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Smithsonian Journeys is making it easy for travelers to discover America’s national parks in more depth. In 2010, the long-established travel program of the Smithsonian Institution offers eight unique tours that feature some of America’s natural treasures but with special perspective. Ranging from hiking trips to a cruise to a weekend adventure, each tour features an expert, such as a historian, geologist or biologist, who provides depth to the national park experience. Travelers will stay in historic park lodges or other special accommodations within the park setting, such as a luxurious resort in Death Valley, a night under the stars along the Colorado River or aboard a comfortable cruise ship.
“As we Americans celebrate our diversity, so we must affirm our unity if we are to remain the ‘one nation to which we pledge allegiance,’” said Edwin C. Bearss, Smithsonian Journeys expert and National Parks historian from 1981 to 1994. “Such great national symbols and meccas as our national park system belong to all of us, both legally and spiritually. These tangible evidences of our cultural and natural heritage help make us all Americans.”
“Winter Wildlife in Yellowstone” (Feb. 17-23) provides a unique way to experience the magical spectacles of this American treasure; it is the first national park and was established in 1872. Travelers can watch Old Faithful and other geysers erupt against a snowy backdrop, when the park hosts fewer visitors. Comfortable snow coaches transport travelers through dramatic scenery to the northern reaches to view elk, bison, coyotes and perhaps the elusive gray wolf. Meanwhile, Smithsonian study leaders offer insight and wildlife biologists discuss their research conducted within the park. Optional cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities are also available. Price starts from $2,955.
During “Yosemite in Spring” (May 16-21), travelers take daily easy-to-moderate hikes through a landscape that many consider the most magnificent in the American West. Although not established as a national park until 1890, Yosemite was the catalyst for the national park concept. Signature landmarks include Mariposa Grove (a stand of 500 giant sequoia), El Capitan, Half Dome and Sentinel Peak as well as Yosemite Falls, the fifth-highest waterfall in the world. Travelers will also spot amazing wildlife, enjoy meadows of colorful spring wildflowers and learn about the renowned naturalist John Muir from their study leader. Price starts from $2,995.
“Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness” (May 23-30) explores magnificent Glacier Bay National Park, which is only accessible from the water. Journeys’ cruise, aboard a 62-guest expedition ship, features the flexibility of small-ship travel to linger along the coastline for wildlife viewing or take Zodiac excursions for a close-up look. Smithsonian travelers will spend a day cruising the park, where they can hike, kayak and search for wildlife or, from aboard ship, view massive glaciers and experience tons of ice calving into the sea. The itinerary features both natural history and cultural sites from Juneau to Sitka. Price for a seven-night cruise starts from $4,803.
“Grand Canyon Adventure” (June 18-21) is an ideal weekend getaway that features a breadth of activities at an exceptional value. Travelers take a charter flight over the Grand Canyon to the Bar10 Ranch and enjoy a day of horseback riding, skeet shooting or just relaxing. Following an exhilarating helicopter ride to the floor of the Grand Canyon, a thrilling white-water rafting trip takes travelers down the Colorado River. Travelers will take hikes accessible only from the river and camp out under the stars for the night (all comforts provided). Throughout the weekend an expert on mammals and ecology provides commentary on the park, which was established in 1919. Price starts from $1,475.
Other tours that feature America’s national parks include Death Valley Adventure
(March 7-12); Canyons, Badlands and Mesas: A Southwestern Adventure (May 9-15); Wildlife of Glacier National Park (July 31-Aug. 6); and Alaska’s Best: Denali and Kenai Fjords (Aug. 5-12). For more details on these and all tours, visit www.SmithsonianJourneys.org or call 1 (877) 338-8687.
About Smithsonian Journeys
Smithsonian Journeys is the Smithsonian Institution’s travel program, with over 39 years dedicated to life-enriching experiences worldwide. Annually, more than 200 expert-led international and domestic itineraries offer travelers exclusive access and unforgettable experiences. For more information, call 1 (877) EDU-TOUR (338-8687) or visit www.SmithsonianJourneys.org.
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