Western America. Home to an incredibly vast array of landscapes – snowy mountain peaks, rugged deserts, rolling valleys and sweeping coastlines make up just some of the scenery you can look forward to experiencing as you venture across this unique corner of the world.

This part of the country also boasts a number of stunning national parks; three of which I was lucky enough to visit on my recent trip with Topdeck on their Coast to the Bay trip.

If taking on some challenging hikes, swimming in fresh waterfalls, frolicking through sun-kissed gorges, (and filling your Instagram feed with loads of awesome snaps, of course) sounds like a good time to you, then be sure to put these three national parks on your “to-do” list.

1. Grand Canyon National Park

That little hole in the ground certainly does attract some attention – and it’s easy to understand why! At around 1800 meters deep and 446 kilometres in length, it is considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world. This grand spectacle flaunts numerous hikes, views, lookouts and other activities such as a geology museum, a shuttle bus around the canyon and plenty of awesome picnic spots.

The views here are truly special. Upon arrival, our awesome Trip Leader gave each of us a blindfold and led us on a blind-conga-line trip towards one of the most incredible canyon lookouts. It’s safe to say we were all lost for words the moment we removed our blindfolds. Heavy rainclouds looming over the rocky, rainbow-coloured earth lay right in front of us. It was so surreal it looked almost like a painting.

Yaki Point and Hermit’s Rest make for awesome photo ops. And if hiking isn’t your thing, why not pack some strawberries and sandwiches for a picnic like no other? Whatever you decide, you’ll undoubtedly leave this place with journal pages full of memories. And an awesome new profile picture…

2. Zion National Park

Waterfalls, sunshine filtering through towering treetops, valleys, peaks and remarkable rock formations are what this place is all about. Home to the renowned Angel’s Landing hike and the stunning Emerald Pools, you can certainly expect to tick off plenty of bucket list items here. Both of these sights (and more) can be reached via hiking, so strap on those boots and prepare yourself for a seriously jaw-dropping experience!

The serenity of this place is hard to ignore. Despite inevitably attracting thousands of tourists each day, quietness and tranquillity is easy to find – whether that be stopping for a lunch break down by the grotto, taking in the grandeur of Angel’s Landing or cooling off with a quick dip in the little-known Pine Creek Waterfall swimming hole.

As for me, my time here consisted of hiking, swimming, sun-bathing, bonding with my new friends and directing a mini photoshoot (…#guilty!).

3. Yosemite National Park

It’s almost a crime to visit California without dropping in on Yosemite National Park. Known for its thunderous waterfalls, awesome hikes, picturesque campsites and all-round epic scenery, it’s easy to see why hundreds of movies throughout time have been set in or have featured this verdant wonderland.

This must-see destination is home to bears, over 250 different bird species and plenty more unique wildlife, not to mention ancient giant sequoias and over 20 waterfalls. Getting bored here isn’t even an option.

Of the abundance of unique trails on offer, the Mist Trail (known as Yosemite’s signature hike) is one to put on the bucket list. This hike runs alongside two different waterfalls, meaning the views are 100% epic, 100% of the time! Closer to the top of the climb, you’ll likely get covered with spray from Nevada Fall, and the sunshine filtering through the mist creates the most delicate rainbows all around you. This experience is well and truly unforgettable.

After conquering the Mist Trail (and getting absolutely soaked), I rewarded myself by laying in the sunshine to dry off under a big, beautiful oak tree, followed by a scrumptious wood oven pizza shared with the friends I had now grown to call my Topdeck family.

Wanna come see America with Topdeck? Yeah, we thought so. Check it out.

Emily Smith
Emily is a recent psychology-graduate-turned-travel-enthusiast, who loves nothing more than spending her days basking in the sun, chasing waterfalls and a warm, freshly-baked falafel. She is currently planning a trip to Hawaii and Mexico (where she will of course be doing all of the above activities!). You can find Emily’s photography on @em.peachy.