Happy National Park Week!
In celebration of National Park Week, we are happy to share a National Park Round Up! Rather than focus on a specific National Park, Buddy and I picked our top National Parks for the National Park Service’s themes for the week. And there so many great parks to choose from that this is a part two in a two-part series. You can check out the first post here!
Now, without further ado, 4 More Fascinating U.S. National Parks for National Park Week
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4 More Fascinating U.S. National Parks for National Park Week
1. Chaco Canyon National Historical Park: sPark Preservation
Tucked away in rural area of Northwest New Mexico, Chaco Canyon is an architectural and engineering wonder! Explore the ruins of Chaco Canyon’s 16 Great Houses or multi-storied rock buildings. And learn about Chaco Canyon during its Golden Age in 850-1250 AD as the heart of the Ancestral Puebloan culture. This national park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it is definitely worth a visit.
This National Park is located about a 3-hour drive from Albuquerque, NM. Some of the county roads are dirt roads but they are passable without four-wheel drive. A lot of the area surrounding Chaco Canyon is by Navajo Nation Off-Reservation Trust Land. As a visitor to the Navajo Nation, please be always respectful.
What to bring
Your tent! Sleep under the stars in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. Ditch your tent’s rain fly and fall asleep under the stars at this International Dark Sky Park.
When to visit
Chaco Canyon National Historical Park can be hot during the summer and cold in the winter. The best times to visit are late spring and early fall. If you visit during the summer months, late afternoon monsoon storms are common. For safety reasons, seek shelter from lightening and possibly hail during thunderstorms. And don’t worry, the storms usually pass quickly.
We visited Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in mid-July. Most of the day was hot except for an afternoon monsoon storm. The storm passed quickly but we did experience rain, hail, and some lightening. If visiting in the summer, plan hikes for the morning hours before the storm clouds gather.
Why we chose Chaco Canyon National Historical Park for sPark Preservation
Yvonne: Chaco Canyon National Historical Park was my top choice for the theme sPark Preservation because I am from Northern New Mexico. Many, many generations from my family are from Northern New Mexico (at least 23!). I recognize the cultural and historical importance of Chaco Canyon. Chaco is a place that needs to be preserved and protected as an archeological, historical, and cultural site for future generations.
I think it is important for those of us that are from here to hold on to these histories because they are our roots.
Buddy: I partially remember my visit to Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. But it was a long time ago. I think I was 4 years old when I went. So, I don’t really remember much. But the only way I really remember the area and the site is because I was scrolling through an old SD card with family photos at that time and it gave me those memories back.
Yvonne: I absolutely want to go back to Chaco Canyon National Park. It is so close – just a day’s drive away. Now that Buddy is older, I want to return so he can learn about the importance of Chaco Canyon as a major metropolitan area in the Southwest and its connection to Mesoamerica.
I also want to go back to see the night sky. We visited for a long day when we were there. But I want to camp out under the stars and get the experience of sleeping under the stars in the high desert.
Check out Chaco Canyon National Historical Park’s website for all the details.
2. Grand Canyon National Park: sPark Action
Arizona’s quintessential national park needs no introduction. This world-famous canyon truly is a site to behold! With layers of colorful rocks stretching out along the horizon, the Grand Canyon is one mile deep and 18 miles wide. There is something for everyone at the Grand Canyon. Choose your adventure -anything from a day trip on Grand Canyon Railroad to river trip or a mule trip, or multi-day rim to rim hiking trip. Grand Canyon National Park is a must see!
There are two main areas for visitors at the Grand Canyon National Park -the South Rim and the North Rim. In general, the South Rim, located about 1.5 hours from Flagstaff, AZ is usually the busiest stop for tourists. The South Rim offers shuttle busses, lodging, and camping. The North Rim closes for the winter but offers camping and lodging in the summer.
Not a part of the national park, but very much a part of the Grand Canyon is the West Rim where you will find the notable Grand Canyon Skywalk. The West Rim is on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe.
What to bring
When to visit
Grand Canyon National Park can be busy year-round. When to go really depends on what activities you want to do. If you want to hike, or camp, winter might not be the best time of year. However, you want to relax, enjoy the views, and visit a few museums, visiting the South Rim during the winter months is a good choice.
I visited the Grand Canyon in the spring, fall, and winter. In my experience, winter, early January, had the least number of crowds and the weather was surprisingly sunny and pleasant. No jacket was needed. However, this nice weather is not guaranteed as the area does experience winter storms.
Why we chose Grand Canyon National Park for sPark Action
Yvonne: The sPark Action theme coincided with Earth Day! Because we live in the desert, water conservation is something that is very important to us.
How does this connect to Grand Canyon National Park?
Well, Tucson, like most of Arizona and parts of Nevada and other Southwestern states, get our water from the Colorado River. The Colorado River is the river that runs through the Grand Canyon and that is the river that made the Grand Canyon.
It is very important to us that as desert dwellers we conserve our water to ensure that there is water in the Colorado River and water flowing through the Grand Canyon for Generations to come.
You recently studied the Grand Canyon in school. What did you learn?
Buddy: I learned how the Grand Canyon was formed. And I also learned how the rocks were formed in the Grand Canyon – the rocks are technically sedimentary rocks. Also, I did a project on the history of the Grand Canyon. I know a lot about the Grand Canyon because of the thing I did for school.
I’ve been to the Grand Canyon twice. How about your mom?
Yvonne: I have been to the Grand Canyon four times. Twice with you, and twice with my dad. So, it is a very special park to me
Check out Grand Canyon National Park’s website for all the details.
3. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park: sPark Curiosity
Located the Big Island, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a beautiful and unique experience. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has hiking trails, camping, scenic drives, and active eruptions! Powerful forces of water and fire come together. Steam rises from the earth. New land is created. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a site to behold.
What to bring
When to visit
The best time to visit the Big Island is September through November, during shoulder season. At this time, visitors will find better rates and less crowds. April through October is the rainy season. And over the holidays in December as well as the summer months can get quite crowded.
We visited Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in October. It was lovely! The weather was nice and there were very few tourists. It was a great time to visit.
Why we chose Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park for sPark Curiosity
Buddy: I picked Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park for the theme of curiosity because I am very curious about Volcanoes, especially the volcanoes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Mostly because Kīlauea just erupted a few months earlier. So, I was very curious about how that all works and how scientists can determine when a volcano is going to erupt.
I did not see any lava. Mostly because of Kīlauea erupting a couple months earlier so that pretty much drained out all of the lava from the volcano.
Yvonne: I have a lot of beautiful memories from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. From the hikes to experiencing the power of the volcano and the steam coming out of the earth. But my most favorite memory is when we went to visit the Hōlei Sea Arch at the end of the day.
We were looking out over the ocean at the sea arc and suddenly, the sky opened up and rain began pouring! And it was raining sideways. So even though we were wearing ponchos we were completely drenched! And we tried to take refuge in the car, but the rain soaked the car when we opened the doors. We were soaked! Our socks and shoes, everything.
I will always remember that downpour at the Hōlei Sea Arch and the power of the waves hitting the volcanic rock and shaking the ground on which we were standing while the rain poured down on us. The power of the earth was so incredible.
Check out Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s website for all the details.
4. White Sands National Park: sPark Memories
Where else will you find lustrous white sand dunes but at the one and only White Sands National Park in Southern New Mexico. This national park features 275 miles of beautiful gypsum crystal sand. There are many things to love about White Sands National Park.
First there is the wildlife. Unique to the park is White Sand’s own bleached earless lizard who appears white against the white sand dunes. Spotting these little reptile friends while hiking the dunes is very fun! And secondly, there is the sledding. If visiting White Sands National Park with kiddos, sledding down the white sand dunes is a must!
White Sands National Park is completely surrounded by White Sands Missile Range. This Missile Range is the location of the Trinity Site where the world’s first nuclear weapon was detonated. Trinity Site is closed to the public except for twice a year on the first Saturday of April and October.
What to bring
When to visit
It can get chilly in the winter and very warm in the summer at White Sands National Park. Late spring and early fall are the best times to visit.
We visited White Sands over Labor Day Weekend. Surprisingly, we did not experience crowds. However, it was very hot when we visited. Buddy and I did get sunburned. Bring lots of water and sunscreen if you plan on visiting during the summer.
Why we chose White Sands National Park for sPark Memories
Yvonne: I chose White Sands National Park for the theme of sPark Memories because I have lovely memories of visiting the park as a child with my family, and specifically with my father. I also have equally lovely memories of visiting the park as an adult with Buddy as a child. It is really nice to have that tradition and generational memories and connections through our national parks. And in both instances, I got to sled down the white sands in a plastic sled. It was a really great time!
Buddy: The last time I visited White Sands National Park was when I was five years old. So, I barely remember. But I do remember sledding down the white sands and gong back up and down. I do remember that. But everything else, I do not remember. Also, I was five, so it is kind of hard to remember!
Yvonne: My #1 Tip for visiting White Sands National Park is to buy a sled and the little cube that comes with it to make it slide down the sand in the Visitor’s Center. Or bring your own plastic sled. You will have so much fun sledding down and then climbing up the sand dunes. It is a great time!
Check out White Sands National Park’s website for all the details.
That’s it! This is the end of our two-part Fascinating U.S. National Parks Round Up for National Park Week.
Have you visited all the National Parks on this list? Is there a park in this series that is on your bucket list? Which National Parks spark your connections? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you have questions about family travel or traveling with teens? Feel free to reach out! We are happy to chat and share our experiences! We look forward to connecting with you.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
- 5 Fascinating U.S. National Parks for National Park Week
- 5 Simple Tips for Exploring the San Antonio Mission Trail
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