“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul” – John Muir
This past week America’s “Greatest Idea” the National Parks turned 100! Isn’t that amazing?!? 100 years of preservation, conservation, protected lands, heritages, and cultures! Wahoo!!!!
If I sound oddly excited about this, its because I am! The National Parks for us have always held a special piece of our hearts. To us the these Parks are a staggering symbol of what the world could be. Safe open spaces, where couples, families, friends, and strangers can gather and collectively breath out in one communally astounded “wow” when they look upon the beauty and the grandeur of the natural world as it is-naturally.
It been our forever dream to visit every one of the National Parks, one we have been actively working on. Currently there are 58 Parks within the National Parks- 58 parks, thats not counting the numerous National Historic Landmarks, National Seashores, and the list goes on and on. So far we have only made it to 12 of the 58 that leaves 46 still to go, whew.
If 48 seems like a lot and you’re wondering, “what the hell”… get it together people, well you’re not wrong 48 is a lot. But if you’ve ever been to a National Park, in the US or anywhere else for that matter, you’ll understand. These aren’t places you go to for a day, say, “Hey, gee that’s neat” and move on- no you go, you stay, you explore, and you discover. These parks deserve our time and attention, for most visits 4 or more days is the magic number for an epic trip. Bonus- the very best part of visiting these amazing places is the budget benefits. If you’re a little strapped for cash, aside from travel expenses, lodging (think, tent camping), food ( think, cooked by you over an open fire) and sightseeing ( well isn’t that why you’re at a park?) are all insanely affordable. So if you’re one of those people who love to talk about how they can’t afford to travel- pack you’re bags and head into the wild!
Where We’ve Been:
- Acadia National Park
- Arches National Park
- Biscayne National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Conagree National Park
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Mammoth Cave National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Shenandoah National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
Our Favorite Parks:
A quick list of the top 5 parks we’ve been to, and why YOU should start planning a trip to one of the now- seriously RIGHT NOW!
The first reason you should go to Acadia is because its in Maine, and Maine is awesome. The second reason you should visit America’s oldest East Coast National Park, is because it is a veritable playground for grown-ups and kids alike. With hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails, each boasting incredible views of the Northern Atlantic, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with this magical place too!
Hey Boo-boo, when you go to Yellowstone be sure to bring a pic-a-nic basket, with miles and miles and miles of stunning mountain views and wildlife that abounds, you’ll be glad you brought plenty of snacks to munch on while you explore this wilderness paradise. Our last visit to Yellowstone brought us there in the depths of winter, the park is nearly abandoned in the cold months, but the advantage of a wintertime visit is a private adventurers heaven, no fighting crowds, no photo bombing tourists, just the wild and you! Travelers beware, if you do choose to visit in winter, large portions of the park roads close to the cars but can be accessed on foot, bring lots of warm clothes and register any backcountry travel plans at with the park rangers. We loved Yellowstone in winter but are already aching to go back in warmer weather!
If you are a fan of crystal clear blue waters, coral reefs, and historic forts, you will LOVE the Dry Tortugas. This remote island is located 60 miles West of Key West and is actually closer to Cuba than it is to the United States. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, this incredible island offers up just six campsites, at the end of the day when all the other visitors have gone home, its just you, a sky full of stars and the sounds of the sea lapping upon the shore of this desert island. Camping at the Dry Tortugas is an adventure like no other and preparation is key, as there is no fresh water on the whole island, campers are required to bring everything that they will need with them for the duration of their stay.
“It’s A Colorado Rocky Mountain High…” Yes, it is and it is phenomenal. Snow capped peaks, hundreds of elks grazing in low alpine meadows, moose, grizzlies, and more. We won the life lottery and are lucky enough to have family who live within an hour drive of this incredible park, so we get to visit often and every single time we do we discover something new to love about this wild wonder. Camp, hike, bike, climb, or drive, take you’re pick but whatever you choose, be sure to bring a camera because you won’t be able to help snapping a thousand shots! *Travelers Tip: If you’re short on time don’t miss out on a drive on Trail Ridge Road, this is an epic drive throughout the park and gives you a perfect sampling in one day of all the amazing features this beautiful place has to offer.
Bring bug spray and a camera, the Everglades are amazing! The glades are truly a waterman’s paradise but not a place for the faint of heart. Camping in the Everglades even in the cold months can be a challenge because of mosquitos and the plethora of other biting insects. But make it through the nights and you will be greatly rewarded in the daylight hours. Days in the Everglades are beautiful and filled with waterway adventures, and hiking trails where you are bound to run into one of the many amazing critters that make the Everglades their home including the American Alligator, and endangered Florida Panther.
Where We Want To Go:
Obviously we’d love to visit each and every one of the remaining 46 on our list, but there are a few that are really screaming to be seen. Here are our the top 5 and why-
This one probably seems like a no brainer. Who would’t want to go to Yosemite? It is after all the father of all parks. We would be pining after this epic park if for no other reason that this was where the idea of parks all started, but for us, Yosemite is so much more. If you’ve ever spent time with a rock climber, you’ll understand. To a climber, Yosemite is Mecca, and a pilgrimage here is a necessary need and calling of the soul even if its only once. We will go, its just a matter of when
It’s no mystery that when we talk about parks we get bombarded with the word, “conservation” – because thats their purpose after all, conservation through recreation. The idea of conservation is what makes Glacier National Park so special and exactly why YOU should go too! The glaciers that give this mammoth park its namesake are receding, every year, more and more, until one not so far away day they will be gone completley. So go see this beautiful place, commend it to memory so that someday you will have that memory to share with future generations, long after its gone.
It took one picture to convince me I had to go. The very moment my eyes gazed up a photo of one of Zion’s most popular hikes, The Narrows, there was no going back, a new hike had been added to the bucket list. The Narrows is the the lowest section of Zion Canyon, when within the gorge you are dwarfed by thousand foot tall walls all while wading through the Virgin River, pinched between gaps as small as 15 feet in some areas. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Dark green foliage, cliffs over hanging the pounding of the sea, foogy days and critters galore. Olympic National Park is the place camping dreams are made of. If you can for a minute imagine the beauty of that is the Pacific Northwest and then concentrate that beauty into one contiguous preserved piece of wilderness, that is Olympic National Park, and that is exactly why we want to go.
If you’re cocking your head to the side, and wondering if this place is even a park, and if it is, why you’ve never heard of it, don’t feel bad most people haven’t. There are no roads, and there are no trails. Visitors to Gates of the Arctic National Park are treated so one of the most rare spectacles on this earth, ecosystems in an entirely untouched state by man. Just getting to this park is its own great adventure, as the park is only accessible by flying or hiking into it. Someday, we will go and I can’t wait to share that adventure with you!
We want to know! Been to a National Park? Loved it? What are we missing? Fill us in on your adventures in the comments section below!