Monday, October 12, 2015

Awe-inspiring day hikes at national parks

El Capitan and its reflection at Yosemite National Park.
Their breadth of wonders at America’s national parks astounds the mind.

You can stand at the nation’s rooftop with 60 peaks taller than 12,000 feet at Rocky Mountain National Park or in a gash more than a mile deep in the earth at Grand Canyon. You can visit among the driest places in the world where little more than an inch of rain falls per year upon the beige sands of Death Valley or the ocean itself, such as Biscayne National Park where the bulk of the wilderness is the Atlantic and its vibrantly colored coral reefs.

You can see some of the oldest rock on Earth, like the 1.2 billion year-old granite at Shenandoah National Park, to some of the newest land on the planet, as at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, where you can literally watch lava flows create new ground inch by inch around you. You can enjoy parks that are primarily historical and even urban in nature, such as Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which features pioneer farms and bicycle paths, while others preserve breathless, awe-inspiring tracts of wilderness and stone, such as Yosemite’s El Capitan and Half Dome.

You can trek through caves with rooms larger than a football field situated hundreds of feet below the ground, such as Carlsbad Caverns, or beneath trees soaring 15 stories over your head at Redwood National Park.

Children obviously can benefit from visiting these great treasures. A trip to a national park will give any child fond memories that will literally last a lifetime. During their visit, they will experience their natural joy of discovery, certainly by seeing and exploring the sights themselves, perhaps through a touch table in which they get to feel fossils or a rabbit pelt at a visitor center. All the while, you will encourage their appreciation for nature. Take them on a hike through these wild areas, and they get the bonus of exercise in the fresh air.

For trail descriptions that take you on hikes past some of our national park’s top sites, click the links above or browse this site.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.