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Explore More: 10 national parks to explore from the comfort of home

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As summer creeps ever closer and we continue to await COVID-19’s effect on how we spend the next three months, the National Parks Service is opening up the virtual park gates. While some parks’ trails may be accessible and others shuttered completely for the time being, the park service is offering a chance to visit parks, historic sites and monuments virtually.

Virgin Islands National Park

Ruins of a sugar cane plantation in the Virgin Islands National Park
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Location: St. John, Virgin Islands
Overview: The Virgin Islands National Park is known as “America’s paradise” and comprises two-thirds of the island of St. John. Besides the white sand beaches and the Virgin Island Coral Reef National Monument, the park is home to sugar cane plantation ruins. The virtual tour walks you through the plantations and the still-standing windmills. If you’re in need of a deeper dive, take a 3-D tour of the Annaberg Sugar Plantation, one of the most preserved examples of the Danish Colonial Era.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park
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Location: Crater Lake, Oregon
Overview: High in the Cascade Mountains, the deepest lake in the U.S. and seventh deepest in the world can be found at Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep and is almost filled entirely by snowfall, making it one of the clearest lakes in the world. Find Your Park partnered with singer/songwriter Dierks Bentley to bring you a 360-interactive video that shares fun facts about the park and allows you to explore while learning.

Channel Islands National Park

Juvenile sea lions near the rookery at Santa Barbara Island, which is one of the five islands making up Channel Islands National Park.
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Location: Off the coast of Ventura, California
Overview: Out of the 249,354 acres that makes up the Channel Islands National Park, half of them are underwater. The park, made up of five separate islands, is a marine sanctuary that protects the park and 6 nautical miles of water around it. In partnership with Explore.org and Ventura County Office of Education, the National Park Service has set up a webcam in the landing cove of Anacapa Island. The remote location of the park provides webcam viewers with the potential to see unique animals found nowhere else.

Yellowstone National Park

Bison crossing the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
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Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (also extends into parts of Idaho and Montana)
Overview: America’s first national park was so unbelievable that newspapers wouldn’t print firsthand accounts from the first visitors, replying “Thank you, but we do not print fiction.” Now, more than 4 million people visit the park each year, but COVID-19 has shut down the park completely. However, with nine webcams and a 3-D tour of Geyser Basin, virtual visitors will feel as if they’ve encountered bison and seen Old Faithful in real life.

Katmai National Park and Preserve

Grizzly bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park
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Location: King Salmon, Alaska
Overview: Katmai National Park and Preserve was created to preserve the famed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a 40-square-mile, 100- to 700-foot-deep ash flow deposited by the Novarupta Volcano. The park is still famous for volcanoes, but its brown bears have become very popular too through the parks abundance of webcams provided by Explore.org. The webcams focused on the bears won’t be fully live until about July when the bears will be out hunting salmon, but they have plenty of highlights to share from previous years to pass the time.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Molten lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean on Big Island as waves and water wash off the cliff along with lava
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Location: Hawaii National Park, Hawaii
Overview: Hawaii was truly born of fire and sea, and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers visitors a chance to see an active volcano up close. Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world, is a main feature and provides a multitude of scientific insight into island formation. The park boasts a wide array of webcams, including one that shows thermal imaging of the Halema’uma’u crater.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
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Location: Carlsbad, New Mexico
Overview: One hundred and forty years ago, a Texas ranch hand saw hundred of bats flying out of an opening in the Guadalupe Mountains. When he investigated, he discovered Carlsbad Caverns, a cave system made up of 113 different caves formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone. Since the caverns are currently closed due to the novel coronavirus, the park teamed up with Google to bring spelunking the caverns directly to your home.

Grand Teton National Park

The Grand Teton National Park is only 10 miles from Yellowstone.
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Location: Moose, Wyoming
Overview: Found only 10 miles from Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park has its own beauty and wonders to share. The Teton Range of mountains contain some of the oldest rocks in the National Park Service, dating nearly 2.7 billion years. While still closed to public, the park has worked to bring an experience unlike any other into homes: climbing the Teton Range. Learn about each peak and gain some virtual elevation while you’re at it.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

The Milky Way is visible in the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.
U.S. Department of the Interior/courtesy

Location: Arco, Idaho
Overview: No, you don’t have to get on a rocket ship to visit moon craters. In fact, all you have to do is take a virtual tour of a lesser-known national monument and preserve found in Idaho. This outer space terrain was formed by molten lava fields nearly 15 million years ago and is roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island. The Google Earth tour lets you “walk” around the park. Keep an eye out for possible extra terrestrials.

Acadia National Park

Rocky beach in Acadia National Park
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Location: Bar Harbor, Maine
Overview: The first national park east of the Mississippi River, Acadia National Park, is where forest meets sea. From tall mountain peaks, including Cadillac Mountain, which boasts the title of highest point on the U.S. Atlantic coast, to ocean shorelines, this park is one of the best places in the eastern U.S. to hike, bike and even see the Milky Way. To give far away visitors a taste, the National Park service is offering an e-cruise of the park’s waterfalls and glaciers, no poncho required.

Bonus: Grand Canyon

Google is offering a virtual hike through the Grand Canyon while the park is closed.
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Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona
Overview: One of the most popular national parks in the U.S. — if not the world — is also offering visitors a chance to see all of its glory, even though the Grand Canyon is closed until further notice. Check out webcams, provided by the National Park Service, or take a virtual hike through the canyon with Google.

Find more information and more parks to explore at the National Park Service’s website, Facebook and Instagram. Information on parks can also be found at the National Park Foundation’s website.

To reach Mackenzie Hicks, call 970-871-4208, email mhicks@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @mackenzieshawna.


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