- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: National Geographic (1 April 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1426210159
- ISBN-13: 978-1426210150
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 723,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
National Geographic Secrets of the National Parks: The Experts' Guide to the Best Experiences Beyond the Tourist Trail (National Geographics Secrets of the National Parks) Paperback – 1 Apr 2009
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Get hints about the best places to see wildlife, the least crowded beaches, barely traveled trails. There is insider information for every park that will make a visit even more memorable. "The Free Lance-Star" (Fredericksburg, VA) Adding authoritative heft to the text are insights from park superintendents, rangers, interpreters, and guidebook authors. "National Parks Traveler""With vivid color photographs and details...this book is a handy pre-trip planner for travelers."" --Billings Gazette" "[This Guide] offers a plethora of tips for both the hard-core backcountry expert and the day-tripping family group - and everyone in between.""--Deseret News ""The writers uncovered walks, trails, destinations, and vistas off the beaten paths whic, combined with maps and practical advice, make the book the perfect companion for any National Park adventure. "--Family Focus Blog ""This guide goes beyond the tourist trails, with 350 tips from local experts, how to find the undiscovered scenic spot and the best places to see wildlife." --"Cadiz Record ("Kentucky)"""National Geographic Secrets of the National Parks: The Experts' Guide to the Best Experiences Beyond the Tourist Trail...travels 32 of the nation's parks from an insider's viewpoint." --"NorwoodLibrary.org ""There is insider information for every park that will make a visit even more memorable."--"Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star""
About the Author
National Geographic cartographers create award-winning maps using state-of-the-art software for cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The results are clear, detailed maps that make map reading fun and informative.
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Top Customer Reviews
Whilst this one doesn't cover as many of the parks, it does give you significant extra detail and offer up more suggestions on what to see and where to go.
Well illustrated, well written and a joy to read. A perfect holiday planning tool if you enjoy spending time in National Parks.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I should have known better since their Trails Illustrated maps are also very inaccurate, but I was hoping they would have caught on and researched a little better.
In my opinion, they succeeded in their mission. In our case, my wife and I have been to Yellowstone and Grand Teton four times, with a fifth trip coming up in two months. As much park lore as we've picked up over the years, I still found some new ideas for exploring both parks. Perusing the book for other national parks that we've been to, I had several "oh shoot" moments when I read about park features we had missed.
The book's format for most parks begins with some brief background information and history of the park, follows with descriptions of "undiscovered" park features and how to reach them, and includes maps and stunning color photography. There are also tips about seasonal experiences and best time of day for landscape views and wildlife sightings.
The book is not intended to replace other park guidebooks, which are more comprehensive. For example, it doesn't include information about lodging, restaurants, or how to get to the park. Instead, this book focuses on lesser known or off-the-beaten-path features that many guidebooks overlook.
Highly recommended for anyone planning a visit to one of our national parks.
The book is fairly inexpensive, and a convenient size, so some people may find it worth owning a copy, but there are many other publications that are still reasonable priced and cover all of the parks, with much more comprehensive coverage.
The book covers 58 national parks, both well-known parks like Yellowstone and lesser known parks such as Congaree in South Carolina. Tips for enjoying the park come from people in the know, such as park employees. Each park entry must have a different author, because in the back of the book, each author reveals one "secret" about the park. The intro to that section states that each author had "hundreds of secrets that haven't been included in the book." I wish they hadn't said that... now I'm left wondering what I'm missing.
The one park I've been to several times is Acadia in Maine, so I checked out that entry first. I'd never heard about the lesser traveled "carriage roads" on which vehicles are banned. So, judging from this entry, the book will certainly give you some insider tips. Much of the information for Acadia, however, covers well-known tourist sites, like Jordan Pond and Cadillac Mountain. (I liked their caution about walking out to Bar Island from Bar Harbor. I've seen people get stuck out there when the tide comes in!)
I like the sidebars for each park on the best spots to see wildlife. Our family has gone on vacations where the highlights have been snorkeling, whale and seal watching, and swimming with manatees and sea turtles. This kind of information is right up our alley!
One of the biggest impediments to planning a visit to a national park is to find accommodations. I understand that sometimes you have to book a year or more in advance. This book doesn't address lodging, so you'll definitely need other guide books in order to plan for your stay.
The book features 32 national parks, and extraordinarily beautiful photos are provided for ARCADIA (page 18, photo of sunlight filtering through fog), ARCHES (page 116, photo of Delicate Arch), THEODORE ROOSEVELT (page 144, photo of stone formations called concretions), YELLOWSTONE (page 150, colorful geyser called Chromatic Spring), GLACIER (page 164, colorful Lewis Range), OLYMPIC (page 172, photo of seastacks), OLYMPIC (pages 182-183, an amazingly artistic photo of seastacks with a driftwood tree in the foreground), CRATER LAKE (page 190, show scene showing Crater Lake and Wizard Island), REDWOOD (page 200, photo showing Fern Canyon). I was very much pleased to see that Fern Canyon was included, even though Fern Canyon is only in a state park, and not in any national park.
CANYONLANDS (pages 104-111). In the chapter on Canyonlands National Park, I was glad to find a photo of CHESLER PARK, which is an area with multi-colored striped monoliths. We read, "While most visitors will make a deserved beeline for the spire-fringed meadows of Chesler Park, those seeking a less traveled trail will love a more than 60-mile network of narrow inter-conneted routes that allow for plenty of exploring." (page 109) I explored Canyonlands National Park about six years ago, and walked the trail to Chesler Park. Also, in this chapter, we read that a 42-mile drive through Canyonlands takes you to an area called "The Dollhouse," which features many stone formations called, "hoodoos." I think it would have been appropriate to mention nearby GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK, which features thousands of hoodoos, and where all of these hoodoos are located immediately next to the parking lot. The hoodoos in GOBLIN VALLEY can be seen in the movie, GALAXY QUEST, starring Sigorny Weaver and Tim Allen. A large map on pages 106-107 shows the relative positions of locations such as The Dollhouse, Chesler Park, The Needles, Candlestick Tower, and White Rim Overlook.
CRATER LAKE (pages 190-195). The chapter on Crater Lake National Park provides a beautiful photograph of Wizard Island, which is situated inside Crater Lake. But the sky seems to contain a few jet trails (exhaust from jet planes). If these are really jet trails, they should have been Photoshopped out before publishing. We read about MOUNT SCOTT TRAIL, which "climbs steeply at times, but the route pierces fragrant pine forests and wildflower meadows before reaching the summit. Visitors will appreciate the morning light, as it illuminates all the covers and creases around the lake." I was glad to read this, because now I will be sure to take this trail, if I have the opportunity some day to make a third visit to Crater lake. This chapter also mentions CLEETWOOD COVE TRAIL. I took this trail about six years ago. The trail leads to a dock, where boats await tourists, and take them on a trip to Wizard Island. Unfortunately, the book fails to mention how to buy tickets for the boat ride, or how to make reservations.
YOSEMITE (pages 202-212). The chapter on Yosemite National Park mentions the splendid view from the parking lot by WAWONA TUNNEL, and there is a half-page account on the majestic view from GLACIER POINT. I was also glad to see a paragraph on the awesome MARIPOSA GROVE. Unfortunately, in the page on TIOGA ROAD (page 211), there is no mention of the easy hike to Cathedral Lake, which provides a close-up view of Cathedral Peak. Cathedral Peak is arguably the most beautiful mountain in the United States of America.
JOSHUA TREE (pages 224-229). The book falls down in its account of Joshua Tree National Park. The writing focuses on inconsequential remnants from an earlier era when small scale mining was done in this area. Several pages are devoted to broken-down windmills, ranches, and mines. First of all, these things are of minimal historic significance, when compared to SUTTER'S MILL, which is a state park in California, and which is the place where the gold rush started. Also, these things are insignificant compared to the mining areas of Death Valley, the Town of Trona, and the Town of Borax, all located about three hours to the north of Los Angeles. Please note that Joshua Tree National Park is distinguished by its beautiful stone formations, which take the forms of monoliths, Valentine hearts, spheres, and sausages. All of these formations are some 15-25 feet high, and all are within an easy 10-20 minute walk from the main road. The monoliths are located just to the south of Hidden Valley (to west of main road), on the Split Rock Trail, and a 300 pace walk to the north of Oyster Bar parking lot. There are three Valentines hearts. One is in the middle of WHITE TANK campground, and it is mounted near the top of a 40-foot cliff. Another heart can be found by walking to the northeast corner of WHITE TANK campground, and then walking for about ten minutes through a dry stream bed, while walking eastwards while keeping an eye on the radar station at the top of the mountain. The third Valentine heart can be found after a 300 pace walk north of Oyster Bar parking lot. This particular Valentine heart, as well as a half dozen beautiful discs (each disc about 40-feet high), reside in an "island" of boulders located at the completion of this 300 pace walk. In Joshua Tree National Park, there are several spheres. The best one, which is featured on the cover of a book on Joshua Tree National Park's geology, occurs just east of campsite number 91, located at JUMBO ROCKS. The sausages are the size of a schoolbus. Another amazing sphere, is located about 200 feet east of the entrance to the LIVE OAK campground. This particular sphere is supported on the right and on the left of two cliffs, that is, the sphere is wedged in between the cliffs, about 20 feet above the ground. It is very scary, and makes a great photo, because one anticipates the sphere falling down and squashing you. Two sausages can be found between WHITE TANK campground and BELLE campground, and these take the form of a huge cylinder that is cut in the middle to create a disc (like disc of liverwurst). A third sausage can be found a 15-minute walk east of the main road, at Hidden Valley campground. To conclude, the account of Joshua Tree National Park is misleading, and its focus on broken down remnants of deserted stone houses and farms, is just plain stupid. Please also note, that this chapter failed to mention that tourists should avoid the months of June-August, because of the fact that tourists are killed on a regular basis -- once every year or so -- because of the unexpectedly extreme heat.
DEATH VALLEY (page 218-223). The chapter on Death Valley National Park is only slightly better than the chapter on Joshua Tree National Park. The chapter mentions the BADWATER area, which is good, but fails to emphasize the beautiful hexagonal salt formations, which blanket the floor of Death Valley in this area. Each hexagon is about 4 feet in diameter. Also, the book fails to mention MESQUITE SAND DUNES. These dunes are the most beautiful part of this forlorn national park. Every weekend morning, it is the case that the Mesquite Sand Dunes is visited by a dozen photographers, each with a tripod in hand, who are busily capturing some of the most beautiful images found in the United States. Mesquite Dunes is located a 1-minute drive to the east of a village called STOVEPIPE WELLS. I cannot explain why this chapter fails to mention the dune field. I was glad that this chapter mentions GOLDEN CANYON, and the short hike to a view of the other-worldly RED CATHEDRAL. Unfortunately, the book fails to mention nearby RED ROCK CANYON STATE PARK. Red Rock Canyon State Park has stone formations very similar to that of RED CATHEDRAL, but in much greater quantity, of much easier access, and of much brighter color. These stone formations resemble gothic cathedrals, and can be found immediately to the east and west of the road that leads cuts through the center of Red Rock Canyon State Park. The scarlet stone formations are all located outside of the fee-paying area, and so there is not any need to pay one penny to visit the stunning geological formations of Red Rock Canyon State Park. At any rate, regarding DEATH VALLEY, I suggest potential visitors of doing a google image search of "Mesquite Dunes," and to make an attempt to visit these dunes in the early hours of the morning, e.g., at 7 am to 9 am, when the lighting is best.
CONCLUSION. This National Geographic guidebook provides an excellent and inviting introduction to America's base natural wonders, including Yosemite Valley, Glacier National Park and its legendary Logan Pass, and Arches National Park located at Moab, Utah. My only quibble is that the account of Joshua Tree National Park has the wrong focus, and is just plain misleading. Unlike most guidebooks, there is little or no disclosure of restaurants or motels. This absence is fine with me, since most tourists can easily find restaurants and motels on their own. Also unlike most guidebooks, most of the photographs are of the highest artistic merit.