Great Basin National Park, Nevada
One of America's Best Parks to Hike
Yosemite National ParkFour million tourists flock to Yosemite National Park every year. Tenaya Canyon is the park's spookiest spot. In 1851, American soldiers fought with Native Americans. Chief Tenaya cursed the canyon after his son will killed in combat. Check out California's Olmstead Point, a rock cliff with a beautiful vantage point over the dangerous Tenaya Canyon and Half Dome. 960 1280
Yellowstone National ParkSeveral tourists claim to hear eerie whispers from the Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Find out whether the lake really gives up its dead. Stay at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel, the oldest building in the park, and the only hotel situated around the lake. 960 1280
Great Sand Dunes National ParkA UFO Watchtower, started by Judy Messoline, was built near The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, in Hooper, CO. Some psychics claim that the area has 2 large vortexes, portals to a parallel universe. There have been allegedly 54 UFO sightings since the watchtower was built in 2000. 960 1280
Great Sand Dunes National ParkColorado's Great Sand Dunes, 10-to-100-thousands of years old, are said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. Government officials say military equipment testing may be the real explanation behind the unexplained UFO sightings seen near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. 960 1280
Grand Canyon National ParkGrand Canyon National Park is 1 of the 7 natural wonders of the world, drawing 5 million visitors a year. This photo, taken from Desert View Watchtower, is a great vantage point to watch the sun rise and set. Maverick Helicopter Tour Company provides tourists with a bird's-eye-view of the canyon for $125 to $250 per person. 960 1280
Grand Canyon National ParkSome tourists, visiting Grand Canyon National Park, think ghosts of the 128 passengers killed in a multiple commercial flight crash in June 1956, still haunt the park. The unfortunate crash did spark the start of flight safety measures, including the formation of the FAA, a national radar system and the invention of the cockpit voice recorder. 960 1280
Ultimate Travel: Legends of the Park 9 Photos
I Am a RockAlcatraz Island lies out in the bay a mile and a half off the San Francisco shoreline. For many years, that was enough to keep prisoners like Al Capone on the rock and tourists off it. More than an infamous lockup, Alcatraz was also the first U.S. fort on the West Coast and the site of a 19-month occupation by Native Americans to reclaim disused federal land. Now you can buy a Property of Alcatraz T-shirt and take a selfie in Machine Gun Kelley’s cell. 960 1280
Torch of FreedomOnce upon a time, newcomers to America would huddle en masse under the gaze of the great green colossus on Liberty Island before entering the country. Times have changed, but the Statue of Liberty is still a go-to American symbol of freedom and inclusion. Employees of the National Park Service have been caring for the lofty lady of the harbor since 1933. 960 1280
Port of EntryFrom 1892 to 1954, some 12 million immigrants set upon a path to citizenship that led them to Ellis Island in New York Harbor. The Great Hall remained largely vacant until 1990 when it was reopened to the public as the country’s largest museum devoted to our history as an immigrant nation. 960 1280
Our HouseYou don’t have to win 270 Electoral College votes to get into the White House, you just have to ask your Congressman for a pass. Free, self-guided tours of the East Wing run five days a week and include permanent exhibits and a short film. Requests must be submitted at least 21 days in advance and sorry, you can’t use the bowling alley. 960 1280
Steel Rainbow ConnectionLike a giant staple holding the country together at the Mississippi River, the St. Louis Gateway Arch is the nation’s tallest and most silvery monument and embodies Thomas Jefferson's vision of the westward expansion of the United States. Yes, you can go up in it. 960 1280
Kentucky UndergroundThe Bluegrass State is famous for its coal mines, but Mammoth Cave National Park takes subterranean pride to new depths. Located in the Green River Valley, Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest known cave system, with more than 400 miles of explored chambers and labyrinths. To paraphrase an early guide, it is a grand and gloomy grotto. 960 1280
Private IslandsHead 70 miles away from Key West by boat or seaplane and you’ll come upon Dry Tortugas National Park, a 100-square-mile paradise composed of seven small islands and the majestic 19th-century Fort Jefferson. Yes, this tropical paradise belongs to you. Even more majestic are the eerie blue waters and jutting coral reefs that make for ideal snorkeling territory. Above water, you can enjoy the innumerable species of birds that inhabit the park, as well as the turtles for which it is named. 960 1280
Take a BathIn the middle of Arkansas, the town of Hot Springs, well, sprang up around what is now Hot Springs National Park, an area known for thousands of years as the “Valley of the Vapors” for its medicinal steaming waters. Since 1921, it’s been a national park nicknamed "The American Spa.” Architecture buffs flock to Bathhouse Row to appreciate the collection of ornate, preserved bathhouses. 960 1280
Swamp PeopleAdmit it, you’ve always wanted to wear gumboots and race an airboat through the Florida Everglades National Park. Spend your days deep in sawgrass, clocking manatee, dolphin and alligators. Watch in awe as a giant heron struggles to take flight in a mangrove swamp. Or maybe you just want to hang out at the historic Nike Hercules missile base. Whatever you want to do, you can do it in the Everglades. 960 1280
Let's Go to the MallThe Great Emancipator sits in contemplation some 19 feet above you. It’s a sight every American should see in their lifetime. The Lincoln Memorial on the western end of the National Mall in Washington is, unsurprisingly, the most visited site in a space rich with monuments, museums and historical points of interest. It has also been the backdrop for historical events, most notably MLK’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. For an added layer of historical context, visit the Memorial at night. 960 1280
American VirginNo one needs an excuse to visit the Virgin Islands, but if one did, one could do worse than the Virgin Islands National Park. Comprising roughly 60% of the island of St. John, plus another 5,650 acres of submerged territory, the park protects and preserves countless species of tropical and migratory birds, fish and other marine and plant life. Who needs a yacht when you’ve got leatherback turtles? 960 1280
11 Unusual National Parks and Monuments 11 Photos
If you thought the only attraction between Utah and California were the gaudy lights of Las Vegas, then a visit to Great Basin National Park in Nevada is long overdue. Though the untrained eye might see little more than desert when driving through the Great Basin, a closer look will reveal a land full of flora and fauna that is in a state of constant change. Geologists even theorize that the Earth's crust below the basin may someday separate, dividing North America into two continents.
The best way to see Great Basin is by foot, and a number of well-maintained trails lead visitors to a variety of attractions. The Bristlecone Trail grants hikers the chance to see and learn about the rare and ancient bristlecone pine tree. These trees thrive in unusually adverse climates, and many are found in high-elevation groves within the park. These trees grow slowly in a twisted, gnarled fashion, and are known to survive for thousands of years; the tree known as "Prometheus" was found to be over 4,900 years old. From the Bristlecone Trail, visitors can take the Glacier Trail and see the only glacier to still exist in the Great Basin Desert. Lexington Arch, a six-story limestone arch that is quite possibly the park's main attraction, is accessible from the Lexington Arch Trail.
The grand landscape and determined plant and animal life of the Great Basin proves the tenacity of nature over time, and seems symbolic of the strength and courage of the ranchers and miners who settled this land over a century ago, thriving as they worked with, rather than against, natural resources.
Great Basin National Park is part of the Great Basin Desert and includes the South Snake Range of mountains. These mountains are coined a "desert mountain island" because they are surrounded by a "sea" of desert. This region is called the Great Basin because the streams and rivers have no outlet to the sea; instead, water collects in salt lakes, marshes and mud flats, where it eventually evaporates. During the last ice age, glaciers covered the peaks of these mountains, and as the climate turned warmer, the area beyond the mountains became a desert.
Great Basin offers a variety of activities, and some are simply not to be missed. The only glacier in the Great Basin Desert lies at the foot of 13,063-foot-tall Wheeler Peak, and is easily accessible to visitors. Another popular stop for tourists is the looming Lexington Arch, a rare example of a natural arch carved entirely from limestone. Even after it seems that you've seen all there is to see in the Basin, more natural wonders await visitors underground! Lehman Caves offers glimpses of many shield formations, as well as stalactites, stalagmites, helictites and flowstone formations.
Where to Stay
One sure-fire way to fully appreciate Nevada's "Wild West" is with a stay on a real, working horse ranch. Hidden Canyon Guest Ranch lets visitors stay in tipis or bedroom cabins, all furnished with beds, electric blankets, carpeting and electric lights. When they're not enjoying the ranch's ATV tours or paintball games, guests can spend time with the Norwegian Fjord horses that are raised right on the property.
Nearby Sights/Side Trips
Whoever said cowboys weren't sensitive, or for that matter creative, obviously never checked out the Western Folklife Center in Nevada. This is the place that hosts the Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering each January, a weeklong showcase of passionate rhymes, conversation, stories, singing, dancing, bona fide Western gear and some pretty darn good cookin'. This is an unforgettable peek into the other side of life on the range. Workshops stretch far beyond simple poetry writing and include everything from an "Introduction to Great Basin Swing Dance" to "Rawhide Braiding". The center features regular exhibits on Western Folklife Media as well as general folk arts.