Best National Parks To See Solar Eclipse 2012

The sun and moon (rather than the stars) will align to give a great opportunity for those living in the West to view a solar eclipse on May 20, 2012 at a large number of National Parks. Even better, the 20th falls on Sunday which should allow even more people to get out and witness this exciting event.

Approximately 30 national parks are located in areas where a “ring of fire” solar eclipse can be seen with six of these National Parks offering a near perfect centering of the moon during thesolar eclipse. There are another 125 National Parks where the eclipse can be seen, but where it will only be “merely wonderful” according to the National Park Service.

full solar eclipse

For those who want to get the absolute best view of the solar eclipse, there are six National Parks where the moon will be centered and cover 96% of the sun. These include:

  • Canyon de Chelly National Monument
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Petroglyph National Monument
  • Redwoods National Park (the best views will be on the beach away from the tree cover)
  • Zion National Park

For example, those who plan to watch the solar eclipse from Petroglyph National Monument will have the opportunity to see the moon centered while covering 96.5% of the sun. The solar eclipse “annularity” will last for four minutes and 26 seconds beginning at 7:33 PM MDT, and the eclipse will end when the sun sets behind the horizon at approximately 8:30 PM. Even when the moon is centered, there won’t be total darkness as this will not be a full eclipse of the sun, and bright ring of light will still shine outward surrounding the moon.

National Parks Where Solar Eclipse with Moon Centered Can Be Seen

Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Petroglyph National Monument
Redwoods National Park
Zion National Park

National Parks Where Solar Eclipse Can Be Seen

Visitors to these National Parks will see a solar eclipse, but the moon will be slightly off-center during the period that its shadow falls across the sun.

Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Capitol Reef National Park
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
El Malpais National Monument
El Morrow National Monument
Fort Union National Monument
Grand Canyon National Park
Great Basin National Park
Hovenweep National Monument
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
Lava Beds National Monument
Mesa Verde National Park
Natural Bridges National Monument
Navajo National Monument
Oregon Caves National Monument
Pecos National Historical Park
Petrified Forest National Park
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area
Wupatki National Monument
Yucca House National Monument

National Parks Where Partial Solar Eclipse Can Be Seen

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
Chamizal National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument
Fort Larned National Historic Site
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
Isle Royale National Park
Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
Mississippi River National Recreation Area
Nicodemus National Historic Site
Pipestone National Monument
St. Croix River National Scenic River
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Voyageurs National Park
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

May 20th should be a wonderful opportunity to witness this rare event in some of the most beautiful places in the US.

(Photo courtesy of Badruddeen)

10 Oldest National Parks

I received an email asking me “what are the 10 oldest national parks?” The first National Park was Yellowstone created in 1872. Number two was Sequoia National Park in 1890 along with Yosemite National Park the same year. While Kings Canyon National Park was established in 1940, it’s included with Sequoia National Park (they are connected) because Kings Canyon National Park incorporated General Grant National Park when it was created. General Grant National Park was established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias, the same year as Sequoia National Park.

Yosemite National Park established in 1890

Here is a list of the 10 oldest National Parks in the National Park system:

1. Yellowstone National Park (1872)
2. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (Sequoia 1890)
2. Yosemite National Park (1890)
4. Mount Rainier National Park (1899)
5. Crater Lake National Park (1902)
6. Wind Cave National Park (1903)
7. Mesa Verde National Park (1906)
8. Glacier National Park (1910)
9. Rocky Mountain National Park (1915)
10. Haleakala National Park (1916)
10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1916)
10. Lassen Volcanic National Park (1916)

Sulphur Works Lassen Volcanic National Park

While there wasn’t a lot open due to the large amount of snow still on the ground in mid June at Lassen Volcanic National Park, one area that was accessible to visitors was Sulphur Works. You could immediately tell that this part of the park was active due to the “rotten egg” sulphur smell that was apparent even all the way down at the visitors center. The main attraction was a large pool of boiling, bubbling brown water:

brown bubbling water at Sulphur Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Just above the brown boiling water pool was another cavity where both boiling water and steam were escaping:

steam and boiling water at Sulphur Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Several active steam vents could be found across the street on a hillside which was notable due to it being the only one void of any snow:

Steam rising from the ground at Sulphur Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park

While not the most picturesque example of volcanic activity, Sulphur Works was worth stopping at to get a taste of what might be found at the currently inaccessible volcanic activity areas in the park. It was a nice preview which makes me want to come back when the trails are clear of snow so I can explore the other hotbeds of volcanic activity within the park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Struggling With Snow

Like many of the mountain national parks, Lassen Volcanic National Park is struggling with the large amount of snow it received this year. I visited the park yesterday and most of it is still closed due to snow. From the Southwest entrance, the road is only open for about half a mile to the Sulphur Works area and all hiking paths on that side of the mountain are still covered in snow pack (you need snowshoes or cross country skis). The road is clear up to the Bumpass Hell parking area, but the park isn’t allowing cars up there yet because snow removal crews are still working and they are having some issue with rock slides as the snow melts:

rocks fall onto the road at Lassen Volcanic national Park

Even though the road was closed to cars, I decided to hike up to where they were clearing snow. It was about a 2.5 mile hike along the road without anyone else around (Protip: If you enjoy biking, it would be the perfect time to bike the closed road). As the road wound its way upward, the snowbanks on the side of the road increased, reaching as high as 20 feet in some spots:

Snow wall on side of road at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Truck next to snowbank at Lassen Volcanic National Park

When I reached the area where they were removing snow, there were 6 snowplows working feverishly, yet making extremely slow headway due to the amount of snow on the road.

Clearing snow on the road at Lassen Volcanic National Park

I talked with a ranger who said the goal is to have the road open by July 1, but I’m not sure they are going to make it. They still have about 10 miles of road to clear that is buried under 15 feet of snow. Caltrans has stepped in and is now helping Lassen Volcanic National Park try to open the road (the snowplows that were working while I was there were Caltrans plows), but even with the additional help they still have a lot of work to do up there.

For those wanting to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park, there is a bit more open at the Manzanita Lake entrance. Hiking trails around Manzanita Lake (there were a lot of people on the lake fishing today) and Reflection Lake / Lily Pond are clear and the road is open for 10 miles to Devastated Area (although the Devastated Area loop hike was still covered in snow)

For those interested, more photos from the hike