It’s a fair bet that you won’t have time to visit all four of Colorado’s national parks on your next trip to the Centennial State.
And it’s a fair bet that, like me, you can’t even name Colorado’s four national parks.
For the record they are: Mesa Verde National Park (Cortez and Mancos); Rocky Mountain National Park (East Park and Grand Lake); Grand Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, in Mosca; Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, in Montrose – not to mention the historic sites and spaces dubbed ‘monuments.’
So it’s good to know that Denver International Airport (DEN) has an exhibition celebrating the state’s four very diverse National Parks – which have dunes, deserts, canyons and mountains – at the Ansbacher Hall in the Jeppesen Terminal, Level 6 north before A Bridge Security.
The exhibit has images, objects and artifacts offering historical, education and recreational facts unique to each park and provides scenic murals where travelers can take photos “inside” all four of Colorado’s national parks. (Is that cheating?)
Grand Canyon, 1932, courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park
The National Park Service turns 100 this year and to celebrate the Phoenix Airport Museum at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has put together an exhibition showcasing the diverse range of Arizona’s National Park offerings.
Each of Arizona’s parks is represented with historic images and objects.
Flagstaff Black on White Bowl, 1100s, clay, courtesy of Wupatki National Monument
The selection includes ancient pottery from early cultures, a button from a Buffalo Soldier’s uniform, a fossil cast of an early reptile from pre-historic times and a boat that was used by Otis ‘Dock’ Marston in 1963 for a complete traverse of the Grand Canyon. There is even a slab of petrified wood that lived 225 million years ago.
On August 25 – from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – two National Park Rangers from Arizona parks will be in the PHX Gallery in Terminal 4 answering questions and offering more information about the Find Your Park in Arizona exhibit, which is on display through Jan. 29, 2017.
The National Park Service turns 100 in August, but festivities marking the milestone are already underway in parks, historic sites and, yes, airports.
Here – and in my recent At the Airport column on USA TODAY – are some airports where you can begin enjoying and learning about some of the nation’s most impressive national parks as soon as you get off the plane.
Forest-themed amenities such a giant sequoia tree in the lobby are the first clue that Fresno Yosemite International Airport is near Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park and a good starting point for the Majestic Mountain Loop , which gets you to all three parks in three days.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is just 30 minutes away from McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) in Knoxville. And airport spokesman Jim Evan notes that eight other National Parks and recreation areas are near Knoxville as well and previewed in the baggage claim installation featured in the video below.
To find the only commercial airport IN a National Park, head for Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming, which is part of Grand Teton National Park — and one of the gateway airports for Yellowstone National Park.
The location in the park is reflected in the airport’s extensive public art collection, amenities that include a Grand Teton Park book shop, and the recently expanded terminal building itself, which won an award from the American Institute of Architects in 2014 for being a “regionally-inspired solution” that “embraces the culture of the area in every way.”
Maybe that’s why last year a moose was spotted hanging around just outside the baggage claim door.
In Kalispell, Mont., Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is less than a 30-minute car ride from the western gate of Glacier National Park and has rock formations along the entrance roadway and roundabout that pay homage to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the 50-mile, paved two-lane highway that spans the width of the park and crosses the Continental Divide.
Inside the terminal, there is a 100-photo collection of park images as well as numerous native animal mounts, including a mountain lion that can be spotted over the restrooms and a mountain goat on a ledge in bag claim, “looking just like you’d see him hanging out on a cliff in the park,” says airport manager Cindi Martin.
A store inside the terminal sells park entrance passes, provides park information and offers an interactive map showing recent wildlife sightings, road closures and weather in the park. Exhibits in the terminal highlight park wildlife (including how to spot tracks and safely view animals) and the park’s hydrothermal features, which include geysers, fumaroles, hot springs and mud pots.
With the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park just two miles away (and Old Faithful Geyser 33 miles away), Yellowstone Airport (WYS) claims the title of “Yellowstone National Park’s Local Airport.”
“There’s no more convenient way to get to the park than to come here,” said airport manager Jeff Kadlec.
With a smokejumper base on property and an in-terminal restaurant with bison burgers, Rocky Mountain oysters and a very-popular-with-the-locals lobster bisque on the menu, the airport itself is also somewhat of an attraction.
So are the airport’s original wooden sign, great mountain views and occasional wildlife visitors.
In Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport serves as an aviation gateway to many of the national wonders of the southwest, including Zion National Park and Arches National Park in Utah, and, of course, Grand Canyon National Park.
Some of these and other nearby natural wonders are featured in LAS art installations, most notably Peter Lik’s floor-to-ceiling photos in Terminal 3.
As part of the current national “Find Your Park” campaign, posters throughout Miami International note the airport’s status as a gateway to Big Cypress Preserve and Biscayne and Everglades national parks.
And on July 30, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is kicking off a six-month exhibition in the Terminal 4 Gallery introducing airport visitors to historic and ancient sites, geology and recreational opportunities in Arizona’s 22 national parks and sites.
On display will be historic and ancient objects and images from each park’s collection, including Native American pottery and baskets, trade beads, a fossil of petrified wood from a tree over 200 million years old and a Sportyak boat used for a complete traverse of the Grand Canyon in 1963.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina is on the list of course (first successful sustained flight of a power aircraft and first dedicated airport for airplanes), as is the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio (first figure 8, first airborne engine restart, first cargo flight, first airborne engine restart and the first — and only — time the Wright Brothers flew together).
But also on the list is Grand Canyon National Park (first use of an airplane in search and rescue), Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (first airplane to land in a volcano) and many others.
I know I’ve missed some favorites – so feel free to add yours below.
I’ve been collecting photos to go with a slideshow that will go alongside an article about airports and national parks and wild animals keep popping up.
This one was snapped just outside the terminal doors at Yellowstone Airport (WYS) in West Yellowstone, Montana, by airport manager Jeff Kadlec one night as he was trying to leave work.
And this one of a moose outside the baggage claim doors at Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) in Jackson, Wyoming was taken by airport employee Philip Bollman.
The full story about airports near National Parks – and the slideshow that also includes Mountain Cougar and goats in airports – will be my next At the Airport column on USA TODAY. I’ll let you know when it posts.
It’s not an airplane – but this new, limited Airstream trailer is a pretty swanky way to travel – and a good way to support the country’s National Parks during their 100th anniversary year.
Airstream, the company that makes that iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, has partnered up with Oregon-grown Pendleton Woolen Mills, creators of iconic blankets and western wear, to make a Limited Edition 2016 Pendleton National Park Foundation Airstream Travel Trailer.
It’s a good match. In 1916, Pendleton made its first National Park Blanket -in Glacier Stripe – and that was the same year the National Park Service was born. Pendleton now features ten parks in its blanket collection.
Airstream produced 100 special-edition trailers that include park-inspired Pendleton decor and accessories, including a queen size bed with Pendleton bedding.
Want one? The Pendleton Airstream lists for $114,600. Airstream will donate $1,000 to the National Park Foundation for each of the special edition Pendleton travel trailers sold. The National Park Foundation will use the donated funds to support priority preservation projects at Grand Canyon and Glacier National Parks.