National Park Guide: Arches National Park in Utah

Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, one of the most popular National Parks in America with two million visitors each year, is home to over 2,000 cataloged arches formed by erosion and weathering over the past 65 million years. Learn more about how the arches were formed here. Today, the park covers over 76, 000 acres and, in addition to the arches, is home to almost 500 species of plants, almost 200 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, 21 species of reptiles, and 6 species of fish (yes- fish!)

We visited in June of 2021, during the still on going COVID pandemic, and there were some restrictions, mainly with the Visitor’s Center and programs. We highly recommend visiting early in the morning (being inside the park by 6am early), spending the morning hiking, and then leaving the park for lunch and a rest during peak afternoon sun. Later afternoon and evening will provide cooler temperatures and smaller crowds. Be careful to stay away from cactus and yucca plants, both of which are prevalent throughout the park. Both plants have sharp tips that can poke and easily puncture skin.

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National Park Guide: Canyonlands National Park in Utah

The entire Canyonlands National Park, located in the eastern part of Utah, covers over 337,000 acres of canyons, mesas, buttes, arches, and spires. The geology of the park includes over a dozen layers of various sandstones, ranging from Navajo Sandstone down to Cedar Mesa Sandstone. CanyonLands is home to several archeological sites with structures one thousand years ago and amazing star gazing, including the Milky Way. Canyonlands is a designated International Dark Sky Park for its impressive attention to preservation.

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National Park Guide: Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, located in Surrey, Utah, opened as a National Monument in 1937 and officially became a National Park in 1971. The entire state of Utah was once a sand dune (200 million years ago) and overtime, various geological feats created the park. The geology of the park is quite complex (attend a ranger talk to learn more!), but the headline involves various rock layers that, through tectonic plate activity, raised the Colorado Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau, which caused a fault line running through the area to develop into the park. Over time, the western part of the park raised over 7,000 feet higher than the eastern part of the park. Today, the Visitor Center sits 5,500 feet above sea level.

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National Park Guide: Zion National Park in Utah

Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah is the most popular park in Utah and, with over five million visitors every year, one of the most popular parks in America. The park spans over 124, 000 acres, with over 90 miles of hiking trails and plenty of family friendly activities. Rock squirrels and deer are EVERYWHERE and neither animal is afraid of humans. We frequently saw deer come within a few yards of people in several spots, and the squirrels come very close to people, hoping for food (don’t feed them!) Learn more about other animals who call the park home here.

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10 Tips for Visiting Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

The 28,295 acres of Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota are home to the 7th longest cave in the world, and the 3rd longest cave in America. The cave was discovered by Jesse and Tom Bingham in the early 1880s and 21 Native American tribes associated with the Wind Cave. President Theodore Roosevelt established Wind Cave as the 8th National Park in 1903, naming it after the barometric winds at the entrance to the cave. There are 156.3 miles of passageways in Wind Cave and 95% of the world’s boxwork hangs inside the cave, along with 12 species of bats (although we didn’t see any on our visit).

We spent a summer morning on 4th of July weekend exploring the park and taking a Natural Entrance Cave tour and loved it! The park is fairly isolated, with no dining options, so plan ahead and bring food. Here are our 10 tips if you’re planning a visit to Wind Cave National Park.

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10 Tips for Visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Known as the “Shrine of Democracy”, Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota and attracts over two million visitors each year. The Black Hills are known for the ponderosa pine trees that give the illusion of darkness from a distance.

The concept of an attraction that would drum up business for the economy and bring visitors to South Dakota was the idea of Doane Robinson, the state historian of South Dakota. He originally wanted to honor western heroes, like Lewis and Clarke and Chief Red Cliff. Robinson sought out mountain carvers and found well known sculpture Gutzon Borglum, who was working on a project in Georgia. Borglum changed the scope of the project by switching the location and the profiles to feature American presidents that best represent 150 years of American history. He chose Mount Rushmore, named for New York attorney Charles Rushmore who inspected the mountain for mining in the 1880s, because of its location: it was big enough for the scale of the project, it was made of hard rock, and it faced southeast, which provided good daytime light.

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