Come the end of days, there'll be one thing that states red and blue agree on: our national parks. Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Yellowstone, Acadia, the Everglades ... they are truly the best of America.
We might have invented national parks (hat tip, Ulyssses S. Grant). We might have even perfected them. But we've got competition. And much of it comes from our neighbor to the north. And this year — in honor of Canada's 150th birthday — they're waiving visitor fees to all of their national parks and national reserves.
It couldn't come at a better time for American travelers, who are taking a Zika and terror-induced break from Europe, the Caribbean and farther-flung destinations. (We'll ignore, for the moment, the fact that 91 Americans are killed due to gun violence every day — a figure that dwarfs the 12 victims of the Berlin Christmas market attack.)
Still: Breathtaking national parks you can drive to? Sign us up.
Below, our five top picks.
Auyuittuq National Park
Quite possibly the premium Arctic backpacking experience — hire a guide, head north to Nunavut (during the endless nights of summer) and see wildlife galore, like "seals, walruses, polar bears, narwhals, and beluga whales."
Ivvavik National Park
Come here for the 80-mile trip down the class IV rapids of the Firth River as it makes its way to the Arctic Ocean.
Jasper National Park
A huge, exquisite Rocky Mountain expanse, Jasper is the country's biggest national park, with four seasons of activities, ranging from mountain biking and horseback riding to winter dog-sledding.
Nahanni National Park Reserve
Climbers come to the Northwest Territories to scale the Cirque of Unclimbables, while hikers stick to the less vertiginous but equally poetically named Sunblood Mountain and Secret Lakes.
Thousand Islands National Park
Get out your kayaks: This Ontario park offers infinitesimal coves for secluded, waterside overnights, and all within spitting distance of Montreal and Toronto.
Photo: Ivvavik National Park via Daniel Case