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Best Things To Do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Though it’s only a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems worlds away. The park is a refuge for native plants and wildlife, and provides routes of discovery for visitors. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. Walk or ride the Towpath Trail to follow the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal. You can fish, golf and even enjoy skiing and snowboarding!

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s National Parks! I’ve been to 48 of our 61 National Parks — and Cuyahoga Valley is a great place to visit – regardless of the time of year! Cuyahoga Valley is unusual in that it is adjacent to two large urban areas and includes a dense road network, small towns, and private attractions. I have explored much of the park — so I’m ready to help!

If this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some of the best things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park!

Ride the Scenic Train

The National Park Scenic Railway is a unique way to experience all the natural wonder Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Sit back and relax as the train weaves through the Cuyahoga Valley and races along with the rushing Cuyahoga River. Look for eagles, deer, beavers and otters in their natural habitat.

From January-May, the National Park Scenic excursion is a two-and-a-half hour round trip through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Board at Rockside Station, Peninsula Depot, or at Akron Northside Station. From June through October, the train runs Wednesdays-Sundays on an extended schedule. You can choose from a variety of seating options including coach, table top, first class, lounge, upper dome, executive class, or suites.

Hiking

Hiking

You can hike more than 125 miles of trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park that range from nearly level to challenging. ,Pass through various habitats including woodlands, wetlands, and old fields. Some trails require you to cross streams with stepping stones or log bridges, while others, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are nearly level and are accessible to all visitors. A portion of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail also passes through the park.

Biking

Biking the Towpath Trail

Towpath Trail

This multi-purpose trail was developed by the National Park Service and is the major trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Mountain Biking

The East Rim Trail System has stunning views, varied terrain, exciting obstacles, and an element of adventure for anyone who explores it.

Bike and Hike Aboard

Bike or hike the Towpath Trail in one direction and hop on the train on your way back! The train can be flagged down at boarding stations by waving both arms over your head. You should arrive 10 minutes prior to the train’s scheduled arrival…and you can pay your fare when you board.

Visit the Beaver Marsh

Beaver Marsh

The Beaver Marsh is among the most diverse natural communities in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The exceptional scenery and wildlife make it one of the park’s most popular destinations. Here you can enjoy photography, bird watching, and sharing nature with family and friends.

Enjoy Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls is one of the most popular locations in the park. This 65-foot waterfall is accessed via a partially accessible boardwalk. For a more challenging trip, take the steep stairs to the lower viewpoint or the 1.4-mile Brandywine Gorge Trail.

Hike or Picnic at The Ledges

The Ledges

The Ritchie Ledges are witnesses to change – from creation out of Sharon Conglomerate millions of years ago, to landscapes wrecked by humans and to preservation today. The Civilian Conservation Corps created the park you see today, building trails and shelters throughout the area.

Explore Blue Hen Falls

Blue Hen Falls

This 15-foot waterfall is a beautiful hike every time of year. There is a small parking lot located across the street from the main trailhead. From there, the falls are a steep half-mile hike.

Fishing

The Cuyahoga River and numerous ponds are open to fishing. Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s philosophy is to maintain the predator-prey relationship rather than to stock fish for recreational fishing. Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged to maintain the fish populations needed for continued sport fishing. The park has over 65 species of fish that live in its waters. Steelhead trout and bullhead can be caught in the Cuyahoga River. Bluegill, bass, and crappie can be caught in lakes and ponds in the park.

Cuyahoga River

Kayaking and Canoeing

People who want to canoe or kayak the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Valley National Park need to bring their own equipment and have experience to manage the safety risks posed by the river. The National Park Service does not maintain the river for recreational use. Canoeing and kayaking the river can be dangerous. Water quality, low head dams, and debris in the river all pose hazards.

Horse Riding

Viewing the Cuyahoga Valley landscape from horseback is like no other experience. Horseback riding is permitted only on trails signed and designated as horse trails. Horses need to be brought in as there are no horse rentals adjacent to the bridle trails.

Try Your Hand at Canalway Questing

Find more than 40 adventures—called quests—along the Ohio & Erie Canal! Put on your sleuthing hat and follow rhyming clues and a curious map to each hidden quest box. Along the way, discover the area’s treasures—the natural and cultural gems of the Canalway. Unlike geocaching, no GPS unit is needed and no trinkets are exchanged. When you find a quest box, collect its unique stamp, sign its logbook, and put it back in place for others to discover.

Golfing

Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers the unique opportunity for golfing within the park, although none of the golf courses are federally owned or operated. You can golf at any of the following courses:

Astorhurst Country Club
Brandywine Golf Course
Shawnee Hills Golf Course
Sleepy Hollow Golf Course

I’ve created a poster to celebrate Cuyahoga Valley National Park that features the famous Brandywine Falls. The poster can also be purchased at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park shops in the park!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Click here to see the Cuyahoga Valley National Park poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist with a single passion for our National Parks! Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph each of our national parks and to create WPA-style posters to celebrate the amazing landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history that embody America’s Best Idea!

Click here to learn more about Rob & the National Park Poster Project!

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Best Things To Do at Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is unlike most national parks. It is stretched across 82,000 acres north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge, making it one of the world’s largest national parks in an urban setting and home to one of the largest urban parks in the world. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area protects a wide range of ecologically and historically significant landscapes surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area. Much of the land in the park was formerly used by the United States Army. Now managed by the National Park Service, it is the most visited unit of the National Park system, with more than 15 million visitors a year.

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s national parks! I’ve been to 48 of our 61 national parks — and Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of my personal favorites — having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area. With 37 distinct park sites, from Muir Woods National Monument to Fort Point National Historic Site to Alcatraz Island, more than 130 miles of trails, and 1,200 historic structures, Golden Gate National Recreation area truly has something for everyone!

If this is your first time to the San Francisco Bay Area, or your returning after many years, here are some of the best things to do in Golden Gate National Recreation Area!

Marin County (North of Golden Gate Bridge)

Fort Baker

Fort Baker is a 335 acre former 1905 U.S. Army post located immediately north of the Golden Gate Bridge. This hidden gem of a site consists of over 25 historic army buildings clustered around a main parade ground, a sheltered harbor protected by a jetty, a number of historic gun emplacements, and trails and forested areas climbing gently up from San Francisco Bay.

Headlands Center for the Arts

The Headlands Center for the Arts is an artist residency program set in renovated military buildings in the Marin Headlands. Offers programs including performances, discussions and lectures, and displays a 1,800-square-foot project space with a rotating roster of artists open to the public.

Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands from Fort Point
Here you can discover the many cultures that have called the Marin Headlands home, from the Miwok Indians to the American Military and everything in between. Enjoy a hike through its varied trails, including dog-friendly Rodeo Beach, or visit The Marine Mammal Center, Rodeo Lagoon, Muir Beach, Tennessee Valley and the Gerbode Valley. Take a drive along Conzelman Road from the northern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge to Point Bonita. This five-mile road offers breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean.

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument

Walk among old growth coast redwoods, cooling their roots in the fresh water of Redwood Creek and lifting their crowns to reach the sun and fog. Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908, this primeval forest is both refuge and laboratory, revealing our relationship with the living landscape. You’ll also see Coast Douglas-fir, Bigleaf Maple, Tanbark Oak, and California Bay Laurel.

Oakwood Valley

On a clear day you can see as far as Point Reyes from this park adjacent to the Marin Headlands. Trails loop through groves of eucalyptus and bay laurel. In the spring you will find lupine and California poppies. In summer, the grasses turn golden, and by late summer you can find fennel, sagebrush, and blackberry bushes. Oakwood Valley contains the largest untouched woodland of Coast Live Oak and California bay trees in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Olema Valley

Olema Valley is a rolling landscape of grassland and forest a ten mile stretch from Tomales Bay to Bolinas Lagoon. This area has been shaped by geologic forces and changing patters of human use. Until recently, the dynamic story of the valley remained largely undiscovered. Now, steps are underway to preserve both the history and fragile beauty of this northern corner of the park.

Point Bonita Lighthouse

Point Bonita Lighthouse

A secret jewel of the Bay Area, the Point Bonita Lighthouse, built in 1855, was the third lighthouse built on the West Coast and helped shepherd ships through the treacherous Golden Gate straits. Today, the lighthouse is still active and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. Discover Point Bonita’s wild landscape, geology and fascinating history by hiking the trail to the Point Bonita Lighthouse!

Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach is one of Northern California’s best kept secrets. It’s located about 20 miles NW of San Francisco alongside Mt Tamalpais State Park. Being only a 35 minute trip from the Golden Gate Bridge, Stinson Beach is a very popular day trip for residents and tourists alike. With opportunities for volleyball, hiking, picnicking, fishing, or surfing, people continue to visit Stinson Beach to escape from the frantic pace of everyday life, just they have been doing for more than a century.

Muir Beach Overlook

Muir Beach
Muir Beach Overlook provides expansive views of the Pacific Coast, including the Point Reyes Peninsula. Visitors can also explore several historic base-end stations, observation posts that were part of the San Francisco Bay coastal defense system. From this vantage point soldiers could view ships through telescopes, and plot their distance, speed, and direction in order to aim nearby coastal defense guns that protected the area from invading warships in the 1900s.

Fort Cronkhite

Located in the Marin Headlands north of Rodeo Lagoon, Fort Cronkhite is a former World War II military post that stands at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Fort Cronkhite is one of the few examples of these World War II “mobilization posts” remaining in the country. The fort’s barracks, mess halls, and other structures are preserved to tell the story of the soldiers who waited here for an enemy that never came. Today, Fort Cronkhite’s buildings are used as offices and housing for the National Park Service and its park partners.

Nike Missile Site SF-88

SF-88 is a decommissionedArmy surface-to-air missile (SAM) site located near Fort Barry, in the Marin Headlands to the north of San Francisco, California. Opened in 1954, the site was intended to protect the population and military installations of the San Francisco Bay Area during the Cold War, specifically from attack by Soviet bomber aircraft.

San Francisco County (South of Golden Gate Bridge)

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz
Alcatraz reveals stories of American incarceration, justice, and our common humanity. This small island was once a fort, a military prison, and a maximum security federal penitentiary. In 1969, the Indians of All Tribes occupied Alcatraz for 19 months in the name of freedom and Native American civil rights. Here you can explore Alcatraz’s complex history and natural beauty.

China Beach

China Beach is in a tiny cove tucked between Lands End and Baker Beach in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco. This sheltered pocket of sand features a picnic area, sunbathing, good play spots for children, and spectacular views of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate.

Fort Funston

Fort Funston Beach
Fort Funston features 200-foot high sandy bluffs on San Francisco’s southwest coast where the winds blow reliably wildly. No surprise it is one of the premier hang-gliding spots in the country. A network of trails make it ideal for hiking and horseback riding. Dog owners will be happy to know they can take leashes off here. It is also home to the Fort Funston Native Plant Nursery.

Fort Mason

Once known as San Francisco Port of Embarkation, this former United States Army post located in the northern Marina District, alongside San Francisco Bay. Fort Mason served as an Army post for more than 100 years, initially as a coastal defense site and subsequently as a military port facility. During World War II, it was the principal port for the Pacific campaign. The National Historic Site now houses non-profit organizations and offers a variety of cultural activities.

Fort Miley Military Reservation

The Fort Miley Military Reservation, sits on Point Lobos (not to be confused with Point Lobos near Carmel-by-the-Sea), one of the outer headlands on the southern side of the Golden Gate. The grounds and buildings have been converted into the San Francisco VA Medical Center are administered by the Veterans Health Administration of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Lands End

At every turn of the trail on this wild and rocky northwestern corner of San Francisco, there is another stunning view. Along the way you’ll see hillsides of cypress and wildflowers, views of old shipwrecks, access to the epic ruins of Sutro Baths in the Sutro Historic District, pocket beaches, and a new Lookout Visitor Center.  A natural preserve including the Coastal Trail will bring you to scenic views of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate.

Presidio of San Francisco

For 218 years, the Presidio served as an army post for three nations. World and local events, from military campaigns to World Fairs and earthquakes, left their mark. Here you can enjoy the history and the natural beauty of the Presidio. Explore centuries of architecture. Reflect in a national cemetery. Walk along an historic airfield, through forests or to beaches, and admire the spectacular vistas.

Baker Beach

This is the birthplace of the Burning Man festival, a popular sunbathing spot that is clothing-optional at its northern end. Stretching a mile below the rugged cliffs on the Presidio’s western shoreline, Baker Beach’s spectacular outside-the-Gate views of the Bridge and the Marin Headlands are unsurpassed. Keep your eye out for harbor porpoises frolicking in the surf and for California’s State Rock (serpentine). And, you can learn about an early 20th-century “disappearing gun.”

Battery Chamberlin

Battery Chamberlin holds the last 6-inch “disappearing gun” of its type on the west coast. Built near Baker Beach in 1904, Battery Chamberlin was constructed to accommodate the lighter, stronger, more powerful coastal defense artillery developed in the late nineteenth century.

Crissy Field

Crissy Field is the premier recreation area on the Presidio. The Golden Gate Promenade provides access to the restored tidal marsh and beaches along the bay shore. Whether your exercising or merely contemplating at the shore, you can enjoy the expansive views, water birds, native plants and sandy beaches along Crissy Field.

Fort Point National Historic Site

Fort Point - Corridor
From its vantage point overlooking the spectacular Golden Gate, Fort Point defended the San Francisco Bay following California’s Gold Rush through World War II. Its beautifully arched casemates display the art of 3rd system brick masonry and interacts gracefully with the Golden Gate Bridge. Situated at the southern base of the Golden Gate Bridge, it once housed 126 cannons to protect the bay against invaders. The fort was completed just in time for the Civil War, but never fired a shot in combat.

The San Francisco National Cemetery

Situated in the northern center of the Presidio, the San Francisco National Cemetery offers a breathtaking final resting place for the nation’s military veterans and their families. Framed by Monterey Cypress and other majestic trees, the cemetery rests on a slope overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Among the 30,000 Americans laid to rest here are Civil War generals, Medal of Honor recipients, Buffalo Soldiers, and a Union spy.

Ocean Beach

Picture a 3.5-mile stretch of white beach with few tourists and no high rise buildings. It’s just you and the waves and the seabirds at Ocean Beach, on the westernmost border of San Francisco, adjacent to Golden Gate Park. Great for strolling and flying kites, but the water is frigid and the currents hazardous for all but the most experienced surfers.

The Sutro District

Sutro Baths
A collection of historic attractions developed by Adolph Sutro in the late 19th Century, including the Cliff House – a historic restaurant first built in 1863, rebuilt following fires in 1894 and 1907. Also houses the Camera Obscura, a historic building containing a device which projects a 360° image

Sutro Baths

Since 1863, visitors have flocked to San Francisco’s western shore to enjoy sweeping ocean views and fine dining at the Cliff House. The concrete ruins just north of the Cliff House are the remains of the grand Sutro Baths. These are the concrete ruins of an indoor swimming pool constructed in 1894 by former SF mayor Adolf Sutro.

Sutro Heights Park

In 1885, self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro created the Sutro Heights Park, an elegant and formal public garden that covered over twenty acres in the area now known as Lands End. Inspired by the rugged beauty and incredible scenery, Sutro intentionally designed the grounds to capture the views of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands.

 

San Mateo County (South of SF)

Milagra Ridge

Surrounded by urban development, Milagra Ridge forms what biologists call an island ecosystem. Here, wildlife is isolated from other habitats, feeding and migration corridors are compromised and exotic species can easily invade native habitat. Despite this isolation, Milagra Ridge hosts a surprising number of threatened and endangered species including Mission blue and San Bruno elfin butterflies and the California red-legged frog. This 240-acre parcel of land was also home to the Nike Missile Site SF-51L.

Sweeney Ridge

Sweeney Ridge is a hilly hiking area of ridges and ravines and its 1,200-foot-high summit, covered with coastal scrub and grassland, slopes down to the bay on one side and to the Pacific on the other. Wildlife at Sweeney Ridge includes hawks, deer, and a plethora of both native and introduced spring wildflowers. The sandy coastline and adjacent wind-protected valley of Thornton State Beach are good venues for picnicking, beach walking, surf fishing, and flying remote-control gliders. This is also the location of where Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà discovered the San Francisco Bay and is home to several World War II lookout nests and pillboxes as well as Nike missile site SF-51C

Phleger Estate

Part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail,  here you can enjoy a verdant redwood forest reborn here at the southern tip of the Golden Gate National Parks. This tranquil park was once severely logged and century-old redwood stumps and remnants of steam mills are still in evidence. But along its miles of trails and tumbling creeks, second-growth redwoods and firs are rising again.

Mori Point

Located on a promontory just south of the city of Pacifica, the 110 acres of Mori Point are one of the newest additions to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. High up above the cold waves, the site boasts sweeping views from Point Reyes all the way to Pedro Point. It protrudes several hundred feet out into the Pacific and is plainly visible from any high point in the City of Pacifica. Trails lead across the ridge and to Sharp Park beach. The site includes recently restored wetlands and a pond, protecting endangered San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog habitat.

Rancho Corral de Tierra

A former Mexican land grant north of Half Moon Bay and on Montara Mountain, at nearly 4,000 acres, Rancho Corral de Tierra is one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land on the San Mateo peninsula. Once planned for development, now visitors can enjoy its awe-inspiring views, important watersheds, miles of public trails, and diverse wildlife.

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Best Things To Do at Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)

Grand Canyon - Hermit Road

There’s nothing like your first visit to Grand Canyon National Park — and the first time you look over the rim — it’s simply awe-inspiring! The extraordinary combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate this canyon, which is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. Without question, the Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size.

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s national parks! I’ve been to 48 of our 61 national parks — and Grand Canyon National Park is one place you have to see! Whether you’re more comfortable exploring the canyon from the rim, or want to take a more adventurous route on foot, by bike, or on the back of a mule, I’ve been to Grand Canyon National Park many times — so I’m ready to help! If this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some of the best things to do in Grand Canyon National Park!

Grand Canyon - Bright Angel Trail

Walking or Hiking

The Rim Trail

Going on a hike is a wonderful way to experience the Grand Canyon National Park’s rich natural beauty and immense size. The Rim Trail is perfect for quiet views of the inner canyon and for visitors who desire an easy hike. The Rim Trail stretches from the South Kaibab Trailhead west to Hermits Rest, a distance of about thirteen miles — and most of the trail is paved. Between Pipe Creek Vista and Bright Angel Lodge only a few short sections of the trail have grades that exceed accessibility standards. West of Bright Angel Lodge, the Rim Trail narrows and climbs the Bright Angel Fault to viewpoints along Hermit Road. Between Powell Point and Monument Creek Vista the trail is a three foot wide dirt trail. The section of the Rim Trail between Monument Creek Vista and Hermits Rest is also known as the Hermit Road Greenway Trail and provides three miles of paved greenway trail provide additional views for cyclists and hikers.

Walk the Trail of Time

Grand Canyon - Yavapai Geology Museum

Start at the Yavapai Museum of Geology and finish up at the Verkamps Visitor Center — a 1.2 mile stroll along the canyon rim. The path contains information about the canyon’s geologic history, and samples from each layer of the canyon.

Day Hikes: Exploring the Canyon on Foot

Day hikes are by far the most popular type of trip into the Grand Canyon. A down-and-back excursion lets you commit to traveling only as far as you think you can handle, and it allows for carrying less of a load to weigh you down.

One of the most popular day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park is the 9-mile round-trip on the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden and back. If you go, you must bring enough food and water — and sunscreen — to last the day. Because this hike starts by descending into the canyon — the easy part comes first. You’ll start at an elevation of 6,860 feet and drop to 3,800 feet — a hike that will take you 5-6 hours when taking plenty of breaks.

Overnight Backpacking

Grand Canyon - Phantom Ranch

Spending the night is the best way to experience Grand Canyon National Park. You can take more time to enjoy the scenery — and travel farther to see more of it. Traveling to the bottom of the canyon in one day, camping at the bottom, and coming up the next day is the best way to see the Colorado River. Most people can’t make it to the river and back in one day. The walk to Phantom Ranch is approximately 7.5 miles down the South Kaibab Trail (4-5 hours) or 10 miles on the Bright Angel Trail (4-6 hours). A good rule of thumb is for every hour it takes to hike down, it will take two to hike up.

Bicycling

Bicycling is a great way to experience the South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park. And bicycles are allowed on all paved and unpaved roads on the South Rim. Cyclists can enjoy approximately 13 miles of roads and Greenway Trails that allow for more intimate explorations along the rim. If you get tired, load your bike on one of the park’s bicycle-friendly shuttle buses – there is a bus stop every one-half to one-mile along the 13 mile-stretch.

Scenic Hermit Road follows the canyon rim for seven miles and is one of the best places in the park for cycling. Most of the year, private vehicle restrictions eliminate most traffic. The Hermit Road Greenway Trail, between Monument Creek Vista and Hermits Rest, provides a 2.8-mile bicycle path away from the road and, in places, along the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Don’t have a bike with you? Rent one from Bright Angel Bicycles, next to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Bright Angel Bicycles provides rentals and guided bicycle tours between mid-March and October 31.

There is also a small coffee bar and café with a grab & go menu targeted toward hikers, bikers and pedestrians. The café is open year-round.

Tour the Scenic Hermit Road (also known as West Rim Drive)

Hermit Road is a scenic route along the west end of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim which follows the rim for seven miles out to Hermits Rest. Access this popular route by using the free park shuttle, or travel on foot, by bicycle, or commercial bus tour. Along the canyon rim are nine designated viewpoints where the free Hermits Rest Route shuttle bus stops.

Free shuttle bus service runs from March 1 through Nov. 30. During this time, the road is closed to private vehicles. Besides the main road, there is a designated greenway for travel by foot or bicycle. Commercial bus tours, jeep tours, and van tours, are also available.

Tour Desert View Drive (Hwy 64 – also known as East Rim Drive)

This 25 mile road leaves Grand Canyon Village, then travels east to Desert View. You can drive your private vehicle, or take a commercial bus tour, a jeep tour, or van tour. View the Colorado River at Moran, Lipan and Desert View Points. You may exit or enter the park on the eastern end at Desert View. (via Arizona Highways 64 and 89)

Explore Desert View Point

Grand Canyon - Watchtower

Climb to the top of a 70 ft. tall stone Watchtower for a panoramic view extending more than 100 miles on a clear day. Designed in 1932 by Mary Colter, the historic Watchtower is a replica of prehistoric towers found on the Colorado Plateau. There is also a general store, deli, seasonal campground, and gas station.

Experience Desert View’s Cultural Demonstration Program

At Desert View, you can interact with tribal artisans from Grand Canyon’s traditionally associated tribes – where they share their history and crafts. Jewelers, silversmiths, weavers, potters, sculptors, and a variety of other artisans are present throughout the year. The demonstrations are free and take place in the historic Watchtower on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Tusayan Ruin

is the remains of a small Ancestral Puebloan village located 3 miles west of Desert View.
The Tusayan Ruins — also known as the Tusayan Pueblo — is an 800-year-old Pueblo Indian site within Grand Canyon National Park. Many consider it to be one of the major archeological sites in Arizona. The site comprises a small, u-shaped pueblo featuring a living area, storage rooms, and a kiva.

Tusayan Museum

Grand Canyon - Tusaynan Museum

This interactive facility contains a variety of exhibits designed to enhance visitors’ understanding of the unique human history of the Grand Canyon National Park area. The museum provides interesting displays — including artifacts dating back to 4,000 years. Admission is free. Hours: 9 am to 5 pm. There are also daily ranger-led tours of the ruins.

Explore the Grand Canyon on the back of a Mule

South Rim Mule Trips

Grand Canyon - Mule Trip

For the more adventurous visitor looking to create the memory of a lifetime, take a mule ride along the rim or perhaps down into the Grand Canyon itself. Horses may be iconic to the American West, but the equine of choice at Grand Canyon has long been its hybrid relative, the mule. These animals have the sure-footedness of a burro along with the larger size and strength of a horse. They have been carrying canyon visitors since the late 1800s. In fact, more than 600,000 people have taken Grand Canyon mule rides since they were first offered in 1887.

There is no Grand Canyon National Park adventure more rewarding or more unique than a mule ride. The overnight rides take you deep into the canyon, where you can stay overnight at Phantom Ranch. If you think the view from the rim takes your breath away, wait until you experience the Grand Canyon from within.

Canyon Vistas Mule Ride

If you only have a short time to visit the South Rim, but are still looking for some adventure, take the Canyon Vistas Rim Ride. The ride doesn’t take you into the canyon itself, but the views along the way are stunning. Grand Canyon mule riders can take in the breathtaking vistas of Grand Canyon National Park while traveling along the rim of the canyon.

Whitewater and Smooth-water Raft Trips on the Colorado River

Sit back, relax, listen and learn as you learn the story behind the scenery of one of America’s great rivers. Here, canyon walls rise a thousand feet into the sky. Mysterious messages have been carved into stone by the Ancient Ones. And, look skyward for eagles, herons, and maybe even a California condor as you drift on the crystal clear water, carried by the gentle current of the Colorado River.

Grand Canyon - Whitewater

Ask any of the 22,000 Colorado River runners who brave the Grand Canyon white water river rafting trips each year to describe the experience — and you’re likely to hear that it is “the trip of a lifetime.” Whitewater trips through Grand Canyon last from 3 days to 21 days and require reservations made well in advance.

Or, you can experience the thrill of a 15.5-mile smooth water float trip down the Colorado River, through Glen Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Any lodge within the park may arrange half-day and all-day smooth water trips from Glen Canyon Dam. Excursions include transportation from the lodges.

Photographing the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic landscapes in the United States and is a favorite destination of many photographers. Although there are endless amazing photographic opportunities at Grand Canyon National Park, once you spend a little time at the rim, and you soon realize why most viewpoints are the best places to view and photograph the canyon. The overlooks are at places where the rocks jut out into the canyon, providing the best views.

Here are some of my favorite places to make lasting images…

  • Yaki Point – Best to shoot here at dawn.
  • Mather Point – The classic Grand Canyon view, and for good reason.
  • Mohave Point – A spectacular view of the river looking west.
  • Hopi Point – Another classic South Rim overlook with expansive views both east and west.
  • Desert View Point – The Watchtower with the river below and the Palisades of the Desert in the background. Makes a great sunset shot.

Attend Free Ranger Programs

Grand Canyon National Park offers one of the most extensive ranger programs in the National Park Service system. Learn more about Grand Canyon nature, science, history and culture with a park ranger as your guide.

Grand Canyon - Ranger Program

Ranger programs offer guided hikes, where you will learn about the wild inhabitants who survive in this place of extreme changes in elevation, exposure, and climate. Join a ranger to discover stories of humankind’s enduring relationship with the canyon, or to hear captivating stories about diverse human connections. Learn how the Grand Canyon was formed while exploring Yavapai Geology Museum. Or, enjoy special events and evening programs during the summer in a beautiful auditorium or outdoor amphitheater — like star walks, night hikes, cemetery tours, and more.

There are too many programs to list — and they are always changing, so check the South Rim Village or the South Rim Desert View Ranger Program schedule once you arrive.

Stop by a Visitor Center, Historic Home or Museum

And don’t forget the Visitor Centers, historic homes and museums that house exhibits and provide all the park information you’ll need for your stay at Grand Canyon National Park, including the film: Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder, that’s shown in the theater at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

Grand Canyon National Park

Click here to see the Grand Canyon National Park poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist with a single passion for our national parks! Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph each of our national parks and to create WPA-style posters to celebrate the amazing landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history that embody America’s Best Idea!

Click here to learn more about Rob and the National Park Poster Project

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Best Things To Do in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park protects the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands along America’s Atlantic coastline. This 47,000-acre recreation area — primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island — features woodland, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks such as Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Among the wildlife are moose, bear, whales and seabirds. The bayside town of Bar Harbor, with restaurants and shops, is a popular gateway. And each year, more than 3.5 million people explore seven peaks above 1,000 feet, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads with 16 stone bridges.

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s National Parks! I’ve been to 48 of our 61 National Parks — and Acadia is great park the whole family can enjoy! I have explored most areas of the park — so I’m ready to help! So if this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some of the best things to do in Acadia National Park!

Explore Mount Desert Island

The majority of Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island. The island offers an endless array of activities for everyone including a visit to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff. Here, the mountains truly meet the sea and you can enjoy one of the most spectacular settings on the entire East Coast. With its beautiful coastal scenery, the island is a great location for hiking or ocean kayaking. Bar Harbor, the largest town on Mount Desert Island is often thought of as synonymous with the Park. But visitors can also stay in charming Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Bass Harbor, Otter Creek, Seal Harbor or Somesville.

Drive the Park Loop Road

Park Loop Road
The 27-mile Park Loop Road is the best way to navigate through Acadia National Park. The loop begins near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center on the north side of the island in Bar Harbor. It connects the park’s lakes, mountains, forests and rocky shores — making exploration easy. Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff and other popular sites and trails can be reached from the road. 20 miles of the Park Loop Road is one way. But there is a two way section that begins near Wildwood Stables — perfect for taking in the magnificent views.

Hike, Bike & Ride the Carriage Roads

Carriage Roads
This 57-mile long network of paved paths created and financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. provides hikers, bikers, inline skaters, horse riders, and horse-drawn carriages a unique way to visit Acadia National Park. Over the course of the 27-year project, Rockefeller designed the paths to highlight the best scenery in the park — circling around Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake and Mount Desert Island. The Carriage Roads are off-limits to motor vehicles. During the winter months, some of these allow for cross-country skiing and limited snowmobiling.

Explore Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond
When you think of the most idyllic spot in Acadia National Park, Jordan Pond with its pristine calm waters surrounded by lush, majestic mountains in all directions usually comes to mind. The Jordan Pond Nature Trail — an easy stroll through the evergreens — and the Jordan Pond Shore Trail — a more difficult trek along the rocky coast — spill out to the picturesque and pleasant respite of Jordan Pond. Regardless of your route, at the end you’ll find crystal-clear waters that mirror the surrounding mountains. Swimming is not allowed, but non-motorized boats such as canoes and kayaks are permitted.

Hike Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain — at 1530 feet — is not only is it the tallest mountain in the park, but it’s the tallest mountain on the North Atlantic seaboard. It’s also the first point of the United States to greet the rising sun — a spectacular sight to see. Largely composed of pink granite, it’s covered with spruce and pitch pine forests, tiny sub alpine plants, short gnarled trees and wild blueberries. You can hike the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail or drive the narrow 3.5-mile access road. The only attraction that can be reached by car, Cadillac Mountain tends to draw large crowds. There are several observation areas along the way — perfect for taking in the views before you reach the top.

Enjoy Sand Beach

Sand Beach
On the east side of Mount Desert Island, Sand Beach is nestled between two walls of solid pink granite and surrounded by towering evergreens. With 290 yards of shoreline, Sand Beach is the most popular beach in the park because the views are outstanding. And, you can hike up the Great Head Trail for an even better vantage point. The beach is largely comprised of sand and shell fragments created by the pounding surf. The waterline can vary quite a bit because of the difference between high and low tide.

Visit Otter Cliff

Otter Cliff
One of the most spectacular sights along the North Atlantic Seaboard, Otter Cliff is a classic stop along the Park Look Road. The famous 110 foot high granite precipice is one of the highest Atlantic coastal headlands. In the summer, you may see adventurous rock climbers working their way up the granite cliffs and whale pods spouting off shore. In the fall, large flocks of ducks congregate here in the waves before migrating south for the winter.

Experience Thunder Hole

Feel and hear the thunder of the sea against the rocky shores at this small inlet, naturally carved out of the rocks. At the end of this inlet is a semi-submerged cave where the waves rush in and air and water is forced out like a clap of thunder. Water can spray as high as 40 feet with a thunderous roar! To catch the big boom, there’s an element of luck, as well as timing. The best time to visit is when the tides are changing. From here, you can also take in the views — Schoodic Peninsula in the distance, Sand Beach to your left and Otter Cliff to the east.

Ride at Wildwood Stables

Wildwood Stables provides a variety of daily horse-drawn carriage rides and tours from end of May through mid-October of each year. Tours follow the famous and scenic carriage roads that were originally constructed by John D. Rockefeller. Tour lengths include one and two hours with the option to charter a private carriage driven by a Wildwood Stables’ coachman. The stables are located next to the picturesque Park Loop Road on the southeastern side of Mount Desert Island.

Explore Schoodic Point

Located at the southern tip of Schoodic Peninsula in Winter Harbor, Schoodic Point is composed of a craggy shoreline, granite headlands and spruce-fir forests. It provides one of the best places to view the pounding surf during rough seas as well as great views of Cadillac Mountain. Schoodic Point isn’t as easily accessible as some of the park’s other major attractions. But that’s precisely why park visitors find this area so special. There are four hiking trails; the Schoodic Head Trail, Anvil Trail and East Trail lead hikers through spruce-fir forests to pine woodlands at the top of Schoodic Head. The less-strenuous Alder Trail guides visitors through a shrubland.


Acadia National Park

Click here to see the Acadia National Park poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist with a single passion for our National Parks! Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph each of our national parks and to create WPA-style posters to celebrate the amazing landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history that embody America’s Best Idea!

Click here to learn more about Rob and the National Park Poster Project

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
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Best Things to do in Yellowstone National Park (Part 1)

Blue Pool

One of the greatest experiences in Yellowstone National Park is witnessing its geologic wonders. Topping the list are the hydrothermal features: hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, and geysers — particularly, Old Faithful. Well over 10,000 different hydrothermal features have been estimated to be active within the park. Even more incredible might be that over half of the world’s active geysers are found here. Every year, some 500-700 geysers are active. In 2011, it was determined that 1,283 geysers have been recorded as erupting in Yellowstone. This is truly incredible, when all of the rest of the world’s geysers combined number less than 500. Hydrothermal features are extremely dynamic, changing throughout the day, across seasons, and over the years. This makes revisiting the different thermal basins so interesting. Besides seeing familiar sites, you can also see how those areas have changed since the last visit.

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s National Parks! I’ve been to 48 of our 61 National Parks — and Yellowstone is one of my all-time favorites! I have explored most areas of the park — so I’m ready to help! So if this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park!

Yellowstone is huge…and this is the first of three posts describing what to do and what to see when you visit Yellowstone National Park. Read on to learn more about the southern part of the park.

Watch Old Faithful Geyser

Old Faithful Geyser
Watching Old Faithful Geyser erupt is a Yellowstone National Park tradition. People from all over the world have journeyed here to watch this famous geyser. The park’s wildlife and scenery might be as well-known today, but it was the unique thermal features like Old Faithful Geyser that inspired the establishment of Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872. Old Faithful is one of nearly 500 geysers in Yellowstone and one of six that park rangers currently predict. It is uncommon to be able to predict geyser eruptions with regularity, but Old Faithful has lived up to its name, only lengthening the time between eruptions by about 30 minutes in the last 30 years. Thermal features change constantly and it is possible Old Faithful may stop erupting someday. Geysers and other thermal features are evidence of ongoing volcanic activity beneath the surface and change is part of this natural system.

Check out Fishing Bridge

The original bridge was built in 1902. It was a rough-hewn corduroy log bridge with a slightly different alignment than the current bridge. The existing bridge was built in 1937. Fishing Bridge was historically a tremendously popular place to fish. Angling from the bridge was quite good, due to the fact that it was a major spawning area for cutthroat trout. However, because of the decline of the cutthroat population (in part, a result of this practice), the bridge was closed to fishing in 1973.

Visit Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Large volcanic eruptions have occurred in Yellowstone approximately every 600,000 years. The most recent of these erupted from two large vents, one near Old Faithful and one just north of Fishing Bridge. Ash from this huge explosion — 1,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens — has been found all across the continent. The magma chamber then collapsed, forming a large caldera filled partially by subsequent lava flows. Part of this caldera is the 136-square mile basin of Yellowstone Lake. The original lake was 200 feet. higher than the present-day lake, extending northward across Hayden Valley to the base of Mt. Washburn.

Explore the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake

Members of the 1870 Washburn party noted that Yellowstone Lake was shaped like “a human hand with the fingers extended and spread apart as much as possible,” with the large west bay representing the thumb. In 1878, however, the Hayden Survey used the name West Arm for the bay. West Bay was also used. Norris’ maps of 1880 and 1881 used West Bay or Thumb. During the 1930s, park personnel attempted to change the name back to West Arm, but West Thumb remains the accepted name.

West Thumb

Explore the West Thumb Geyser Basin

West Thumb Geyser Basin, including Potts Basin to the north, is the largest geyser basin on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. The heat source of the hydrothermal features in this location is thought to be relatively close to the surface—only 10,000 feet down! The West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake was formed by a large volcanic explosion that occurred approximately 150,000 years ago. The resulting collapsed volcano later filled with water forming an extension of Yellowstone Lake. The West Thumb is about the same size as another famous volcanic caldera, Crater Lake in Oregon, but much smaller than the great Yellowstone Caldera. It is interesting to note that West Thumb is a caldera within a caldera. The hydrothermal features at West Thumb are found not only on the lake shore, but extend under the surface of the lake as well. Several underwater geysers were discovered in the early 1990s and can be seen as slick spots or slight bulges in the summer. During the winter, the underwater thermal features are visible as melt holes in the icy surface of the lake. The ice averages about three feet thick during the winter.

View Wildlife in Hayden Valley

Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Hayden Valley is located six miles north of Fishing Bridge Junction. Hayden Valley offers some of the best habitat in the lower 48 states for viewing wildlife like grizzly bears, bison, and elk. Hayden Valley was once filled by an arm of Yellowstone Lake and it contains fine-grained lake sediments that are now covered with glacial till left from the most recent glacial retreat, about 13,000 years ago. Because the glacial till contains many different grain sizes, including clay and a thin layer of lake sediments, water cannot percolate readily into the ground. This is why Hayden Valley is marshy and has little encroachment of trees.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Best Things to do in Yellowstone National Park!

Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful Geyser

Click here to see the Old Faithful poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist with a single passion for our National Parks! Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph each of our national parks and to create WPA-style posters to celebrate the amazing landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history that embody America’s Best Idea!

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers