One of the highlights of our snowbird lifestyle is touring national parks. National Park Service sites are a great national resource—places where nature, history, geology, art, culture, and wildlife are protected and preserved forever.
From the cool forests of Sequoia National Park to the barren heat of Death Valley to the remote Capitol Reef National Park, to South Carolina’s Congaree National Park, largest old-growth forest in the southeastern United States—there’s something for everyone. Literally.
National parks aren’t just summer destinations. Many parks see significant visitation during the fall and winter months, offering everything from wildlife to fall foliage to cooler temperatures.
While every national park has its own charm, here is my list of National Park Service sites with great appeal for snowbirds during their autumn and winter travels.
is a diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. The park consists of two deserts: the Colorado which offers low desert formations and plant life, such as ocotillo, and teddy bear cholla cactus; and the Mojave. This higher, cooler, wetter region is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree.
Be amazed at the largest trees on Earth. Big trees are the prime attraction of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. The scale and grandeur of these reddish giants is stunning. The centerpiece of the Giant Forest, General Sherman, is the world-record holder for the most massive living thing.
At Pinnacles, the possibilities for discovery are limitless. The remains of an ancient volcanic field consisting of massive monoliths, rocky spires, pinnacles, red crags, and talus cave, rise out of the chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains, a sanctuary for the California condor. Hiking and rock climbing are popular activities in Pinnacles National Park.
From the breathtaking views along the Skyline Drive to the thrill of hiking to a mountain summit, it’s hard to leave Shenandoah without being inspired. Whether you’re looking to get in touch with nature, discover a piece of history, or simply relax in a serene environment, Shenandoah offers activities for visitors of all interests.
Situated in oak woodlands on the southern edge of the Huachuca Mountains, Coronado National Memorial offers a visitors center, Coronado Cave, hiking trails, and a scenic drive that culminates at Coronado Pass overlook (elevation 6,575 feet) with breathtaking views of the San Pedro Valley to the southeast and the San Raphael Valley to the west.
Petrified Forest National Park preserves one of the world’s largest and most vibrantly colored assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures, and archeological sites. The park is composed of two sections: the north section is a colorful badlands called the Painted Desert along with archaeological sites, and the southern section contains most of the petrified wood.
The park received its name in part from the great white rock formations resembling the U.S. Capitol building and from the sheer cliffs that presented a barrier to early travelers. However, it is the park’s multi-colored sandstone that earned it the nickname, “land of the sleeping rainbow,” by early settlers.
Zion National Park is known for its majestic towering rock mountains which rise to awe-inspiring heights. Zion is a lush green oasis, surrounded by startling sentinels of stone. With sheer, milky-white cliffs, and pristine waterfalls, Zion is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Go underground at Carlsbad Caverns, a magical world of mysterious passageways, colossal rock formations, crystal-clear pools of water, and giant subterranean chambers. Most of the formations—or speleothems—found inside Carlsbad Cavern today were active and growing during the last ice age when instead of having a desert above the cave, there were pine forests.
Please Note: This is part of an on-going series on America’s National Parks Centennial
Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.