Posts Tagged ‘hiking/walking’

World Heritage: Grand Canyon National Park

Monday, November 16th, 2009

In a country with such natural beauty and diversity it is no wonder that three U.S. National Parks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park, one of the world’s earliest, was designated as such in 1919 and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

A 1938 poster advertising travel to the Grand Canyon. Image: Library of Congress.

A 1938 poster depicting the Grand Canyon. Image: Library of Congress.

The Grand Canyon National Park boasts stunning vistas that even the best photographs can’t adequately capture. About the size of Delaware, but located in Arizona, the park is big enough to contain exposed rock that as old as two billion years and has enough diverse microclimates that people can be hiking through snowdrifts and sunbathing on the river bank on the same day.

John Wesley Powell is credited with leading the first passage through the Grand Canyon in 1869 on the Powell Geographic Expedition. Powell, a U.S. soldier and trained geologist, explored the Colorado River and the surrounding areas, gathering information and providing recommendations to developers back east. The extremely rugged and remote landscape of the area prevented major agricultural development, but made it a top-notch destination for intrepid outdoor explorers and athletes. Even so, only 3.3 percent of the terrain has been surveyed by archeologists, who continue to look for more evidence from groups who once inhabited the area. Carbon dating indicates that some artifacts found there date from as far back as 2900 B.C. It is thought that people have lived in the area for at least 8,000 years.

The Havasupai, who are native to the area, continue to live there in Supai village and the surrounding lands; their rock art decorates the nearby cliffs. Today, the park hosts more than four million tourists each year, who walk the trails, climb the cliffs, photograph the scenery, row the river, explore by helicopter, and revel in the grandeur of the Canyon.

What’s your favorite National Park and why? Share below.

Take your family to the Grand Canyon this summer. Join us in June 2010 for an exploration of the park.

Smithsonian Journeys also travels to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Big Bend, and Glacier National Parks. Click  for details.

There is a new mini-series on PBS by Ken Burns about our National Parks. Click to learn more.

World Heritage: Yosemite National Park

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
View of Yosemite's Upper and Lower Falls. Photo: April Dennard, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

View of Yosemite’s Upper and Lower Falls. Photo: April Dennard, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

In a country with such natural beauty and diversity it is no wonder that three US National Parks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon National Parks attract visitors from the world over to see their active geysers, white-topped mountains, and flowing rivers.  Yosemite, the world’s first national park, was designated as such in 1906 and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Located in east-central California, the Yosemite area was home to indigenous Paiute, Sierra Miwok, and Ahwahneechee groups long before non-indigenous people entered the region. In the mid-19th century, the California Gold Rush attracted as many as 300,000 new people to the area and displaced the area’s original settlers. Nearly a half-century later, some of the area’s first “tourists,” James Mason Hutchings and Thomas Ayres, investigated and sketched a stunning array of geographical features and wildlife.

In 1903, the landscape seen on a camping trip with preservationist John Muir so enchanted President Theodore Roosevelt that he transferred control of the land to the federal government in order to better preserve the park’s geography, wildlife, and natural beauty. The area officially became a national park in 1906, and was the first such park in the world. Since then, more than 200 other countries have followed our example and set aside land where people can enjoy the outdoors and undisturbed natural landscapes.

In Yosemite today, spectacular granite cliffs, thundering waterfalls, clear streams, and giant Sequoia groves attract more than 3.5 million visitors annually. History and geology buffs alike may learn more about the park’s historical and geological origins at the Yosemite Museum, founded in 1926. Due to increased protection efforts, hikers, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts can continue to enjoy the park’s rich offerings for years to come.

What’s your favorite National Park and why? Share below.

Yosemite is especially beautiful in spring. Join us in May, 2010, for an exploration of the park.

Smithsonian Journeys also visits Yellowstone, Big Bend, and Glacier National Parks. Click for details.

There is a new mini-series on PBS by Ken Burns about our National Parks. Click to learn more.

Video: Drive Through Death Valley

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Death Valley is home to a fantastic array of great hiking and driving options—its salt flats, badlands, and dramatically eroded canyons are not to be missed. The ancient sandstone, exposed by wind and weather, glows orange, yellow, and gold in the desert sun. Here, check out a lovely video on a lonely drive through death valley. Wait until the end for a beautiful sunset—thanks to YouTube user chasgti.

Intrigued by Death Valley? Hike it for yourself on our upcoming Death Valley Adventure, in March, 2010.

Where’s your favorite place to hike? Share below.

Photo: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
The Half Dome is one of the most recognized features of Yosemite National Park.

The Half Dome is one of the most recognized features of Yosemite National Park.

There are myriad reasons to visit Yosemite National Park, but the Half Dome (above) is one of our favorites. Almost 5,000 feet high, its image now graces the California state quarter. Although it was 1875 before people were able to climb the Half Dome, today, there are several trails and climbing routes to the summit. The view from the top is breathtaking, allowing hikers to see the valley floor.

Take your own hike through the Yosemite Valley and see Half Dome for yourself on our Yosemite in Spring tour.

Click here for Smithsonian’s Land Through A Lens virtual exhibit, a collection of iconic images of America’s natural beauty and a chronicle of photographers’ fascination with the land.

Click here to read more about naturalist John Muir’s love affair with Yosemite.

Which US National Park is your favorite? Share below.