Planning Your Trip to the Grand Canyon

Planning Your Trip to the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the Earth’s greatest wonders and one of the crown jewels in America’s National Park System. Visiting the Grand Canyon should be part of any traveler’s bucket list. However, visiting the park does take some planning and preparation, especially if you plan on going during the peak tourist season, so Expedia.com asked me to share my insider tips to help you make it your best trip yet.

To get your vacation started, check out all of the Grand Canyon hotel options at Expedia.com.

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Katmai National Park, Alaska

Overview

Brooks Camp is the entry point for most visitors to Katmai National Park
Brooks Camp is the entry point for most visitors to Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park is a national park located near King Salmon in the southern portion of Alaska. This park is most known for the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and the Alaskan brown bears that inhabit the park premises. Since the park was established in 1980, it has averaged total annual visits of more than 37,000. The park is managed by the US National Park Service.

Katmai National Park spans a total land area of more than 4 million acres. The total land area of the park is therefore somewhat similar to the size of Wales. It is also a designated wilderness area. Therefore, all forms of hunting are banned within the park.

Unlike many of the other remote Alaskan national parks, Katmai has a lodge and support services within the park at Brooks Camp. Brooks camp has food and lodging available. Visitors to Brooks Camp have a mandatory bear safety training course which they must go through, given the large number of bears in the park in the summer.

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Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

Overview

Lake Clark National Park is a national park located in South West Alaska, in the Southern Alaska Range and along the Cook Inlet. It is one of 8 National Parks in Alaska and one of 24 National Park Service sites in the state. The entire park measures at 4.03 million acres in land area and is adjacent to the Lake Clark National Preserve. As of 2016, the total number of annual visitors is just over 21,000 per year, making it one of the least visited national parks in the United States. This is primarily due to the fact that there are no roads connecting the part to the outside world. It is only accessible through a small aircraft (such as floatplanes) or via boat.

Lake Clark National Park is an undiscovered gem. It has a mix of mountains, coastal areas, and a large hinterland. It also has an incredible amount of wildlife that only a few other national parks in the US can approach.

Lake Clark National Park

Before it was named a national park, it was a national monument in 1978.
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Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park, Alaska

Overview

Denali national park is the most popular well known national park in Alaska. The showpiece of the park is eponymous Mount Denali, which is the highest mountain in North America. Originally called Mount McKinley National Park, it is a popular trip addition to people going on cruises in SE Alaska. It is a great place to view wildlife. During the 3 days I was in the park, I saw grizzly bears, moose, sheep, and caribou.

Part of the park’s popularity is due to its accessibility. Where many of the parks in Alaska can only be visited by bush plane, Denalis is accessible by both road and rail and lies between Alaska’s two largest cities: Anchorage and Fairbanks.
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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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