Thursday, January 24, 2008

Winter is Ideal Time to Visit USA National Parks

Whether you want snow or sun, you can find it in one of the USA's National Parks.

From Alaska to Massachusetts to the warm beaches of California and Florida, there's something for everyone, anytime of the year. Including January.

Many parks offer special winter programs in addition to their regular programs – such as these three --

De Soto National Memorial in Florida runs an annual camp from December through the end of March. Camp Uzita brings visitors back in time to 1539, when 650 Spanish conquistadors came to Tampa Bay and changed the lives of its native inhabitants forever. Programs focus on the meeting of these two very different cultures. Living history interpreters demonstrate Native and European arts and crafts. Children are invited out on Saturdays to learn about Native American mask painting and paint one to take home for themselves.

At Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, one of the most enjoyable winter activities for any national park occurs is ranger-led snowshoe hikes. These hikes take place everyday, and the park supplies visitors with classic wooden Yukon or Alaskan-style snowshoes. You'll learn about how the harsh conditions of winter determines which animals and plants survive here as they amble over hill and dell in search of wildlife and/or signs of wildlife. The trip eventually brings you to the banks of the Snake River, and an incredible, unforgettable view of the Grand Tetons sparkling in the sunshine.

Death Valley National Park in California is the answer to the question -- where can I go that is not cold or snowy or damp. January -- or anytime in winter -- is an ideal time to visit this park. There are no crowds and no searing heat here in winter, and some of the best and clearest skys in the country make star-gazing memorable. Ranger guided activities include living history guided tours of Scotty's Castle, a 1920s mansion with original furnishings and stories to match. Or, you can hike some of the park's 3.4 million acres,

The National Park Service recommends stopping by a park’s visitor center to get the latest, most up-to-date park information on programs and hiking paths.

And by the way -- that photo of me standing in the middle of an empty road to the right of this posting -- was taken in Death Valley National Park. If you look carefully at the printing across the fronf of my t-shirt, you might be able to read the words "Death Valley".