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If you're going trekking, then make sure you take standard safety precautions. In addition, some of the parks in the USA and Canada have bears. They look great from a distance but make sure you know what to do if you end up being closer to one that you anticipated – it's not unknown for them to raid campsites. It generally is possible to stay within national parks, although in some of the more remote areas and less developed parks you'll be reliant on either very basic huts or will need to arrange camping gear.

American National Parks Highlights
Copper Canyon National Park in Mexico has vast mountain canyons even bigger than the Grand Canyon in USA and accessible by train, horseback or by hiking

Manuel Antonia National Park in Costa Rica with pristine beaches backed by virgin rainforest with lovable sloths and other wildlife

Canaima National Park in Venezuela has Angel Falls, as well as pumas, tapirs and armadillos

Galapagos Islands in Ecuador has unique wildlife

Itatiaia Nacional Park in Brazil is popular with adventure tourists

Paracas National Reserve in Peru has various types of wildlife, and also has some great beaches
Torres del Paine in Chile has incredible scenery

National Parks of America

Yellowstone is arguably the most famous national park in the USA. Its main attractions are the geysers, dramatic jets of water that eject from the earth. The Artists' Paint Pots are a collection of colourful and mineral-laden springs that stream from the earth. There are also wolves, grizzly bears and elk. Yellowstone has fantastic facilities and is a good place to take kids. Nearby Grant Teton National Park is included in the entry to Yellowstone. It contains part of the Rocky Mountains, a hidden waterfall, and a museum about local Native Americans.

Alaska's situation, in places closer to Siberia than the rest of the USA, makes its national parks unlike anywhere else in the country. There are several national parks within this vast state, and all are worth visiting. The Gates of the Arctic National Park, Denali National Park, Glacier Bay National Park and Lake Clark National Park are amongst the best known. If you want to see glaciers, bears fishing for salmon, walk in the wilderness and meet native Alaskan people, then Alaska is the place to come. Camping is generally allowed in the parks, although they have varying degrees of accommodation and other facilities for tourists.

Yosemite National Park is another of the best-known national parks in the State. The giant sequoia trees are national icons, and one of the reasons the area was awarded national park status in 1864. Another top draw is Yosemite Valley – the waterfall in the valley is the highest in North America. Wildlife includes grizzly bears and beavers. It's easy to find guided bus tours of the camps, but more active visitors may want to try rock climbing on the granite cliffs and domes, pony trekking or hiking. It is possible to stay in the National Park, but you need to book well in advance.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is one of the best destinations for mountaineering in the USA. Long's Peak is the highest mountain in the park, at over fourteen thousand feet, but there are several other bens that are nearly as tall. On the way, you'll pass alpine lakes and perhaps walk over the Continental Divide that cuts the park in two. Animals you might spot include elk, beavers and coyotes.

Banff National Park forming part of the Canadian Rockies is one of the biggest parks in Canada. It's very visitor friendly – there are numerous tour companies that can help you see the park whichever way you choose, and there's even a golf course in the mountains. Activities include caving, skiing and snowboarding. However, the size of the park means that the developed sections are still a fraction of the whole – there's still plenty of wilderness for those that want it.

Nahuel Huapi National Park was Argentina's first national park. It offers numerous activities, including snowboarding, kitesurfing, trekking and many others. It's located in the lower reaches of the Andes, and is close to the lovely town of San Carlos de Bariloche, where you'll definitely want to spend some time. Wildlife includes otters and condors, and Nahuelito – Argentina's answer to the Loch Ness Monster.


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