Museum Scientists' Favorite National Parks

From the Field posts

Summer is coming to a close, but there's one long weekend left! You can take advantage of summer's last hurrah and your last chance to wear white in one of America's national parks this Labor Day. But with so many options, which park is right for you?

Coyote Diorama

Yosemite National Park serves as the backdrop for the coyote diorama. 

© AMNH/R. Mickens


We canvassed curators and collections managers from disciplines as varied as paleontology and astrophysics for their favorite national parks for fieldwork and fun.

Best for Fossil Finds: Death Valley National Park (California/Nevada)

“Possibly more trilobites than any other national park. Also, the lowest point in North America is in Death Valley at Badwater Basin, which is pretty cool.”
Melanie Hopkins, Assistant Curator, Division of Paleontology

Death Valley National Park

Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley National Park.

Creative Commons/B. Inaglory


Best for Biodiversity: Great Smoky Mountains (North Carolina/Tennessee) 

“One of the most biodiverse places on the planet due to left-over tundra flora and fauna holding out in the high elevations, while subtropical species thrive in the moist lower elevation.”
Susan Perkins, Curator, Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Great Smoky Mountains

The forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Courtesy of National Park Service


Best for Stargazing: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)

“This is the location of Mauna Kea, an extinct volcano where many of the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes are located, and where I often observe.”
Michael Shara, Curator, Department of Astrophysics

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Things can get hot at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but the skies are second to none.

Creative Commons/Nandaro


Best for Bats: Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico)

“Carlsbad Caverns is a classic. It’s a great place to see a lot of bats.”
Nancy Simmons, Curator-in-Charge, Department of Mammalogy

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns proves that not all of America's natural splendor is above ground.

Creative Commons/D. Mayer


Bets for Birds: Joshua Tree (California)

“An incredible spot. Great scenery, great plants, great birds.”
Paul Sweet, Collections Manager, Department of Ornithology

Joshua Tree

The desert of Joshua Tree National Park is teeming with life.

 Creative Commons/A. Proimos


Best for Rocks: Grand Canyon (Arizona)

“My favorite park, and pretty much favorite place on the planet, is the Grand Canyon. Amazing sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.”
James Webster, Curator, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Grand Canyon

Any trip that sees America right includes the Grand Canyon.

Creative Commons/D. Delso


Best for Inspiration: Yosemite (California)

“Chaco [Culture National Historical Park] is a favorite. And Yosemite…I worked around there for six years before going to college, and it set the course for my future as an archaeologist and advocate for American Indians.”
David Hurst Thomas, Curator, Division of Anthropology

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park. Well what are you waiting for, get packed!

Creative Commons/G. Francis


And if you can't make it across the country to some of these destinations on short notice, don't worry–they're open all year long.