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Take a virtual tour through Kenai Fjords National Park.

Tours are also available for Hawaii’s Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas.

J.D. Simkins  – August 24, 2020 | Updated August 27, 2020

Heat waves and fires throughout the West have left many of us in what seems to be an interminable state of sweat and existential dread. And with travel restrictions implemented due to the spread of COVID-19, escaping these lingering miseries has proven difficult.

Fortunately, there is still one way to break free to a few destinations at the top of your “Places to Go” list.

A partnership between Google Earth and the National Parks Service is bringing the sights and sounds of a few iconic parks that can be enjoyed from the comfort, or presently unbearable heat, of your own home.

The partnership’s immersive tours highlight five stunning parks: Kenai Fjords, Hawaii’s Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas.

With the aforementioned inferno-like conditions, what better example to dive into than Alaska’s Kenai Fjords? Here you can enjoy guided exploration courtesy of park ranger Fiona North, who begins the tour with a jaunt onto the surface of an expansive glacier.

From there visitors can plunge deep inside one the glacier’s intimidating crevasses, with commentary from North providing unique facts to accompany every visual feature.

Interactive icons are available to click on throughout the tour, like the 12-year timeline that depicts the rapid recession of the end of Exit Glacier, an ice formation North says once retreated an average of 46 feet annually, but has since spiked dramatically.

“It’s been melting about 150 feet per year,” North says in the tour. “At this rate, where will the ice be 10 years from now? How long before it’s not even here at all?”

Virtual visitors can continue the experience with a first-person, 360-degree view from the seat of a kayak. Paddle through a lagoon replete with whale sightings, eerie underwater sounds of shifting icebergs, and crashing walls of glacial formations.

A stunning aerial tour of the area is also included.

Pro tip: Drop an ice pack or three under your shirt to amplify the experience’s sensations.

Once you’ve wrapped up the tour of Kenai Fjords and the four other parks, delve into a separate Google Earth virtual tour with an interactive map and imagery of 31 parks.

Google Earth has pieced together virtual tours of 31 parks.

Screenshot courtesy of Google Earth

“From the breathtaking vistas of the Shenandoah Valley to the awe-inspiring hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, the National Parks allow us to truly experience the natural wonders of our country,” writes Google Earth’s editorial lead Kristin Appenbrink.

“Start with the pink granite formations of Otter Cliff in Maine’s Acadia National Park, then head west to explore the ancient Pueblo dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Finally, complete your journey with a peek through the North Window arch in Utah’s Arches National Park.”

Sure, it might not be as awe-inspiring as the real thing, but it’ll sure help you map out future trips when everything returns to normal in 85 years.


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