Travel with a National Geographic slide show

Passing the Mendenhall Glacier and so many other glaciers on our spectacular cruise up Alaska’s Inside Passage. (J Jacobs photo)
Passing the Mendenhall Glacier and so many other glaciers on our spectacular cruise up Alaska’s Inside Passage. (J Jacobs photo)

Among the ways to travel now while staying at home to defeat the coronavirus is to visit our national parks. National Geographic has a slide show of many of our iconic parks with most photos by and copyrighted to Jonathan Irish.

Visit them at NationalGeographic/traveldestinations/United States/NationalParks.

Here is a sample of what to expect accompanied by editor commentary.

The slide show starts with Zion National Park at the south end of Utah just over the Arizona border and near Bryce Canyon National Park. There are challenging places to climb and interesting formations to photograph. Places to stay are in the nearby town of St. George in the Mojave Desert. For a closeup, visit the film “We the Keepers. ”

Further along in the slide show is the Bass Harbor Lighthouse in Acadia National Park.  A large island park accessible from mainland Maine, Acadia is interesting to drive around but a good place to headquarter is Bar Harbor. The town has delightful ma and pop stores and eateries. Arguably the best part of the visit may be a cruise that goes around the park to see its lighthouses, eagles and the coastline.

Of course Yosemite and the Grand Canyon are included in the slide show but you have likely traveled there or are planning to anyway. However, the slideshow is a way to learn about some national parks that may be less familiar.

So on to the Great Smoky Mountains, a “great” park for hiking, biking or driving. The park accommodates more than 1500 black bears. If when driving, cars stop ahead of you it is likely to be a bear jam not a traffic jam because mama bears take their cubs across park roads. Its  location across the states of Tennessee and North Carolina on the edge of I80 and US Highways 129 and 321 makes it is the most visited national park. To stay in the area consider the highly commercial but fun town of Pigeon Forge to see its Titanic exhibit or the artistic community of Gatlinburg that has one of the easy to drive Park Information Center entrances. The town also has an arts and craft studio circle drive.

American Indians talk about the power of mountains and the spirits that are in our natural landscapes but if you haven’t felt any, drive around Mount Rainier National Park. It may change how you feel. The park is southeast of Seattle if flying in and Tacoma is clloser if driving. We stayed in Seattle where we had some of the best Copper River King Salmon we’ve tasted with the exception of a town visited while traveling to Denali (Mount McKinley) in Alaska.

Glacier Bay National Park, in Alaska Is different from Glacier National Park in Montana, so don’t get confused. You may have to visit really soon or revisit because the glaciers are rapidly shrinking due to earth’s warmer weather. But if having to make a choice go to Alaska. The area is worth the trip. You may have heard that Alaska is gorgeous. But unless you fly over it and tour what you don’t realize how spectacular the scenery really is.

The national parks offer wonderful vistas and experiences so travelers mayh have their favorites. It is hard to say you must go here because they amake good sightseeing trips. That said., I found Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado west of Durango to be among the most interesting. When I went several years ago the road was challenging and I had to climb ladders. But it is a memorable look into the world of another culture.

 

Four National Parks for the vacation do list

 

Memorial Day is almost here. If you haven’t figured out where to spend some of you summer vacation days think National Parks.

Sure there are the ones you always hear about out west – and they are definitely worth visiting. But expand your horizons to other areas of the country.

Check out the National Park Service website for places you can get to in, say, a day and half with Find a Park.

To get you started here are some choice NPS destinations doable from Chicago ranging from an island and dunes to forests and mountains..  BTW April 20-28, 2019 is National Park Week.

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Indiana Dunes

Just around Lake Michigan, a little more than half an hour from Chicago next to Porter IN, the fomer Indiana Dunes State Park was recently given National Park status.

Extending 15 miles around the southern part of Lake Michigan, the park is a birders destination, but with 50 miles of trails, this is also a great place to hike if you like dunes, water views, forests, prairies and even rivers.

For visit tips see and stop at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, 1215 N. IN Hwy 49, Porter, IN 46304. For information call  (219) 395-1882 or (219) 926-2555 and visit NPS Plan.

 

Stop for a photo op in the park. (J Jacobs photo)
Stop for a photo op in the park. (J Jacobs photo)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You know about traffic jams but if you drive through this national park you will likely encounter “bear jams,” the phrase the locals use to characterize the stopping of cars to take photos when bears cross the road.

A second item to know if you go is that Gatlinburg, where you may start your park tour, is home to a large artists community. So save time to do “The Loop,” the eight-mile Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail.

In the park visit the Mountain Farm Museum, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, or the Roaring Fork area to see farms, churches and homes built by early settlers. You might see black bear, white-tailed deer and turkeys crossing the road or at Cades Cove and Cataloochee.For sweeping mountain views drive up Clingmans Dome or Newfound Gap.

The Park Headquarters is at 107 Park Headquarters Road,  Gatlinburg, TN 37738. For more information call (865) 436-1200 and see NPS Plan Your Visit. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is about 585 miles (about a 9.5 hour drive) from Chicago.

 

Camping photo at Isle Royale National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)
Camping photo at Isle Royale National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

Isle Royale National Park

If looking for a breath-taking, backpacking, boating or fishing experience check out Isle Royale, MI , a National Park island in Lake Superior. Wheeled vehicles not allowed. Camp out or snag a room at Rock Harbor Lodge.

Drive to a departure town such as Houghton, Michigan about 400 miles from Chicago and 200 miles north of Green Bay WI. Visitors then take the NPS’ Ranger III boat over to the Isle. Different boats go from other towns.

Transportation services go there from Houghton and Copper Harbor, Michigan and Grand Portage, Minnesota.

Houghton is off of US-41 at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula. For more information and tips visit NPS Plan. For Houghton and Isle Royale info call (906) 482-0984.

 

Sleeing Bear Dunes National Lake shore bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan. (J Jacobs photo
Sleeing Bear Dunes National Lake shore bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan. (J Jacobs photo

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The park is beautiful any time of year. Visit in the fall to do its Pierce stocking Scenic Drive or in the winter if you like to snow shoe. Or visit in the spring when birds and wild flowers fill the woods. Come back in the summer to hike or bike the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The park’s Port Oneida Rural Historic District features late 1980s farm life and crafts.

Do climb the immense sand dunes. The dunes at Sleeping Bear, town of Empire and at Pyramid Point are on bluffs about 400 feet above Lake Michigan.

The clue about what to see and do is the word Lakeshore. There are 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline plus inland lakes and streams. Park Headquarters are at 9922 Front St., Empire, MI 49630 Park Headquarters call (231) 326-4700 or try the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center (231) 326-4700, ext. 5010. See NPS Visit to plan the trip.

Adjacent towns such as Glen Haven, and Leland further north on the Leelanau Peninsula, are fun to visit. So is boating out to South Manitou Island for its lighthouse.  The park has campgrounds. Click here for accommodations and attractions and to plan your visit. Add a couple of days to visit the wineries and towns on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is about 331 miles, about 5 1/2 hours, from Chicago.