A new year has arrived, giving us a fresh start. If your resolutions for the year include travel or outdoor adventures, you can accomplish this by visiting any of our national parks.
Are you trying to figure out where to begin? We say happy birthday to four national parks in January. Each park offers unique experiences and an excellent place to work on your travel goals.
Let’s honor our national parks with January birthdays, starting with the youngest. You may find your next adventure in the process.
Pinnacles National Park
Established January 10, 2013
One of the nine California national parks, Pinnacles National Park, turns 11 this year. Due to the state housing so many iconic places, travelers often overlook the park, renowned for its talus caves and rocky spires. It is a three-hour drive south of San Francisco, easily worth the trip.
Despite its small size, Pinnacles National Park has 30 miles of hiking trails through grasslands and caves. Exploring the trails gives guests close views of those famous rocky spires and talus caves.
Pinnacles National Park boasts excellent birding. The California condor, North America’s largest land bird with a wingspan of up to 9.5 feet, is the most coveted among birdwatchers. Pinnacles is a release and management site for the endangered California condor. The park is home to many other species, including yellow-billed magpies, canyon wrens, greater roadrunners, northern flickers, prairie falcons, quails, and hawks.
National Park of American Samoa
Established January 1, 1993
One of America’s least-visited national parks, the National Park of American Samoa, sits in the South Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and New Zealand. The tropical paradise, turning 31 this month, is 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. No wonder it sees so few visitors. Those who make the journey get rewarded with rare plants and animals, coral sand beaches, secluded villages, and stunning vistas comprising land and sea.
The park stretches across sections of three volcanic islands, consisting primarily of tropical rainforests with high species diversity. Clear, warm waters teem with colorful corals and various fish. In September and October, guests regularly spot humpback whales.
On land, guests routinely see two species of rare fruit bats hanging in trees or flying. The giant bats have wingspans of up to three feet and are active day and night.
Beyond admiring the beautiful scenery and unique flora and fauna, guests can enjoy fishing, snorkeling, hiking, and exploring the park’s beaches.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Established January 26, 1915
Rocky Mountain National Park spans the Continental Divide in northern Colorado, comprising vast meadows, soaring mountains, and surreal alpine lakes. The beautiful park turns 109 this January.
Rocky Mountain National Park is renowned for its legendary namesake mountains, rewarding hikes, and scenic drives with breathtaking views. Adventurous souls can climb the rugged peaks for the experience of a lifetime. Even the scenic drives are not for the fainthearted. Expect a long, slow drive as you navigate hairpin turns winding your way up the mountains.
Popular winter activities include snowshoeing, sledding, cross-country skiing, and winter camping. In summer, park rangers lead night sky and astronomy programs. The park harbors unique wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, marmots, mule deer, mountain lions, and beavers.
Wind Cave National Park
Established January 9, 1903
One of two South Dakota national parks, Wind Cave, is hidden underground in the state’s southwestern region. Turning 121 this month, the park features honeycomb-shaped calcite formations, commonly called boxwork.
You can observe more boxwork here than in all other caves combined. Scientists believe parts of the cave date back more than 300 million years, making it one of the oldest.
While most guests come to see the cave, the park has over 30 miles of hiking trails through grasslands and forests in the stunning Black Hills. You may encounter unique wildlife, including bison, elk, badgers, burrowing owls, and prairie dogs.
Wind Cave yields another treasure at night. It is in the process of becoming an International Dark Sky Park. With a remote location and little light pollution, you can watch the Milky Way spark to life in the black sky.
Celebrate Our National Parks in January
Although often cold and gray, January inspires us to set goals and plan for the year. While we honor our national parks with January birthdays, consider scheduling a national park adventure. You can meet your travel goals by visiting some of our country’s most beautiful places.
Featured image credit: NPS
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