4 wildly romantic US National Parks

4 wildly romantic US National Parks

Looking for a wild, adventure honeymoon? Look no further than the Stateside national parks. Here is our pick of the most romantic...

Olympic

State: Washington • Area: 3,734 sq km • Created: 1938

Best for… hikes of all types, tidepooling

Why go? This beautiful park (pictured above) is a jack-of-all-trades. It incorporates a diverse range of habitats from the glacier-cloaked highs of the Olympic Mountains to moss-fuzzed temperate rainforest; its wild Washington coast section - separate from the main bulk of the park - is dotted with tidal pools, driftwood and Native American settlements.

The park is encircled by Highway 101 but few roads penetrate far within its boundaries, so you need to explore on foot - there are plenty of day-hike trails as well as tougher backpacking options. Try tramps from the Dosewallips park entrance for spectacular views of Mount Anderson. In the Pacific section, hit the 27km South Coast Wilderness Trail - it involves climbing ladders, fording creeks and waiting out tides, but the pay off is access to some of the park's most impressive shores.

When to go: Open year-round, though some roads and campsites close outside summer months.

Haleakalā

State: Hawaii • Area: 122 sq km • Created: 1916

Best for… stargazing, volcano hiking, local legends

Why go? Haleakalā means 'house of the sun' - according to legend, it was on the top of this giant shield volcano that the demigod Maui captured the sun, letting it go only after it promised to lengthen the day. It certainly feels like the realm of otherworldly beings: the park, located in south-east Maui, comprises a lush coastal section at Kipahulu Valley and the eerie slopes of the 3,055m dormant volcano, a cinder desert of sculptural rocks, crazy colours and hardy native wildlife.

There's a steep road up to the Summit Area, and ranger-led activities can provide more insight. However, the best way to explore is on foot - trails range from 400m ambles to overnight hikes. Wilderness campgrounds and cabins allow you to stay on the volcano - which is a great thing, as the sunrises, sunsets and pollution-free star-gazing are spectacular; even if it's cloudy, you might see rainbows and moonbows. It's about as romantic as it gets…

When to go: Open year-round. Temperatures are fairly constant, but the climate is drier April-October.

American Samoa

Territory: American Samoa • Area: 55 sq km • Created: 1988

Best for… Polynesia, marine life, paradise

Why go? Spanning three south-west Pacific islands (Tutuila, Ofu and Ta'u), the National Park of American Samoa is the only US park that lies south of the equator. The emphasis here is on protecting Polynesian culture as well as the mountainous, volcanic, rainforest-draped, reef-laced, wildlife-rich landscapes.

Access is time-consuming and facilities are limited, but natural wonders are in abundance. For instance, you'll need to bring your own snorkel/dive gear, but the rewards are pristine corals, over 950 species of fish plus whales and green turtles. If you and your partner are looking for a cultural interaction, use the park's homestay programme: sleep in a traditional fale guesthouse, eat Samoan specialties, catch fish and learn to weave mats from pandanus leaves.

When to go: Open year-round. May-September is the driest period. Humpbacks may be seen August-November.

Isle Royale

State: Michigan • Area: 2,314 sq km • Created: 1940

Best for… canoeing, camping, wolves

Why go? The car-less, virtually untouched wilderness of Isle Royale, which floats in the north-west corner of Lake Superior, is officially the least-visited national park of the lower US states. There are a couple of campstores and a lodge, but otherwise this basalt-and-sandstone outcrop is given over to forest, inland lakes, bogs and wildlife. Perfect for a bit of seclusion on your honeymoon.

Just getting here - by boat or seaplane - is half the fun. Exploring is best by canoe or kayak, using the basic campsites en route. The park comprises not just Isle Royale but 450 smaller islands, plus numerous bays and waterways; navigating these reveals secret beaches and coves plus wading moose, otters, ducks and more - it's not uncommon to hear wolves howl.

Those who don't want to paddle can take guided boat trips from Rock Harbor (Jun-Sept). Or head off on a hike: there are short routes, or try the 64km Greenstone Ridge Trail, which follows the island's rugged spine.

When to go: Open 16 April-31 October. Mid-July to mid-August is busiest; mosquitoes are worst June-early July. Fall colours can be impressive.

To read about 17 more of the USA's wildest parks - and for trip planning advice - pick up a copy of the July/August issue of Wanderlust here or call 01753 620426.

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Image courtesy of Marco Crupi/Olympic NP.

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