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Exploring the Parks

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

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide