When life gives you a lockdown, it’s time to escape with a little virtual travel! In real life, you’d be packing bags, but all you need right now is a tablet or laptop, and this collection of links to be an Armchair Traveler.
The Armchair Traveler visits America’s National Parks
Welcome to our first collection of resources for the Armchair Traveler: a collection of websites that will give you the most immersive experience you can have without leaving the comy confines of your armchair. Ready? Grab your trekking poles, and let’s go!
America’s National Parks by Google Arts & Culture
In the series Hidden Worlds of the National Parks, Google Arts & Culture partnered with the U.S. National Park Service to present interactive, ranger-led virtual tours in five parks: Kenai Fjords, Hawaii Volcanos, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas.
Each tour includes a Google Streets style exploration, but the highlights are the Ranger-led tours. Kayaking through icebergs, diving a shipwreck, marveling at a billion stars in one of the world’s darkest Dark Sky areas. After watching, you’ll be looking forward to the next park like it was a secret ninth season of Game of Thrones!
Google Earth Virtual Tours: U. S. National Parks
We love Google Earth! It’s a great way to go exploring, but can be a little overwhelming on your own. So let the Google Earth team be your guide! Using maps, satellite imagery, and user photos, the team put together a series of 31 guided virtual tours of national parks from sea to shining sea, literally. You can virtually park hop from Denali National Park in Alaska, to the Channel Islands National Park off the California coast, to Arcadia National Park on the coast of Maine, all the way out to the Virgin Islands National Park on St. Thomas. And 27 other points in between!
For full effect, we recommend lacing up your hiking boots before hitting the hammock with your laptop.
Top 13 National Parks
There’s nothing like a sampler plate to build your appetite! We don’t know the criteria the producers of this video used to pick the Top 13 out of America’s 62 National Parks, but we certainly appreciate the results. A road trip to visit these 13 parks would take days. As an Armchair Traveler, we can sample all of them in just 30 minutes! Not the same as being there, but a great way to relive a visit, or build on your longing to see them IRL (In Real Life).
Arches National Park
The best part of this Virtual Travel through Arches National Park is that it follows the entire Arches Scenic Drive from Moab, Utah. The worst part is that the drive is only 22 miles long. But the scenery seems to go on forever! The descriptions and directions will be handy if you ever decide to take the drive yourself.
Blue Ridge Parkway
It is truly America’s Favorite Drive. The 469-miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway meander along the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smokey Mountains through Virginia and North Carolina. This video by Kwangson Choe, one of our favorite You Tubers, is part travel planning aid, part Virtual Travel escape, and 100% enjoyable!
Glacier National Park
Although it’s not America’s most remote national park, Glacier doesn’t see nearly the number of visitors as the southern parks. Which is a shame, given how gorgeous it is! Of course, since this is Virtual Travel, no place is too out of the way. Not even northern Montana!
Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim
Virtual Fitness has put together several virtual travels, but none (in our book, at least) are as stunning as this Grand Canyon road trip! This drive on the South Rim is meant to simulate a run, complete with beautiful vistas, wildlife, fellow hikers, and one beautiful sunset!
Grand Canyon National Park – Phantom Ranch
Not all Armchair Traveling is done by video. The US Geological Survey put together two photo tours of the Phantom Ranch. The tours take you down the South Kiabab Trail to Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of the Arizona’s most famous geological landmark.
Note: Technically, we’re cheating here. Monument Valley is not a National Park. It is, however, a Navajo Nation Tribal Park. In the United States. So…that counts, right?
When you think about the great American southwest, the picture in your mind is probably Monument Valley National Park. Thanks to years of popular movies and books, the desert buttes and wide, flat valleys have become associated with cowboys (though it’s mostly Indian land), lawless banditos, scorpions and gila monsters. This photo-drive video by Kwangson Choe does a good job of capturing the stunning vistas of what has come to be the iconic vision of “The Southwest.” After viewing, you’ll want to venture further with more of his videos of national parks and other destinations.
Saguaro National Park
One of our favorite places is Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. The surrounding Sonora Desert is the only place in the world the giant cacti grow, and they grow all over this park! This is a photo tour of three areas in the park. It is very impressive, with 687 photos documenting nearly every step. Just know that means there is a lot of clicking involved.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is the “granddaddy” of National Parks and, at 3 hours, this is the granddaddy of Virtual Travel videos! You’ll see lots of the park, from rolling meadows to the waterfalls and geysers. You might even catch a few bear cubs frolicking! Best to put it on and let it roll.
Even though you might literally have all day to watch videos when you’re in lockdown, three hours might be a little much. This video catches 100% of Yellowstone’s amazing highlights in about 15% of the time. Even an Armchair Traveler can appreciate efficiency.
Zion National Park
America’s national narks make for some great road trips. One of (if not the) most spectacular is Highway 9 through the southern portion of Zion National Park in Utah. The drive just barely scratches the surface of the huge park, most of which you can only see from a hiking trail. This real-time drive enters Zion from the east on the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway. Being able to take your eyes off the road makes the video better than the drive!
The Mighty Five
What better way to close out this collection of Virtual Travel to America’s national parks than with The Mighty Five. The video, from The West is Big, actually features eight national parks, several state parks, and the Monument Valley Tribal Park, and travels through the Four Corners states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. For those who don’t know, the Mighty Five refers to the five spectacular national parks in Utah: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Canyonlands, and Zion, though this video doesn’t cover Zion.
An Armchair Traveler’s Work is Never Done
We hope you’ve enjoyed some of these Virtual Travels through some of America’s national parks. There are, of course, many more parks than we’ve covered, so we’ll continue adding more resources as we discover them. If you’d like to help, feel free to drop a link to any Virtual Travel resources you’ve found!
If you liked these Virtual Travels, check back frequently for updates. Don’t forget to sign up for our emails to find out when new editions of the Armchair Traveler are posted.
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Thanks for reading along.