Blog Post Mar 20, 2020

Loving the Parks — from a Distance

8 ways to enjoy the places you care about from the safety of your home.

As millions of Americans grapple with the developing COVID-19 pandemic, housebound park lovers are missing the world outside their living rooms and longing to explore.

NPCA encourages potential visitors to heed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to take precautions during the public health crisis to stem the spread of the virus, including avoiding parks when conditions could be unsafe.

These special places can still serve as a source of respite and renewal, however. Enjoying the parks from home won’t match the majesty of seeing them in person, but they can keep you inspired and help you plan your next trip when conditions are safe again.


1. Take a virtual park tour.

Google Earth recently launched virtual tours of 31 U.S. national parks, including Acadia, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Olympic, Virgin Islands, Yellowstone and many other beloved destinations. Swoop your cursor around spectacular landscapes, then zoom in and experience the “street view” of some of the world’s most beautiful trails and landmarks.


2. Glimpse parks in real time through webcams.

See parks at a safe distance by accessing strategically placed cameras throughout the park system from your computer or mobile device. There are far too many to list, so it’s worth searching on individual park websites if you are missing the view of a particular place, but a handful of notable webcams include:


3. Watch our new video series, “Bringing the Parks to You.”

NPCA is releasing a series of short video clips from national parks to bring moments of beauty and a few fun facts to park lovers stuck at home. The series will officially launch on Monday, March 23, but you can watch a sneak preview of the first clip above. See more national park videos on NPCA’s YouTube channel.


4. Immerse yourself in a classic park movie.

Whether it’s Cary Grant racing across Mount Rushmore or aliens landing at Devils Tower, national parks have captured the imagination of filmmakers for decades. See our list of 10 fun and escapist films that feature park sites — and feel free to add your own favorites in the comments!


5. Encourage your kids to earn junior ranger badges by mail.

More than 300 national park sites have junior ranger programs. Not all of them can be completed remotely, but many can, including those from Denali, Frederick Douglass, Manzanar, Petrified Forest and Tallgrass Prairie, among many others. To participate, most parks require you to download a PDF booklet, fill it out and mail it in to receive a badge by mail. Some parks also allow kids to do the program online — see individual sites for specific information.


6. Enjoy some of the best images Instagram has to offer.

National parks are some of the most photogenic places around, and the Department of the Interior has been sharing crowdsourced photos of jaw-dropping public lands on its follow-worthy Instagram account for years. The National Park Service also features excellent photos and useful information on its account, as do many individual parks, including Glacier, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and Zion, among others. And of course, check out NPCA’s feed for photos and fun facts on parks across the country.


7. Research a destination or two at the top of your bucket list.

Planning a park visit in advance isn’t nearly as fun as being there — but thinking through the logistics is an important step in creating an ideal trip. What better time than now to pick a site or two you want to see and begin researching what it will take to get there, what other sites of note are nearby, and how to prioritize everything you want to see? It’s a perfect exercise for a travel lover stuck at home.


8. Share your park story.

Relive your favorite park memories by sharing them with others — and read stories from other park enthusiasts who have spent time at places you love or have only dreamed of visiting — at My Park Story.