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By Carol Austin /

Austin-Lehman Adventures has been showing our guest the best of our country’s National Parks for the last 27 years. We strive to incorporate the “hidden” gems on our National Park Tours. We also provide professional and knowledgable guides to show you the way and explain how we can help to preserve and protect our National Parks for tomorrow’s generation. We decided to share our top 10 “uncovered” gems of our National Park tours. Don’t worry we still have plenty up our sleeve…

1,) Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is home to a wide range of beautiful scenery, but probably best known for their stunning glacier carved valleys and enormous granite walls. John Muir named this place the ‘range of light’ and for good reason. One place to really get a full scale of these massive valleys is from Glacier Point, 3,214 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley. Although Glacier Point is not “hidden” this spot is often over looked, this scenic point can be accessed by a 30-45min drive from the valley floor.

Yosemite National Park

2.) Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is renowned for its amazing scenery and wildlife, here at ALA we try to show our guest a side of Yellowstone that they might not see on their own. That is why we have created Safaris in Yellowstone. What is a safari in Yellowstone you ask? An expedition to one of the most premiere wildlife viewing spots in North America. Often referred to as the “Serengeti of the West” we set out for the Lamar Valley to observe animals in their natural habitat, the ALA way! Our morning starts off at 5am at our hotel in Mammoth Hot springs, early morning is the best time to view the wildlife. Then we drove into the Lamar Valley, to catch a glimpse of grizzly bears, wolves, elk, herds of bison, antelope, black and brown bears.

Yellowstone National Park

3.) Canyonlands National Park
A real treat on our Utah- Arches to Moab trip is a bike ride along the Island in the Sky route. The Island in the Sky trail takes you along a sheer-walled mesa that is in the northern part of Canyonlands National Park. The route follows the rim of the mesa, with scenic points where you get amazing views out over the surrounding country, including rugged canyons that have been carved by the Colorado and Green rivers. In many places the surrounding country is 1,000 feet down, virtually straight down, just an added bonuses to this all ready heart pumping ride.

Canyonlands National Park

4.) Wind Cave National Park – South Dakota
Did you know that the United State’s 7th national park was created in none other than South Dakota? Not only that, but this national park was created underground! Wind Cave National Park takes the status of the world’s first “cave national park” and is comprised of one of the world’s longest and most complex cave systems as well as the mixed grass prairie, ponderosa pine forests, and assortment of wildlife that flourish above the cave’s surface. Containing nearly 95% of the world’s boxwork formation, this cave lacks the stalactites, stalagmites, bats, dampness, and creepy crawlies that you’d normally associate with a cave. On ALA’s South Dakota tour, we descend into the depths of the cave with our national park service guide by our side. You’ll be amazed by the unique formations, colorful stories, and the general “feel” of the cool, dark cave!

Wind Cave National Park – South Dakota

5.) Kenai Fjords National Park
On our Alaska Adventure, you’ll be entering the only section of Kenai Fjords National Park that is accessible by road. Explore valleys sculpted by glaciers and get up close and personal with Exit Glacier, one of the out-flowing glaciers of the magnificent 700 square mile Harding Icefield. You’ll discover firsthand how plant life reclaims the barren rocky landscape as you ascend from green, luscious plant vegetation to an “as-far-as-the-eye-can-see” moon-like display of snow and ice. Views along the Exit Glacier Trail are nothing other than spectacular, but if you can ascend to the summit (which is definitely a challenge), you will remember the views of a lifetime (especially if you’re lucky enough to experience a clear visibility day!)

Kenai Fjords National Park

6.) Grand Teton National Park
Kayaking the pristine, clear waters of Jackson Lake is one of those experiences where you can’t help but think “Life is Good!” Keep an eye out for bald eagles, mule deer, osprey, and maybe even a playful group of river otters on the banks. Settle into a comfortable pace as you paddle your kayak through the calm lake near a wild bird sanctuary. About three-quarters of the way through this loop, we make a stop at our own private rocky beach. As we eat a cold bowl of ice cream on a hot, sunny day, we take in the magnificent views of the square-topped Mount Moran, seemingly emerging out of the far end of Jackson Lake! After skipping some rocks, building a few log structures and even playing a little “King of the Kayak,” we’ll head out for the marina where we will indulge in a tasty, nutritious lunch at a beautiful picnic area on the shores of our playground!

Grand Teton National Park

7.) Yellowstone – Wapati Trail
Experience all of the thrills of Yellowstone National Park in one single hike! Walk through the rolling grasslands covered in wildflowers with names like Indian Paintbrush, Yellow Columbine, and Fireweed, and keep an eye out for the enormous rack of a bull elk laying in the shade of a lodgepole pine tree. “Walk on the moon” as you enter a barren, white-out landscape created by one of Yellowstone’s four geothermal features: a hissing, steaming fumaroles. Continue past the lily pad pond and up a short, steeper section of trail to emerge upon one of the most beautiful views you will see in a lifetime – the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

Yellowstone – Wapati Trail

8.) Bryce Canyon National Park
Hike the magical hoodoo rock formations of Bryce’s Peek-a-Boo trail. This trail gives you amazing views of the Hoodoo formations. Hoodoos are tall slender spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins and “broken” lands. The formation name is Claron Limestone, the rock’s age is from Paleocene or Eocene age, 40-60 mya. The Native Americans believed that the Hoodoo formations would come to live as giants and ward off intruders.

Bryce Canyon National Park

9.) Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons is home to magnificent mountains of red sandstone. Kolob Canyons is a remote 30,000 acre block of Zion National Park located northwest of Zion Canyon.  It boasts the parks highest peaks – Horse Ranch Mountain at 8,726 feet and some of Zion’s youngest strata. The Kolob Arch flaunts one of the longest spanning freestanding arches in the world. The structure is an adult alcove natural arch set high on an exposed cliff. It was made as a result of vertical joint expansion, wall collapse and erosion.

Zion National Park

10.) Glacier National Park
Hiking the Iceberg Lake Trail, the hike surrounds you in amazing flora with bear grass as high as your chest. The lake trail also provides some of the finest wildlife viewing opportunities in Glacier National Park. The vertical elevation gain of 1200 feet, providing unsurpassed views of the park. Lake Iceberg is named for the “icebergs” that float around on the lake. The lake sits in the shadows on the northern flank of Mt. Wilbur, receiving very little sun.

Glacier National Park

That is it for now… If you want to see some more uncovered gems of our National Parks, join us on one of our National Park Tours.

Your friends at Austin-Lehman Adventures

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