On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service turned 100.
That centennial milestone was celebrated at more than 400 diverse parks, covering 84 million combined acres in the 50 states, District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Saipan and the Virgin Islands.
If exploring the vast wonders of nature is your idea of an exciting getaway, you can find National Parks near many popular Bluegreen Vacations resorts.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
For those with an enthusiasm for nature, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is the ideal playground for an outdoor vacation. This spectacular attraction is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although some of the more remote roads and passes are closed during the winter months.
The magic and wonder of the Great Smoky Mountains is waiting for you no matter the season. How you choose to experience it is up to you. Immerse yourself in tranquility and get in touch with nature on more than 150 trails that make up close to 800 miles of perfect scenic hikes through the most visited National Park in the country. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, you’ll love shooting the rapids during a whitewater rafting adventure. You and your family will be taken out on the Upper or Lower Pigeon River by an experienced guide and given the opportunity to see a side of the Smoky Mountains you have never seen before— from the inside of an inflatable raft. The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Clingmans Dome. Climb it then climb a little higher to the top of its 54-foot observation tower where you’ll witness spectacular vistas spanning over 100 miles and into seven states on clear days.
Closest resorts: MountainLoft™—4 minutes | Laurel Crest™—17 minutes away
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park has 79,579 acres of wilderness, which accounts for 40% of the park. Areas that have been deemed wilderness provide places for recreational pursuits, sanctuaries for wildlife habitats, sites where research can be conducted and reservoirs to hold clean water.
Once inside Shenandoah, get in your car and drive along Skyline Drive—the only public road in the entire park. The scenic mountaintop route covers 105 miles and limits drivers to a top speed of 35 miles per hour. The landscaped is full of undisturbed flowers that cover the roadside with fresh vibrant colors. White-tailed deer, black bear, turkey and other woodland critters roam freely and meander into the road right in front you, so be careful and keep your eyes open. This winding road is full of spectacular things to see, including 75 overlooks with views of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley so stunning they’ll take your breath away. To help you get the most out of your journey, mileposts mark the spots of interest along the way. You can also take a 3.4-mile hike along Chimney Rock Trail, fish for trout and bike along Rapidan Fire Road. Shenandoah National Park is open every day of the year to explore at your leisure.
Closest resort: Shenandoah Crossing™—1 hour 17 minutes away
Everglades National Park
On the southern tip of Florida is a massive 1.5-million-acre wetlands preserve known as the Everglades. This unmatched landscape is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, giving protection to endangered species like the American crocodile, manatee and stealthy Florida panther.
From wet sawgrass prairies and dry tropical hardwood hammocks to mangrove swamps and pinelands, Everglades is a one-of-a-kind National Park. Trek along the Anhinga Trail where you’re likely to encounter turtles, herons and alligators. For picture-perfect views of the glades, climb to the top of the 65-foot observation tower located at Shark Valley. Kayaking and boat tours on Florida Bay give you the opportunity to find solitude and maybe even witness a dolphin swim by. Ever wonder what it would be like to enter a cypress dome? Join a ranger to find out as you slough into the middle of it. Believe it or not, there’s even a missile base nestled here—the historic Nike Hercules. Considered an international treasure, the Everglades has been honored as a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and Wetland of International Importance. There are even areas protected under the Cartagena Treaty.
Closest resorts: Solara Surfside™—1 hour away | The Hammocks at Marathon™—1 hour 50 minutes away
Joshua Tree National Park
Spanning close to 800,000 acres, Joshua Tree National Park in California can be found at the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts. This impressive desert wilderness is open year-round and is home to a multitude of outdoor recreational activities such as photography, hiking, biking, mountain climbing, stargazing, horseback riding and geology tours.
As you enter the park, the twisted outstretched arms of the Joshua Tree welcome you into a paradise of diverse wonder. Discover more than 250 bird species flocking near palm oases and water impoundments. Walk through wildflowers that paint the desert with spectacular colors and keep an eye out for the Chuckwalla, an extra-large lizard with a commanding presence. Stargazing here is out of this world. That’s because the skies are so clear you can almost reach up and touch the constellations. If you like daring adventures, put on a helmet and scale up the side of a mountain. Please be aware that desert weather often changes rapidly and conditions can go from mild to harsh with little warning. Always check the National Weather Service forecast before entering the park, wear sunscreen and carry at least one gallon (two gallons for strenuous activity) of water per person while traveling through Joshua Tree.
Closest resort: The Club at Big Bear Village—2 hours 23 minutes away
Grand Canyon National Park
Out west there is a spectacle so immensely deep it can only be called grand. The Grand Canyon is the 15th oldest National Park in the United States and is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Located in the Arizona desert, this naturally created marvel is 277 river miles long, 18 miles wide and 1 mile deep. It also covers an astonishing 1,217,262 acres.
With all that area, it’s not surprising there’s a lot to do. Grand Canyon National Park offers guided tours, mule trips, North and South Rim exploration, river trips and art exhibits. You can even listen to messages from a ranger on your cell phone. For a truly unforgettable experience, step out onto the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The horseshoe-shaped glass enclosure juts out past the canyon walls and is suspended 4,000 feet above the riverbed, overlooking Eagle Point. Every year, approximately 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon—you can, too.
Closest resort: Cibola Vista Resort and Spa—3 hours 10 minutes away
Many of the above resorts near national parks are part of our seven-day Explorer offer. Stay at a resort and explore the closest national park to your heart’s content!
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