School is back in session. With comfortable temperatures and lower crowd levels on the horizon, September is an excellent month to visit many of our national parks. Consider these parks for your travel plans as we honor the national parks with a September birthday.
Sequoia National Park
- Established September 25, 1890
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, about five hours from San Francisco, Sequoia National Park turns 133 this year. The park harbors beautiful forests comprising many of the world’s most giant trees by volume.
Although similar in size, sequoias, and coastal redwoods are different species of trees. Coastal redwoods, the world’s tallest trees, grow within Redwood National & State Parks in California’s northwestern region.
Sequoias may be shorter, but they always succeed in mesmerizing guests with their massive trunks. General Sherman, the park’s main attraction, has an astonishing trunk volume of 52,508 cubic feet. It grows in the aptly named Giant Forest.
Sequoia National Park offers many hikes where visitors can explore vast groves of giant trees. Guests can drive through Tunnel Log, a fallen tree that measures 17 feet wide and 8 feet high. As a bonus, park admission also covers nearby Kings Canyon National Park entrance fees.
Bryce Canyon National Park
- Established September 15, 1928
One of Utah’s stunning national parks, Bryce Canyon, has surreal landscapes of pink cliffs, red rocks, and vistas that stretch into infinity. The park is renowned for its irregular rock columns or hoodoos and holds the world’s most significant concentration of these unique rock spires. This September, we celebrate its 95th birthday.
Bryce Canyon offers many excellent hikes to admire the hoodoos from above and below. Or, visitors can enjoy the views on an 18-mile scenic drive that includes vehicle pullouts and overlooks.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park and delivers an unparalleled stargazing opportunity. The park has unique animals for those who enjoy wildlife watching, including pronghorns, Utah prairie dogs, mule deer, and mountain lions.
Canyonlands National Park
- Established September 12, 1964
Utah’s largest national park sits in the southeastern part of the state. Canyonlands turns 59 this year and waits to greet guests with its alluring canyons, rivers, and mesas.
Rivers have carved out unique landscapes. Accordingly, the park has four districts:
- Island in the Sky
- The Needles
- The Maze
Island in the Sky yields majestic panoramic views from a 6,000-foot high flat-topped mesa. The Needles features striated rocky spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone rising hundreds of feet above the canyons and grasslands.
A remote, rugged park area, The Maze has unique rock formations and very challenging trails with steep terrain and sometimes slippery surfaces. It is a challenge to access and even more difficult to explore.
Most park areas contain hot, sunny desert landscapes—the Colorado and Green Rivers snake through the park’s heart, providing shaded areas. Visitors can admire the gorgeous rock formations where the two rivers have slowly carved through the sandstone layers over many years. Local outfitters offer various guided river excursions within the park.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Established September 30, 1972
Although sometimes overlooked, Guadalupe Mountains National Park offers rewarding hikes. Trails take guests through rocky canyons and up rugged mountains with iconic peaks. The park sits 110 miles east of El Paso in west Texas and turns 51 at the end of September this year.
One of the park’s popular hikes, Devil’s Hall, requires navigating a series of large boulders through a rocky wash and ascending a natural staircase. The trail eventually leads to a narrow hall between two towering canyon walls.
Experienced hikers can take the strenuous 8.4-mile trek up Guadalupe Peak, the highest natural point in Texas. Those seeking easy hikes can take the Smith Spring Loop Trail or Manzanita Spring. Both have water sources and vegetation, making them ideal for spotting birds and wildlife near sunrise and sunset.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park has a more remote region called Salt Basin Dunes, where guests will discover red quartz hills and white gypsum dunes. Although located in New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an easy 45-minute drive, making it an excellent opportunity to visit two national parks on a two-day adventure or as part of a road trip.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Established September 13, 2004
Quietly sitting in southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve houses North America’s tallest dunes and mixed landscapes of forests, alpine lakes, grasslands, wetlands, and tundra. It turns 19 this year.
Guests can enjoy sand sledding or boarding down the dunes. A seasonal stream, Medano Creek, typically forms in late spring and early summer. Visitors can float in a raft during this time.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is an International Dark Sky Park, yielding an excellent opportunity to observe its beautiful night skies. In the warmer months, guests with high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles can drive the rough 22-mile Medano Pass Primitive Road.
For those who prefer to avoid crowds, it is one of America’s least-visited national parks.
Wrap-Up: National Parks with a Birthday in September
Due to mild weather and smaller crowds, visiting national parks in September can yield a rewarding adventure. Visit one of the above national parks in September to say happy birthday in person. Each offers unique landscapes and experiences. There is still time to plan your September national park adventure!
Featured image credit: Joshua Earle
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