Feeling a bit trapped in your own home these days? Take solace in the fact that you’re not alone — a good majority of the world is practicing social distancing to help stop the novel coronavirus outbreak. The good news is if you have a bit of cabin fever, you can still enjoy the great outdoors without having to leave your home, thanks to Google and the National Park Service.
Google Arts & Culture teamed up with NPS to offer virtual tours of five great American national parks. We know what you’re thinking — the real thing is always better in person. While that may be true, these virtual tours still showcase the natural beauty of America’s greatest landscapes, from the tip of Florida to the fjords of Alaska. If you’re near a national park, the NPS has currently waived entrance fees to any of the open parks, where wide-open spaces provide plenty of room for social distancing. If not, here are the five national parks you can virtually visit from the comfort of your couch, and we guarantee you’ll add them to your post-social distancing bucket list.
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Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Explore glaciers, fjords, icebergs and more in the Alaskan wilderness with a virtual tour of Kenai Fjords National Park. This is where mountains, ice and ocean come together to create an awe-inspiring landscape. On your tour, climb into an icy crevasse or kayak through glaciers. Interactive tools let you listen to icebergs underwater or watch as climate changes melt glaciers. If you visit in person in the future, you can trek from Exit Glacier to Harding Icefield and watch for some incredible wildlife like bald eagles and whales.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
This park includes two of the world’s most active volcanoes — Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Through this virtual tour you can explore a lava tube, visit the oceanside volcanic cliffs, fly over an active volcano and rewatch a 1959 eruption. It’s a front row seat to this incredible park, something you’ll want to experience firsthand when we can travel again. Viewing the lava flows up close, feeling the intensity of temperatures, and taking in the awe-inspiring views make this park a worthy candidate for your travel bucket list.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
While we may think the best views are above ground, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico proves otherwise. A world of wonder lives below the surface in the Chihuahuan Desert, with more than 100 caves of various sizes. This tour lets you explore “the big room” where you can view amazing rock formations and walk through caverns. You can even fly with the thousands of bats that leave the caves and fill the sky at sunset. If you’d like to experience life as a bat, the tour’s unique simulation lets you navigate the caves via echolocation. This is one of the best places to visit in New Mexico, with treasures to be seen both above and below the surface.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
This park is home to the largest concentration of Hoodoos, or irregular rock formations, found anywhere on Earth and this virtual tour puts you right in the middle of these geological wonders. See breathtaking views of the orange- and red-hued rocks and watch park rangers explore the landscape on horseback. This is also one of the darkest places in North America and the tour lets you explore the night sky and view the constellations as if you were stargazing in person. It’s one of the most beautiful parks in Utah and definitely an amazing place to visit for outdoor enthusiasts.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
This island oasis is one of the most secluded national parks in the world, accessible only by boat or seaplane — except now you can experience it from the comfort of your home. This 100-square-mile park sits just 70 miles west of Key West and is mostly open water with seven small islands.But don’t let its size fool you, as there is plenty to explore here including the third-largest coral reef in the world and the Civil War-era Fort Jefferson. Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most beautiful, yet underrated, parks in America and it’s certainly worth a visit in person.