App of the Week: National Parks by Nat Geo

By Carol Dwyer
April 24, 2012

Looking for a cool way to learn about and explore the awe-inspiring outdoors of America’s national parks?  You need not go any further than National Geographic’s free app, National Parks.  For the first-time and repeat visitor alike, it’s a handy reference tool for planning a trip to the many parks in our country.

The main screens of the app include two tabs labeled Parks and Map.  In Parks, you’ll see photo icons of different national parks, the name listed below and the state abbreviation in the corner of the image.  The photo icons are displayed in alphabetical order by park name.  At this level of the app, the Map label brings up a country-wide view of parks pinned with images relevant to each one.  Zoom in for a closer view, click a park sign and you’re directed to the park’s page.

Let’s say you want to visit Acadia National Park in Maine.  Click on the park you want to learn more about and preview for a trip and you’ll come to a “Get the Guide” screen.  You’ll find helpful info such as weather, park size and history detailed in icons on the right.  Click “Get the Guide” and numerous insider resources on the park is provided, as well as the option to download your free guide.  If you click on the Map label, you’ll see a push-pin covered map to bring attention to particular spots in Acadia.  The push-pins are color-coded to represent points of interest, accommodations and where a photo has been taken.

Scroll down to see lists on park info as well as camping and lodging to look further into the natural wonder of choice.  From the park info list, you can find how to get there, when to go and how to visit.  Each of those takes you to another screen for the relevant info.  However, there’s still more provided to you by the app.  At your fingertips, you’ll have info on park entrance fees, whether or not you can bring pets, accessibility, overnight backpacking and special advisories.  These advisories include notices on certain natural features or weather conditions that may be dangerous for visitors.

When you look into the camping and lodging list, you’ll find options for whether you want to rough it in tents or sleep indoors.  Click one of the accommodations listed and you’ll find info on when it’s open, when to make reservations and the campground or lodging’s website.

You can also create itineraries with the National Parks app.  Click on the icon with the shape of a person’s head and shoulders next to several horizontal lines.  Get news and National Geographic’s picks by editors for an experience filled with tips from experts.  If you’re a shutterbug, you’ll love the photos section.  The info icon on the top right of the screen will reveal 10 “Tips for Photographing U.S. National Parks” by Michael Melford.

The National Parks app also encourages you to connect with the country’s many parks by providing their Twitter handle.    For instance, you can follow Acadia @AcadiaNPS; this information is provided below the park info and camping and lodging lists.  Don’t forget to check in under “I Was Here” and share “Your Faves” among our national parks.

National Geographic’s National Parks 4-star-rated app is great for anyone who loves to explore nature.  All essential info is quickly accessible for iPhone from the app store and will help you in all stages of your endeavors to take in the great outdoors.

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Carol Dwyer

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