Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion NP

The Canyon Overlook Trail is a nice, moderately difficult hike, but it's so easy to miss. The trailhead doesn't start from the valley floor but rather from just east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, 600ft above the valley floor. Entering or exiting Zion will also treat you to spectacular vistas as you take the winding... Continue Reading →

Virgin River Narrows, Zion NP

We'd been looking forward with some trepidation to this hike. Last time we were here in April 2008, it wasn't possible because the currents were too strong and water levels too high. The Narrows at Zion National Park is not a hike in the traditional sense because it involves wading in the Virgin River virtually the... Continue Reading →

A Brief Visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It was a surprise to me—and probably a lot of other people, too—when I learned from my wife's cousin that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited in all of America. Even more than Grand Canyon, Yosemite or Yellowstone. Hard to fathom. One big reason is that there is no fee to enter... Continue Reading →

Mt. Cook National Park (NZ)

At a viewing area along State Highway 80, where the tour bus made a temporary stop, there was a breathtaking vista of a portion of the Southern Alps. Without a doubt, the snow cover made for a most dramatic effect. The tallest peak is Mount Cook (Aoraki, in Maori), the highest in all of New... Continue Reading →

Petrified Forest National Park (AZ)

Petrified wood is a mysterious byproduct of geological processes. A petrified log looks just like wood on the outside but is usually a jumble of colorful quartz on the inside. How did this come to be? Here too in Petrified Forest National Park is the Painted Desert, the name given to the “badlands” whose outrageous... Continue Reading →

Mesa Verde National Park (CO)

You hear a lot about the Southwest's ancient cliff dwellings and wonder what they are about. What possessed the builders to create these permanent and elaborate structures in such inaccessible places? We ventured out to the most famous complex of them all, Mesa Verde National Park, to look at them first hand. To see these... Continue Reading →

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park (UT)

Canyonlands is a sprawling national park. It has three distinct districts, separated by great distances. There is no way you can see all three in a single day. Staying in Moab is the best way to experience the two most popular. Even still, you have to do some driving. The distance between the Island in... Continue Reading →

Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park (UT)

There is a gaping hole in the earth at the end of the west fork of the Island in the Sky scenic drive. An enormous crater lies ominously in one section of Canyonlands National Park. Upheaval Dome (above) was long thought to be a collapsed salt dome, but many geologists now feel that it is... Continue Reading →

Arches National Park (UT)

You’d never know this about canyon country (unless of course you’re a geologist) but there is a lot of salt under the surface — a  humongous amount of it, as much as 15,000 feet thick in places. This fact isn’t so unusual when places like the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats come... Continue Reading →

Capitol Reef National Park (UT)

Driving down Highway 24 from Torrey, a wall of rock emerges on the horizon as far as the eye can see. It is an impressive sight, the western edge of the Waterpocket Fold, exposed when the Colorado Plateau was formed. Beyond this is a colossal warp (geologists call this a monocline) in the landscape. From... Continue Reading →

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