Are you ready to celebrate? In August, 2016, the National Park Service turns 100, with special events and programs all year long. There has never been a better time to visit our wonderful National Parks, and if you need more convincing, here are 5 amazing reasons to visit your favorite park.
1. Where else can you swim in a caldera formed from a collapsed volcano? When you first set eyes upon the deep blue waters of Crater Lake, you will be mesmerized. Take the path down to Cleetwood Cove, the only access to the water in the park. While the trail is just over a mile each way, it’s rated as strenuous due to the elevation change. If jumping in the cold water does not appeal to you, Cleetwood Cove is also the only place with access to catch the NPS boat tour, which is spectacular and worth the hike. Just remember that the park has a very short summer season, so plan accordingly.
2. The view of the night sky is unlike anything you have ever seen. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, 7 of the 22 darkest parks in the world belong to the National Park Service. These include places like Big Bend National Park in Texas and Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. I’ve seen some amazing night skies at Bryce Canyon, Crater Lake and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, so I can only imagine what the night sky at an official Dark Sky Park must look like.
3. You can be the first to see the sunrise on the east coast of the US. Acadia National Park is a park of firsts: the first Eastern National Park and home to the Cadillac Mountain, which during half the year is the first place to see the sunrise from the east coast. It also has the distinction of being the tallest mountain in the US on the Atlantic Coast. Get there early to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain. Just be sure to allow plenty of time for the drive up and bring jackets and blankets, even in summer.
4. You can stroll through a rainforest without leaving the country. Visit the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula. Take a ranger led tour to learn more about this special place, which gets somewhere between 12 and 14 feet of rain per year! It was one of the highlights on our trip to the Pacific Northwest back in 2010.
5. The scenery is unbelievable. Until you have seen the majesty of places like the Grand Canyon, the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon or the magnificent granite walls at Yosemite, you really don’t understand the grandeur of these parks. There is something so awe inspiring about these special places, especially when combined with deep blue skies, rushing rivers and unworldly landscapes. So make plans to join the centennial celebration and see the reason why these places were protected in the first place.