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Exploring the Parks

Long-Distance Trails For Your Consideration

Since 1966, national scenic and historic trails have been an American priority. They traverse mountains, canyons, forests, and grasslands across the country, crossing creeks and rivers and skirting lakes. These narrow corridors through the wilderness provide recreation and protect historic resources while conserving natural features. There are many physical, emotional, and logistical requirements for these trips, and winter is the perfect season to get in shape and plan for a long walk. Here’s a quick look at a few of these trails to help you plan a trip.

Enjoying Winter And Pondering The Relevancy Of National Parks

How relevant are national parks to the American public? Back in 2014, then-Park Service Director Jon Jarvis raised that question in a conversation, explaining that “the challenges that we’re facing on a variety of fronts are symptoms, to me, of a waning relevancy to the American people.” That comment arose as we discussed Congress’s collective shoulder shrug over issues facing the National Park Service.

Afoot Through History In The Waterpocket Fold

If you pay a visit to any of Utah’s five national parks, much of the time your eyes will be riveted on arches, towers, cliffs and canyons. That’s only natural in places as scenic as these, but in the years that my wife and I have been exploring southern Utah’s park lands, we’ve found it worth our while to learn about their history as well. The signs of human occupancy in the national parks and monuments of the Colorado Plateau are often hidden, but they give important clues to how people have adapted—or failed to adapt—to the rigors of living in this harsh landscape.

Wanderings From Cable Mountain In Zion National Park

I scraped one more item off my Things To Do list a couple of weeks ago. I finally made it to the top of Cable Mountain. If you stand in the parking lot at Weeping Rock or the shuttle stop at Big Bend and look up toward a tall, sheer cliff to the east, you’ll see a square frame pasted to the sky up there. Most people never notice it because it’s awfully small when viewed against the backdrop of red rocks and towering cliffs. But that little thing is part of one of the most fascinating stories in a place full of fascinating stories.

A Walk Through Walnut Canyon National Monument

Just 10 minutes east of Flagstaff, Arizona, on a densely forested plateau, the serpentine chasms of Walnut Canyon long ago gave refuge to hundreds of Native Americans. Occupied from approximately 1100 to 1250 CE, the Sinagua people were experts in growing crops and living in an arid environment. While this national monument might simply be a quick stop for travelers heading to Petrified Forest National Park or Grand Canyon National Park, it deserves a visit unencumbered by a tight timeframe.

Fall Spectacular: What's That Sound? Where To Listen To -- And Look For -- Wildlife in the National Parks

In the fall, animals and birds prepare for winter. Bears eat constantly to fatten up before they slow down. Many birds are already on their migration path. Elk and other ungulates are preparing for the mating ritual, the rut. Take a look -- or stop and listen -- in many national parks this fall and you'll catch a glimpse of this autumnal spectacular.

Fall Spectacular: Great Autumn Hikes in the National Parks

It's hard to beat autumn for prime hiking in parks from coast to coast. This season brings fine weather to most of the country and in many locations fall foliage is an added bonus. There are more hikes in national parks than we can take in a lifetime, so here are a few suggestions for some great ones all across the nation—including some alternatives to the most heavily-visited sites.

Paddling Into The Past On Rainy Lake At Voyageurs National Park

It was a calm and warm mid-September day when my friend Jeff and I put our canoe in the water at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center boat ramp. Jeff is a park ranger at Grand Canyon National Park and I was excited to show him the sites of some of the most interesting historic events that took place on Rainy Lake inside what is now Voyageurs National Park. As we paddled away from the boat ramp the North Woods were in all their splendor. A loon dove under the water no more than 50 yards away and an eagle soared overhead. The very first hint of fall color shone on a few of the scattered aspens on the lakeshore.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide