Featured Articles on National Parks Traveler
Fall, that lofty season when Eastern hardwood forests don foliages red, gold, and orange, lures us like motorized lemmings into national parks to admire nature’s wizardry. We inch along, practically bumper to bumper at times, to be dazzled in a final seasonal hurrah before the paint-by-number leaves are shed and winter’s first squalls convince us that being inside really isn’t such a bad thing.
Wonderment and joy unfold in the national parks come fall when the wild kingdom becomes more visible, literally voicing the call of the wild in parks such as Great Smoky Mountains or Rocky Mountain or winging overhead in any number of parks.
What better way to end a fall day of hiking in Glacier National Park than to enter the Many Glacier Hotel and settle comfortably into one of the armchairs before the cracklin’ fireplace in the hotel lobby? Along with the popping wood and flickering flames, the soft smell of wood smoke mingles with the steam wafting from your hot chocolate, Irish coffee, or hot tea.
While Acadia, Shenandoah, and Great Smoky Mountains national parks often get the main billing for fall color drives, there are other nooks and crannies in the National Park System that will surprise you with their colors. Here are a handful of fall foliage eye catchers In the parks.
There is a magical quality to fall visits to Shenandoah National Park as mile after mile of trees blazing with vivid reds, oranges, and yellows come into view along Skyline Drive. In Rocky Mountain National Park, the aspen groves you see along the lower reaches of Trail Ridge Road turn so vividly gold in the fall that they take your breath away.
It’s after a soft, pattering rain, with the clouds clearing and the sun streaming through, that the essence of the Western landscape rises up. The pungent scent of sagebrush is wicked up by the moist air, mingling with the sweet aroma of pine.
For many, fall is the most sublime of seasons in the National Park System. Forests are cloaked in their autumnal best, wildlife is on the move and readily visible, crisp temperatures are perfect for hikes and bugs are gone. You can even smell the season, both in the moldering leaves and the woodsmoke curling above cabins.
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.