From ancient trees to towering volcanoes, take in scientific wonders at national parks

Editor’s note: Be sure to visit the website of any national park you plan to visit during the pandemic. Because many are reopening in phases, not all areas may be accessible yet.

Interest in national parks is booming, with crowd-wary Americans drawn to wide open spaces and natural beauty. But the preserves are also a great place for learning, says Emily Hoff and Maygen Keller, authors of the new book “Scenic Science of the National Parks” (10 Speed, $24.99). “Parks provide fantastic laboratories for getting up close to the natural world,” says Hoff. The authors share some favorite sites with for USA TODAY.

Gaze at the highest point in Texas, a fossilized ocean reef

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

This rugged park preserves an ancient ocean reef, which later rose to form the highest point in Texas. Now visitors can easily find fossilized sponges and algae as they hike through the high desert scenery. “These mountains are very different than you’d see anywhere else in the continental U.S.,” Hoff says.

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