|by Robert Firpo-Cappiello||National Parks, Nature Appreciation, Wildlife Appreciation, Helpful Websites, Technology, Family Travel||0|
When my family and I want to transport ourselves to a beautiful, relaxing place in the middle of a hectic day, we gather around the computer and "visit" Glacier National Park via the park's webcams.
On my daughters' first trip to the park, we rented a cabin on McDonald Creek, just a few yards from the shores of Lake McDonald, a lake carved by glacier in the heart of Montana's Rocky Mountains. My wife and I loved introducing our girls to the park, and when we arrived home to New York's Hudson Valley, we found that webcams were a quick and easy way to relive our vacation, and to start planning our next trip.
Of course, my natural curiosity as a Budget Travel editor got the better of me and I began checking out as many national park webcams as I could. I found that more than any reading material, the images made me want to fill my backpack and hit the trails. Here's a starter kit for anyone interested in diving into as many parks in the shortest possible amount of time.
Glacier National Park
http://www.nps.gov/glac/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm provides views of Apgar Lookout, an overview from Apgar Mountain of the North Fork area of the park; Apgar Village, with its visitor center, shops, and restaurants; and my family's favorite, Lake McDonald, which allows you to stand at the pebbled short and look out at the park's highest peaks, which are sometimes reflected in the lake and sometimes shrouded in clouds.
Yellowstone National Park
Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
http://www.nps.gov/yell/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm links to a collection of webcams offering a view of Old Faithful Geyser from the new visitor education center, which opened in 2010; a view of the Upper Geyser Basin, including the geyser itself; and Mount Washburn, a view that is used to track fires (this camera is typically turned to a default view at the end of fire season).
Yosemite National Park
http://www.nps.gov/yose/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm provides images of a number of the park's most popular sites, including Yosemite Falls, which is actually a combination of three falls (Upper Yosemite Fall, Middle Cascades, and Lower Yosemite Fall); Half Dome, including a view of the Yosemite Valley from nearby Yosemite Village; and Half Dome from 8,000 feet, taking in the High Sierra as well.
http://www.nps.gov/grca/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm links to just one webcam of the park, but it's worth a peek. The camera is meant to provide weather and air quality information, but also serves to whet the appetite of future visitors and to remind former visitors of what makes this place like no other on earth. In addition, the site provides a webcam of the San Francisco Peaks, just north of nearby Flagstaff, Ariz.
Great Smoky Mountains
North Carolina, Tennessee
http://www.nps.gov/grsm/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm provides images of iconic spots in this popular park, including a view from Purchase Knob to the northeast; and Look Rock, at the western edge of the park.