Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska

Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska

Overview

Gates of the Arctic National Park is one of 2 national parks located above the Arctic Circle, and one of 8 national parks in Alaska. Like Kobuk Valley National Park, there are no roads leading to the park. The only way in or out is on foot, via a river, or by bush plane. The park itself is a wilderness area, with no maintained trails, campsites, or visitor centers within the park boundaries. The only visitor centers are located outside the park in Bettles, Anaktuvuk Pass, Coldfoot, and Fairbanks. (Anaktuvuk Pass is technically a native community located inside the park.)

The Dalton Highway does run along the eastern boundary of the park, and at places, it is only a few miles from the park boundary. From here it is possible to walk from the road to the park, but there are no trails.

Annual estimates of visitors are inflated due to counting people visiting the visitor centers, and people flying in and out of Anaktuvuk Pass. Estimates are usually given at over 12,000, but in reality, the number of visitors stepping foot inside the park is probably less than 800.

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Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Overview

Kobuk Valley National Park is the most remote and least visited national park in the US National Park System. Official numbers claim that the park gets about 10,000 visitors per year, but this estimate includes native people who enter the park. The number of actual visitors to the park is probably less than 200 per year, as the only way into the park is by float plane. There is no official entrance to the park, so it is impossible to keep accurate visitor statistics.

The entire park is a wilderness area. There are no visitors centers, trails, campsites or signs anywhere inside the park. If you want to take a photo of yourself with a park sign (see above) you will have to fly the sign in yourself. The official visitor center for the park is located in Kotzebue, Alaska.

The heart of the park is the Kobuk sand dunes, which are the northernmost sand dunes in the world. Given their ability to reflect heat, temperatures in the summer can often reach 100F (38C) on the dunes, even though it is located above the Arctic Circle.

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Overview

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular parks in the US National Park System, due to is close proximity to the city of Denver. It is a great representation of the Rocky Mountain ecosystem which can be found throughout much of Western Colorado. Getting to the park is very straightforward. The gateway to the park is the town of Estes Park, which is one of the first mountain towns you encounter. It is about a 90-minute drive from the Denver International Airport or from Downtown Denver.

Rocky Mountain National Park was one of the earliest national parks established President Woodrow Wilson in 1915.
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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Overview

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is a national park near Alamosa, Colorado and is one of 13 National Park Service sites in Colorado. The park covers 149,028 acres of land area and was established as a National Monument in 1932 by President Herbert Hoover, and was upgraded to National Park status in September 2004. Since then, it has reached an average of less than 400,000 tourist visits per year. The Great Sand Dunes National Park was established to conserve the sand dunes on the eastern edge of San Luis Valley which are the largest in North America.

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, also known as the Black Canyon National Park, is a national park in Montrose, Colorado. It is managed by the US National Park Service since it was established as a national monument in 1933. It was later upgraded to national park status in 1999. The entire park spans a total land area of 30,750 acres. Meanwhile, it has an annual tourist visit of over 238,000 (as of 2016).

The area covered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park includes the deepest and most dramatic part of the canyon in the area. This canyon continues to travel upstream towards the Curecanti National Recreation Area until it merges into the Gunnison George National Conservation Area. The canyon is named after the fact that the depth of the canyon means that it only gets up to 33 minutes of sunlight per day. While there are many other canyons in the US that are known for their depth, this one is unique as it comes to the narrowness and darkness to its quality.
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The Arid Trails of Big Bend National Park

The Arid Trails of Big Bend National Park

As I close in on my quest to visit every National Park in the United States, there are still a few I have yet to visit. Today’s guest, Kay Rodriguez, gives us a taste of one of the lesser visited national parks in the US: Big Bend National Park, Texas.


Everyone knows the stereotypes about Texas. The endless, dusty roads littered with tumbleweeds and the scrap metal remains of industrial vehicles. The decaying buildings and ghost towns covered in reddish-brown soot.

Nothingness. Lots of empty nothingness.

In the middle of those dusty roads, on the border of the United States and Mexico, is a breathtaking outcropping of mountains, canyons, and the famed Rio Grande. Perhaps the Texas stereotypes prove true somewhere, but Big Bend National Park is a different story.

Arid landscape of Big Bend National Park
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Treking in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan

Treking in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan

Today’s post is by Joan Torres, who is writing about the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. I was in Tajikistan in 2016 but I didn’t make it to the Pamir Mountains. I know several people who have visited, and from everything I’ve heard, it is an amazing place.


At almost 5,000 meters (16400 feet) above sea level, we finally reached the Gumbezkul Pass, where we were blessed with a 360º view of the Pamir range, surrounded by tens of peaks, which I am pretty sure, they were all above 6,500 meters (21,000 feet).

The Pamir range was like we had read in books: a deep feeling of remoteness, solitude and strikingly sharp mountains. The frozen wind was blowing extremely hard and we had not seen a single soul on the whole trek, besides the occasional nomadic camp and herds of Pamir yaks. There were no signs of vegetation and, at the end of August, all you could see were snow-capped, gray mountains.

It was simply beautiful and not only because of all those gorgeous peaks but also, because of the strong symbolism which, for centuries, the Pamir Mountains have carried. Home to some of the most off the beaten track nomadic camps in Central Asia, these trails had been an important part of the Silk Road, which can be seen in the numerous fortresses and Buddha carvings in what is today a Muslim country.

Trekking the Pamir plateau is the ultimate adventure and a destination only suitable for the most adventurous travelers.
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