My first was in Colorado when I was 21 traveling with my parents. I’m not sure if I knew I was even in one. The second was a few years later while driving cross country with my PIC and her 2 young children and that was mostly just a drive through. Then in 2000, the magic happened. A weekend getaway with my bruddah in Utah.
Have you seen/heard the National Park Services recent PR campaign, “Find Your Park”? My park is Zion. My sense of adventure was ignited. Southern Utah has 5 national parks, one after the other and the area (Grand Staircase~Escalante) not designated as a park is a monument (a “monument” the size of Delaware!). Basically, Southern Utah is one huge national park and it is jaw dropping-ly beautiful.
Arches National Park, May 2014
I just counted and I’m up to 15 (out of 59). This is just official parks; monuments, forests and seashores are separate. The closest NP to RI is Acadia in Maine. I finally got there this summer. I’ve been to Arches and Canyonlands in Utah at least 3 times and would go back again tomorrow. This weekend I took the fam to the Cape Cod National Seashore, my third time visiting this area. I think I want to move there when I grow up (and only because Utah doesn’t have an ocean) 😉
Race Point Light and Calhoun Hollow Beach
Every park is incredibly gorgeous and absolutely unique. The NPS may be the only government agency that has wonderful customer service. Every park ranger I’ve ever encountered, no matter what their function, has been knowledgeable, friendly and amazingly patient. Their websites are beautiful, informative, and very thorough.
The Giant Forest in Sequoia and Upper Yosemite Falls
This year we only managed the one, Acadia, because some dumb people in my family made us take a cruise :/ I’m already planning next year’s mid-Atlantic tour: Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains and Mammoth Cave (maybe I should let my husband in on this).
Beech Cliff overlooking Echo Lake in Acadia
National parks are best visited slightly off-season. Summertime is obviously the busy season. I don’t know about you but I HATE crowds and I certainly don’t travel to places of natural beauty to hang with hordes of humans. Sometimes it cannot be avoided and with careful planning, you can still have an enjoyable visit. If you travel during April school vacation, look to go anywhere south/southwest because those parks will already be experiencing spring weather. For our epic road trip last year in California, we left the minute the kids were out of school and finished prior to July 4th. Parks were busy but not crushed yet.
Remember that many of these parks are quite remote from civilization and lodging is limited. We camp because it is crazy affordable and after flying 4 people around the country, it’s all we can afford! Fly Southwest and each person can check-in 2 bags as well as have carry-on (at no extra cost!). We even packed our cooler with camp gear.
Do you have a park? Where have you been? Please share! Here is my list:
Acadia, Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Great Teton, King’s Canyon, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes