Fantastic Four: US National Parks
Nicola Brady finds four spectacular National Parks in Tennessee, Colorado, Florida Keys and Alaska for your next US trip.
Why: It's difficult to pick just one favourite, as 13pc of Alaska is made up of national parks (that's 54 million acres in total). But Denali (above) is surely a top contender. Six million acres of stark wilderness are split by just one winding road, surrounded by mountain ranges and the highest peak in North America, Mount McKinley. It's the ultimate in pure, unbridled solitude.
Why: Fly to Anchorage via Chicago with United (united.com). Stay at the Denali Park Village from $329/€293.
See: nps.gov/dena, denaliparkvillage.com
Great Smoky Mountains
Where: Sevierville, Tennessee
Why: It's no wonder they've inspired countless country songs. The Great Smoky Mountains roll like water, covered in a thicket of forestry. This is the most visited of all of America's national parks, and home to the highest point of the Appalachian Trail. Get inspired by reading Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, which sees him hike the fabled "AT".
How: Stay at Leconte Lodge from $136/€121pp including meals. Fly to Knoxville via Chicago with Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com).
See: nps.gov/grsm, lecontelodge.com
Dunton Hot Springs
Where: Dunton, Colorado
Why: OK, so it mightn't technically be in a national park, but this Old West retreat is in the heart of the San Juan National Forest, and right by the Mesa Verde National Park. What was a ghost town is now a luxury resort, where you can dip into hot springs either at their source or in the bathhouse. Accommodation is in charmingly chic log cabins.
How: Nightly rates start at $700/€625 for two people, all-inclusive. Fly to Denver via London with American Airlines (aa.com), before a one-hour flight to Cortez.
Where: Florida Keys
Why: Think that National Parks are all vast mountains and expansive deserts? Think again. The Dry Tortugas are made up of seven small islands in the Florida Keys, including Fort Jefferson, which was used as a prison during the Civil War. Nowadays, visitors take to the translucent waters with snorkels to spot turtles, live coral and stingrays. You can even sleep under the stars - though camping spots are limited.
How: Day trips cost $170/€151, camping trips $190/€170. Fly to Miami via Paris with Air France (airfrance.com)
NB: Prices subject to availability/change