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A Centennial Celebration with TAP

The National Park Service will celebrate its centennial in 2016, and its parks, monuments and other sites are looking better than ever. Each unit’s terrain is as distinctive and its wildlife as diverse as a person’s fingerprints. Everglades National Park in Florida is the only place in the nation to spot an American crocodile, and Alaska’s Denali National Park is the only park that uses sled-dog teams to patrol the land.

Travel Alliance Partners tours highlight some of the most compelling national parks around the United States. Here are a few to consider for your next trip.

Bryce Canyon National Park


With 35,000 acres, Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah is one of the smaller national parks. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in scenery.

Red-rock spires, called hoodoos, jut up like stalagmites on Earth’s surface. To call it a canyon is a misnomer because canyons are carved by rivers; the park is an intricately eroded edge of a plateau. The region’s active weather and freeze-thaw cycles have eaten away at the sandy limestone, which makes it both crumbly and colorful, to form the “weird and bizarre scenery we have,” said Jan Stock, concessions management specialist for the park.

The park sits atop the Paunsaugunt Plateau at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, although its highest elevation is Rainbow Point at more than 9,100 feet. Bryce Canyon has 65 miles of hiking trails, ranging from a milelong, wheelchair-accessible path to mileslong, strenuous hikes. A 38-mile round-trip scenic road offers 14 viewpoints and takes about three hours to drive.

Year-round ranger programs can include short geology talks about hoodoo formation and guided hikes along the plateau rim or down among the hoodoos. Winter programs include guided snowshoe excursions when there’s enough snow. During the summer, the park offers stargazing astronomy programs about three times a week that are easy for groups to join.

“We have spectacular skies here,” Stock said. “In the summer, you can see the Milky Way galaxy almost nightly, like a big silver rainbow stretching across the night sky.”

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon has guest rooms and cabins, a general store and restaurant. From April to October, Canyon Trail Rides offers two-hour and half-day horseback rides among the hoodoos.

Glacier National Park


Glacier National Park became the country’s 10th national park in 1910 and, with more than a million acres, features a truly diverse terrain. White snow stripes the dark, dramatic mountains. Dozens of lakes dot the landscape. East of the Continental Divide, the park becomes gentler, with more hills and aspens and rampant wildflowers. And all year long, there are “endless wildlife opportunities,” said Katie Liming, public affairs assistant for the park.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, which was completed in 1933, is a highlight and a must-see for visitors. The 53-mile engineering marvel stretches the width of the park and spans the Continental Divide. Although the park is open year-round, the road is not; snow decides when the road closes in the fall and reopens in the spring.

“It’s a road with a lot of history, but you also have to stop at every pullout to get every view,” Liming said.

Two companies offer tours along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Red Bus Tours operates a fleet of red 1930s buses with roll-back canvas roofs; Sun Tours gives guests a Blackfeet perspective of the park, the tribe’s history there and its sacred stories and sites.

Swan Mountain Outfitters leads horseback rides throughout the park, and Glacier Guides offers guided whitewater-rafting trips, hikes and fishing excursions. Glacier Park Boat Co.’s narrated interpretive boat tours are available on Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, Two Medicine Lake and Many Glacier Lake, and the company welcomes groups and private charters.

The park’s historic lodges — Apgar Village Lodge, Lake McDonald Lodge and Many Glacier Hotel — are fun to check out, whether for an overnight stay or a short visit, Liming said.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.