With much of the United States – and the world – under a shelter-in-place order, now is a great time to sit back and enjoy some of your favorite national parks for the comfort and safety of your home. Below is Chimani’s list of top 10 ways to virtually visit them:
1) Google Cultural Institute. It’s not surprising that Google has one of the best virtual reality experiences for visiting national parks. First created back in 2016 during the National Park Service Centennial – Google Cultural Institute partnered with the National Park Sevice to build “The Hidden Worlds of National Parks” which features ranger-led virtual reality tours of Kenai Fjords, Hawaii Volcanoes, Carlsbad Cavern, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas National Parks.
Since 2016, the National Park Service has continued to contribute to the Google platform and has added 113 Street View tours, 3,844 curated images, 54 videos, and 59 curated stories.
To get started, begin with “The Hidden Worlds of National Parks” and then explore all the various parks on the main project page.
2) nps.gov. The National Park Service website has numerous virtual tours and videos listed for parks. The content is a bit hard to undercover since it’s listed under each park page, however, there is plenty to explore once you find it. Some of our favorites are Yellowstone National Park, General Grant Tree Trail (Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park), and the Balcony House (Mesa Verde National Park). Click here to see a complete list on the http://www.nps.gov website.
3) Google Poly. This Google feature allows anyone to contribute their 3D content. The “tours” section includes numerous user-contributed virtual tours of national parks. We recommend exploring the series of tours created by Darius Nabors. In 2016, he did a trip to visit all 59 U.S. national parks and runs the www.59in59.com website.
4) Instagram. Spending endless hours on your couch looking at Instagram? At a few of these accounts to your follow list and get some #nationalpark #eyecandy:
5) Chimani Park Guides (Web version). Did you know that all 64 of Chimani’s detailed national park guides are available for free on the web? You may not be able to visit a national park right now but you can start to plan your next trip and begin learning about all the interesting history each has to offer. Go to www.chimani.com and click on “Park Guides” link at the top to get started.
6) unsplash. Unsplash is one of our favorite photo website these days. It’s full of high-resolution photos of all sorts of topics and places. Search for “national park” or specific parks such a “Yosemite National Park” and you’re sure to find some amazing photos.
7) Flickr. Flickr is still a goldmine for photos related to national parks. Back when this website was much more popular, many of the individual national parks began contributing directly to the website – and some continue today. Our favorites are Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park
8) Chimani (iOS and Android). Our Chimani app is available for free to download and includes details on all 419 U.S. national parks. It a great way to discover many of the smaller parks which might be closer to you than you think. It’s also has a wealth of information on the historical and cultural national parks – not just the big, iconic parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. Download the iOS or Android version.
9) Google Earth. Google Earth has been around for a while and continues to get better, especially now that you could view it within a web browser and don’t have to install a separate application. Similar to Google Street View and the virtual tours that Google offers, Google has compiled a list of various national parks which are available within Google Earth. NOTE: if you don’t have a fast Internet connection, or have a slow computer, this link may never load for you. It’s pretty resource-intensive.
10) Peakfinder. We love this app – which is also available as a website. It identifies all the surrounding mountain peaks wherever you are. It’s fun to use when you’re in the parks, however, you can use it from home too. Here’s an example of the view across Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park with all the surrounding peaks identified.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy the parks from home? Did we miss anything? Add to the comments and we’ll share with others.
4 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Virtually Visit a National Park”
Great list! I used PeakFinder a lot when hiking in CA (not any peaks here in OH). Some of your other suggestions I was unaware of so I’ll be checking them out soon, since I can’t really go anywhere due to this Covid-19 scare. Keep up the good work! I purchased your Yosemite app when it first came out and have recommended it to many visiting there over the years.
Thank you for your feedback and your support!