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Explore the Natural Beauty of Shenandoah National Park

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Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.

Shenandoah National Park

Old Rag Moutain in Shenandoah National Park. Photo by the National Park Service.

Just 75 miles outside of Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers an oasis of over 200,000 acres of nature trails, beautiful vistas, serene quiet and the stunning Skyline Drive. With 40 percent of the park designated as wilderness by Congress, you’ll find pieces of nature that you never expected. Because of the park’s unique location between the North and South, you may stumble upon a gray birch tree in the South, and a spotted skunk along the northern range.

  • Hike along some of the Shenandoah’s 500 miles of trails — 101 miles are also part of the Appalachian Trail. With such an abundance of hiking trails, there are options for those of all interests and abilities. Shenandoah also includes the rocky Old Rag Mountain climb, as well as an easier trail, the Limberlost Trail.

  • Bring your horse, or take a guided horse tour through the Shenandoah wilderness. Over 180 miles of trails are open to horse use, which offers a fun and new perspective of the land.

  • The park offers four campgrounds, and for the more adventurous, almost all of the Shenandoah National Park is open to “Backcountry Camping.” Once you obtain a free permit, you are allowed to camp almost anywhere in the park.

  • A special perk of Shenandoah National Park? Skyline Drive. Skyline Drive runs over 100 miles north and south through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Roll your windows down, enjoy the slow speeds, and watch nature pass you by in the most leisurely way to enjoy Shenandoah National Park.

Before you go, make sure to check out the operating hours and seasonal information.

Experience Life on the Range at Grant-Kohrs National Park

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Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.

Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site

Image description: View from the ranch. Photo from the National Park Service.

Once an open cattle range, Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site is a great place to learn how cowboys once lived.

During the summer this working ranch is bustling with activity. There are a couple of different ways to enjoy the park; you have your choice of self-guided tours or ranger-led tours. No matter which you choose, both types of tours give you incredible insight on how the iconic American cowboys tried to make a living on Montana’s open-range.

On self-guided tours, you can walk along the historic buildings such as the granary and the ice house and look through the thoroughbred barn where old wagons and buggies that ranchers once used are now stored.

Guided tours can be arranged through the visitor’s center. You can take a wagon tour where you’ll experience the feeling of traveling by horse-drawn wagon. A park ranger will explain the history of open-range cattle farming and its impact on U.S. history.

You can also try the Main Ranch House tour to see the beautifully decorated house that once served as a trading post in early American history. And stop to talk to to a cowboy and blacksmith that can explain what life was really like in Montana.

There are also a few easy walking trails that will take you to different parts of the ranch. Trails can lead you to a great grassland habitat, or you can decide to follow the old Milwaukee Railroad, which will lead you to a place great for spotting aquatic birds. You can also head out to the pasture to take a look at the vast cattle spread across Montana landscape

Kids have the great chance to experience life as a Montana cowboy. Children can try on cowboy clothes, try to rope Woody the wood steer,  as well as play games similar to the ones children played when they lived on the ranch.

Discover Sandstone Wonders in Canyonlands National Park

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Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.

Canyonlands National Park

Imagine tall spires of sandstone rising like trees high above your head, flat cliffs that lay 1,000 feet above their surroundings, and some of the best lifesize rock carvings in North America all in one place. That place exists - in Cayonlands National Park.

The park, a wide expanse filled with countless canyons and fantastic rock formations, is separated into three land districts by the Green and Colorado Rivers, that are also responsible for having eroded the rock, creating the natural wonders. The districts, in addition to the adjacent Horseshoe Canyon, each offer something unique and beautiful.

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Image description: Sandstone cliffs at Canyonlands National Park.

Travel to Island in the Sky, sandstone cliffs that give breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery and offer numerous day-hikes for fun exploration.

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Image description: The Needles.

Visit the Needles, found in the southeast corner of the park, named for the Cedar Mesa sandstone that rises like needles into the sky, creating impressive towers of solid rock.

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Image description: Horseshoe Canyon.

Check out the ancient rock carvings found in Horseshoe Canyon, which illustrate thousands of years of human history. Artifacts from as early as 9000-7000 BC, possible left from the Paleoindians, have been uncovered in the area!

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Image description: White Rim Road.

Or - just take a drive down White Rim Road, a 100-mile stretch that navigates through the countryside, also doable in a three- to four-day mountain bike ride.

Check out the NPS’ guide of things to know before traveling to the Canyonlands to be prepared, and also be sure to secure permits if your plans require them.

All photos from the National Park Service.

Explore the Sights and Scenery of Acadia National Park

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Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.

Acadia National Park

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Image description: Sunrise in Acadia National Park. Photo from the National Park Service

Maine’s Acadia National Park has it all: mountains, carriage roads, islands, woods, ocean, lighthouses and boats. With all of its sights and scenery, what are you waiting for?

The park offers 120 miles of historic hiking trails, most of which date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. You’ll find historic features, including stonework and carriage roads, that date back to the early days of America’s founding.

The main attractions at the park don’t focus on its expansive history, though, instead they focus on the beautiful Maine scenery. When you visit, don’t miss these sights:

  • Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain in the park - and along the east coast of the United States. Standing at 1,350 feet, this peak offers breathtaking views of the neighboring region, and is accessible via a winding, narrow 3.5 mile road. During certain times of the year, it is the first place in the United States where you can see the sunrise.

  • The Wild Gardens of Acadia, which feature a “microcosm of Mount Desert Island’s natural habitat.” A must-see for nature lovers and people interested in experiencing the native environment of the area. Note: No pets are allowed in the gardens.

  • Bass Head Harbor Lighthouse, the only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island, which has access trails on either side of the behemoth lighthouse, offering beautiful views of the Maine coast. Note: Visitors are not allowed inside the lighthouse itself.

  • Park Loop Road (PDF), which offers outstanding views of the shoreline, coastal forests, and granite peaks for 27 miles. Still not sold? Consider hiking along the road, rather than driving for some scenic exercise!

  • Isle au Haut, “High Island,”(PDF) named by French navigator Samuel Champlain in 1604. Ride a ferry to the island and explore its 18 miles of trails, starting from Duck Harbor and featuring rocky coasts, woods, marshes, bogs, and a beautiful freshwater lake.

No lodging is available inside the park except for camping, but the local chambers of commerce offer plenty of hotels and other lodgings in the nearby area for people to stay. Before visiting, check out the park’s suggestions for outdoor activities and the NPS’ weather information about the park, including a current forecast.

Enjoy Alaska in the Summer

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Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.

Denali National Park

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Image description: Mt. McKinley dwarfs the surrounding scenery in Denali National Park. Photo from the National Park Service

Denali National Park and Preserve is an incredible place to fully appreciate the Alaskan wilderness.  With more than 6 million acres, Denali has breathtaking views of the Alaskan terrain, stunning wildlife and of the largest mountain in North America, Mt McKinley.

Be witness to the beautiful Alaskan scenery during the summer months. At Denali National Park  there is a great chance to see a number of wild animals such as the grizzly bear, caribou and moose. You may also be able to catch a glimpse of the golden eagle or the rare bald eagle flying above the vast Alaskan sky.

Denali is great for those who are explorers at heart! There are a number of different ways to travel through the national park:

  • Tour bus: narrated by a trained naturalist, tour buses may be the best chance to see the large array of wildlife living within Denali.

  • Shuttle bus: Gives you the freedom to hop on and off the bus to explore different trails and sections of the park.

  • Bicycling: There are designated bike trails available during the summer and cyclists are welcome to bike through the entire 92 miles of  park road.

  • Hiking: There are a number of different trails located around the park that range from easy to difficult. For those who like a challenge, Denali offers you the special opportunity to hike off-trail!

Find more ways to explore the park.

Kids also have an incredible chance to learn and explore the park’s history. They can borrow a Denali discovery pack, which is filled with activities and lessons about the park and wildlife. The top ten family activities will give you a number of fun things of what to do while at Denali.

Because this park is in rugged terrain, it’s important to read up on things to know before you visit so that you can safely navigate the great Alaskan frontier.