As of this writing, the National Park System (NPS) is still being impacted by the coronavirus, with access and services increasing in a phased approach. (Details available at www.nps.gov/coronavirus.) But just because you can’t park your camper under the redwoods, next to the ocean, or in a prairie setting doesn’t mean you can’t visit your favorite National Park.
Note: To learn the status of the park on your must-see list, use Find A Park to find that park’s website where the most current news regarding access and restrictions will be posted.
Ready for your virtual visit? Here are some websites to check out! For more national parks and sites offering virtual tours, go to Find Your Virtual Park. You can also go to Google Arts & Culture: The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.
Even if you’re landlocked, you can still view the Caribbean courtesy of the Annaberg Sugar Plantation 3D tour, located on St. John Island. Annaberg Sugar Plantation is part of the Virgin Islands National Park: 7,259 acres of terrestrial habitat (about 60%, of the island’s landmass) as well as 5,650 acres of adjacent submerged lands. The park also owns the ridge tops to the reefs providing protection and preservation for tropical and migrating birds, fish, corals, and other marine life, as well as some 800 species of plants.
Yellowstone National Park (located in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) is home to unique hydrothermal and geologic wonders: hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and fumaroles. A click of the mouse will take you on a virtual tour where you can view Canary Spring at Mammoth Hot Springs (watch out for the icy patches!), head over to the overlook of the Upper Falls, visit Dragon’s Mouth Spring at Mud Volcano, and finish at Lookout Point to see the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. The website also has other virtual tours for specific sites in the park.
Afraid of heights? You don’t have to worry when you take a virtual tour of the mile-deep Grand Canyon. In-person, it would take five hours to drive the 215 miles between the park’s South Rim Village and the North Rim Village. But done virtually, the expedition is much shorter, although just as breathtaking. Options include a virtual hike to Phantom Ranch on the Corridor Trails, a virtual raft trip through Grand Canyon (swimsuit not required!), or, if you’re an archeology buff, do the Grand Canyon Archeology Virtual Tour. Either watch the video or click on the sites listed on the right side of the screen for 3D views.
The 15,000-acre Indiana Dunes National Park, bordered by 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan, has much to offer nature lovers and hikers. Virtual tours include a hike down the Heron Rookery Trail, a walk along the Dune Ridge Trail, an exploration of Mount Baldy Beach Trail and a view of the shelf ice at Indiana Dunes Winter Beaches—no coat needed!
Off the coast of southern California, near Los Angeles, the Channel Islands National Park includes five islands: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara—all with a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Start your virtual visit with the Official Film of the Channel Islands National Park, then join actor/recording artist Jordan Fisher for a 360 virtual tour of Channel Islands National Park, and view the park’s spectacular islands and underwater marvels.
Grand Teton National Park has more than two hundred miles of trails, scenic drives offering views of the Teton Range, boating experiences on Snake River, and numerous other opportunities for enjoyment. Until you can visit in person, the following virtual tours will show you what the park offers: eClimb Grand Teton, eHike String Lake, and eXperience the Moose-Wilson corridor.
Looking for more virtual experiences? The National Parks Service has PARKTRACKS; an innovative audio experience providing the sounds of the parks, captured by the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division.
The National Park Foundation, the official charitable partner of the National Park Service, has a blog post with links to several parks offering a range of multi-media offerings. The Foundation website also offers Park Activities You Can Do from the Comfort of Your Home, including Take A Tour With Sesame Street, Fill Out An Activity Map, and Become A Junior Ranger.