe craters, which offer up some the park’s best hiking.
5. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Home of Milford Sound and 13 other shimmering Fiords and a legion of mountain peaks, silver lakes and untouched valleys, this Park covers some 12,500 km2 of New Zealand’s most stunning landscapes. Doubtful Sound, with its deep waters and bottlenose dolphins is a kayaker’s haven, while world-class hikes include the Milford Track, the Kepler Track and the Routeburn.
6. Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway
Anders Gjengedal – Visitnorway.com
The big attraction of this 510 sq mi National Park is the Jostedalsbreen glacier, which is the largest in continental Europe (37 miles long), along with one of its arms, the Briksdalsbreen. As well as glacier hiking, the park lends itself to kayaking, whitewater rafting, canyoning, mountaineering and climbing.
7. Hohe Tauern National Park
Tirol Werbung / Höfler Monika
Austria is not short of picture-postcard mountain landscapes, but the Hohe Tauern (just about) beats them all. Home of Austria’s highest mountain, the imposing Großglockner (3,798m) it’s a hotbed for mountaineering, with plenty of hiking on the lower flanks as well. Other attractions include the famous Krimml Waterfalls and the Glockner cycle path.
8. Lake District National Park, UK
VisitBritain / Rod Edwards
England’s largest National Park, covering around 1% of the country’s landmass and home to some of its best-known lakes, including Windermere, Derwent Water and Ullswater. It’s also where you’ll find Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain at 3,209 ft. There are hundred of walking routes, as well as endless paddling opportunities and mountain biking trails.
9. Torres del Paine, Chile
A 935 sq mi Park named after the Towers of Paine (Torres del Paine in Spanish), three spectacular rock pillars which jut high above the Patagonian desert. As well as the Towers, the park is home to lakes (including the Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskiöld) and glaciers. The best way to see it is to hike it — a series of refugios (hostels) mean there’s no need to bring a tent.
10. Sagarmāthā National Park, Nepal
Home to the mighty Mount Everest and seven other peaks over 7,000 m, this was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. As well attracting peak-baggers the world over, the park is known for its hiking, with the 3-stage Everest Base Camp Trek the most popular. Wildlife is another big pull, with snow leopards and red pandas, musk deer, Himalayan black bears, yaks, marten and more than 118 bird species found in the area.