Lonely Planet Writer

US National Parks are engaging in ‘sunset wars’ to inspire travelers

It all began with an innocent Instagram post, when the official account of Saguaro National Park in Arizona shared an image of the orange sun creeping down behind a cactus towards the horizon line at dusk. “Did you know @saguaronationalpark has the best sunsets in the world?” the caption read, spawning a host of compliments and comments from followers and nature lovers around the world. However, it wasn’t long before California’s Joshua Tree National Park stepped in, challenging its rival’s claim and sparking some good-natured competition; and so began the #ParkSunsetWars.

Sunset at Saguaro National Park in Arizona.
Sunset at Saguaro National Park in Arizona. Image by Nic Perkins

Laying down the gauntlet, Saguaro National Park challenged Joshua Tree National Park to a “sunset off”, leading to both social media teams posting a collection of picturesque and striking images from each of the destinations at evening time. It wasn’t long until other national parks across the United States joined in also, using the hashtag to post their own inspiring images. Visitors to the national parks began taking part, with the social media accounts choosing some of their favourites to share. Speaking to Lonely Planet Travel News about the success of the impromptu campaign, Saguaro National Park’s Sharlot Hart said she was pleased with how widespread and positive the reaction turned out to be. “One of our goals is to bring people and parks together, (so we) reached out to the public to participate,” she said.

Joshua Tree National Park at sunset.
Joshua Tree National Park at sunset. Image by Debra Diset

In another recent post, Saguaro National Park asked members of the public to say what they would like to see in the next head to head battle between parks. For the team members involved, engaging with everyday travelers was the important part of the whole experience, as well as getting the chance to promote the natural, boundless beauty on offer.

“Getting the public to show their love and their own views of the parks was awesome, and it was so fun!  We had a great time showing the public that rangers can be fierce, silly, sassy, and down to earth… just like the parklands and resources that they protect,” Sharlot said.