The International A-List
|Grand by name, grand by nature (PhotoDisc)|
Grand Canyon National Park (U.S.A.)
The Grand Canyon is an obvious choice, but as renowned as the park is, it still holds a few surprises. Most of the five million annual visitors arrive from late spring through early fall, so few know that it snows more in the Grand Canyon than in Minneapolis. Other noteworthy facts: Although this park sees more visitors than most national parks around the world, over half the tourists never set foot beyond the rim and only 10 percent make it over to the more secluded North Rim. Further fresh perspectives of the canyon's grandeur: rafting or kayaking down the Colorado, rock climbing, trotting down the canyon on horseback, or tackling a day hike down one of the park's quieter though equally spectacular trails.
Gateway City: Flagstaff
Size/Acreage: 1,217,403 acres
When to Go: Mid-May to mid-October (keep in mind that June through August is the most crowded time of year)
Prime Activities: Hiking, rafting, paddling, climbing, horseback riding, camping
Inside Scoop: The North Rim is 8,000 feet above sea level (1,000 feet higher than the South Rim), so summer temperatures are a bit cooler (60s to 70s). Also, if you're willing to risk the unpredictable weather, spring and fall have the best temperatures for inner canyon hiking (in the summer, temperatures can reach the 120s).
More on the Grand Canyon:
NPS Grand Canyon
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (Canada/U.S.A.)
Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Park joined Montana's Glacier National Park to form the world's first international peace park in 1932, signifying both the peaceful relations between Canada and the United States (who share the longest undefended contiguous border in the world) and the importance of wilderness preservation, regardless of borders. The environment of these combined parks accentuates nature's diversity; the rivers feed three oceans (the Arctic, the Atlantic, and the Pacific) and the terrain ranges from craggy, alpine peaks to prairie to ancient glaciers. A favorite hike leads to the Continental Divide. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for mountain lions, wolves, bears, and a whole host of other wildlife.
Gateway Cities: Kalispell and Great Falls, Montana, and Calgary and Lethbridge, Alberta.
Size/Acreage: 328 square miles in Canada, 2,531 square miles in Montana
When to Go: July through early October for hiking. Winter months can get down to minus 40, though milder winter days will be perfect for snowshoeing and skiing.
Prime Activities: Hiking, camping, boating, cross-country skiing, cycling, scenic driving
Inside Scoop: Before the construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, people spent days on horseback just to see a small section of the park. Completed in 1932, the scenic road took 11 years to build and is one of the most impressive engineering feats in North America.
More on the Peace Park:
Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Listing
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication