Basic Facts About Lassen Volcanic National Park

Located in Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to the iconic Lassen Peak as well as a variety of geothermal and hydrothermal features. These features include volcanoes, steam vents, geysers, mud pots, painted dunes, and more. A lesser-known U.S. national park, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers visitors an excellent opportunity to get off the beaten track.

History

Lassen Volcanic National Park began as two distinct national monuments, Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument, which were established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. The park garnered national attention in 1914 and 1915 with volcanic eruptions from Lassen Peak, and became officially recognized as a national park in 1916.

The region had been inhabited by Native Americans since ancient times, but was then settled by European immigrants who used Lassen Peak as a landmark on their way to the Sacramento Valley. Danish immigrant Peter Lassen settled in the area and became a guide for those on their way to the valley, and the park was eventually named after him.

Landscape

Lassen Volcanic National Park is characterized by volcanoes and volcanic features that resulted from hundreds of thousands of years of violent eruptions. These geothermal and hydrothermal components include steam vents, mud pots, geysers, volcanic peaks, painted dunes, lava flows, boiling pools, sulfur vents, valleys, craters, and canyons. The area is forested, and there are also a number of lakes, streams, and vast meadows throughout the park. 

Basic Facts About Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the country. The park is rife with fascinating history dating back to well before the establishment of the United States. From the original American settlers to the native Indian tribes that once dominated the area, there is much to discover in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

History 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934, and was dedicated by  President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. After a long process involving a variety of expensive land purchases beginning in 1926 and totalling $11 million, this fantastically popular national park came into being. The main benefactor for the purchase of land was the Rockefeller family, who are honored today by a memorial in the park’s Newfound Gap.

The land the park is situated on was home to early American settlers as well as Native American tribes who lived there both before and during the American settlement.

Landscape  

The majority of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is forested, encompassing a variety of native trees and nearly 6,000 flowering plant species. The landscape is mountainous, with elevations ranging from 800 feet to 6,643 feet. Gorgeous fall foliage is visible during the autumn months, and rain and snowfall is not uncommon throughout varying points in the year. The wildlife in this park is bountiful, with a wide variety of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Bears, snakes, and elk are some of the more noteworthy animals inhabiting the park.

Basic Facts About Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is situated on the shores of Lake Michigan in Northern Michigan. This national lakeshore comprises a vast stretch of sand dunes as well as the North and South Manitou Islands. Sleeping Bear Dunes is incredibly scenic and offers gorgeous views over Lake Michigan. 

History

The history surrounding the Sleeping Bear Dunes has much to do with ancient Chippewa mythology. According to legend, a bear and her two young cubs fled a roaring fire and attempted to swim across Lake Michigan. Though the mother made it safely to the other side, she was not able to save her cubs, who drowned before reaching the shore. It is said that the Great Spirit Manitou transformed the mother bear into a massive sand dune facing the lake, and her cubs into the North and South Manitou Islands.

In the 19th century, the Sleeping Bear Dunes region became an important part of the Great Lakes shipping industry, as it provided one of the only safe harbors en route to Chicago via the Lower Peninsula. As a result, farming became an important local industry as a means to supply the ships that passed through the harbor.

Sleeping Bear Dunes was established as a national lakeshore in the 1960s and 1970s and was acquired from private land, which caused some controversy. Ultimately, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore expanded to cover the surrounding area of Sleeping Bear Dune as well as the two Manitou Islands that it includes today.

Landscape

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore encompasses 35 miles of lakeshore along the coast of Lake Michigan. The region is characterized by massive sand dunes rising up from the shoreline which have been sculpted over time by wind and water. The area also protects several inland lakes and comprises the villages of Glen Arbor and Empire. 

The North and South Manitou Islands are also included within the reach of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and they are hilly, sandy, and partially forested. South Manitou Island is also home to a harbor on its eastern side.

Basic Facts About Mesa Verde National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde National Park is located in the southwest corner of Colorado. Characterized by a wide variety of ancient cliffside cave dwellings and desert landscapes, this fascinating archeological site makes Mesa Verde one of the country’s most unique national parks.

History 

The Ancestral Puebloans were an ancient Native American group that inhabited the Mesa Verde area 1,400 years ago. These people carved their homes into the mesas, creating the cave dwellings that can be seen today. 

Initially, this group created their homes in pits in the ground with wooden roofs along the mesa tops. As time went on, the Ancestral Puebloans became more advanced, and so did their dwellings. The original carved out pithomes became kivas, or ceremonial rooms, while more complex dwellings were built atop the mesas, creating villages. The name Mesa Verde means “green table” in Spanish, which references the lush vegetation that covers the tops of the region’s mesas which these native peoples inhabited. 

At around 1200 CE, the Ancestral Puebloans became even more complex as a civilization, and began to use the cliffside overhangs as roofs and carved out a network of homes with multiple stories. However, their stay in these organized cities was short lived, as they migrated south to Arizona and New Mexico only 100 years later.

Landscape

Mesa Verde National Park’s characteristic sandstone was created over 100 million years ago, when the area was covered by a shallow sea. This resulted in sand deposits combining with the sandstone layers that can be seen today. When the sea began to recede, the high plateau of Mesa Verde was created. Rivers and streams have cut through the region, forming the canyons between the mesas.

The elevation in Mesa Verde National Park ranges from 6,100 feet to 8,400 feet above sea level at the rim of the mesa’s flat top.

Basic Facts about Grand Teton National Park

History

Located in the Rocky Mountains of Northwest Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park officially became a US national park in 1929 with President Calvin Coolidge signing it into law. However, the history of this park stretches back to the 1800s when the superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, Colonel S.B.M. Young, proposed an expansion of Yellowstone to the south to encompass the Teton mountain range. His proposal was met with significant resistance from local ranchers who feared expanding the national park would restrict their hunting and grazing lands.

Eventually, national support for the park advanced, leading to its official establishment in 1929. Fascinated by the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole area, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. developed a private business that he used as a front to convince local ranchers to sell him their property, which he would in turn donate to the National Park Service. News of his deceit became public, sparking outrage in the community leading to various legal battles. In the end, a compromise was reached in which some privately owned guest ranches were allowed to remain open, and confined grazing and hunting within the park grounds were also permitted.

Landscape

Grand Teton National Park is characterized by the breathtaking Rocky Mountain range, brimming with panoramic mountain views, crystal clear lakes, and an abundance of wildlife. Shaped over the course of billions of years by erosion, glaciers, and earthquakes, the gorgeous landscape of the Grand Tetons is ideal for hiking, climbing, and skiing.

Location

Grand Teton National Park is located in Northwest Wyoming, just north of Jackson and just south of Yellowstone National Park. The easiest way to access the park by flight is from Jackson and from there it’s only a short distance away.

FAQs

Can you camp at Grand Teton?

Yes. There are various campgrounds located throughout the park, though all backcountry camping will require a permit.

What is the best way to get around Grand Teton National Park?

Driving is the easiest and quickest way to get around the park, as distances are vast and terrain can be rugged. However, biking and hiking are also options for getting around.

How many days do you need at Grand Teton?

5-7 days is a reasonable amount of time to visit Grand Teton National Park and will also allow you a bit of time to explore Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National Park. If you have less time and simply want to focus on the Grand Tetons, 3 days could also be sufficient.

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Grand Teton National Park