Museum Scientists' Favorite National Parks

by AMNH on

From the Field posts

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.