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Exploring the Parks

Traveler peels back the layers to help you enjoy your national park experience to the max.

3 Days In Heaven

Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” I prefer to think of Glacier National Park as the Crown Jewel of the National Park System. I was born 24 miles away from this setting of pine-, cedar-, and fir-fragrant forests, rugged mountains, glacial U-shaped valleys, abundant wildlife, flower-filled fields, pristine lakes and trail choices suitable for all walks of life.

Sandy Solitude On Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the traditional start of the summer tourism season. In places like the Four Corners region, it may be the busiest time of the year as people try to visit the national parks before the summer heat arrives. I love the region but I dislike crowds. So, when I found time for a week off at Memorial Day last year, the challenge was clear: could I visit a Southwestern national park without the crowds? As a lover of wilderness, the challenge was even greater: could I find solitude in that park?

Exploring The Parks: Quitobaquito Springs At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

In far south Arizona, so far south that you could cross into Mexico if you wanted, there's an oasis in this prickly Sonoran Desert landscape that has been drawing thirsty travelers for centuries. Protected by Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Quitobaquito Springs has many stories to tell.

Exploring The Parks: A Day At Cumberland Island National Seashore

The two of us recently spent a sunny spring day on Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. Ninety percent of the 30,000-acre island is owned and managed by the National Park Service as a national seashore. This was our fourth visit to the island, but it had been a number of years since we last walked the beach and marveled at the beautiful live oak trees. Early spring is a good time to visit the national seashore that can become uncomfortably hot during the summer months.

Musings From Fort Davis National Historic Site

Every few minutes a bugle call sounded across the empty parade ground at Fort Davis in the rocky hills of west Texas. Every time I heard one, I expected to see John Wayne riding in front of a long column of blue-clad cavalry troopers galloping to rescue me from Apache or Comanche warriors. The morning breeze was gentle and I was the only visitor in sight that early in the morning. It wasn’t hard to let my imagination run for awhile.

Visit The Florida Keys On Your Next Spring Vacation

One of America’s most quintessential road trips often starts by renting a convertible or RV in South Florida and organizing a tropical journey to the southernmost point in the continental United States. Visitors to this island oasis encounter a lifetime’s worth of natural wonders preserved by our State and National Park Services, along with plenty of fun in the sun, eco-adventures, and an opportunity to disconnect from the real world.

The Falling Waters Of Yosemite

An atmospheric river of moisture took aim on California and the High Sierra over the last few months, dumping snowfall in amounts that haven’t been seen in years. While the state’s multi-year drought isn’t entirely over, the Pineapple Express (as the storms raging in over the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii are referred to) has been hammering California with rain and snow.

Lesser Known Parks To Paddle

Has anyone not heard that the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best places on Earth to paddle or float? Or that the New River Gorge National River has one of the best one-day whitewater paddles in the National Park System? If you’ve heard of those, and other iconic paddling spots in the park system, perhaps you are looking for something new, and not so thick with other boats that you’ll slap each other’s paddles. Let us offer you some suggestions, in no specific order.

Exploring Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument By Canoe

As soon as we slid the canoe into the river, the current grabbed it and pulled us towards the first rapid on our 26-mile guided trip down the East Branch of the Penobscot in the heart of Maine’s north woods. Now mid-May, it was the perfect time to run the Stream of Light, as the native Abenaki called it, in part because the black flies weren’t yet biting.

Snow And Solitude Amidst Yosemite's Winter Splendor

There’s one sure-fire way for avoiding the crowds at Yosemite National Park: visit during the winter. Gone until May are the crowds that fill the Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and the Mariposa Grove. You’ll love the freedom from take-a-number tourism, and be mesmerized by the pure, clean, quiet whiteness. It just might seem like you have the place all to yourself.

Western Frontier: Early Forts Regale America's Fur Trade Era

In the early 1800s, following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, a host of scouts, soldiers, trappers and traders began venturing from St. Louis, eager to explore and exploit the natural riches to be found in the wilderness of the West. It was America’s new economic frontier. The expansion of the fur trade would introduce new cultures and trading partners to farsighted business entrepreneurs.

Three Days In Big Bend National Park

Quiet spreads across Big Bend National Park during the winter months, both in the lack of visitors to this grand rumpled slice of parkland in southwestern Texas as well as audibly. Silence pervades the Chihuahuan Desert, both day and night. The wind blows, but it’s felt more than heard. The Chisos Mountains are quiet as well. The cactus and Ocotillo plants look drab and thornier than usual without their brilliant spring blooms to grace and hide the sharp spikes. Cooler temperatures prevail, and occasional snow- or hail-storms punctuate the season.

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