12 hair-raising spots at national parks

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By Sarah Sekula, published on FOXnews.com

As a child, I met the tallest trees on earth. I chased fireflies through the Great Smoky Mountains, and I appreciated Old Faithful in all its glory (even though I had to hold my nose). I was entranced by Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore and thrilled with the glacier-sculpted geology of Yosemite. Venturing into the wilderness became my thing.

And it never stopped. Over the years I diligently sought out more memories at the national parks: helicoptering onto glaciers in Denali, hiking the lava fields in Hawaii and searching for pythons in the Everglades.

Here are some awe-inspiring spots I especially adore.

Half Dome at Yosemite National Park

Half Dome, a granite monolith, is the rockstar of Yosemite. Hike the beast, nearly 8,800 feet above sea level, and you can call yourself a rockstar, too.

Yosemite_NP_Half_Dome_view_STE_Greg_Chancey

Bat flight at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Each night during the summer when it’s time to prowl around for food, hundreds of thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats zoom out of the cave. Be sure to check out the ranger talk at the outdoor amphitheater.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (NPS) Bats in Flight

Moro Rock at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Visitors have been captivated by Moro Rock for more than a century, and it’s not hard to see why. Put on your comfiest shoes, climb 400 steps and snap pics of the majestic view.

Sequoia_and_Kings_Canyon_NP_Moro_Rock_STE_Joey_Carnes

Glowing volcanic gas at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

There is nothing quite like seeing the fiery glow of molten rock in person. Be sure to come back at night, too. On a clear evening, the Milky Way is easy to spot.

Hawaii_Volcanoes_NP_STE_Jason_Chu

Alligators at Everglades National Park

These toothy reptiles are the most famous residents of the Everglades. Keep your eyes peeled: there’s a good chance you’ll spot some while visiting this park. If you’re brave, sign up for a swamp walk.

 Everglades NP alligators STE Elizabeth Queen

Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone
If hydrothermal activity fascinates you, visit the site of the Great Fountain geyser. Its eruptions propel streams of droplets up to 200 feet into the air.

Yellowstone_NP_lower_geyser_basin_STE_Jim_Keenan

Ice Caves at Pictured Rocks
The famous, sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore should be on your short list. Stunning curtains of ice are formed in the winter when snow falls from the cliffs, melts and refreezes.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore STE Tim Trombley

Great Gallery at Canyonlands National Park
Here, you will be wowed by early American Indian rock art. The pictographs and petroglyphs are well worth the trip.

Canyonlands_NP_Great_Gallery_STE_Michael Greene

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park
One of the coolest things to do in Glacier National Park is to drive down Going-to-the-Sun Road. This 50-mile marvel goes through the park’s rough and rugged interior, snakes around mountainsides and provides plenty of photo opps.

Glacier_NP_Going_to_the_Sun_road_STE_Becky Jorgenson

Night sky at Chaco Culture National Historical Park

If you truly want to get away from it all, this certified International Dark Sky Park will do the trick. Visitors get to experience an ancient landscape and stare at the dark sky just like the Chacoans did a thousand years ago.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park night sky STE Alex Headman

Tram ride to the top of the Arch in St. Louis
This architectural gem at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is the nation’s tallest manmade monument. For something to write home about, ride to the top of the 630-foot Gateway Arch.

Jefferson_National_Expansion_Memorial_Gateway_Arch_STE_Nathan Brauner

Visiting the crown of the Statue of Liberty

Trek up 377 steps of the spiral staircase inside of the Statue of Liberty. Once in the crown, glance at New York Harbor through the 24 windows.

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