Check Out The National Parks We Explored In 2012

Part of the fun of the National Park System is exploring the various units to see what they have to offer. Here's a look at parks the Traveler "explored" in 2012.

Exploring the Parks: Haleakala National Park

Ever thrive to experience a new adventure? Where better to do so than on a gorgeous Hawaiian island?

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Exploring the Parks: Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Trail of Tears National HIstoric Trails tells an unpleasant chapter of U.S. history.

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The New River Gorge cut by its namesake river. NPS photo.

Exploring the Parks: New River Gorge National River

Follow the country roads south through West Virginia and you'll come upon the New River Gorge National River. As one of the oldest rivers on the continent, this white-water river that cuts through the Mountain State offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunity for people of all ages.

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Exploring the Parks: Natural Bridges National Monument

Once upon a time not so long ago, all roads leading to Natural Bridges National Monument were dirt. Only the hardiest of visitors ventured out here. But now the roads are firmly paved and it’s a sort of main route between Lake Powell and points north down toward Monument Valley and Four Corners.

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Exploring the Parks: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Standing above the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Harpers Ferry holds a pivotal vantage point in the country's history, one with surprisingly deep roots.

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Exploring the Parks: St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is one of those special places in nature that doesn’t have an optimal season; whenever you choose to go, is a good time to go.

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Exploring Dinosaur National Monument Via The Green River

If you ever sat down to list the units of the National Park System that are misunderstood and under-appreciated, Dinosaur National Monument would be near the top. That realization can't be ignored if you've ever floated either the Yampa or Green rivers that cleave into and expose the underbelly of Dinosaur.

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George Catlin, who traveled the West in the early 19th century, captured this setting of the Hidatsa village along the Knife River in 1810.

Exploring the Parks: Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

Overlooking the Knife River not far from its confluence with the Missouri, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site today preserves vestiges of what 200 years ago was the heart of Northern Plains tribal trade.

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Exploring Grand Teton National Park With Insider Tips From the Grand Teton National Park Foundation

No photograph can truly capture the razor-sharp way Wyoming’s Teton Range soars above the Jackson Hole Valley—but here's a guide to capturing it on a visit with tips from Grand Teton National Park Foundation.

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Exploring Glacier National Park With Insider Tips From The Glacier Fund

Tucked far north in Montana, hard against the Canadian border, Glacier National Park is a rumpled and craggy masterpiece. Within the park’s 1 million acres rise rustling aspen glades, stands of an unusual evergreen—larch—that loses its needles in winter, even a temperate rainforest of Pacific red cedars, hemlocks and Pacific yew. This is the kingdom of grizzlies and wolves, wolverines and lynx, species that for many exist only in books, magazines, and nature documentaries.

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Exploring the Parks: Joshua Tree National Park

Don't let Africanized bees discourage you from visiting Joshua Tree National Park.

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Exploring the Parks: Harry S Truman National Historic Site

The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site must be one of the most entertaining historic places in the National Park System. It shows Harry and Bess' life before and after his presidency.

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A reclined kokopelli is an unusual sight in Canyon de Chelly. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Exploring the Parks: Canyon De Chelly National Monument

As Perry Yazzie worked the Jeep's clutch to negotiate the dips in the track, the clutch complained loudly, gnashing its metal teeth in a sign of the many years the rig has hauled visitors into Canyon de Chelly.

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Exploring the Parks: Brown V. Board Of Education National Historic Site

Brown V. Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas, is a pivotal part of modern history. Exhibits in the elementary school interpret the significance of the 1954 Supreme Court ruling.

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Exploring the Parks: Pipe Spring National Monument

A tiny waystation in Arizona took hold thanks to its precious commodity -- water. Today, visitors to Pipe Spring National Monument can explore the wondrous history of this place that dates to 300 B.C.

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Discriminating Explorer: Two Incredible National Parks, One Great Town

Sunlight so bright it stains the rocks? It certainly seems so in the red-rock country of southeastern Utah, where Arches and Canyonlands national parks dazzle with both their scenery and their adventures.

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Discriminating Explorer: Enjoy Western National Parks With Tips From Friends Groups

August is on the run, but that doesn't mean the time to get the most out of your favorite national park in the western part of the country has passed by. Take the following tips from friends groups in Big Bend, Glacier, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone national parks to heart and you'll create years of memories.

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Bass Harbor Light at first light. Photo by Michael Rickard.

Discriminating Explorer: Friends Groups Sample The Secrets Of The East's Best Parks

It’s hard to argue that Acadia, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smokies, and Shenandoah don’t represent the cream of what the National Park Service offers in Eastern America. There are a lot of great experiences in these top East Coast national parks, but for the truly discriminating explorer, the friends groups for these parks have truly awesome best-kept-secret suggestions.

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Fort Monroe: A New National Monument Has A Rich Past And A Potentially Complex Future

Fort Monroe, Virginia, our newest national monument—is the largest stone and masonry fort in the United States. But this site embodies much more than just a look back at coastal fortifications. Fort Monroe's pivotal military and even cultural significance reaches back centuries before the United States and forward as recently as last year.

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Discriminating Explorer: Riding The Rails To Canada's Banff And Jasper National Parks

There are great national park train trips all over the world—and one of the best is riding the rails to Canada’s Banff and Jasper National Parks. Swaying through the Canadian Rockies is as good as it gets—and on the Rocky Mountaineer, the setting, service, and food are first-class. Lesser cost options make these parks a not-to-be-missed world-class experience.

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Discriminating Explorer: Memorial Day Meander, The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail In North Carolina And Tennessee

The 330-mile Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail—Eastern America’s first NHT—isn't just a motor trip. On this Memorial Day meander in Western NC and East TN, you can hike the actual colonial roads that felt the tread of patriot militia. Or plan for fall, during the anniversary of the October 7, 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain.

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A spectacular first cup of coffee view of the Smokies from a cabin at The Swag.

Discriminating Explorer: Appalachian Spring

The Blue Ridge Parkway, between Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks, is a prime venue to a secret season—the explosive beauty and bounty of Appalachian Spring.

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Discriminating Explorer: Visiting Glacier Bay National Park Via Mothership

As our kayaks bobbed on the currents of Fingers Bay, a multi-fingered bight in Glacier Bay, we listened quietly for the tell-tale whoosh of the humpback spouting. We had seen it earlier as we neared the mouth of the smaller bay, and watched as the whale circled the bay, its wispy froth marking its progress.

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Discriminating Explorer: Dining Your Way Across Glacier Bay National Park

Shiny silver on the outside, the cauldron's contents were a delicious contrast of bright orange. With carapaces large as dinner plates and legs and claws folded to their sides, the Dungeness crabs were freshly steamed and stacked high. Dinner on the Sea Wolf was served.

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