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You Can Virtually Tour A Whole Bunch Of National Parks From Your Couch

Ryan Ford 16 Mar 2020

One of the best things America ever did was establish the national parks system, conserving the nation's ecological heritage and pristine wilderness for everyone to enjoy.

But, while visiting the parks is a family road trip classic, it's not exactly an inexpensive experience for many of us, not to mention how time consuming it can be.

Good news! You don't actually have to leave your couch to see some of America's most glorious landscapes. Powered by Google Earth, a whole bunch of parks offer free virtual tours.

Check out some of the highlights!

1. Arches National Park

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Compared to the daily city bustle, Utah's Arches National Park looks like it could be on another planet, with its delicate and unique land forms. There are more than 2,000 natural stone arches spread across the park.

Start a virtual tour right here.

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2. Badlands National Park

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Not only is South Dakota's Badlands National Park home to strikingly unusual rock formations, but it's also a hotbed for fossils. In addition to ancient remains, the park also hosts a variety of living wildlife on its 244,000 acres, including bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.

Start a virtual tour of Badlands National Park right here.

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3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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There are definitely more high-profile parks in the country, but Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a hidden gem. The star attraction is the canyon itself, carved out of Colorado by the Gunnison River - parts of it are so deep that they receive only 33 minutes of sunlight a day, hence the name "Black Canyon."

Start a virtual tour right here.

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4. Channel Islands National Park

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Southern California's Channel Islands National Park is one of those places that's absolutely gorgeous, but also a challenge to visit and navigate, given that it's composed of a group of five islands and a mile of ocean around them. Could be that a virtual tour is an ideal introduction to this park.

Start a virtual tour of Channel Islands National Park right here.

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5. Denali National Park And Preserve

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If you want to visit Mt. McKinley, the tallest peak in North America, you have to go to Alaska's Denali National Park. That's obviously easier said than done for the vast majority of us. There's a whole lot more to the park than just Mt. McKinley, too - Denali National Park and Preserve is larger than the state of New Hampshire!

Check out a virtual tour right here.

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6. Glacier National Park

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Glacier National Park is a special place. It's not only a national park, but also the world's first International Peace Park as it shares a border with Canada's Waterton Lake National Park. With more than a million acres and 130 named lakes within the park's boundaries, there's plenty to explore.

Start with a virtual tour right here.

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7. Mesa Verde National Park

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Colorado's Mesa Verde features some stunning landscapes, but its archaeological heritage is unmatched as the park has preserved the ancient cliff dwellings of the Peublo people, who lived in the area between 600 and 1300 AD. The park contains more than 5,000 archaeological sites and 600 remarkably well-preserved cliff dwellings.

Start a virtual tour right here.

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8. Shenandoah National Park

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It's hard to ask for better vistas than the ones in Shenandoah National Park, with its 200,000 acres home to a wide variety of wildlife and about 500 miles of hiking trails to explore.

Try a virtual tour right here.

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9. Wind Cave National Park

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Let's face it, caves aren't for everyone, so if claustrophobia gets to you, a virtual tour of South Dakota's Wind Cave National Park might be the ideal way to experience it. And it is worth experiencing, as Wind Cave is one of the longest and most complex caves in the entire world with 147 miles of mapped cave, so far.

Check out Wind Cave National Park right here.

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10. Yellowstone National Park

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The granddaddy of them all, Yellowstone was the first national park in the US, established in 1872, and it's widely believed to be the first national park in the world. Yellowstone remains an absolute jewel, sprawling across parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and featuring some almost alien geological and hydrothermal landscapes.

Start a virtual tour of Yellowstone National Park right here.

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11. Yosemite National Park

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Another one of the nation's oldest parks, California's Yosemite National Park contains a little bit of everything inside its 1,200 square miles: rugged peaks, scenic valleys, massive sequoias, and an abundance of wildlife and plant species.

Take a virtual tour right here.

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12. Zion National Park

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It's almost hard to believe that such beautiful landscapes even exist in America, but there they are in Utah's Zion National Park. At 229 square miles, it's far from the largest park, but it packs plenty into that space.

Start a virtual tour right here.

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