Want to see Redwood National Park but don’t have the time or money to make the trip? How about Yosemite or Death Valley? Thanks to the graciously, life-improving, expanding Internet, you can now take a stroll through five California national parks right on Google Street View. The Official Google Blog outlines this new step. While seeing these monumental landscapes in person cannot be replicated online, there is something especially majestic about gazing through the Redwoods on your Street View. Perhaps you’ll like the view enough to make the actual trip one day.
National parks hold some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the country, and sometimes even the world. Not only do these destinations make for great hiking, biking and adventure sports, but they also allow you to view one-of-a-kind facets you can’t find anywhere else on the planet.
While Black Canyon of the Gunnison holds the title of being the country’s newest national park, Yellowstone was the world’s first, being established in 1872. Additionally, Sequoia National Park features the world’s largest tree; Great Sand Dunes National Park holds the highest sand dunes in North America; and Death Valley is said to be the hottest, lowest and driest place in the United States.
For a more visual idea of these title-holding national parks, check out the gallery below.
Staring at the enormous sand dunes and unworldly rock formations, I felt fearful of what I was about to do. Of course, Steve was joking. The name actually comes from a mispronuciation by a Belgian priest, Gustavo Le Paige, who thought the landscape looked like Mars, or Marte. Because of the way he spoke, locals believed he said “death,” or muerte.
I found myself here after booking a “Sandboarding in Death Valley + Sunset in Moon Valley” excursion with Atacama Inca Tour. It was during a trip to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, where tour agencies occupy every other storefront. However, this company was the only one I noticed offering this unique combination package. For 12,000 Chilean Pesos (about $25), plus 2,000 $CLP (about $4) to enter Moon Valley, you get transportation, a sandboarding lesson and about two hours of sandboarding, a tour of the Chulacao Caves, which are covered in edible salt, an uphill trek to a viewpoint in Moon Valley to sip Pisco Sour while watching the sunset and a free DVD of the afternoon. The tour also stops at many lookout points, so you’ll be able to get many photos. While Death Valley holds a surreal beauty, Moon Valley has some interesting landscape as well. In fact, the area gets its name due to its resemblance to the moon’s surface.
For a more visual idea of the day, check out the photo gallery below.
Some of the most compelling places are also the harshest. Take this view of the sand dunes of Death Valley, taken by talented photographer John Bruckman. This is the worst part of the Mojave Desert–lower, hotter, and drier than any other spot in the country, yet it has a subtle beauty this image captures so well. With the majority of us living in cities or suburbs, these open, empty spaces call out to us.
They certainly do to me. When I moved from the leafy upstate New York to southern Arizona for university, I discovered what people really mean when they talk about America’s wide open spaces. They set you free, and they can kill you if you’re not prepared, yet somehow their deadliness only adds to the feeling of freedom.
America’s badlands remind us that life can cling to even the bleakest of landscapes, that the empty places can sometimes be those most worth visiting.
Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, and the summer travel season is officially upon us, many travelers will be planning their annual escapes. For more than a few, that will mean a summertime visit to one of America’s national parks, which continue to be favorite destinations amongst travelers everywhere.
With this in mind, REI Adventures, the travel arm of the popular gear stores, has put together a host of great itineraries for travelers looking to visit a national park this year, without having to deal with the hassle of planning for it themselves. The company offers 20 unique trips to some of the best national parks in the U.S. system, including Alaska’s Glacier Bay, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, and more.
While these trips do indeed offer the classic national park experience, such as backpacking the Grand Canyon or kayaking in Yellowstone, there are a number of them that are unique and adventurous. For example, REI offers a four-day cycling tour of Death Valley, as well as backcountry climbing in Joshua Tree. There is even an option for a family-centric trip through Great Smokey Mountains, the most popular national park of them all.
These tours vary in degree of difficulty and scheduled activities, but they all offer a great national park adventure. So instead of stressing over your summertime plans, let REI Adventures take care of all the details for you. Then, when you’re ready to go, you can simply enjoy the trip, while someone else takes care of the rest.
View the full list of available itineraries here.