Waterpocket Fold is Capitol Reef’s hallmark geological feature.
Wonderfully scenic and filled with dramatic and seemingly endless red rock, Utah boasts five national parks within its borders. Least well-known among these is long-and-narrow Capitol Reef National Park found just about smack in the middle of the state.
As is the case with many places in Utah, nineteenth-century Mormon pioneers settled here for a while and then moved on. In their wake, they left behind many remnants. As you drive the short piece of Route 24 that traverses this desert park you will see evidence of the Mormons in the wonderfully preserved one-room schoolhouse and apple and peach orchards that once marked the small Fruita settlement.
Giant saguaro flower in mid-late spring in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, AZ
A national monument can be called into existence by a U.S. president alone. However, only an Act of Congress can create a national park. A good number of our national monuments have been elevated to national park status, including Saguaro National Monument, which Congress made a national park in 1994.
Saguaro National Park is one of only a handful of the 59 national parks that is split into non-contiguous sections. Located in south-central Arizona, the park brackets the sprawling city of Tucson with the Rincon Mountain District in the east and Tucson Mountain District in the west.
Saguaro was established to protect the thousands of giant saguaro cacti that grow there as well as the nugget of pristine desert landscape that still remains.
Deep in the southwest corner of Texas sits the lightly visited, yet fascinating Big Bend National Park.
Situated near the northern end of the vast Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend features more scenic variety than we usually find in a desert park. If you have an appreciation for the innate beauty of the somewhat harsh desert, a photo trip to Big Bend could be for you. Major landforms include the Chisos Mountains and the rugged Sierra del Carmen, but that’s only scratching the surface. Continue reading →
I constantly marvel at the many wonderful features of our far-flung national parks, especially their diversity. Scenic, geographic, topographic and climactic, this never-ending variety means that every one of our parks has its own personality and offers a unique experience.
This is certainly the case with green, hilly and tropical Virgin Islands National Park located entirely on tiny St. John, one of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands. This small archipelago was purchased by President Woodrow Wilson from Denmark in 1917 as a means of preventing Imperial Germany from threatening the Panama Canal or extending its military influence into the Western Hemisphere at the height of World War I. Continue reading →
The bustling, eclectic, urban city of Miami, Florida, with the pulsing rhythms of its day and night life, is not your typical location for a national park. Yet, the southern portion of Miami’s Biscayne Bay is indeed a wonderful tropical wilderness.
Yellowstone, the world’s very first national park and one of the most popular, was established in 1872. Most of us think of it as a place to visit in spring, summer and fall, but certainly not in winter.
Wyoming winters can be brutally cold with great snow accumulations. The Yellowstone Plateau where the park sits averages 8,000 feet of elevation. This high elevation makes the sun more intense and the alpine weather patterns more dynamic and unpredictable.
Sound forbidding? Well, it can be. Indeed, the park was pretty much devoid of wintertime visitors until the advent of specialized cold-weather tourism several years ago. Since the cold is often intense and the snows deep, what’s the point, you might ask? Continue reading →
The island state of Hawaii boasts two national parks. Hawaii Volcanoes is on the Big Island and popular Haleakala National Park, the subject of this column, is found on Maui.
While Haleakala volcano, along with its vast flanks, dominates Maui, Haleakala National Park has just two access areas. The more popular and heavily visited is the slow, winding 38-mile drive up to the summit of the volcano. There, you stand on the very edge of the crater. Haleakala’s 10,000-foot summit is your prime destination for sunrise. The place will likely be crowded with couples wrapped in blankets hastily snatched from their hotel rooms. Continue reading →
The first rays of sunrise strike enormous West Temple in Zion Canyon
In the southwest corner of Utah lies one of our most scenic, accessible and popular national parks, Zion. In my view, Zion is a superlative gem of scenery and fun.
The red rock landforms towering over the canyon of the Virgin River will fill your images with great drama and brilliant color. This deeply eroded high desert plateau is studded with cliffs and buttes, many bearing the Biblical names bestowed upon them by nineteenth-century Mormon settlers.
Zion National Park has three entrances, all leading to different topography and unique compositions. Continue reading →
After searching for new and fresh images on federal lands for more than two decades, I can say that there seems to be two types of national parks: those that are heavily visited and those that are too often overlooked in favor of the big names, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone.
One of the less well-known precious gems is Petrified Forest National Park on the eastern edge of Arizona. Weighing in at about 300 square miles, one can easily drive the single road in this compact national treasure from end-to-end in less than half a day. Ah, but then you would be missing all the fun!
President Theodore Roosevelt invoked the Antiquities Act to create Petrified Forest National Monument in 1906 to protect enormous fossilized trees that have actually been turned into brilliant multicolored stone by some 220 million years of water, heat and pressure. The Petrified Forest became a national park in 1962. The park is a treasure trove of the fossilized bones and remains of dinosaurs and other Triassic creatures—such as the recently discovered skull of a phytosaur named Gumby. A trip here can be a fascinating experience for anyone. Continue reading →
Before the chilly fingers of winter tighten their icy grip and close in on some of the northern national parks, consider a trip to the Rockies. Rocky Mountain National Park is just under two hours from Denver International Airport. The resort town of Estes Park, Colorado, is the perfect gateway to the park, which is known affectionately by many as “Rocky.” With a good choice of lodgings, Estes makes the perfect base for your trip. Wherever you stay, try to save an hour to stroll through the historic Stanley Hotel. Continue reading →