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Can't Visit a National Park? Take One of These Virtual Tours Instead

Darius Nabors created 30 virtual tours of national parks to help you get your fix from the safety of self-isolation. More are on the way.

By: Jonathan Stull + Save to a List

In 2015, Darius Nabors posed naked in front of Brooks Falls—the one with all the Grizzly bears and salmon—with a pouch of granola and won a sponsored trip to visit, at the time, each of the 59 national parks in the United States. While on his trip, Nabors created virtual tours of the national parks he visited, like Mount Rainier and Zion. In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, he’s uploading a new one every day to help us “visit” the parks from the safety of self-isolation. There are just over 30 tours available with new ones being posted daily. Each tour includes a short quiz to test your knowledge.

Back in 2015, while cruising between epic sand dunes, herds of bison, and North America’s most epic cordillera (the Alaska Range, obviously), he started to snap 360-degree photography and post his photos to Google Street View. Virtual and augmented reality was in its relative infancy at the time, but the platforms that hosted it were growing quickly, as was the technology to experience it.

Within six months of his first photo—they were called “photospheres” back then—a museum in Alaska emailed him to ask if the museum could use the photo in an exhibit. "I looked on Google and discovered that the photo had over 100,000 views,” Nabors said by email. "To put that number in perspective, there have been 93,311 in-person visitors to Lake Clark National Park since 2015.”

The photo of Lake Clark now has over 200,000 views, and Nabors has long since established his company, 59in59LLC, to make the national parks more widely accessible to people who, in more traditional circumstances, struggle to actually go to places like Lake Clark—think those in nursing homes and elementary schools. Nabors was once an elementary schoolteacher.

With 3 out of 4 Americans under lockdown orders, Nabors found a new opportunity to present his tours. "Suddenly, these tours have become more useful for parents trying to teach their kids, teachers trying to teach virtually, and bored outdoorsy people who are dreaming of our national parks,” Nabors said. "I wanted people to take a break from looking at coronavirus numbers, I wanted people to remember that this will pass and we will return to our outdoor places, I wanted them to take a deep breath, relax, and take their mind off the stresses of life for a bit.”

We all need a bit of that right now.

Find all of Darius Nabors' tours at 59in59.com and follow him on Instagram for updates.

Cover photo of Delicate Arch by Andy Best. All other photos courtesy of Darius Nabors and Google.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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