Here on the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, we salute the 58 national parks and the treasure each one provides. We’ve personally seen about 17 of them and never been disappointed.
Each of the parks has campsites and various levels of lodging and eating facilities. Reservations are usually required for overnight stays.
You should try to see as many as you can. They are a special treat. In no particular order, here are the ones we’ve visited.
Yosemite, right here in California, offers a beautiful array of waterfalls, rivers and great hiking trails. The Ahwanee Lodge and its spectacular dining room is a must to stay or visit. In winter, there’s nearby snow for ski or play. It is truly a wonderland.
Point Reyes National Seashore, 30miles north of San Francisco, offers 80 miles of coastline and a variety of sites and terrain. It’s the second foggiest place in North America; and when the fog lifts, you can see a spectacular sunset. Don’t miss the old lighthouse built in 1870.
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, in Juneau, Alaska, is a 5,100-square-miles treasure trove of glaciers and ice sculptures. Mt. Fairweather is the tallest peak at 15,300 feet. There are no roads in to the park. You have to go by air or water. There are 15 tidewater glaciers. It’s worth the trip.
Mesa Verde, in southwestern Colorado, is probably the best example of Native American cliff dwellings available anywhere. It’s a fascinating picture of the tribal culture and our early apartment houses and condos.
Grand Canyon National Park. This is the granddaddy of all the national parks. It is spectacular! You should try to stay 24 hours so you can see the awesome changing colors. If you’re game, you can ride a donkey or hike to the bottom—or float through the bottom on a seven or 10-day trip.
The El Tovar Lodge is a great place to eat, stay or visit. Been there four or five times and enjoyed every time.
Grand Teton National Park, right outside of Jackson, Wyoming, is an awesome vista towered over by 13,770-foot Grand Teton Mountain and it’s slightly smaller brothers and sisters. There’s skiing in the winter and an adjoining Elk Refuge.
The whole Jackson Hole area is quite beautiful as is Lake Jackson. It’s a great place to visit.
Yellowstone National Park, just north of the Tetons, is perhaps the most famous of all the parks. It features the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Old Faithful, the grandest geyser that operates almost like a clock. It has Yellowstone Lake and diverse landscaping, hiking trails and occasional wildlife that includes brown and black bears, bison, elk, big horn sheep and mule deer. Don’t miss it.
Zion National Park, in southern Utah, just east of St. George, is another gem; 229 square miles of mountains and greenery, and great hiking on a variety of trails. Very beautiful! The tram tour is worthwhile as well.
Everglades National Park, in the center of Florida, is completely different from all the rest. It’s swampy and usually hot. Air boat rides provide a great tour of the largest tropical wilderness we have. It’s home to the Florida panthers, American crocodile, the manatees, 300 species of fish and 50 reptiles.
Mt. Ranier, right outside of Seattle. This 14,411 foot volcano is the highest point in the Cascade Range and is surrounded by waterfalls, green valleys, old growth forests, and 25 glaciers. The Paradise area is the snowiest place on earth. In 1971-72, they had over 1,100 inches.
Denali National Park & Preserve with snowcapped Mt. McKinley looking over its vast expanse of six million acres. At 20,310 feet, Mt. McKinley is the highest mountain in North America. Glaciers occupy about 16% of the park. It’s a great photo op visit.
Arches National Park, in east-central Utah on the Colorado River four miles north of Moab, is a special place of 2,000 orange, natural sandstone sculptures that are a sight to see. This is a real sleeper.
Acadia National Park, not far from Bar Harbor, Maine, is a beautiful park with about 50 miles of roads, originally built as carriage trails by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it. It’d love to go back.
Bryce Canyon National Park, east of Zion in Utah, is a glorious sculpture garden of red, orange and white rock formations. Great vista views and a wonderful, nervous horseback ride to the bottom. It’s a series of natural amphitheaters rather a canyon, but you’ll never forget it. Well worth the out-of-the-way location.
Redwood National Park, just north of San Francisco, combines with a number of state parks. It offers a wondrous old-growth rainforest of giant sequoia trees. There’s nothing else like it!
Rocky Mountain National Park, located northwest of Boulder, Colorado, includes the Continental Divide and the headwaters of the Colorado River. It features grand mountain views, lakes, wildlife, forests, river rafting and great hiking trails.
Canyonlands National Park, near Moab and Arches National Park. It has a colorful landscape of canyons, mesas and buttes by the Colorado and Green Rivers. It’s big; over 500,000 square miles and much to see and view.