Golden Gate and Bay Bridges from Hawk Hill

Golden Gate and Bay Bridge from Hawk Hill

I don’t usually stop at Golden Gate National Recreation Area when I’m traveling up the coast since I grew up in the area and have seen the scenes many times. But sometimes when I’m crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I see a view that I’ve never seen before. That is what happened on an early morning drive on March 6 when the sun was peaking through storm clouds highlighting the Bay Bridge. I took the exit and drove to the top of Hawk Hill, with the above photo being the result. I’m glad I stopped. Click on image to enlarge it.

National Parks in the United Kingdom

Behind the massive appeal of double decker buses and the Queen’s guards, travel guide Visit London says the capital offers an abundance of open spaces, vast areas where you can breathe in the pleasures of nature without breaking the bank.

For tourists coming in from the busy London airports, it’s essential to know that once you arrive, there are a lot of options to – and from – the middle part of the city. Parking4Less, a renowned UK-based parking aggregator, claims that the fastest way to central London from Heathrow is by taking the Express. On the other hand, passengers with vehicles at Gatwick Airport can take advantage of the different parking options; depending on which terminal they arrive at.

Once you’ve arrived, the city’s excellent transportation scheme comes into play, as well as the ease of finding a rent-a-car service. For these reasons, exploring the bevy of national parks becomes as simple as a classic broil recipe. So whether you prefer a steady picnic with the family or a lively afternoon full of activities, these splendid grounds become your go-to places for fun in the UK:

Dartmoor National Park

UK national parks Dartmoor
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The 953-square kilometre southwestern land boasts a rich history dating back from the early 1950s; tracing its roots from the 1,208 scheduled ancient mountains. Part of Dartmoor’s charm is the number of day tripping activities that include canoeing, cycling, and horse riding.

Exmoor National Park

Before its establishment in 1954, Exmoor was exclusively a scenic landscape in the southwest part of England with small towns and villages. Today, this charming field is highlighted by the fantastic view of moorlands, woodlands, and valleys.

Lake District National Park

Lake District envelops the rich part of England’s northern region – covering an area famous for its lovely landscapes and lakes. With prosperous wildlife, national heritage, and amazing sceneries, the park offers a charming spot for families and vacationers. In addition, Lake District offers plenty of hiking and walking trails.

New Forest National Park

Taking in the compact yet untamed greenery of your surroundings should be the top-most priority during your visit at New Forest. This southwest England area is one of the newer national parks in the UK and is known for having majestic old trees and adorable ponies.

North York Moors National Park

Spread across 1,434 square kilometres of land in northern London, North York Moors offers a lot of activities and attractions for the whole family. It’s also worth noting that the national park’s ideal location makes it an ideal place for tourists who just want to take part in activities such as fishing, bird watching, and even rock climbing.

Northumberland National Park

Since 1956, Northumberland is giving visitors a momentary escape from the steady vibe of northeast England. Just a short hike to the south takes tourists to the world heritage site, Hadrian’s Wall. The park is also located between the cities of Carlisle and Newcastle and is near the border of Scotland.

Peak District National Park

Peak District firmly sets its roots in the heart of England, occupying the majority of Derbyshire County. It also showcases three high character areas specifically Dark Peak, South West Park, and White Peak. Each of these has unique features, ecosystem, and archaeology.

South Downs National Park

As the only green space in Southern England that offers hang gliding, paragliding, and ballooning, South Downs has almost everything for every day-tripper. This newly established national park also has close to 750 scheduled ancient mountains, as well as 165 conservation areas.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Designated as a national park in 1954, Yorkshire Dales enjoys a long history that attracts many tourists each year. From captivating waterfalls to beautiful meadows, everything contributes to the charm of its green space. Additionally, visitors will be one with Mother Nature while relishing activities such as pony trekking, horse riding, and orienteering.

Broads National Park

With the subtlety of a gentle landscape and the richness of historic landmarks, Broads owns the distinction of being the largest protected wetland and the third largest inland waterway in the country. Here, tourists can see some of the rarest plants and animals in the UK.

Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail Golden Gate National Recreation Area

While nearly everyone that visits San Francisco makes sure to visit the Golden Gate bridge, they often miss the other scenic areas of Golden Gate national Recreation Area that they certainly would want to see if they were a little better informaed and knew were just a few miles away. One of these is the Point Bonita lighthouse and hike.

While the main goal of doing the short hike to make your way to Point Bonita Lighthouse and the new Point Bonita lighthouse bridge, you should certainly slow down a bit and not make a beeline for the lighthouse. Taking your time will allow you to take advantage of the beautiful sights along the way. There are plenty of gorgeous views of the California coastline at the Marin Headlands, along with an abundance of wonderful plant life and trees which make for some incredible photographic opportunities:

point bonita lighthouse trail scenery

This includes some beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge that many visitors to San Francisco never see:

Point Bonita lighthouse trail start

point bonita lighthouse trail Golden gate bridge

The trail definitely is not flat with a hill that you descend (and thus must climb back up on the way out), bit it is paved and is wheelchair accessible:

point bonita lighthouse trail path

In addition to the beautiful views, there is also the opportunity to see wildlife such as harbor seals basking on the rocks just offshore below the cliffs:

point bonita lighthouse trail harbour seals

Toward the end of the trail you reach a tunnel that you must go through to reach Bonita lighthouse. When the lighthouse is open to the public (Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM), the tunnel is open. When the lighthouse is closed, there is a steel door that blocks you from entering which also means that you can’t see the lighthouse even from a distance:

point bonita lighthouse trail tunnel

Once you make it through the tunnel, you emerge to see this breathtaking sight:

point bonita lighthouse

If you have the opportunity to visit San Francisco, make sure that you give yourself at least a full day to explore some of the lesser known areas of Golden Gate National Recreation Area…

Persistence Cave: Secret Cave at Wind Cave National Park to Be Explored

Persistence Cave explored at Wind Cave National Park

The United States National Park Service (NPS) can keep a secret. In 2004, a worker at Wind Cave national park in South Dakota stumbled upon a new cave in the park. The park service named the cave Persistence Cave but decided to keep the cave a secret from the public to avoid amateur spelunkers from trying to explore, and possibly damage, the cave. The NPS now plans to initiate the excavation of the unexplored Persistence Cave beginning Monday. They hope the information gained will help shed light on the climate changes that have taken place in the region over the last 11,000 years.

In addition to the NPS team excavating the cave will be Jim Mead, a professor at the East Tennessee State University. They are hoping to secure both sediment samples and animal bones from the cave which would offer details regarding the animal species which inhabited the region over the centuries. The team has already done preliminary sample tests at the mouth of Persistence Cave which uncovered the bones of three animal species which had never been known to inhabit the Black Hills area. The three new species found were the pika, the pine marten, and the platygonus.

All the new bones found at the mouth of the cave, along with any new ones excavated during the exploration beginning Monday, will be catalogued and studied. The good news is the study of these 11,000-year-old bones won’t need to be done alone. The scientists plan to study any new finds in conjunction with bones found at the Hot Springs Mammoth Site which is a nearby prehistoric graveyard discovered in the 1970s. The fossils at the Hot Springs Mammoth Site date back 26,000 years allowing the researchers to do quality age comparisons between the two, and noting how the environment and climate have changed in the area since the last glacial period.

For those who want to see the cave, you’re out of luck, at least for now. The NPS is keeping the exact location of Persistence Cave a secret while the excavation and exploration of the cave take place. That begs the question, how did this cave remain unfound for so long when Wind Cave has been explored for more than 100 years? The current theory is that although Persistence Cave is likely linked to Wind Cave, the passage that once connected the two caves has been blocked making it inaccessible to humans from Wind Cave.

(Photo courtesy of daveynin)

Native Americans Yosemite Paiutes Christmas Tree

There is currently a Christmas tree display being hosted at Fresno Yosemite International Airport with the trees being decorated under the theme “celebrating our national parks.” There are thirteen trees in the exhibition in all, and anyone can “like” their favorite tree by going to the airport’s Facebook Page. Voting gives you a chance to win some carry-on luggage in a random drawing at the end of the exhibition. The third tree in the series of thirteen is called “Native Americans: Yosemite Paiutes” which was decorated by Cindy Ainsworth. This was her description of the tree:

“My tree tells the legend of coyote and the sun. For whatever reason, coyote wanted to travel the path that the sun took each day, so he made his way to where the sun came up and rode on the sun all day. By the time the sun was heading down into the trees, coyote was ready to get off and so he climbed off onto a tree.”

Yosemite Paiute Indian Xmas tree

Yosemite native american Xmas tree

John Muir Trail Christmas Tree

If you happen to fly into or out of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport (or you’re in the area and want to visit to take a look), the airport is currently hosting a display of thirteen Christmas trees with the theme of “celebrating our national parks.” As part of the display, you can go online to the airport’s Facebook Page to vote on the Christmas trees that you like the best. Doing so will enter you into a drawing for a chance to win some carry-on luggage. The trees all have different themes chosen by the person who decorated them. Xmas tree #2 is titled “John Muir trail: 211 Miles of Wow” and it was decorated by Wendy Ainsworth. She included the following message:

“I could just picture all the wild things that I would do wrong if I actually went on the John Muir trail hike on foot. So, I created my alter ego to entertain you with ‘what-if’s’ and ‘nah, that can’t be real’…But seriously, I would really like to see the sights by mule back! Just look at the postcards and do your own day-dreaming.”

John Muir national parks Xmas tree

John Muir trail national parks Christmas tree

National Parks John Muir Christmas tree crown

General Grant National Parks Christmas Tree

The Fresno Yosemite International Airport currently has a display of thirteen Christmas trees “celebrating our national parks.” You can visit the airport’s Facebook Page to vote on which of the thirteen trees you like the best and to be entered into a drawing to win some carry-on luggage. Below is tree #1 titled “General Grant” was decorated by DeAnne Lewis Hale with the following message:

“Each December a wreath is laid at the base of the General Grant tree to honor those who gave their lives in the service to our country. This tree is our way of paying tribute to the brave men and women of our armed services.”

national parks Christmas tree General Grant

National Parks Xmas tree General Grant

General Grant Christmas tree topper

Point Reyes’ Little Known Alamere Falls

When visiting Point Reyes national seashore, the first thing that comes to mind is usually not waterfalls. For this reason, a lot of people miss the wonderful Alamere Falls which flows year round and falls directly onto the beach. One of the reasons it’s not well-known to most visitors is that it takes quite a hike to get there. You’re either going to have to walk 16 miles round trip from a trailhead near the visitors center, or 8.5 miles round trip if you drive to the Palomarin trailhead. Either way, it means a substantial hike which keeps the vast majority of people who visit the park from ever going there.

These photos were taken in Mid November 2013 during a year with far below normal rainfall, taking the trail that begins at Palomarin (a warning on taking this shorter route — the last 4/10 of a mile to the waterfall is on a “unmaintained trail” — while there is not an issue walking the trail, there is quite a bit of poison oak and you’ll want to have long pants and sleeves when walking this portion to avoid it)

The first part of the falls you’ll see is the upper falls:

Alamere waterfall upper section

Just below you come to a small middle falls:

Alamere waterfall mid section

From this vantage point you can see where the river flows over the edge creating the lower (and main) falls with the ocean in the background:

the top of Alamere waterfall

You aren’t able to actually see the lower falls from up here. In order to get there, you have to descend a rather steep unofficial trail with a lot of loose rocks. If you’re a strong hiker and have good balance, you shouldn’t have too much trouble doing it, but it helps to have a partner to help make it up and down some of the steeper areas. If you get nervous or don’t have good balance, it might be difficult to make it down to the beach. It’s not recommended for small children. Once you get down, however, you’re met with this:

Alamere waterfall main falls

Alamere Falls Point Reyes

Alamere waterfall at Point Reyes national seashore

You can even get up right up next to it:

Looking up at Alamere waterfall

And if the sun is out, you’ll see numerous rainbows within the falling water:

Rainbow in Alamere waterfall

Since it’s pretty spectacular when there has been little rain and it has a low flow, I can only imagine what it’s like after a rainfall or a wet year.

Visitors Defecating on Ground Next to Locked Public Restrooms at Death Valley National Park

The national park employees haven’t had the opportunity to say much about the national parks being closed because as federal employees, they aren’t allowed to share their views publicly. realizing that it’s important that the park rangers’ views be heard, NPX films, along with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) set up a way for park rangers to share their views anonymously which they turned into a video entitled “Anonymous Rangers” which is well worth watching and should be passed along to all you know.

The video wasn’t able to incorporate all of the information that the rangers passed along for the project. Some of the information received, but left out of the video include that visitors are defecating on the ground immediately adjacent to locked public restrooms at Death Valley National Park, that visitors are vandalizing park property, and that park staff have received insulting messages including: “F*** you. This is my park. I pay taxes” and “I peed in your parking lot you federal government bastards.”

Our national park rangers deserve better…

anonymous ranger video

9 Amazing Hikes That Will Make You Wish Autumn Came Twice a Year

By Alanna Sobel

Albert Camus once said that autumn was like a second spring, where each leaf became a flower. Nowhere is this as true as within the National Park System, where the coming of fall encourages trees to turn their bounty of foliage into a veritable feast for the eyes with bright oranges, crisp reds, and yellows that shine with anticipation. An epiphany of beauty awaits visitors in an explosion of hues during autumn as nature puts on a dazzling finale.

A brief list of the most gorgeous fall park trails should be on every bucket list.

Autumn hikes
Image courtesy of jay8085

Glacier National Park in Montana offers some of the West’s most impressive autumn vistas and Firebrand Pass, cradled by two climbing mountains, gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the meadow’s fall palette. Beaver Pond Trail in Yellowstone is the perfect spot to observe wildlife making their winter preparations. Beaver Pond Trail can easily be a day hike, while Firebrand Pass is more difficult and will take more time.

Riprap Trail in Shenandoah National Park contains a portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and takes hikers past private coves of mountain laurel that follow streams within the park. The swimming holes are the main attraction along this trail, especially during warm fall days. While in Virginia, the White Oak Canyon Trail is a must-see as well. Lush forests surround impressive waterfalls, several with natural geological slides.

For those not interested in swimming, Sargent Mountain Loop, located in Acadia National Park, offers its princely hues of golds and bronzes primarily in October. The view of the coastline and Mount Desert Island is impeccable and the hike is just challenging enough to thrill the intermediate hiker. For those that live in the west, the Tuolumne River Loop in Yosemite is a relatively flat hike, perfect for panoramic shots and is a fairly easy hike for beginners. The Puppy Dome and Dog Lake both offer breathtaking scenery perfect for fall photography.

For those with limited mobility or those who are unable to traverse several miles of rocky landscape, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an ideal way to enjoy the national park. This road trail can be traveled via car, though not motor-home, and takes visitors past swollen fall rivers and historic buildings nestled under canopies of reds and oranges. Also in the Great Smokies, the Oconaluftee River Trail follows the river for 1.5 miles. The clear waters reflect the fall colors of the forest and provide a peaceful escape for those seeking a shorter hike. Lastly, the Blue Ridge Parkway must be included on every list of fall trail escapes. Built to connect Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the dramatic views of foliage and mountain ridges are truly unforgettable.

Alanna Sobel is a writer for the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. In partnership with the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation enriches America’s national parks and programs through private support, preserving our country’s heritage and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts. To learn about our national parks or to find out how you help, visit