This new Google Earth feature lets you tour spectacular national parks like never before

Apr 22 2019, 4:08 pm

Not only is April 22 Earth Day, but April 20 to 28 is National Parks Week in the US.

You can read up on the most gorgeous national parks in the US here, or if you’re looking for a laugh, check out these hilariously bad reviews of parks.

But if you can’t physically make it over to check these parks off your bucket list quite yet, Google Earth has rolled out a new feature that will give you the next best thing.

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From April 20 to 28, Google Earth is featuring guided tours of 31 of the most spectacular natural parks in the US.

From Zion to Yosemite to Joshua Tree, to parks you haven’t even heard of and certainly didn’t know you could tour until now, this new feature will allow you to explore these protected landscapes like never before. It also offers a great opportunity to map out your next trip and see which areas you absolutely need to visit IRL.

To set you off on your virtual parks tour, here are a couple of our personal favourite US national parks.

Happy Earth Day, and National Parks Week, nature lovers!

Joshua Tree National Park, California

 

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Joshua Tree National Park, named for the Joshua trees native to the area (duh!), is truly one of the most intriguing and photogenic areas in California. Located where two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together, Joshua Tree’s beauty can be attributed to its enchanting variety of plants, animals and geological features. While the park is open year-round, temperatures are most comfortable in the spring and fall. Plus, a springtime visit means you’ll likely catch the wildflower and cactus blooming season, which is a gorgeous experience in itself.

Originally home to the Pinto people thousands of years ago, Joshua Tree now attracts nearly 1.3 million visitors annually — and for good reason! With no shortage of nature trails, there’s a hike suited for everyone, ranging from a leisurely stroll along the Arch Rock nature trail to the more strenuous hike to Mastodon Peak, which offers stunning panoramic views of southeastern Joshua Tree. Or, make like a local and head to Hidden Valley, a mecca for SoCal climbers who flock here to boulder on the massive granite monoliths.

If taking in the scenery is more your thing (we’re not judging!), take some beautiful snaps in the Cholla Cactus Garden during the day before settling into a campsite for some epic stargazing at night. Pro tip: Make sure you’re visiting during New Moon to catch a view of the Milky Way!

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

 

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Located about 70 nautical miles west of Key West and accessible only by ferry, Dry Tortugas National Park is compromised of a seven-key (aka low-lying islands/reef) archipelago in the Gulf of Mexico. Famous for its breathtaking coral reefs brimming with sea creatures, 99% of the park is actually submerged beneath crystal-clear water, so be sure to pack your swimsuit!

Named Las Tortugas by a Spanish explorer, the park is home to countless species of turtles that return to the park’s white sand beaches each summer to bury their eggs.

Our suggestion? Take the high-speed ferry over from Key West in the morning for a full day of exploration, before catching the last departing ferry back at 3 pm. Be sure to pack in all food and drinks, and to use the bathroom facilities on board the ferry as this is a primitive island park with no running water, food or restrooms.

Snorkelling gear is included with your ferry ticket, so start off your day swimming in the crystalline waters around Fort Jefferson and experience the massive coral heads and colourful reef life. Don’t be surprised if you see sea turtles, angelfish and eels all in one breath — think the opening scene in Finding Nemo!

From there, take a self-guided walking tour or a 45-minute guided tour of Fort Jefferson, an impressive 19th-century military installation that actually served as a federal prison following the Civil War. Walk or swim along the fort’s moat wall, and keep an eye out for old artifacts like cement barrels and anchor chains along the way.

Yosemite National Park, California

 

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The Golden State of California is jam-packed with activities fit for the adventurous tourist, from roller skating along Venice Beach to walking the Golden Gate Bridge.

A real must-visit, however, is the naturally spectacular Yosemite National Park, situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Famous for its towering, ancient sequoia trees and for being home to three of the world’s ten tallest waterfalls, the iconic National Park boasts a multitude of hiking trails suited to beginners and seasoned hikers alike. The Mist Trail is one of Yosemite’s popular hiking trails, it’s ideal for those of moderate fitness and includes the Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. 

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