Between the UK and the US there are a whopping 69 national parks – plenty to see, plenty to do. Some attractions are common to both countries, others are uniquely different.
Whoever emerges victorious from the UK vs US debate, there’s no denying the strengths of both landscapes, whether we’re talking the 14,650 archaeological sites of the Lake District or the stunning geothermal features of Yellowstone.
And there’s much more to be compared…
America’s Most Wanted
Connoisseurs of the great outdoors know that Yellowstone Park is famous for more than just inspiring Yogi Bear. Free-roaming across two million acres of terrain are such characteristically American fauna as grizzly bears, elk and bison.
You can barely trudge a mile before encountering some gorgeous expression of geography: the 10,243ft summit of Mount Washburn, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, petrified forests (a legacy of the region’s volcanic prehistory), the U-shaped Snake River Plain and some 290 waterfalls.
The best time to go to Yellowstone is summer, not least because temperatures range between 25 and 30C, with nights much cooler, at times freezing if you’re at higher elevations. Watch out for sudden thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Spring is cooler in the daytime, but there’s always a risk of heavy snowfall, so come properly equipped and dressed.
The average 150 inches per year of snow typically falls in the winter months, adding an extra dimension of beauty to the mountains and valleys.
Take a Hike
Yellowstone is backcountry hiker’s heaven. There are eight rewarding trails in the Mammoth Hot Springs region alone, with the 8km Beaver Ponds Loop perhaps the standout. From the trailhead at Liberty Cap, follow the Sepulcher Mountain path before turning into a wondrous plain of aspen meadows and beaver lodges. Look out for deer, mules and waterfowl.
After such a demanding trek you’ll want to get some shuteye. There are a cornucopia of accommodation options in and around Yellowstone.
The Best of British
Celebrated by the first generation of British Romantic poets, the Lake District (885 square miles) remains the country’s best-loved national park. Smooth, glassy lakes compete for your attention with rolling agricultural land, ancient buildings and even older forests.
There’s one advantage to the high rainfall (2061 mm per year) in these parts: glorious woodland rich and green with Atlantic liverworts, lichen and ferns.
Cumbria will give you the solid base you need to explore from; outside of the Spring and Summer, only the hardiest of traveller – and committed camper – sleeps out under the stars!
Walking with Wainwright
Walking in the Lake District you’re sure to hear the name Wainwright. Made famous by his detailed hand-drawn route maps, his is the difinitive route through ‘the lakes’.
From ghyll scrambling and walking across lowland pastures, to the confidence testing Striding Edge, there are challenges here for all-comers. Favourites include ‘The Old Man of Coniston’ and ridge walks around the head of Haweswater. For routes less frequented head west to Eksdale and the moody Wastwater – the deepest of all the lakes.