Scorching temperatures and countless travelers symbolize the season. As we trudge through the “dog days” of summer, we should pause to celebrate some of our treasured lands. The United States has five national parks with a birthday in July or August that deserve recognition. Light the candles and warm up your singing voices.
Mammoth Cave National Park
- Established July 1, 1941
Nestled in south-central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park turns 82 this year. The park comprises deep river valleys and rolling hills above ground. Meanwhile, the world’s longest-known cave system quietly hides below the surface.
Although a bit inland, many consider Mammoth Cave to be one of the best east coast national parks. With so many accolades and unique activities, it is easy to see why.
Mammoth Cave National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. It was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2021. Popular activities include cave tours, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and stargazing.
The park contains a variety of wildlife within its caves, forests, and waterways. It harbors endangered species, including freshwater mussels, Kentucky cave shrimp, Indiana bats, gray bats, and northern long-eared bats.
Haleakala National Park
- Established August 1, 1916
Located on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, Haleakala National Park turns 107 this August. The park’s centerpiece is its namesake dormant volcano. Visitors can explore volcanic landscapes, rocky coastlines, cascading waterfalls, and lush bamboo forests.
The Summit District offers rugged trails with views of lava flows and cinder cones, while the Kipahulu District yields an oasis of freshwater pools and waterfalls within a subtropical rainforest. Crater Road delivers stunning views across the West Maui Mountains.
Popular activities include hiking, camping, observing sunrise or sunset, and stargazing. Sunrise hours are 3 to 7 am, and visitors must reserve a spot.
For those who enjoy birding, Haleakala National Park houses many birds that live exclusively in Hawaii. The Hawaiian petrel, a native seabird, is federally endangered, while the state bird, the Hawaiian goose, is vulnerable.
A unique group of rare forest birds called honeycreepers comprises 17 species, with several making the endangered list—only 500 individuals remain. Many of the honeycreepers don colorful feathers and odd, curved beaks.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Established August 1, 1916
Situated on the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park turns 107 this year. It holds two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The park protects some of the world’s most unique geological landscapes and biological species. Accordingly, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.
Popular activities include hiking, scenic drives, and birding. The park offers day hikes and backpacking excursions through volcanic landscapes and lush rainforests. Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road yield spectacular views and are a great way to explore the park.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park harbors unique wildlife, including endangered sea turtles, America’s most giant dragonfly, and the Hawaiian hoary bat, the state’s only native land mammal. Like Haleakala, honeycreepers, Hawaiian geese, and Hawaiian petrels inhabit the area. However, the park has a few other unique birds.
The Hawaiian hawk is the only hawk species native to Hawaii. One of the world’s most endangered crow species, the Hawaiin crow, lives in the park. The majestic white-tailed tropicbird draws a smile. Primarily white, the sleek bird dons an orange beak, a black band on its inner wing, a black mask, and super long central tail feathers.
Virgin Islands National Park
- Established August 2, 1956
St. John, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is home to the Virgin Islands National Park. The park turns 67 this August. It offers alluring white sand beaches, coral reefs, and remains of historic sugar plantations.
Beyond the natural beauty, the area holds cultural and historical significance. Visitors can learn about the island’s challenging past when enslaved laborers lived and worked on the plantations.
Popular activities include exploring the island’s landmark sites, beach recreation, hiking, snorkeling, fishing, and boating. The park offers more than 20 trails. Options include hiking through historic ruins, to a viewing deck over a salt pond, or through the Cinnamon Bay Sugar Plantation, where the scent of bay rum trees fills the air.
Try snorkeling, where you gain spectacular views of coral reefs and colorful fish. Or, you can relax on the beach and savor the surreal island views.
The park harbors three species of sea turtles. While the leatherback is rare, visitors regularly spot green and hawksbill sea turtles.
Forest birds, seabirds, and shorebirds inhabit the park. Dolphins swim in the waters, and migrating whales pass through the area in winter.
Bats are the only land mammals native to Virgin Islands National Park. Six species live in the park. While most bats feed on insects, the greater bulldog bat eats fish.
Plants are essential to the park’s ecosystem, with mangroves and seagrass beds earning a place on the list of top things to see.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Established August 9, 1916
Lassen Volcanic National Park, known for its volcanoes, steaming fumaroles, bubbling mud pots, crystal-clear mountain lakes, and wildflower-filled meadows, turns 107. It is located in northern California and is one of many national park sites near San Francisco.
The seasons significantly impact your experience. Summer offers scenic drives, biking, and hiking. Winter brings snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding. Year-round, the park delivers excellent stargazing due to little light pollution.
Summer and autumn visitors can hike the Bumpass Hell Trail, where you can see hydrothermal features, including steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud pots.
The park abounds with tranquil lakes. Some provide gorgeous reflections of storybook mountains. While Emerald Lake and Lake Helen are two alpine lakes with crystal-clear water, bubbling mud pots frame Boiling Springs Lake’s sea-green 125-degree waters.
Lassen Volcanic National Park houses unique wildlife, including mountain lions, red foxes, black bears, snowshoe hares, pikas, badgers, and river otters. Regional birds of prey include ospreys, rough-legged hawks, and great gray owls.
Wrap-Up: National Parks with a Birthday in July or August
Celebrate our national parks with a birthday in July or August. Each offers unique beauty, history, recreational opportunities, and wildlife. Plan your next adventure at one of these fantastic national parks.
Featured image credit: Business Insider
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