Discover New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Perhaps one of New Mexico’s most notable attractions, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a haven for outdoor lovers, photography buffs, and cave fanatics of every kind. The vast and wild terrain carved out by ancient sea ledges, displays an expansive landscape in the Chihuahuan Desert with more than 100 underground caves and dozens of rock formations.

Unique Caves Attractions & Rock Formations

Among the most notable sites within Carlsbad Caverns National Park are numerous caves and stalagmites first discovered by Park Ranger, Jim White, when he was just a teenager. Favorites, named by White himself include the Big Room (a 4000 sq foot chamber, known to be the 5th largest chamber in North America), the Queen’s Chamber (a scenic cave with impressive stalagmite formations including a 40-foot tall drapery column), the King’s Palace (known for castle-like formations and the Bashful Elephant), Bottomless Pit (140 foot deep hole), and Green Lake Room (a cave with a bright green lake tinted by copper minerals).

Junior Ranger Programs & Kid-Focused Activities

Although the caves were once difficult to explore for the young of heart, these days elevator access, a Junior Ranger program, and exciting tours make The Carlsbad Caverns National Park a favorite place for explorers of any age.

The park offers a speleothem, matching activity, providing entertainment and educational value for kids and adults alike. The activity helps participants to identify 10 varieties of speleothem, which is a broader term for stalactites and stalagmites formation found in limestone caves. Some fascinating features include formation with funky names like soda straws, cave pearls, boneyards, and popcorn.

Many visitors also enjoy special presentations in the Bat Cave, when evening rangers put a special focus on the Brazilian free-tailed bats who emerge from the Carlsbad Caverns just after sunset. In addition, the after-dark The Bat Flight Program happens at 8pm every night from May through October.

Independent & Ranger-Guided Tours

The Carlsbad Caverns National Park can be explored independently with two main trails, the Big Room Trail (1.25-mile trail that takes about 1.5 hours to walk) and the Natural Entrance Trail (a challenging, steep 1.25 mile which takes about an hour). Or, Park Ranger guided trails (suitable for kids ages 4 and up) include tours to King’s Palace, Slaughter Canyon Cave, Spider Cave, Lower Cave, Hall of the White Giant, and Left Hand Tunnel.

Things to Know Before Visiting

There are a few important things to know, to prepare for a day at the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater, as visiting the park involves a lot of walking and cool temperatures (56ยบ F) inside the caves. Do not bring a stroller or food inside, but do bring plain water, flashlights if desired (caves are dimly lit), and cameras (flash is permitted, tripods are not allowed on guided tours).

On-site Food Spots

Extensive exploring and excitement will inevitably lead to hungry bellies! Eating and drinking (except for plain water) is not allowed inside the cave network, except in designated areas. There are two places to eat inside the park, Carlsbad Caverns Trading Company and the Underground Rest Area. There are many food options within including sandwiches, salad, yogurt, snacks, and made-to-order hot and cold meals. In addition, there is a picnic area at Rattlesnake Springs, about 15 miles from the park’s visitor center. 

Nearby Restaurants

 For those who would like to dine off-site, the nearest options are in White’s City at Cactus Cafe, about 7 miles away. Otherwise, Carlsbad (a 30-minute drive) has many choices including Chili’s Grill & Bar, Buffalo Wild Wings, numerous pizza and drive through spots, plus ample Mexican food restaurants and barbecue places.

For more travel inspiration, check out Scout My Planet to learn about the most beautiful places in the world!

The Natural Phenomenon of Crater Lake National Park

In the beautiful state of Oregon lies the deepest lake in the United States. Right at the height of the Cascade Mountains, Crater Lake National Park creates one of the most beautiful settings in the country that words simply can’t describe. Over 7,000 years ago Crater Lake was formed by a volcanic eruption causing the collapse of one of the mountain peaks. This single event is responsible for the beauty that we enjoy today at Crater Lake. While visiting the park you’ll find so many opportunities for recreation and peaceful rejuvenation.

Enjoy Summer in the Park

Summer at Crater Lake comes a bit later as winter at this altitude has a tendency to linger. July through September is a beautiful time to visit the park though and there is no shortage of wonderful summer activity to enjoy. In the summer months, boat tours are available on the lake. You have to be able to make a short hike to the boat docking area. It is definitely worth the effort though because the volcanic remains left behind and the sheer wonder of a lake on top of a mountain are truly spectacular to see. Beyond the lake itself though, the summer months offer some pretty great hiking and camping opportunities for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

Amazing Winter Activities

Activities in the winter are very abundant at Crater Lake National Park. From ranger-led snowshoeing to snowmobiling or skiing, there’s plenty to do involving snow during the winter months. Keep in mind that because the park receives an average of 43 feet (yes…feet) of snow each year, some roads will be closed and parts of the lake may not be visible due to snowstorms. But lake viewing is still a major attraction for people in the winter months. When it is clear and visible, the beauty of Crater Lake is absolutely astonishing.

Rest and Relax

In the park, itself are two beautiful lodging options with plenty of amenities that offer supreme comfort. The Crater Lake Lodge and The Cabins at Mazama Village offer guests a wonderful overnight experience during the summer season. The park also offers some great restaurants for guests. If you’re looking for fine dining, the restaurant at Crater Lake Lodge will not disappoint. You’ve also got some tasty options at Rim Village Cafe or the Annie Creek Restaurant in Mazama Village. It’s a guarantee that you will not go hungry when you visit Crater Lake State Park.

Unique Experiences Await at Great Basin National Park

Located on over 77,000 acres of some of the most beautiful lands in the Southwest United States lies Great Basin National Park. This jewel of Eastern Nevada is in the desert but is based among the beautiful mountain ranges and forests you would hardly be able to tell. The park has something for everyone with cave exploration, wildlife, hiking and so much more. Founded in 1986, Great Basin National Park is one of the newer parks in the National Park Service. Those that love natural history will have so much to do, they won’t know where to begin!

Tour the Caves

Great Basin National Park is home to the Lehman Caves that date back more than 550 million years! These are limestone caves and there are tours available for those that want to experience this natural wonder. While there is a small fee to take this amazing tour, it is at a very low cost. There are a number of tour options and it’s an opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful mineral formations on earth.

Enjoy Amazing Astronomy

Now a designated International Dark Sky Park, Great Basin National Park offers some of the best astronomy programs in the country. Being an International Dark Sky Park means that the sky is extremely clear and dark, offering a spectacular view of the stars you can’t just see anywhere. You can see multiple planets in our solar system, satellites, and even another galaxy when the sky is clear. The park offers a number of free astronomy events throughout the year as well. On September 26 – 28 the annual Great Basin Astronomy Festival is held in the park. This amazing event features evening as well as daytime astronomy. There’s even a solar telescope where you can observe the sun without damaging your eyes. The festival features many other special events and kids can even earn their “Deep Space Certificate.”

Great Places to Eat and Sleep

Nearby Baker, Nevada is just a few miles from the park and offers a variety of options for a great meal. Before a day at the park, stop by the Magic Bean Coffee cart for a coffee and some quick and tasty breakfast items. The Great Basin Cafe also offers travelers with a number of delicious dishes including some a pretty great selection of barbeque. If you’re looking for a place to stay with a little character and Southwest charm, look no further than the Hidden Canyon Retreat in Baker. Other places like the Stargazer Inn and Kerouac’s Restaurant also in Baker also offer great local charm and fine dining options.

Grand Teton National Park Brings the Wow Factor

Lovers of hiking, canoeing, fishing and all opportunities of the great outdoors will love a trip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Known the world over for their beauty and majesty, this rich landscape has been the source of countless literary and musical works. The history of the area is quite evident and offers park visitors with a glimpse of the past by hiking a historic trail used by fur trappers or photographing an old pioneer homestead.

Great Boating Opportunities

Grand Teton offers a lot of different opportunities besides mountain climbing and hiking. The park has a number of lakes that are perfect for boating activities. Whether you want to take a small boat out to fish on Jenny Lake or you’d like to try some water skiing or windsurfing on Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park can accommodate. There are fees to access the lakes with your boat, so stop by a Ranger Station for more details. The Snake River also offers some great canoeing opportunities as well as wonderful fishing.

Enjoy Some Great Winter Activities

The park isn’t just a three-season kind of place. Winter is also a wonderful time to take advantage of Grand Teton National Park. With some of the best snowmobiling, skiing and snowshoeing conditions in this part of the United States, that are all kinds of reasons to bring the family during the winter months. Many of the winter activities are guided by park staff and are available free or at a very low cost (nominal fee for snowshoe rental.) Don’t forget that photographers find Grand Teton to be the perfect setting in both the winter and summer months.

Excellent Lodging and Restaurants

While not all national parks have lodging and restaurants, Grand Teton National Park is much different. Within the park, there are a number of great places to eat and stay. Most lodges and restaurants are open seasonally so make sure you check ahead of your trip. The Triangle X Ranch is a particularly great destination that is also open during the peak winter season. If you’re visiting for the day and you are looking for a great meal, check out the Mural Room at the Jackson Lake Lodge which will offer an amazing menu and a pretty great view to match!

Experience the Beauty of the Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great Sand Dunes National Park of Colorado has been a natural beauty that’s awed humans for over 11,000 years. A sacred place to the Navajo people, the Great Sand Dunes National Park holds not only significant ecological and environmental value but also significant cultural value as well. After centuries of conflict between colonists and the Native Americans, the Great Sand Dunes eventually became a National Park in the 1930s in a bid to protect its natural wonders from mining companies.

The Diverse Beauty of the Park

The Great Sand Dunes National Park has a large variety of flora and fauna which sets it apart from other nature preserves. Not only does the park have the tallest sand dunes in America, but the park also sports a large variety of landscapes to hike on and sightsee. From forests to wetlands, lakes to tundra, the Great Sand Dunes National Park allows visitors to experience a diverse slice of the natural beauty of the world.

An Abundance of Experiences

With the wide variety of landscapes available to explore in the park, there are just as many different things to do there. You can take a guided tour through tourist favorites like the Great Sand Dunes themselves or go sandboarding or sand sledding down those sand dunes. If you’re an active person, you can hike up challenging hills or try the family-friendly trails. Finally, you can finish the day and cool off with a refreshing swim at Medano Creek.

The Lone Oasis

There’s only one restaurant that’s located inside the park, so would-be visitors should plan their trip around that fact. That single restaurant in the park, the Oasis Restaurant and Store, is the most popular place for tourists to mingle and shop. There are other restaurants located more than 25 miles away from the park so plan ahead.

Walk Among the Largest Trees in the World at Sequoia National Park

Everything may be bigger in Texas, but one thing that isn’t bigger is the trees. Indeed, the largest trees in the world rest humbly at Sequoia National Park in California. In fact, were it not for the size of those magnificent Sequoia trees, the park wouldn’t have been created at all. In the late 1890s, President Benjamin Harrison did just that by ordering the U.S. Army to protect the Sequoia trees from logging companies. For the first time ever, a National Park was created just to protect a living organism, the giant Sequoia trees.

The Land of Giants

The giant Sequoia trees that give the park its namesake are the main reason why visitors flock to Sequoia National Park and rightfully so. One of the most popular trees to look at is the General Sherman Tree, the largest living tree in the entire world. Another popular area in the park is the Giant Grove, which visitors can take a tour through to see all the giant Sequoia trees that President Harrison wanted to protect over 100 years ago.

A Land of Activities

Although Sequoia National Park is most well known for its giant Sequoia trees, the park is so vast that there are many other things you can do there. Hiking through the different trails or camping at the various campsites are very popular options, though campers are advised to store their food properly to avoid attracting bears. In the winter seasons, skiing and playing in the snow are also popular options for families. Finally, climbing up the various hills and mountains or exploring the several different caves are great activities for the more adventurous visitors.

Food and Lodging

Sequoia National Park, despite being mostly wilderness, actually has a lot of restaurants and lodging options available to visitors. The Giant Grove Restaurant is the most popular place to dine as it’s open year round and serves all sorts of local and fresh food no matter what you’re craving. There are other options available at Sequoia National Park as well, ranging from a buffet to a local deli.

Embark on a Trip to Channel Islands National Park

Not far from the coast of California is the Channel Islands National Park, a park that hosts some of the most charming and fascinating islands in the country. The long history of the islands spans thousands of years from when it was first settled by Native Americans all the way to when it was designated as a National Monument and then, a National Park.

The Islands

There are many islands that are a part of Channel Islands National Park and each and every one of them are stunning places to visit. For example, San Miguel Island has some spectacular beaches and is also the home to a lot of exquisite wildlife. Santa Cruz Island is home to a lot of historical buildings as well as stunning seaside cliffs. Santa Barbara Island is a diverse and gorgeous place with tall mesas in the interior and a lot of grasslands by the sea where the island’s wildlife live and breed. While not an island itself, another popular place to visit within the park is the open ocean itself. Boat tours that will take you whale watching around the islands are available and are a very popular thing for visitors to do.

Activities on the Islands

Depending on which island you’re on, there are a lot of different things you can do during your visit to Channel Islands National Park. Anacapa Island has a beautiful lighthouse that you can visit as well as hiking trails that you can take a tour through. Santa Cruz Island has some great spaces for camping, however, the western half of the island does not permit any camping. Every island also provides an opportunity to watch seals and sea lions rest and relax on the beaches and coasts. And of course, swimming and snorkeling in the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific Ocean are also popular activities to do on any of the islands.

Food and Lodging

Channel Islands National Park does not have any restaurants or lodging options and all food and water must be carried with you when you visit the park. Boats with snacks and drinks are nearby but by and large, visitors will have to bring their own supplies when visiting the islands.

Prepare to Set Sail to Dry Tortugas National Park

There are few places in the Americas where you’ll get to see both the natural beauty of the world as well as the innovative creations of humanity in the same location, but Dry Tortugas National Park is one such place. Located many miles away from the coast of Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park has a long and lurid history. The cornerstone of the park, Fort Jefferson, was built in the mid-1800s but was never completed, yet it still stands today as a testament to the importance of the islands that form Dry Tortugas National Park.

The Beauty of Dry Tortugas

Fort Jefferson is the most popular attraction in Dry Tortugas and rightfully so as it is the largest brick fort in the entire United States. Not only is it a sight to behold in person, but the fort’s long history is also something that many visitors and tourists will yearn to learn more about when they tour the fort. But Fort Jefferson is not the only thing that Dry Tortugas has to offer. The majority of Dry Tortugas National Park isn’t dry at all and is actually in the water. The vast and beautiful ocean that surrounds the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park is also a very popular reason to visit the park.

Popular Activities

Other than touring Fort Jefferson, no visit to Dry Tortugas National Park is complete without observing the ocean that it protects. Some of the many things to do include diving to see old shipwrecks, watching the beautiful sea turtles that nest at Dry Tortugas National Park, or just being in awe at the vibrant and natural beauty of the park’s coral reefs. There are also of course more dry options such as camping at Garden Key or enjoying some of the warm and captivating beaches of the islands.

Accommodations

Because of how isolated Dry Tortugas National Park is, there are no lodging or restaurants in the park. All food and water that is available to visitors are on the ferry that brings them from the mainland to the park. For campers, you are allowed to go fishing for food, but it’s highly recommended you stock up on supplies before going camping there.

Honor a Great President at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

There may be no President who has been as strong of a conservationist as Teddy Roosevelt. An avid outdoorsman, Teddy Roosevelt carried his love for the beauty of nature with him when he became President. Among many other great achievements, President Teddy Roosevelt protected wide swaths of land by creating National Parks and National Monuments around them. It is fitting then that a National Park was created in his honor many years later, and that park is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. 

The President’s Visit

Teddy Roosevelt visited the area that would turn into the park in 1883 for a big game hunting expedition. His experience in North Dakota changed him so much that he would go on to become the conservationist history remembers him as. Theodore Roosevelt National Park still has the big game that the President hunted, though nowadays they are not close to extinction anymore. There are many tours that will take you and your family to see all the beautiful and moving scenery and wildlife that Teddy Roosevelt saw when he first visited the place back in 1883. 

Other Things to Do

Asides from learning about the namesake of the park, there is also a wide variety of other things to do there. The small town of Medora is located at the entrance of the park and it features museums as well as lodging options for visitors. The scenery of the rest of the park is very beautiful as well, with long, winding rivers, magnificent mountains, and great spaces for camping too. Hiking is by far the most popular way to experience the beauty of the park, but driving down the roads will also provide visitors with a splendid and scenic driving experience. The Scenic Loop Drive, in particular, is a 36 mile stretch of road that will provide not only a beautiful driving experience but also an educational one as well. A lot of the park’s wildlife will wander along its path and the drive also features pullouts and signs along the road that will give visitors a chance to learn more about the park.

Dining Options

Because of how remote the park is, there are no restaurants in the park at all. However, at Medora, there are limited options for dining, though its dining options become even more limited during the winter months. There are a few other restaurants that are more than 15 miles away from the park, so be sure to plan ahead before visiting the park. 

Visit the Majestic Olympic National Park

The beauty that’s found in Olympic National Park is a secret that many Native Americans have known about for years before President Teddy Roosevelt sought to protect its beauty from any further encroachment. Created in 1909, Washington’s Olympic National Park is home to many things that will leave visitors in wonder and in awe. 

Its Natural Elegance 

Olympic National Park has a large variety of landscapes that are all beautiful and breathtaking. From the beaches on the Pacific Coast to the rainforests and mountains further inland, Olympic National Park has something for everyone. There are short guided trails that are great for kids as well as longer and more challenging trails for adventurers. There are many beaches, rivers, and lakes that are great for activities ranging from just watching its beauty in action to swimming or fishing in them. However, there are strict fishing regulations that you will have to abide by.

A Surprise in the Park

One thing some visitors may not know about Olympic National Park is that the Town of Forks, the town that inspired the Twilight series of books and movies, is actually located in the park. For fans of Twilight, a visit to Olympic National Park is a great chance for them to relive the experience of reading the books or watching the movies all over again. There’s nothing more poetic for Twilight fans to do than to read the books or watch the movies while in the town that inspired it all.

For visitors who aren’t fans of Twilight however, the park still has plenty of other things to do there. Hikes and guided tours across its diverse set of landscapes are available and camping on the grounds is also a popular activity. Closer to the ocean, there are also opportunities to go on a whale watching tour or relax at stunning beaches like Shi Shi Beach. On top of that, the lakes and rivers of Olympic National Park provide a great chance to kayak or fish in, though fishing regulations will have to be observed.  

Food and Lodging

There are several dining options not far from the flora and fauna of the park. These places provide a broad range of dining options to visitors, from a cozier dining experience to a more classy one. A lot of the dishes they serve will include freshly caught seafood from the Pacific Ocean and the rest of the dishes will feature locally grown ingredients as well.