On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service turns 100!

You’ve rented an affordable van or SUV from PHOENIX DISCOUNT Van & SUV Rental to take the family on a road trip.  But where to go?  In honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, why not visit one of our nearby National Parks?  We have three outstanding choices right here in Arizona:

Grand Canyon

With a fantastic visitor center, ranger programs, walking, hiking, and even mule trips, learn about the nature, science, history and culture of this beautiful canyon.  And South Rim Shuttle Buses are free: No need to drive around in traffic, park your car and ride shuttles around South Rim Village and out to the scenic overlooks.

From Phoenix, without traffic, using Interstate 17, it takes roughly four hours to reach the South Rim Visitor Center.

Petrified Forest

Whether you want to learn about fossil excavation, backpack at twilight, watch artists in residence be inspired by the breathtaking beauty the petrified wood, or just enjoy the scenic vistas, Petrified Forest is full of treasures waiting to be discovered.  Take a backcountry hike into areas never open before such as Red Basin and little known areas like the Martha’s Butte.

There are two nice routes to the Petrified Forest from Phoenix.  Depending on which route you choose, State Route 87 or Interstate 17, the travel time from Phoenix is roughly four hours.


Saguaro National Park is home to one of the world’s most majestic plants – the Saguaro Cactus.  The glorious Saguaro Cactus can live for 175 years and weigh more than 16,000 pounds! Saguaro National Park has an eastern district and a western district, separated by the city of Tucson, and each district has a variety of ranger led, guided programs. Take the family on a trip they won’t forget.

With no traffic, you can travel from Phoenix to Saguaro National Park in about two hours.

National Parks located in our five neighboring states:


Lassen Volcanic

Must see: Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world.  Bubbling mud pots.  Pools of boiling water.  Geothermal area Bumpass Hell.

~14 hours from Phoenix


Must see: Giant redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, living up to 700 years and growing to more than 370 feet.  Rocky beaches.  Sand Dunes.

~16 hours from Phoenix


Must see: Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls.

~11 hours from Phoenix

Death Valley

Must see:  Scotty’s Castle, Leadfield ghost town, 20-mule team wagon display at Harmony Borax Works.  Note:  The highest ambient temperature ever recorded on Earth, 134 degrees, was reached here in 1913

~7 hours from Phoenix


Rocky Mountain

Must see:  Long Peak, Moomaw Glacier, Timberlake Falls, Beaver Creek Visitor Center.  Note:  The Park contains more than 100 peaks that rise above 11,000 feet.

~13.5 hours from Phoenix

Black Canyon of Gunnison

Must see:  2,250 foot high Painted Wall.  The Narrows. North Rim drive.  High Point.  ~10 hours from Phoenix

Mesa Verde

Must see:  900-year-old cliff dwellings.  150-room Long House.  Petroglyphs

~7.5 hours from Phoenix


Great Basin

Must see:  Lehman Caves.  Bristlecone pines.  Lexington Arch.  Wheeler Peak.

~9.5 hours from Phoenix

Lake Mead

Although not technically a National Park, be sure to visit Lake Mead National Recreation Area located in southeastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona.

~4.5 hours from Phoenix to Lake Mead Marina



Must see:  The more than 2,000 sandstone arches, bridges, towers, and other rock formations including Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, Elephant Butte, and Three Gossips.

~8.5 hours from Phoenix

Bryce Canyon

Must see: Erosion-formed hoodoos, Bryce Amphitheater, Yovimpa Point, Rainbow Point.

~7-8 hours from Phoenix

Capitol Reef

Must see:  Waterpocket Fold.  Fruita District. Cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges.

~8 hours from Phoenix


Must see:  Sandstone Monoliths, Rock arches, Slot canyons and Great White throne.

~6.5 – 8 hours from Phoenix

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill that mandated the agency “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Funds go towards providing for public programs and educational programs for the general public and school groups. Park rangers, who are trained in providing walks, talks, and educational programs to the public, commonly staff this area.

The National Park System receives over 280,000,000 visits each year.  Park visitation grew 40 percent between 1980 and 2001.

This article was inspired by Highroads magazine and information was obtained from the National Park Service website:  www.NPS.gov