Far away from the chaotic streets of San Francisco lies an island usually called as "The Rock" and houses a prison which anyone will never dare to escape from. This beautiful island of Alcatraz also having a magnificent light house offshore of California is a famous and wonderful attraction of San Francisco. The famous prison and the lighthouse are historical landmarks and engineering marvels in the history of San Francisco and is now maintained by the National Park Service.
Glacier National Park
Once the place was home to over 150 glaciers, but by 2005 only 27 remained. And by 2030 all of those are expected to completely disappear thanks to increasing temperatures. The loss of glaciers will effect the entire eco-system of the area as plants and animals dependent on cold and water will soon follow extinction.
Goblin Valley State Park
A little over a 200 miles southeast of Salt Lake city in Utah, this eerie landscape has strange mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles or hoodoos, that closely resemble goblins. About two miles long, this uninhabited valley has been eroded by wind and water for years, to form these soft sandstone structures.
Haleakala National Park
Haleakalᾱ volcano rises 10023 ft above the Pacific Ocean and occupies almost half of the Maui Island of Hawaii. The geologic history of Haleakalᾱ is estimated to have begun a million years ago, around the time of woolly mammoth and saber tooth tigers! It comprises of colourful cinder cones scattered throughout the valley floor. The most recent eruption took place in 1802. This volcano is considered to be an active but currently non-erupting volcano. I got a chance to see this place a few years back. It is a matchless heaven weathered and coloured over time. The rains have oxidized the earth and the winds have emphasized the cinder cones! When I actually got to the summit, I wondered what was so good about this volcano. I hardly saw the cinder cones and the lush bright colors of the soil! We were told to hike up a trail to experience it for ourselves. Therefore, we started trudging towards what we really hadn’t anticipated. What I am going to quote is often said my the people of Maui that clouds in and around the summit of Haleakalᾱ carry whispers of another time. It is said that the demigod of Maui fished Haleakalᾱ and all the Hawaiin volcanoes from the sea, pulling them up and flinging his fishhook to the heavens. On clear nights, the fishhook of Maui, now the Scorpio, can still be seen in the sky from the summit of Haleakalᾱ.
Ecola State Park
For hikers, there are many trails to the water through the thick conifer forests of Ecola State Park. Ecola Point, near Ecola State Park, has a viewpoint and picnic area where you can see the panorama of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock and the coastal range. This spectacular view is one of the most photographed on the Oregon coast. A two mile trail connects Ecola Point to the horseshoe-shaped Indian Beach, and a six mile trail leads to Tillamook Head (and yes, “Tillamook” is the name of the well known cheese…the factory is about an hour south of Cannon Beach).
Ho'okipa Beach Park
If you’re an experienced surfer, head to the north coast of Maui, close to Kahului, and catch the morning waves at Ho’okipa Beach. If you windsurf, you’ve probably already heard of Ho’okipa as a windsurfing mecca. Wait until the afternoon and hit the water with hundreds of other windsurfers from around the world. Maui also has a world-class spot for kitesurfers, known appropriately as Kite Beach.
Amicalola Falls State Park
We did a day trip , hiked the 720 foot tall falls, the trees became our shelter , the ground was the dining table, every moment spent there made me realize that we don’t need to travel miles to feel the beauty and magic of nature, the gateway like these, the moments spent singing songs under the trees, walking the trails and drinking the mineral rich water straight from the rocks make the journey called life more beautiful.
Limekiln State Park
The park is quite small with a little over thirty campsites to choose from. It's all very tucked away along Limekiln Creek with eleven ocean-view spots to set up camp. We chose spot #1, and sitting at our picnic table perched above the private beach below, we hardly noticed the handful of campers at the sites below us. The only draw back to our secluded location? The short hike down to the toilets and hot (pay) showers (worth every quarter -- by the way, bring quarters). Fall asleep to waves crashing and awaken to the morning sun sparkling down onto the water below. Hot tea and sea otter watching with glimpses of playful dolphins? Check!
White Sands National Monument
This is one of the most remarkable geophysical phenomena I've ever laid eyes on, in any country of the world. The sand is soft, cool, whiter than snow and rolls on as far as the eye can see. Corralled in a ring of ragged desert mountains, there is something distinctly spiritual about watching the sunset over the San Andres Mountains, the last rays of which cast a pink hue to the silky rolling dunes spread out in all directions.
Crater Lake has to be one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen, it’s absolutely awe-inspiring. Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United Sates at nearly 2000 feet. Interestingly, there are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake, which is probably a contributing factor for it’s brilliant blue color and clarity. I visited Crater Lake National Park during a beautiful Fall day, but after seeing pictures of the area covered in snow, I cannot wait to go in the winter someday…it’s a place of immeasurable beauty. Fees: $10 for car and $5 for motorcycle (7 day pass)
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Kalaupapa National Historical Park is bittersweet, not the kind of place you travel to buy souvenirs. It is the kind of place from which you bring back lasting memories. Novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson described it as a prison fortified by nature. It is not easy to get to but so worth the effort. On the Hawaiian island of Molokai, it is surrounded by the crashing waves of the pacific ocean on three sides and 1,700 ft high sea cliffs on the other. There is to say the least, limited access to the peninsula. You can fly in by small plane, hike or ride on mule back down the 2.9 mile steep trail with 26 switchbacks and the most breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Unless you are a guest of one of the few residents, the only way to visit is with Damien Tours. Very exclusive, only 100 people are permitted to enter daily, and that includes resident’s guests.
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is located just outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico and makes for a great day trip when visiting nearby Santa Fe. The indigenous people that lived in the area dating back some 10,000 years, enjoyed the rugged arid landscape due in part to the the flowing streams and beautiful canyons. Many of the ruins in Frijoles Canyon have been excavated, studied and preserved. The main loop trail from the visitor center passes by several types of restored dwellings, many of which welcome visitors to explore. There are miles of trails, some are even paved to make a few of the sites more accessible. The highlight of the park for me was the trek to the “Alcove House,” which was about a 4-5 miles round trip, then required a 140 foot climb up a four tier series of ladders. This climb is not for the faint-of-heart. I however find these things extremely exciting. Unfortunately there was some sort of filed trip of kids at the park and I got caught in some pretty good congestion climbing both up and down. Once reaching the top tier you enter a massive cliff dwelling with sweeping views of the canyon below. There was also a kiva (an underground ceremonial structure) at the top, which visitors are allowed to enter and explore.
El Morro National Monument
As a road tripper, I try to stay off the interstates and main highways…discovering El Morro is a perfect example of why I do this. Located in west central New, Mexico, along an ancient trail off highway 53, is this historic site that was once home to 1500 Zuni Indians from about 1275 to 1350 A.D. El Morro National Monument is a wonderful example of why New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. The area is surrounded by soaring sandstone bluffs that rise more than 200 feet from the valley floor. After a leisurely hike, you’ll reach the summit of a mesa where you’ll discover a fascinating mixture of both human and natural history, which includes the remnants of a pueblo that housed Native Americans who once inhabited the area. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll run across a number of petroglyphs (images carved into the sandstone). The softness of the sandstone made it easy for the early people to carve pictures and symbols into the rocks. Today, the park protects over 2,000 inscriptions and petroglyphs, as well as the Ancestral Puebloan ruins.