In the recession, international air travel is down and national park attendance is way up. Forbes runs down the crème de la crème of America’s national treasures, but be warned: “It's been incredibly hard to get camping space at most national parks,” one travel agent says.
- Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii: Home to Mt. Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world. The park is "an exhilarating up-close crash course in the forces that shape the earth's profile," one travel author raves.
- Denali National Park, Alaska: Sure, it boasts Denali, the tallest peak in the US, but the real draw is animal life. "Botswana is always wonderful," says the author, "but for the American safari, head to Denali."
- Zion National Park, Utah: This "riot of rugged scrubland" got the most votes from Forbes' panel. "The narrow canyons are phenomenal—the colors astounding," a travel expert says.
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tenn. and NC: The huge expanse is the most popular in the US by visitors, and the old-growth forests are "breathtaking any time of year," the travel author says.
- Acadia National Park, Maine: Once the playground of the Northeast's millionaires, cycling and fishing are now popular at the seaside wonder.
- National Mall, Washington: Yup, the stretch of green and the reflecting pool between the Capitol and the Potomac are in a national park. "It is Washington's—and therefore America's—backyard," the author says.
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