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Beneath the Badlands lies one of the world's finest Oligocene fossil beds of mammals that flourished 27 to 34 million years ago. Between the White and Cheyenne rivers in southwestern South Dakota, the area also contains spectacular examples of weathering and erosion.
Banff, Canada's first national park, also is one of its most spectacular. Blessed with an abundance of incredibly turquoise lakes, mountaintops draped in snow and glaciers that glisten and sparkle in the sunlight, Banff is a wonder to explore in all seasons.
Bryce Canyon National Park is 26 miles southeast of Panguitch via US 89 and SRs 12 and 63. The park includes some of Earth's most colorful rocks, which have been sculpted by erosion into pillars called hoodoos. The area's difficult topography led Mormon settler Ebenezer Bryce, whose cattle grazed in the mazelike twists of the canyons' stream beds, to declare it a hell of a place to lose a cow.
In the interior of Alaska, primitive and wild Denali National Park and Preserve covers 9,419 square miles and offers spectacular views of quiet lakes, snow capped peaks and varicolored tundra. In addition to 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, the park encompasses 17,400-foot Mount Foraker , 13,220-foot Silverthrone and 11,670-foot Mount Russell.
Glacier National Park is in northwestern Montana. Geologic processes formed and sculpted the peaks, leaving about 25 glaciers and 750 lakes. The mountains are a result of an overthrust of the Earth's crust. Rock layers about a billion years old lie above layers millions of years younger. Some of the finest mountain scenery in America is within this million-acre national park, which marked its centennial in 2010.
So often in our travels, natural wonders trumpeted as one of Earth's most beautiful treasures don't live up to the hype. The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is not one of them. This immense gorge is long, it is deep and it's a stunner. Read this travel guide, pack an extra memory card for the camera and get ready to experience what President Theodore Roosevelt called one of the great sights that every American should see.
The park's 485 square miles include the major portion of Wyoming's Teton Range and the valley of Jackson Hole. Together the mountain range and valley frame a majestic landscape of eight large lakes and many smaller ones, glaciers, numerous snowfields and extensive pine, fir and spruce forests. The Tetons are among the youngest mountains on the continent.
The main entrance to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is 15 miles southeast of Hardin via exit 510 off I-90, then a half-mile east via US 212. In the Valley of the Little Bighorn River in June 1876, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the 210 men of the 7th Cavalry Regiment under his command made their last stand against several thousand Lakota, Arapaho and Northern Cheyenne, many of whom were fleeing the restrictions of the reservation.
In southwestern Colorado, 9 miles east of Cortez, Mesa Verde National Park is one of the nation's major archeological preserves. The park consists of nearly 5,000 archeological sites, which include 600 cliff dwellings that were the homes of ancestral Pueblo people. Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table A score of large canyons seam the mesa, and in the shelter of the hundreds of alcoves eroded in the cliffs are some of the world's largest and best preserved cliff dwellings.
Reached via scenic US 163, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a colorful region covering several thousand square miles within the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Called the House of the Sun the park encompasses the summit of Haleakala, Kipahulu Valley and the 'Ohe'o area near Hana. The dormant Haleakala is on the upper slopes and makes up all of east Maui. Although many refer to the feature at the top of Haleakala as a crater it is actually a valley formed by erosion. The reddish hues of cinder cones and black lava flows characterize the scenic landscape.
The colossal sculpted heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were created under the direction of Gutzon Borglum. The memorial is one of the largest pieces of sculpture ever created. Mount Rushmore represents the distinctive achievements of the United States during its first 150 years as personified by four great national leaders.
In terms of sheer scenic grandeur Olympic National Park hits the jackpot. The variety within the park's 922,650 acres is simply remarkable. Much of the interior is dominated by rugged mountains and active glaciers unusual for their formation at a relatively low elevation.
Along the northern California coast between Crescent City and Orick, 302 miles north of San Francisco on US 101, Redwood National and State Parks encompasses 131,983 acres. Within its boundaries are the 60,286 combined acres of Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks.
In central California, stretching northward from 35 miles east of Visalia to 55 miles east of Fresno, and from the foothills of the San Joaquin Valley to the crest of the High Sierra, these two parks abut one another and are managed together. Sequoia is the second-oldest national park, behind Yellowstone National Park.
See for yourself why the colorful canyon is dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Waimea Canyon State Park is 15 mi. on SR 550 adjoining Koke'e State Park. The Pu'u Hinahina Lookout provides views of Ni'ihau Island and is the trailhead for the popular Canyon Trail. The serpentine lower portion of the highway Waimea Canyon Drive requires cautious driving. A short nature trail is available.
Imagine trekking through the Rockies and coming upon a high mountain plateau where steam rose from jewel-colored pools, mud bubbled in thick pots and geysers roared 300 feet high out of the earth. The Crow Native Americans named this place land of the burning ground." The Blackfeet called it "many smoke." Western explorers described fantastical scenes of "fire and brimstone."
Reached by hwys. 1 and 93, Yoho National Park covers 1,310 square kilometres (507 sq. mi.) and is west of the Great Divide and Banff National Park. In the Cree language, yoho is an exclamation of wonder appropriate to the park's spectacular rock walls and towering waterfalls. At the center of the park's history is Canada's first trans-continental railway.
At Yosemite National Park it's all about the view. Want proof? Then consider the panorama of Yosemite Valley as seen from the east end of the Wawona Tunnel, where you emerge out of darkness to behold an absolutely picture-perfect landscape dominated by the vertical granite face of El Capitan and the cascading beauty of Bridalveil Falls (surely a change of scene on par with what Dorothy witnessed after that tornado deposited her in Oz).
When confronted by the spectacular scenery of Zion Canyon, 19th-century Mormon homesteaders and early visitors of other faiths drew upon their religious beliefs to help them describe it. Angels Landing. Great White Throne. West Temple. Court of the Patriarchs. Altar of Sacrifice. You can't say the names of Zion Canyon's landmarks without sounding like you're quoting from the Old Testament.
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