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Archive for national parks

Aspiring in New Zealand

By Linda Tancs

Named for Mount Aspiring, one of New Zealand’s highest peaks, Mount Aspiring National Park provides inspiring walks for trekkers eager to view its glaciers, waterfalls, braided rivers and acres of native beech forest. Short walks around one hour include the Devil’s Punchbowl and Wainui Falls, featuring native forests and waterfalls. If you’re interested in a more serious walk, consider treks such as the Gillespie Pass Circuit, the Wilkin Valley, Aspiring Hut, Liverpool Bivy and Cascade Saddle. Of course, the park is also easily accessible by plane, helicopter or jet-boat, and a glacier landing high in the mountains can’t be beat.

The Most Beautiful Place in America

By Linda Tancs

Miles of sand beach, bluffs that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan, forests, clear inland lakes and unhindered night sky views are just some of the charms of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Reportedly named after a Native American legend of a mother bear who swims from Wisconsin to escape a forest fire, the locale was once voted “the most beautiful place in America” by Good Morning America. It certainly does offer spectacular views, like the ones from the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive (named for the lumberman who initiated the road), a 7.4-mile loop with overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the dunes and Lake Michigan. The Lake Michigan Overlook (stop #9 on the drive) is a visitor favorite, where the sunset is particularly outstanding. Pick up an interpretive guide for the scenic drive at the Visitor Center in Empire.

Bodacious Trees in South Carolina

By Linda Tancs

South Carolina is not lacking in bodacious trees, even champions. Literally. A champion tree is the largest of its species according to a standard measuring formula based on trunk circumference, tree height and average crown spread. They’re the star attraction at Congaree National Park, where you’ll find two champions for every three square miles. In fact, the park represents one of the tallest temperate deciduous forests in the world, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. A great way to experience it is by canoeing or kayaking on the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail. You’ll learn even more if you take one of the limited, reservation-only, ranger-guided canoe tours.

The End of the World Train

By Linda Tancs

There’s a certain finality to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park, the southernmost tip of the Andean-Patagonian forest, a place where a particular variety of red fox resides and birch forest predominates. It’s there that you’ll find the final part of the Andes. It’s also where you can catch the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo), a historic, narrow-gauge steam railway journey between Ushuaia (commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world) and the park. The hour-long journey (one way) presents stunning vistas accented by the Pipo River, Macarena cascade, a tree cemetery and the forest. An onboard audio tour is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and the train runs year-round.

South Downs Way

By Linda Tancs

South Downs National Park is England’s newest national park (as of this writing), established in 2010. Spreading across Sussex and Hampshire, it covers an area of 627 square miles boasting fragile chalk and clay landscapes, woodlands and river valleys that earned it a previous designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The park is also home to the South Downs Way, one of 15 national trails in England and Wales (as well as the first bridleway national trail in England) and the only one to lie entirely within a national park. The nearly 100-mile route extends from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east. Download a walking map or details of connecting bus services to your phone and get on the Way.

Heights of Abraham

By Linda Tancs

Spanning 555 square miles and covering parts of the counties of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire, Peak District National Park is the UK’s oldest national park. One of its most appealing destinations is the Heights of Abraham, a hilltop park in Derbyshire reached by cable car, providing spectacular views across the Derwent Valley. And you’ll likely not miss the park’s iconic symbol, the millstone, produced in Derbyshire as early as medieval times. Hundreds of them still lie scattered across parts of the park.

The Top of Texas

By Linda Tancs

How can you view the top of Texas on foot? Take the Guadalupe Peak Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, site of the four highest peaks in Texas. Not for the faint of heart, the day hike (8.5 miles round-trip) climbs 3,000 feet and travels through a conifer forest to reach the top of Guadalupe Peak. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views to the west and to the south.

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