Category: parks

Seven new national parks in Alaska were established on this day in 1980. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act extended varying degrees of protection to over 157 million acres of public lands, doubling the size of the national park system. From ice-covered peaks to turquoise fjords, countless glaciers, forests, tundra, rivers and wildlife were added to the state’s conservation jewels. A lifetime of exploring and a heart the size of Denali are not enough to fully appreciate the wonders found on these lands and waters. Photo of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service.

Known simply as “the Arch,” architect Eero Saarinen’s stainless steel construction dominates the St. Louis skyline. Finished in 1965 and standing 630 feet tall, the Gateway Arch is the tallest memorial in the U.S. and its ingenious elevator design allows visitors to enjoy the incredible view from the top. In 2010, Karen and Matt Smith quit their jobs to embark on a two-year journey to visit all the national parks. “At the time we finished there were 59 parks. We were thrilled when the Gateway Arch was made the 60th national park, and it felt like an honor and a homecoming to return and take our picture in front of the new entrance sign and get the official stamp in our park passports.” Photo courtesy of Karen and Matt Smith.

Waves break under a cotton candy morning sky at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. Spend time listening to the sound of the surf, climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, camp under the stars and find peace of mind in the sunshine at the nation’s first national seashore. With splendid views of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Hatteras National Seashore allows you the beach time you’ve been craving. Photo by Roupen Baker (

Shenandoah National Park rises above the Virginia Piedmont to its east and the Shenandoah Valley to its west. Two peaks, Stony Man and Hawksbill, exceed 4,000 feet. The range of elevation, rocks, soils, precipitation and latitude create a mix of habitats. Tens of thousands of living creatures make their homes in the park, from black bear resting beneath rock overhangs to tiny aquatic insects darting through cool mountain streams. Take your time and explore the deep forests and rugged mountaintops on your next adventure. Photo by National Park Service. 

The sunset paints the sky with complementary colors along the Grapevine Hills Trail leading to Balanced Rock. Big Bend National Park in Texas offers a chance to explore the Chihuahuan Desert while surrounded by the Chisos Mountains. Though a desert landscape, this place is far from deserted, so look for signs of wildlife. Grapevine Hills Trail is an easy walk that turns into a hike leading you up through beautiful boulder arrangements to the iconic Balanced Rock. In the spring, bluebonnets, paintbrush, bi-color mustard, desert marigold, yucca and cacti blossoms add color to the desert landscape. Photo courtesy Matt Smith.

The waterfalls and granite cliffs provide endless wonder at Yosemite National Park in California. With scenery sculpted by glaciers carving and smoothing the mountains, Yosemite’s waterfalls flow over the rock cliffs making a moonbow or “lunar rainbow” possible. In the spring and early summer, if the sky is clear and the moon is full, it can produce enough light to create a rainbow from a waterfall’s mist. Just another reason why Yosemite is a magical place. Pic courtesy of Dave Lyons.  

A true tropical paradise, National Park of American Samoa is the ideal island getaway. Photographer Ian Shive explains “The park is spectacularly beautiful. I was able to walk up the beach alone, without seeing any other people, just the occasional crab climbing out of a hole in the sand.” National Park of American Samoa is really ‘three parks’ on three separate islands–Ta’u, Ofu, and Tutuila in the South Pacific. Relax in the shade, learn about the area’s rich culture, snorkel and see an abundance of fish, and enjoy a walk along the beach. It’s time to recharge. Photo courtesy of Ian Shive.