Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Discover This Scenic Appalachian Region
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
Visitors to Shenandoah National Park will see for themselves why John Denver crooned so passionately about the winding country roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the tumbling Shenandoah River. The park encompasses a 300-square-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge, which forms the eastern branch of the Appalachians. Surely, the easiest and most scenic way to explore the park is via Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that slithers through the park along the crest of the mountains. The drive offers perfect views of Piedmont Valley to the east and the Shenandoah River Valley to the west.
The trees blanketing the park's mountains are part of a hardwood, oak-hickory forest, and can be explored via 500-plus miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Twisting through the forested landscape, the trails lead visitors along sun-dappled paths that pass by many of the park's cascading waterfalls. The varying landscape of the mountains have created multiple habitats; from rocky overhangs to bubbling streams, the region supports the lifecycles of thousands of plant and animal species. Hunting and trapping are prohibited in Shenandoah, thus visitors can expect countless sightings of Virginia's white-tailed deer and even the occasional black bear.
Geology lovers will enjoy numerous rock formations in the area, which tell the geological history of the park and are easily viewed from sites such as Mary's Rock Tunnel, Crescent Rock or Franklin Cliff.
Shenandoah National Park is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, comprising the eastern branch of the Appalachians, a range created through multiple geological episodes over a period of 300 million years. The mountains were formed by the collisions of the tectonic plates of North America, Europe and Africa as masses of rock were pushed as far upward as 155 miles. Erosion by running water, weather, gravity and the freeze-thaw cycle has helped smooth the range.
In addition to the usual hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding and camping opportunities, the park plays host to an exceptional variety of special events including: National Audubon Society Annual Christmas Bird Count, Wildflower Weekend, Appalachian folk dancers, Apple Butter Festival, even basket making and quilting demonstrations. Check out the park's website for more information.
Where to Stay
Nestled in the highest point on Skyline Drive is the charming Skyland Lodge, with 177 units, including cabins and suites. The lodge is located at mile 41.7 along Skyline Drive, and features a craft shop, guided ranger programs, horseback riding and a children's playground.
The unexpected capital of bluegrass music and home to some serious toe-tappin' good times, Floyd, VA, is where to find a now-famous country store, some music-loving locals and the greatest hoedown this side of the Appalachians. All of this down-home fun makes this little town a must-explore stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway.