Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska.
Credit: Doug Demarest/Getty Images

To celebrate Thursday’s 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service, Google has launched “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks,” an interactive on-demand documentary that utilizes the latest 360-degree video technology to give viewers short private tours of five U.S. National Parks, as seen through the eyes of the park rangers who know them best.

If you can’t visit the parks in person this year, this free offering from Google is a perfect alternative.

“The U.S. National Parks are full of wonders, but most people don’t get the chance to visit in person,” Google's Nick Carbonaro said in a blog post. “While nothing beats the real thing, for this month’s 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, we wanted to see if we could use Google’s technology to help share the parks with everyone.”

Hidden Worlds presents two special video tours for each of five featured parks. Some of the options will let you experience what it’s like to:

  • Descend 750 feet underground into Southern New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns to fly with thousands of bats.
  • Go scuba diving in the shallow waters of the Dry Tortugas and explore a reef created by a windjammer shipwreck.
  • Take a helicopter ride over the steaming lava flow of the Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park.
  • Gaze at constellations in the night sky over the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.
  • Climb 30 feet down into the icy crevasse of a glacier at Kenai Fjords.

Viewers can access the virtual tours using Google’s Arts & Culture app on Apple iOS and Android devices or by going to

Dry Tortugas National Park.
Credit: Google
Kenai Fjords National Park in Google's immersive experience.
Credit: Google

The U.S. National Parks Service is also offering free admission to all of its parks, monuments, and historical sites starting today through Sunday. If you can’t get to a park this weekend, the Hidden Worlds online tour is a great alternative. Set aside an hour to experience all five tours.

In the meantime, you can watch a behind-the-scenes clip of the making of the Hidden Worlds Expedition:

Christopher Tkaczyk is the senior news editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ctkaczyk.