In part three of the best national parks of America we will venture into the ominously named Death Valley and visit the historic Shenandoah Valley which was instrumental in the political struggle between the North and South.
Death Valley – California & Nevada
Death Valley is a land of extremes, most of it is below sea-level which makes for extreme drought and excessive heat in summer. Depending on the season, Death Valley is home to snowy peaks that tower over the valley, and in winter there can be heavy rainstorms. This rain forms lush oases where the local wildlife gathers for survival and small wildflowers flourish. There is no doubt that this harsh landscape can be an acquired taste and visitors to this arid wilderness will have to like barren lands.
The ghost towns that are prevalent in Death Valley are a reminder how harsh the environment can be for survival, but in a way, it is this struggle for life which is the most endearing feature of the park. This unique part of the harsh Mojave Desert is like a barren moon and you half expect to bump into an alien creature at any moment. To really immerse yourself in the experience you should head to Dante’s View first thing in the morning, sunrise there brings an amazing vista with the early morning light reflecting upon the Sierra Nevada and producing a spectacularly colorful display.
Shenandoah Park – Virginia
The name Shenandoah invokes emotive feelings of the deep struggle among mankind, but today, in this heavily populated part of America, the Shenandoah park provides an excellent oasis from the crowded towns.
This great park might be one of the closest to the human habitat, as it is a short seventy-mile drive from Washington and just a little further to Baltimore. Most people take advantage of the wonderful one-hundred-mile drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is almost impossible to take the journey and not whistle the famous song by Laurel and Hardy. The best time to undertake this epic drive is in fall when the valley is covered in insanely beautiful colors. The park is also a part of the great Appalachian Trail which is a hiker’s paradise, notable attractions are South River Falls and Rose River.
Joshua Tree Park – California
Perhaps the only national park to have a U2 album dedicated to it, and certainly this acknowledgement of the park has seen the tourist figures surge upwards. This Californian park now gets two and a half million tourists every year, and most come to see and experience the great rock-climbing phenomena that exist all over the park. This park may be in the heart of desert landscape, but it has an amazing five hundred archeological sites because of its wonderful geological history. The park is also home to the Coachella Valley, now famous for its international music festival.
These three contrasting national parks exemplify the rich diversity of the great American outdoors. It should almost be compulsory by law that American citizens must visit a different national park every year to experience the true history of America through its natural landscape and flora and fauna.