Ultimate Travel: Legends of the Park

Discover the truth about a few unsolved mysteries at well-renowned American National Parks, including Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon National Park.

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I Am a Rock

I Am a Rock

Alcatraz 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

ROBYN BECK  

Torch of Freedom

Torch of Freedom

Once 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 Entry

Port of Entry

From 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 House

Our House

You 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 Connection

Steel Rainbow Connection

Like 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 Underground

Kentucky Underground

The 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

Zack Frank  

Private Islands

Private Islands

Head 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

Lorraine Boogich  

Take a Bath

Take a Bath

In 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 People

Swamp People

Admit 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

Terry J Alcorn  

Let's Go to the Mall

Let's Go to the Mall

The 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

ChangCheng  

American Virgin

American Virgin

No 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

  

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico
White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

This would have to be my favorite park to visit that allows dogs to explore with you. If you want to stay the night, pay $3 for the backcountry camping pass. You will have to haul everything in and out, but it's so worth it. The quiet nights and sunrise are unlike anything I'€™ve ever experienced elsewhere. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks

A great way to feel completely insignificant is to visit this forest. The tall redwood trees will make you feel a bit like you took a step back in time. 960 1280

  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

This is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. It was more incredible than I could have ever imagined. Over the years, I've visited several times and the best time to visit (in my opinion) is late August or early September. The kids and crowds thin out by then and the weather is gorgeous. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Even if you only have time for a drive-through, it'€™s worth it. However, I would plan on going during the off season (late fall to early spring) to score a spot at Devils Garden, the park's only campground, and take an early hike to Delicate Arch. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

This is the best place to climb a boulder and sleep among the stars. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

I went during the off season so I had the park to myself. If you want to bring a dog along, the off season (read: not summer) is best since the sand is cool to the touch and safe for paws. The views are simply amazing and if you want to hike to the top, you're in for a great workout. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

This is the best park to visit if you don'€™t like crowds. There is always an exception, but I took a hike to a natural arch and was the only person on the trail. The drive to and from the park is exceptional as well. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

I spent a month here during the summer without any reservations and lucked out at several campsites. There is even a hot spring as well as endless places to explore. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

I like to call this park a mini grand canyon without the massive crowds. It is quite spectacular to see. I recommend waking up before the sun to watch it rise on one of the many lookout spots. Simply beautiful. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument

My second favorite national monument is mostly unknown. I stumbled upon it driving and instantly fell in love. There are so many caves to explore and because it's self guided, you can go at your own pace. Bring a headlamp and a flashlight and go as far inside of a cave as you feel comfortable. Feel daring? Turn off all your lights. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Arcadia National Park

Arcadia National Park

We asked about your favorite national parks, and Travel Channel Facebook fans responded. First up: Arcadia National Park in Maine where you can be one of the first people in the US to see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. 960 1280

EJ-J, Getty Images  

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park in South Dakota is partly managed by the Oglala Lokata tribe and includes 'Red Shirt Table,' the park's highest point at 3,340 feet. 960 1280

Andrew Nay / EyeEm, Getty Images  

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah is known for canyons, wildlife, rivers and natural arches like the one pictured here. 960 1280

JOHN ELK III, , Getty Images  

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Rim Trail's elevation varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet leading to Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. 960 1280

Ethan Miller, Getty Images  

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon in Arizona was one of the first national parks in the United States. 960 1280

Marka, Getty Images  

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

View from Clingman's Dome, the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Despite being at 6,643 feet, it offers a relatively easy, paved path to the observation tower. 960 1280

Darrell Young, Greenstock, iStock  

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunrise view of Long's Peak from Trail Ridge Road, which runs through the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. 960 1280

Jeff Goulden, iStock  

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Wild Goose Island in Saint Mary Lake, the second-largest lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. The park ranges from prairie to tundra, but only 25 active glaciers remain of the estimated 150 that existed in the mid-19th century. 960 1280

jam4travel, iStock  

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

The second runner-up? Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Valley makes up only 1% of the park area, but this is where most visitors arrive and stay. 960 1280

Gary C Tognoni, iStock  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Known for its wildlife and geysers such as Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park was the fan favorite by far. Here the Great Fountain Geyser erupts on a perfect, sunny day. 960 1280

ziggymaj, iStock  

Photos

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Get lost exploring Point Reyes's narrow stretches of sand and over 1,500 protected species of plants and animals. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Golden Gate National Rec Area, California

Golden Gate National Rec Area, California

Go for the majestic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, stay for the people watching. Surfers, dog walkers, fishermen and moms with jogging strollers are all drawn to the beach at former airfield Crissy Field. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

Float down the Merced River when temps soar in the summer and pull off for a picnic at one of the 2 main beaches, Cathedral or Sentinel. 960 1280

  

Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands

Turquoise water and gleaming white beaches at a national park? That's what you'll find if you venture outside of the US. The Virgin Islands National Park is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Trunk Bay. 960 1280

Ben Whitney, Wikimedia Commons  

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

It's not easy to get to most Colorado River beaches, but consider a several-day rafting trip the highlight of your trip. Before you dive in you should know the water rarely gets above 60 degrees, but you probably won't mind in 100-degree heat. 960 1280

Al_HikesAZ, flickr  

Santa Monica Mountains National Rec Area, California

Santa Monica Mountains National Rec Area, California

Just 10 miles up the coast from Malibu, you'll find surfers, sunbathers and sea caves tucked along the rocky coasts and sandstone cliffs. 960 1280

Doug Dolde, Wikimedia Commons  

Glen Canyon National Rec Area, Utah/Arizona

Glen Canyon National Rec Area, Utah/Arizona

Set among the red rocks, Lake Powell is perfect for water sports and cruising around coves in your boat. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park, Washington

If you're not blown away by the rocky sea stacks at the Point of Arches, at low tide check out the glowing tidal pools full of neon pink anemones and orange sea stars. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Filled with lighthouses, quaint towns and picturesque beaches, Cape Cod is postcard-ready -- the only thing missing is you. 960 1280

Anne Homyak, flickr  

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

Home to the tallest US mountain on the Atlantic, the rocky coast of Maine lures people to hike granite peaks, observe the wildlife, bike historic carriage roads or simply relax in the resort town of Bar Harbor. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Assateague Island, Maryland

Assateague Island, Maryland

Assateague Island conjures up images of wild horses, salt marshes and sandy beaches -- and because it's a protected national seashore that's exactly what you'll find. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Most of Hawaii's national parks protect volcanoes, but Haleakala or "House of the Sun" also features a beach of basalt stones and breathtaking waterfalls. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Redwood National Park, California

Redwood National Park, California

A herd of Roosevelt elk is often seen in the meadow near the Gold Bluffs Beach campground in a 10-mile stretch of northwestern California beach and sand dunes. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Biscayne National Park, Florida

Biscayne National Park, Florida

Biscayne is for serious water lovers since it is made up of only 5% land -- mostly coral reefs and shoreline. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Channel Islands National Park, California

Channel Islands National Park, California

Getting away from it all will take roughly an hour on a catamaran from the Southern California mainland, but then you'll be free to kayak, snorkel or swim to your heart’s content. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cumberland Island is the largest sea island and home to the ruins of Dungeness Manor, originally constructed in 1803. 960 1280

Jon Dawson, flickr  

Arcadia National Park

Arcadia National Park

We asked about your favorite national parks, and Travel Channel Facebook fans responded. First up: Arcadia National Park in Maine where you can be one of the first people in the US to see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. 960 1280

EJ-J, Getty Images  

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park in South Dakota is partly managed by the Oglala Lokata tribe and includes 'Red Shirt Table,' the park's highest point at 3,340 feet. 960 1280

Andrew Nay / EyeEm, Getty Images  

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah is known for canyons, wildlife, rivers and natural arches like the one pictured here. 960 1280

JOHN ELK III, , Getty Images  

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Rim Trail's elevation varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet leading to Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. 960 1280

Ethan Miller, Getty Images  

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon in Arizona was one of the first national parks in the United States. 960 1280

Marka, Getty Images  

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

View from Clingman's Dome, the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Despite being at 6,643 feet, it offers a relatively easy, paved path to the observation tower. 960 1280

Darrell Young, Greenstock, iStock  

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunrise view of Long's Peak from Trail Ridge Road, which runs through the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. 960 1280

Jeff Goulden, iStock  

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Wild Goose Island in Saint Mary Lake, the second-largest lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. The park ranges from prairie to tundra, but only 25 active glaciers remain of the estimated 150 that existed in the mid-19th century. 960 1280

jam4travel, iStock  

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

The second runner-up? Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Valley makes up only 1% of the park area, but this is where most visitors arrive and stay. 960 1280

Gary C Tognoni, iStock  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Known for its wildlife and geysers such as Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park was the fan favorite by far. Here the Great Fountain Geyser erupts on a perfect, sunny day. 960 1280

ziggymaj, iStock  

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Visit the Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where George Washington was appointed command in chief of the Continental Army in 1775; the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776; the design of the American Flag was agreed upon in 1776; and the US Constitution was drafted in 1787. 960 1280

techfun, Flickr  

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Take a tour to see the 2,080-pound Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. A group of abolitionists adopted the Bible verse inscription and the Bell as a symbol of their cause to abolish slavery -- the first to call it the “Liberty Bell.” Built in London, England, the Bell was retired -- 2 cracks later -- after the final fatal crack during George Washington’s birthday celebration in 1846. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

American author Edgar Allan Poe lived in several houses while living in Philadelphia from 1837 to 1844, but this is the only one that remains standing. National Park Rangers provide a 30-45 minute guided tour or you can tour the residence on your own and see the author’s rare books and letters, and discover how Poe influence other authors, including Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. 960 1280

Midnightdreary, Wikimedia Commons  

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

National Park Rangers provide a 30-45 minute guided tour of the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site or you can tour the residence on your own. See the author’s rare books and letters, and discover how Poe influenced other authors, including Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. 960 1280

RTLibrary, Flickr  

Hopewell Furnace

Hopewell Furnace

Passing through Elverson, PA? Then make a stop at the Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site, a 19th century rural iron plantation, which includes a blast furnace, ironmaster’s house, blacksmith’s shop, company store and several worker’s houses. Ironmaster Mark Bird founded Hopewell Furnace in 1771. A shift in iron-making techniques changed causing the site to halt its operations in 1883. 960 1280

Sdwelch1031, Wikimedia Commons  

Valley Forge

Valley Forge

Travel to Valley Forge, PA. See the military camp of the American Continental Army from 1777 to 1778, during the American Revolutionary War. Explore the Park’s trails Washington Memorial Chapel, National Memorial Arch and Isaac Potts’ house, General George Washington’s Headquarters (pictured) in the winter of 1777. 960 1280

  

Valley Forge Railroad Station

Valley Forge Railroad Station

The Valley Forge Train Station is also part of the National Park Site. The Reading Railroad completed the station in 1911. It was the point of entry into the park for travelers who came by rail through the 1950s, from Philadelphia. The station overlooks the site of Washington’s Headquarters. 960 1280

Doris Rapp, Flickr  

Gloria Dei Episcopal Church

Gloria Dei Episcopal Church

Gloria Dei Episcopal Church in South Philadelphia is the oldest church in Pennsylvania, and among the oldest in the US. The church, built between 1698 and 1700 for Swedish settlers, was initially a Swedish Lutheran Church for almost 150 years before it became part of the Episcopal Church in 1845. 960 1280

B. Krist for GPTMC  

Gloria Dei Episcopal Church

Gloria Dei Episcopal Church

Nils Collin, a Swedish pastor who served Gloria Dei from 1784 to 1831, was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin. In fact, the remains of an early lightening rod -- visible on the church’s exterior -- are the result of their relationship. Collin remained neutral in the Revolutionary War. Rumor has it that his extensive writings about the King of Sweden are buried under the floor of the church. 960 1280

B. Krist for GPTMCS  

Thaddeus Kosciusko National Memorial

Thaddeus Kosciusko National Memorial

Explore the life of Thaddeus Kosciuszko at this National Park Site. The Polish freedom fighter was instrumental in engineering military structures and forts to hold off British troops during the American Revolution. History buffs can visit his preserved home on 301 Pine Street in Philly to see where he met infamous visitors, including Thomas Jefferson and Chief Little Turtle. 960 1280

Photo by R. Kennedy for GPTMC  

Deshler-Morris House

Deshler-Morris House

The Germantown White House aka the Deshler-Morris House is the oldest official presidential residence. The historic mansion, located in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, was shelter for US President George Washington when the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 struck the city. The following year, President Washington and his family returned to the house for a summer vacation. The house takes its name from the first owner, David Deshler, and the last owner, Elliston P. Morris. 960 1280

Historic Germantown, Flickr  

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