Wild Wanderlust: 25 National Park Virtual Tours Lately, I’ve read a few articles comparing COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu. They’ve got me thinking about both pandemics and just how far we’ve come in 100 years. In 1918, virology was in its infancy. And as for staying in touch while social distancing? That required stamps and paper. Today, we enjoy superior medicine and stay connected with loved ones in real-time.
Our National Parks System (NPS) has changed a lot over the past century, too. Back in 1918, there were little more than a dozen, and the NPS was less than two years old. Congress created it in 1916, just before America entered World War I. (Here’s an interesting read on the National Parks and WWI.) In 2020, it boasts 60 parks (not to mention monuments and memorials), and national park virtual tours abound.
With these blessings counted, let’s celebrate our national parks with breathtaking online tours.
1. Acadia National Park, Maine
The crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, Acadia National Park showcases the picturesque landscapes of the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline. It features an impressive abundance of habitats and a rich cultural heritage. Typically, 3.5 million people visit the park each year, making it one of the top ten most popular national parks in the country. Check out the Acadia National Park Virtual Tour now for stunning views of this national treasure.
2. Arches National Park, Utah
Utah’s Arches is known as the “red-rock wonderland” and with good reason. The park boasts more than 2,000 natural stone arches and a countless array of soaring pinnacles, mindboggling balanced rocks, and massive fins. Known for its fantastic hiking trails, gravity-defying rock formations, and colorful sunsets, you’ll fall in love with this beautiful slice of geological heaven. Until you and your kids can check it out in person, here’s the Arches National Park Virtual Tour.
3. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Despite the name, there’s plenty of good in South Dakota’s Badlands, from the rugged beauty of its land formations to its 244,000-acre expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bighorn sheep, bison, black-footed ferrets, and prairie dogs flourish. The Badlands also house some of the richest fossil beds in the world. Ready for a peek at this one-of-a-kind destination? Check out the Badlands National Park Virtual Tour.
4. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Sitting in the splendid isolation of far west Texas sits Big Bend, a land of ancient limestone formations, river-carved canyons, and pristine night skies. From its solitary mountain ranges to its weather-beaten desert and tenacious flowering cacti, this park’s landscapes are sublime bathed in the southwestern sun. Get to know them better on this Big Bend National Park virtual tour.
5. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
While you can find hoodoos (irregular rock columns) on every continent, there’s no higher concentration of these fascinating geological formations than at Bryce Canyon. Located at the top of the Grand Staircase along a high plateau, the park boasts gravity-defying rock features, fantastic night skies, and a vibrant cultural heritage. Dive into the Bryce Canyon National Park virtual tour.
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, Carlsbad Caverns National Park contains two worlds. Above ground, you’ll find deep rocky canyons, flowering cacti, desert wildlife, and ancient sea ledges. Below the earth, you can explore an expansive network of more than 119 subterranean caverns. Two online options stand out for visiting this place from the comfort of your own home. They include an online tour by Google Arts & Culture and the Carlsbad Caverns National Park Virtual Tour 360 by Tour de Force 360.
7. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
From surreal-looking buttes carved by the rushing waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries to countless canyons where geological and archaeological treasures reside, Canyonlands is for explorers. Crisscrossed by rivers, the park can be divided into four sections: the Needles, the Maze, Island in the Sky, and the river lands. Each comes with a unique twist on a primitive desert atmosphere. Explore its varied landscapes with Canyonlands National Park virtual tour.
8. Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada
Death Valley is all about superlatives—hottest, lowest, driest. Located in a basin dipping 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level, it’s also a place of fascinating contrasts. The park contains snow-dusted peaks, dry lake beds, lush oases harboring tiny fish, and bountiful wildflowers in the spring. Despite the name, bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, roadrunners, coyotes, and much more inhabit the park. Discover this one-of-a-kind region with a Death Valley National Park Virtual Tour.
9. Denali National Park, Alaska
Created in 1917, Denali is a massive national park covering approximately six million acres of pristine forest and tundra. It includes North America’s tallest mountain, Denali, which towers a whopping 20,310 feet (6,190 m) above sea level. It also houses a wide array of wildlife, from mountain lions to Grizzly bears, moose to wolves. Go wild on a Denali National Park virtual tour now.
10. Everglades National Park, Florida
The largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, Florida Everglades provides critical habitat for endangered species, including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and manatees. A World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, the park covers an expansive area of south Florida and boasts the 99-mile (159 km) Wilderness Waterway. Check out the Everglades National Park virtual tour.
11. Glacier National Park, Montana
Renowned as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier includes alpine meadows, rugged mountain ranges, spectacular lakes, and pristine forests. More than 700 miles (1,126 km) worth of trails also make it a hiker’s Shangri-La. Check out the park’s webcams via the NPS website or take the full Glacier National Park virtual tour on Google Earth.
12. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
From its vibrant geologic palette to its 277 miles (445 km) of rivers and deep-carved erosional forms, everything about the Grand Canyon is immense and awe-inspiring. The NPS has created a stunning series of videos that explore this national park in-depth, and you can check them out here. Or, take the Grand Canyon National Park virtual tour to explore the area’s diverse landscapes at your own pace.
13. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park contains some of the most memorable and striking landscapes in the world. From wildlife viewing areas in the park such as Oxbow Bend, you can catch glimpses of bald eagles, otters, elk, moose, and more. At Timbered Island, scan the sagebrush-covered valleys for small bands of pronghorn antelope, the fastest land animal in North America. In the meantime, find out more with the Grand Teton National Park virtual tour through the NPS or the Google version.
14. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee
Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park showcases an incredible diversity of plants and animals. From the ancient beauty of its mountains to the rustic charm of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, these are just a few of the reasons it remains one of America’s most visited national parks. Get up close and personal with this natural wonder on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park virtual tour.
15. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Two distinctive desert ecosystems converge at Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave and the Colorado. Its pastel-hued landscapes have been sculpted over time by strong winds and the occasional torrential downpour. Find out more about this vast wilderness located in Southern California on a Joshua Tree National Park virtual tour.
16. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde encompasses a compelling admixture of landscapes forged over the millennia by various natural processes and generations of human occupation. The park preserves the rich legacy of the Ancestral Pueblo, who made their home for over seven centuries in this region. With approximately 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it boasts some of the best-preserved and most noteworthy ancient sites in North America. Head out on the Mesa Verde National Park virtual tour.
17. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier dominates Washington’s landscape, an iconic giant towering 14,410 feet (4,392) above sea level. This active volcano is the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 and the source of five major rivers. Ancient forests cloak Rainier’s lower slopes, and fragile subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano in springtime. Explore the park’s unique landscapes through time-lapse photography of the park’s glaciers, or take the Mount Rainier National Park virtual tour.
18. Olympic National Park, Washington
The wide-ranging diversity of Olympic’s wilderness represents one of the hallmarks of the park. Covering nearly one million acres, the park protects vast swathes of forest, several distinctly different ecosystems, and evidence of thousands of years of human occupation. From its old-growth temperate rain forests to its glacier-crowned peaks and 70 miles (112 km) of wild coastline, start exploring its wild landscapes with the Olympic National Park virtual tour.
19. Redwood National Park, California
Although Redwood National Park is synonymous with the tallest trees on Earth, the park’s landscapes prove far more diverse. On a trip through Redwood, you’ll spy vast prairies, verdant river-ways, oak woodlands, and approximately 40 miles of stunning coastline. The NPS has created a series of 360 virtual tours, exploring various features of the park. There’s also the Redwood National Park virtual tour.
20. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Experience a true Rocky Mountain high at one of Colorado’s most famous national parks. Covering 415 square miles (1,074 sq km), the park contains some of the most spectacular mountain environments in the world. Rocky Mountain is also known for its wildlife, wildflowers, and impossibly starry night skies. Learn more and start exploring its landscapes with a Rocky Mountain National Park virtual tour.
21. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California
Giant sequoias can live for more than 3,000 years, which inspired John Muir to argue that they were immortal. They’re also among the most massive trees, as best exemplified by the General Sherman tree. The star of the park, its trunk volume measures 53,508 cubic feet (1,320 cubic meters). Check out the NPA’s list of the largest giant sequoias by trunk volume. Then, hop over to Google for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park virtual tour.
22. White Sands National Park, New Mexico
You might assume you’ve stumbled across a mirage the first time you see the glistening white sands of this New Mexico park rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin, and we wouldn’t blame you. The world’s largest gypsum dune field, you’ll be amazed by the tremendous wave-like dunes stretching for 275 square miles (712 sq km). Find out more with the NPS’s White Sands National Park virtual tour.
23. Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, & Wyoming
On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became America’s first national park, and it remains a stunning land of geologic wonders, unique hydrothermal features, and pristine wildlife, from bison to elk, bears to wolves. Check out the NPS’s virtual tours page and livestream webcams.
Or, take a look at the Yellowstone National Park virtual tour from Google Arts & Culture.
24. Yosemite National Park, California
First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park remains a stunning natural shrine to mighty glaciers, towering granite peaks, tranquil High Sierra valleys, and thundering waterfalls. Explore John Muir’s favorite muse and the crown jewel of the National Park System with the virtual tour of Yosemite National Park.
25. Zion National Park, Utah
Utah’s first national park, Zion is known for its towering sandstone cliffs of ivory, pink, and vermilion juxtaposed against a brilliant periwinkle sky. Its narrow slot canyons attract hikers from all over the world, and its unique array of animals and plants will enchant you. For now, enjoy this natural wonder from the comfort of your home on a Zion National Park virtual tour.
National Park Virtual Tours to Inspire Your Family
From the exhilaration of a Rocky Mountain high in Colorado to the pristine beauty of Yosemite Valley, the 25 national park virtual tours above will inspire you and your family even when you can’t travel. So, set aside the cabin fever and indulge in a little virtual reality discovery. Don’t forget to explore the National Park System’s website. It contains information about all of the United States’ national parks, monuments, and memorials, as well as stunning photos, webcams, documentaries, and more.
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While traveling has come to a halt for the moment, the world will be back on track before we know it. Until then, let Global Community feed your family’s wanderlust through useful and inspiring stories. And when you’re ready to start planning, explore Global CommUnity’s itineraries to open the door to a compelling world of luxury family travel possibilities.