National Parks We Explored During 2013

So many parks, so few months in a year. Still, the National Parks Traveler staff and contributors managed to reach a fair number of parks in 2013 and returned home with the following stories.

Exploring The Parks: Big Bend National Park In December

Happy Holidays, everybody! It’s almost the end of the year and after digging up some extra vacation days from beneath the couch cushions, I decided to take a mid-December road trip to Big Bend National Park. My home base there was the Chisos Mountains Lodge, where I spent four days and five nights.

Read the rest of the story by Rebecca Latson

Exploring the Parks: Up And In The Mounds In Ocmulgee National Monument

Ocmulgee National Monument, in Macon, Georgia, protects earth mounds from the Mississippian Period. The Earth Lodge Mound still has the original floor from more than a thousand years ago. The surrounding grounds offer a relaxing, easy, place to walk while you're exploring the monument.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring The Parks: Andersonville National Historic Site--A Sad History

Andersonville National Historic Site is a sad reminder of the Civil War. It's so well interpreted, it's been called the South's Holocaust Museum.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

After 125 Years, Pinnacles National Monument Becomes The Nation’s Newest 'National Park'

Pinnacles National Park took 125 years to become the nation’s newest designated parkland. But it took immensely longer for the mountains to arrive at the present location 40 miles southeast of Salinas, California.

Read the rest of the story by George Oxford Miller

Exploring The Parks: Tracing LBJ's Footsteps

A visit to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park allows a person to understand why our 36th U.S. president chose to return and spend the remainder of his life in the Hill Country of Texas following his five-year term in the White House.

Read the rest of the story by David and Kay Scott

Exploring The Parks: George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

On a warm, early fall day with brilliant sunshine and the Wabash River glistening as it flowed past the large limestone and granite building that locals affectionately call “The Memorial,” I stopped to visit George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.

Read the rest of the story by Dr. Patricia Owens

Exploring The Parks: Seeing Zion National Park From A Different Perspective

Nearly 3 million visitors explored Zion National Park last year...but they saw only a fraction of it.

Read the rest of the story by Kurt Repanshek

Wake Nicodemus!

In 1877, a group of African-Americans arrived in northwestern Kansas. They had left Kentucky to escape the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and increased repression of blacks throughout the South. Expecting conditions to get much worse with the end of Reconstruction, they decided to make a new home on the western plains. They settled in a place they called Nicodemus.

Read the rest of the story by Bob Pahre

Musings From Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

I’m sitting on the shore of Lake Superior just looking across the water from the mainland of northern Wisconsin toward Madeline Island, one of 22 islands that comprise the Apostle Islands. A parade of sailboats works upwind across the water and I’m breathing air so fresh it still has labels attached. I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning. With regrets.

Read the rest of the story by Lee Dalton

A Duo Of Dunes: Indiana Dunes And Sleeping Bear Dunes

They share the same lake waters, but you can spot the differences between Indiana Dunes and Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshores.

Read the rest of the story by Bob Pahre

Exploring The Parks: Yellowstone National Park By Canoe

Ahab had his white whale, Moby-Dick, which drove him to his death. I had the Common Loon, a fish-loving, deep-diving waterfowl that mocked me with its tremolo call as I stood on the shore of Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone National Park.

Read the rest of the story by Kurt Repanshek

Musings From AirVenture National Park

Haven't heard of AirVenture National Park? Well sit back and let Lee Dalton tell you all about it.

Read the rest of the story by Lee Dalton

Exploring The Parks: Brooks Lodge And The Bears Of Katmai National Park

Last month I joined up with Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris for a tour to photograph the coastal brown bears (Ursus arctos) of Katmai National Park, Alaska. It was an experience of a lifetime for me and one I so enjoyed that I am hoping to return in 2014.

Read the rest of the story by Rebecca Latson

A Sampling Of Canada's Maritime Provinces Parks: Cape Breton Highlands National Park

It was a stellar blue-skies mid-summer day, and a nice on-shore breeze from the Atlantic made the temperature just about perfect at noon. A short stroll from the road via a section of boardwalk had led me to a prime spot on a rocky outcropping not far above the ocean, where the sound of the waves breaking on the rugged shoreline almost drowned out the raucous cries of gulls circling overhead.

Read the rest of the story by Jim Burnett

A Sampling Of Canada's Maritime Provinces Parks: Fortress Of Louisbourg National Historic Site

The uniformed soldier stood with his shoulders squared and feet firmly planted, blocking our entry into the massive stone fortress. Musket in hand and sword hanging at his side, he issued a challenge in French, then switched to English when it was evident that was our native tongue. Our speech had raised suspicions that perhaps we were spies from the British colonies. Where were we from, what business did we have here?

Read the rest of the story by Jim Burnett

Estes Park, A Great Base Camp For A Rocky Mountain National Park Vacation

Your ascent to Estes Park, the front door to Rocky Mountain National Park, is anything but smooth. Climbing up through Big Thompson Canyon from Loveland, Colorado, you twist, turn, rise and fall with the road as it crawls through the canyon...and marvel at the cyclists pedaling those beastly 34 miles.

Read the rest of the story by Kurt Repanshek

Musings From Pipestone National Monument

They may be separated by a few hundred miles of prairie, but Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota and Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming share parts of a common story. Both hold sacredness for the Indians who once lived and roamed freely across these wide and beautiful lands.

Read the rest of the story by Lee Dalton

Musings From Badlands National Park

Wind never seems to stop blowing at Badlands. But in summer, that’s a good thing because it provides a little relief from the heat.

Read the rest of the story by Lee Dalton

Exploring The Parks: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

One of our newest, and perhaps one of our most unusual, national historic sites is located alongside Interstate 90 in South Dakota just outside the northeast entrance of Badlands National Park.

Read the rest of the story by Lee Dalton

Driving the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park

Driving the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park is a classic introduction to the park. You can navigate it in a few hours, or take the entire day.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Musings From Devils Tower National Monument

One of the first thoughts I had upon rolling through the gate at Devils Tower was that Teddy certainly got it right when he used the Antiquities Act to designate this tall stump of rock as America’s first national monument.

Read the rest of the story by Lee Dalton

Exploring The Parks: Jimmy Carter National Historic Site

The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site tells the story of President Carter's humble rural beginnings and his life after his presidency. Plains, Georgia is also a fun place to visit.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring The Parks: Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site takes up several city blocks in downtown Atlanta. Several buildings, gardens, statues, walkways tell the story of the Civil Rights icon.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring The Parks: City Of Rocks National Reserve

There are hybrid cars, hybrid corn, hybrid cattle, so why not a hybrid park? City of Rocks in south central Idaho is one. City of Rocks National Reserve is part of the national park system, but there are no NPS personnel there.

Read the rest of the story by Lee Dalton

Exploring The Parks: Cape Lookout National Seashore's Historic District

Summer is a perfect time to explore Cape Lookout National Seashore. A visit to the Cape Lookout Village Historic District rewards you with fascinating structures from a bygone era. Located only two miles from the cape's lighthouse, village visitors are almost guaranteed solitude.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring The Parks: Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

President Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached. But there's much more to our 17th president. His story is told well at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville, Tennessee. By the time you finish your visit, you might like the man.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring the Parks: Antietam National Battlefield

Antietam battle was the single bloodiest battle in the Civil War. The landscape, which is the most important artifact, is being protected almost like it was in the 1860s.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring And Camping On Ocracoke Island At Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Ocracoke in Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a jewel on an island with many attractions. If you want to camp on the beach, you should make reservations now.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring The Parks: Charles Pinckey National Historic Site

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, located in a suburb of Charleston, South Carolina, offers a look at lowcountry life in our country's early history. Though modest in size, the site is a treasure-trove of archeological artifacts.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring The Parks: Canaveral National Seashore

Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge show off the best of Florida wetland habitat. Canaveral also may hold the key to the Timucuan Indian culture.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring The Engine House At Golden Spike National Historic Site

Venture into the engine house at Golden Spike National Historic Site and you'll walk into the past, surrounded by steam engines and the men that keep them running.

Read the rest of the story by Lee Dalton

Exploring The National Park System's Underbelly

While white-nose syndrome continues to plague bats in the country's cave systems, there nevertheless are quite a few underground tours you can take in the National Park System, tours that not only will show off these unique resources but also provide education on the disease.

Read the rest of the story by Kurt Repanshek

Exploring Glacier National Park's Jagged Peaks, Mountain Lakes, And Wild Goats Via The Gunsight Pass Trail

We’re just seconds beyond the sign at the start of the Gunsight Pass Trail that reads “Entering Grizzly Country” when Nate, who’s a month shy of his tenth birthday, begins aggressively making the case for why he should be armed.

Read the rest of the story by Michael Lanza

Exploring The Parks: Camping In Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas may be the most remote national park in the east. Once you get there, there's so much to do that you may want to stay overnight.

Read the rest of the story by Danny Bernstein

Exploring The Parks: Grand Canyon National Park, A Winter Wonderland

From our snowy perch on Mather Point on the South Rim, the majestic formations of the Grand Canyon rise from the shadowy abyss below us. The morning sun washing through the canyon breaks the winter chill and saturates the reds, yellows, and oranges of the crests, buttes, and sinuous ridges. Gleaming in the morning’s warm light, the formations morph from distant cardboard cutouts into cosmic monuments and temples.

Read the rest of the story by George Oxford Miller