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

  

Point Reyes National Seashore, California
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

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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

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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  

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  

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  

Ellis Island

Ellis Island

Ellis Island was the gateway for more than 12 million immigrants to enter into the US between 1892 and 1954. Although most of the island is in New Jersey, the island is located in New York Harbor. Tourists and history buffs alike can visit the historic island and museum to hear inspiring stories and view photo collections about the people who passed through what was once the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Fire Island Seashore

Fire Island Seashore

Fire Island -- a barrier island located on the south shore of Long Island, NY -- is a popular tourist destination during the summer, but it’s also a great place to visit during its off-peak season. Visit the Fire Island Lighthouse, explore the island’s wildlife, take a stroll through Sunken Forest, go camping at Watch Hill or go fishing on the pier at Barrett Beach. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

African Burial Ground National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument

The African Burial Ground National Monument is where the remains of more than 400 Africans were buried in the late 17th and 18th centuries. It is part of what was once the largest colonial-era cemetery for free and enslaved Africans. The burial ground, located in Manhattan, was rediscovered in 1991 after plans were underway to build a Federal office building in the same area. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Sagamore Hill

Sagamore Hill

Sagamore Hill is the home of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. Roosevelt lived at his “Summer White House” from 1885 until his death in 1919. Although the home is closed for renovations, the park grounds are open. 960 1280

David Smith, Flickr  

Castle Clinton

Castle Clinton

The history of New York City began here at Castle Clinton -- initially built to prevent a British invasion in 1812. The circular sandstone fort is located in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. It is best remembered as America’s first immigration station where more than 8 million people arrived in the US, from 1855 to 1890. Before becoming a national monument, the castle served as beer garden, exhibition hall, theater and public aquarium. 960 1280

Jazz Guy, Flickr  

Grant National Monument

Grant National Monument

The Grant National Monument is the final resting place of President Ulysses Simpson Grant and his wife, Julia. The largest mausoleum in North America commemorates the life of the man who ended the bloodiest war in American history as Commanding General of the Union Army and then, as the 18th President of the United States. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Federal Hall National Memorial

Federal Hall National Memorial

Take a trip back in history to see where George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States. The Federal Hall National Memorial is the birthplace of American government -- home to the first Congress, Supreme Court and Executive Branch offices. The building now serves as a museum to President Washington and the beginnings of the United States of America. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

Take a guided tour through the recreated birthplace and home of US President Theodore Roosevelt, the only US President born in New York City. From 1858 to 1872, the brownstone -- located at 28 East 20th Street in Manhattan -- was home to Roosevelt and his family. After the neighborhood became more commercial, the Roosevelts moved uptown to West 57th Street. The house was opened and restored as a museum in 1923. 960 1280

Wally Gobetz, Flickr  

Hamilton Grange National Memorial

Hamilton Grange National Memorial

Visit the Harlem home of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of Treasury. The home was named “The Grange” after Hamilton’s grandfather’s estate in Scotland.it was the only home ever owned by the American politician and it remained in the family 30 years after his death. Insider Tip: We suggest taking the ranger-guided tour which allows tourists access to the historically furnished floor. 960 1280

Jim.Henderson, Wikimedia Commons  

Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area

Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area

Explore the beautiful Hudson River Valley. This national park site stretches from New York City to Albany. Uncover the history of the American Revolutionary War, visit scenic parks and gardens and see the world’s largest kaleidoscope at Mount Tremper. Through the Hudson Valley there are dozens of tourist attractions, including the Neuberger Museum of Art, Donald Kendall Sculpture Garden, Stony Point Battlefield and Playland Amusement Park. 960 1280

EJP Photo, Flickr  

Governors Island National Monument

Governors Island National Monument

Explore the history of Governors Island as it evolved from a colonial outpost to regional administrative center for the US Army and Coast Guard. Visit Castle Williams, the sandstone fort that has stood watch over New York City for over 200 years. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Saint Paul's Church

Saint Paul's Church

Saint Paul’s Church, located in Mount Vernon, NY, is an 18th-century that was used as a Revolutionary War hospital, a historic cemetery with headstones dating to 1704 and remnant of a Village Green that was the site of the Election of 1733, which raised issues of freedom of religion and press. Aside from its historic past, the church apparently has ghosts that still lurk through the halls. Visitors have heard what sound like heavy chains being dragged across the basement floor. 960 1280

Anthony22, Wikimedia Commons  

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Take a trip with the family out to Liberty Island to the iconic national treasure, the Statue of Liberty. Given as a gift from France to the US, the statue represents a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886 and designated as a national monument in 1924. We suggest tourists make their way up to the crown of Lady Liberty to get the best view of NYC and its beautiful skyline. 960 1280

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