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Exploring the Parks

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

A Monumental Road Trip In Northern Arizona

Cool Ponderosa pine forests, ancient life, and volcanism are all within reach this fall in Arizona’s high country. The gateway town of Flagstaff makes a perfect basecamp to visit four national monuments that protect ancient Native American dwellings and tell the stories of their occupants’ lives. Of course, the Grand Canyon to the north is the main draw for many visitors, but take some time to explore these lesser-known sites as well.

Organ Pipe Cactus: A Sonoran Desert Treasure

The blue fluttering banner was whipping in the hot, dry, desert wind. It was easily spotted above the cactus garden. It did not signal a restricted zone but, rather, salvation. Beneath the flag was a barrel of water, or aqua. Border jumpers heading north from Mexico who couldn’t carry enough water to last through the trek would most likely find this life-saving liquid.

Exploring Kejimkujik National Park Seaside

The ferry pulled out of the Portland, Maine, harbor, turning towards the blue-sky horizon to begin the 6.5-hour journey to Nova Scotia. Though I lived in Maine for most of my life, I had never made the trek to our Canadian cousin to the east, a region home to an impressive history of fishing in the Atlantic Ocean as well as beautiful natural landscapes. My brother, sister, parents, and I would spend the rest of the next day exploring the Nova Scotia coastline, including a major item on my bucket list: Kejimkujik National Park Seaside.

Musings From Craters Of The Moon National Monument And Preserve

I headed up to Idaho to scout out a spot to watch the Great Total Eclipse of the Sun on August 21. Depending upon who you talk to, there is either fear or anxious anticipation about that coming event. Speculation (probably well founded) has it that millions of people will make a mass migration across the country and around the world as a band of blackness shoots across all of America from Oregon to Florida.

Interesting Facts You Didn't Know About Dry Tortugas National Park

Located 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote national parks in the United States. Visitors can only access the park via boat, seaplane, or aboard the official Dry Tortugas National Park ferry, the Yankee Freedom III. As a result, the park boasts some unusual facts that not all park travelers might know.

Photography In The National Parks: Padre Island National Seashore In Early Summer

While on assignment to Padre Island National Seashore for the Traveler, contributing photographer Rebecca Latson compared and contrasted the difference between her early spring visit to this early summer visit. In her latest article, Rebecca offers up those comparisons as well as more photographic tips for you to apply if you decide to visit this national seashore in Texas during the summer.

Exploring The Parks: Valles Caldera National Preserve

New Mexico Highway 4 climbs steadily, sometimes steeply, west out of Los Alamos, through forests scorched by wildfire in recent decades, and over a pass at the top of Bandelier National Monument. The road drops slightly then bursts out of the trees. Spread suddenly before us is a vast grassland, the Valle Grande, in Valles Caldera National Preserve, a recent addition to the national park system. This huge meadow seems the bottom of a bowl and we are on its south rim. Eleven miles to the north is the north rim of the caldera, rising to 10,000 feet. The 87,000-acre National Preserve, established in 2000, was placed under the care of the National Park Service in 2015.

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.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide