Texarkana Gazette

Going beyond the tourist trail


In “Secrets of the National Parks: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Experience­s Beyond the Tourist Trail” (National Geographic, 2020), readers will learn of little-known corners and experience­s that await within our treasured national parks. Through inspiring photos and insider tips, the book tempts families to put more park visits on their future bucket lists.

Here are five examples:

The Everglades, Florida.

The “river of grass” is perhaps best known for its abundant wildlife, most notably a plethora of alligators and colorful wading birds. Fewer visitors are aware that the 2400-square-miles of protected landscape is also home to relics that date back to the Cold War. In the far reaches of the park you’ll find a former U.S. Army missile site, built soon after the Cuban Missile Crisis, that protected South Florida from aerial attack for more than 15 years. Beginning in 2009, the now-abandoned Nike Missile Site HM — 69 opened for tours. Visitors will learn the story of its above-ground constructi­on and visit missile sites, guard dog kennels, barracks and control centers during Ranger-led tours. Check the park website for schedules and registrati­on.

Capitol Reef, Utah

This lesser-known gem in south-central Utah, stretches for 381 miles, treating visitors to geologic wonders similar to those found in Zion or Arches, but in a more isolated and varied setting, according to the book’s authors. Visit the Fruita historic district for a window onto the world of the region’s early Mormon settlers. Pioneer remnants include a one-room schoolhous­e, a blacksmith shop and a refurbishe­d homestead. The property also includes 19 orchards, featuring more than 3,000 fruit-laden trees. For a fresh taste treat, stop in to the 1908 Gifford homestead where fresh pies, scones and ice cream are sold in the old kitchen.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The highest elevation park in the United States, this 415-square-mile stretch protects some of Colorado’s most pristine wilderness. Scenic drives as well as hiking trails make it easy to appreciate the park’s exceptiona­l beauty. For birdwatche­rs, butterfly seekers, photograph­ers and wildflower enthusiast­s, the authors suggest it’s worth keeping an eye out for “exclosures.” These are areas in the park, often aspen and willow groves, where tall fences impede the grazing of elk and moose. The areas are accessible to visitors, report the authors, as long as gates are closed and care is taken to protect the rich and often recovering vegetation.

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota Visitors to this intriguing landscape have the option to discover two worlds — one above ground, the other, below the earths surface. Under expansive skies, families can explore

44-square miles of prairie and pine forest, a landscape, that according to park rangers, is brimming with wildlife. Below, Wind Cave, the world’s seventh largest caving system, is known for its rare formations, particular­ly the grate-like structure called “boxwork.” The candlelit tour of the caves is highly recommende­d by the authors. Reservatio­ns are required.

Acadia National Park, Maine While the first National Park east of the Mississipp­i is among the system’s more popular destinatio­ns, the authors advise that there are still enjoyable ways to explore the coastal park sans the crowds. Bike or hike along more than 45 miles of unpaved carriage roads. Skip the more popular sunrise hike and take in a quiet sunset near the Blue Hill Overlook. Travel to Bar Harbor by canoe at low tide. Take the 1.3-mile Ship Harbor loop trail in search of tidal pools. Then settle in among the pink granite ledges and observe as crabs, periwinkle­s, sea stars and urchins make themselves known in the clear water.

To learn more about national parks, visit www.NPS.gov

 ?? Simon Zimmermann/Dreamstime/TNS ?? ■ A woman sits at Bear Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Simon Zimmermann/Dreamstime/TNS ■ A woman sits at Bear Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

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