Ranking and Reflecting on our National Parks at the Halfway Point

Last month I finally passed the halfway point of seeing all 59 national parks in the United States (31 down, 28 to go). This seems like an appropriate time to pause and reflect on past visits.

I thought I would provide a list of these parks with a brief review of each. I ranked them using a combination of my own subjective experiences as well as a more objective view of all features.  I’m sure I’ll get some disagreement here, but this is my story and I’m sticking to it…for now:

romokawuneechevalley

#1: Rocky Mountain (CO)
Visited: August 2013
Duration: 2 days
Trip Report: Rocky Mountain National Park
Features:  Lush valleys filled with elk and moose, soaring peaks that are home to bighorn sheep, and alpine tundra crawling with pikas and marmots. More wildlife than you can shake a stick at, all surrounded by dense forests and incredible mountain views.
Memorable moment: Stopping to watch a huge bull moose that was munching on plants in a creek along the road.
Tips: This park can get crowded in the summer. Visit in the morning or evening, or in spring or autumn. Beware of snow closures in the winter. If you stay in one of the two gateway communities, Grand Lake is more scenic and less busy than Estes Park.

——————————————-

DSCF2374

#2: Great Smoky Mountains (TN/NC)
Visited: June 2013
Duration: 3 days
Trip Report: Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Cataloochee Valley
Features:  Panoramic vistas of the southern Appalachian Mountains, dense and misty forests, beautiful waterfalls, extensive trails, abundant wildlife including elk and black bears, and the ruins of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century human settlements.
Memorable moment: Being alone with my wife watching a black bear sow and cub wander around in Cataloochee Valley in the evening twilight.
Tips: Cades Cove and Newfound Gap Road are often filled with traffic and crowds, especially during the summer and autumn. They’re worth a visit, but try to see them in the morning or evening to escape the rush. Visit the outlying areas like Cataloochee for more intimate encounters with wildlife, nature, and cultural features.

——————————————-

DSCF0043

#3: Big Bend (TX)
Visited: February 2014
Duration: 3 days
Trip Reports: Day 1, Day 2 Part 1, Day 2 Part 2, Day 2 Part 3, Day 3
Features:  Wide scenic desert filled with canyons, mountains, rivers, and a variety of plants from cacti to cottonwoods. Black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, deer, and pig-like creatures called javelinas roam the varied terrain. The ruins of human settlements from the early twentieth century can be found scattered throughout the western reaches.
Memorable moment: Making the international crossing into Boquillas, Mexico.
Tips: Every square inch of this park holds much to be discovered. The sprawling gravel roads and trails invite exploration. Summer heat can be brutal. Even in winter the sun can be hot. The Chisos Basin provides a nice oasis. Water is your friend.

——————————————-

DSCF2807

#4: Death Valley (CA/NV)
Visited: March 2010, December 2012
Duration: 3 days
Trip Reports: Elevation Matters, Textbook Alluvial Fans, Mosaic Canyon, The Devil’s Cornfield, Death Valley National Park Revisited
Features: The largest park in the lower 48, Death Valley encompasses snow-capped peaks, wide salt-encrusted valleys, the lowest point in North America, searing desert heat, sand dunes, scenic slot canyons, ghost towns and other ruins of human settlements, and mysterious features like the moving rocks at the Racetrack. The rocks and minerals here exhibit every color of the rainbow. Plants and animals are less conspicuous than at other parks, but are among the most interesting in the west.
Memorable moment: Freezing in ice and snow at Dantes View while looking down on the salty, sun-baked Badwater Basin.
Tips: This vast park harbors many intimate experiences if you get off the beaten path. Summer temperatures are among the hottest in the world, so visit Autumn-Spring. Winter is the busiest time and for good reason, but this park is so large that crowds are only notable at the campgrounds and lodges. Be sure to carry water.

——————————————-

alligator3

#5: Everglades (FL)
Visited: April 2012
Duration: 6 hours
Trip Reports: Animal Highlights, Plant Communities
Features:  Varied plant communities including marshlands, pine forests, hardwood hammocks, and the gulf coast harbor all sorts of wildlife including alligators, manatees, dolphins, turtles, fish, insects, and more big, colorful birds than you’ve ever seen in one place in the wild.
Memorable moment: A cormorant that sprayed feces right in front of my wife and I on the boardwalk of the Anhinga Trail.
Tips: What this park lacks in scenic vistas it more than makes up for in wildlife and interesting plants. The Anhinga Trail provides some real bang-for-the-buck with abundant alligators, turtles, and birds, while Mahogany Hammock holds some of the most interesting plants and trees in the park. Summer can nurse a bumper crop of mosquitoes, so autumn-spring may be the best time to visit. I think late winter or early spring would be best since water levels are at their lowest and animals tend to be clustered together. Hurricanes can be an issue in the autumn.

——————————————-

DSCF6712

#6: Isle Royale (MI)
Visited: May 2012
Duration: 4 days
Trip Reports: Prologue, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4
Features: A forty-mile long island in the middle of one of North America’s largest, deepest, and most imposing lakes, Isle Royale provides a real escape from civilization.  The voyage across Lake Superior is in itself a challenge, with high waves and winds and dense fog hampering ferry boats and float planes alike. Once on the island, the only mode of transport is by foot or by kayak or canoe. In spite of the difficulty, the moose, wolves, birds, dense forests, scenic rocky ridges and isolated shorelines are a real payoff.
Memorable moment: Being lulled to sleep by the cries of common loons on the shore of Lane Cove.
Tips: Although the ferry and seaplane rides to this remote island in Lake Superior can be sketchy because of the weather, backpacking this isolated wilderness is a remarkable experience. Planning, physical fitness, and self-reliance are a must. No roads, no cars, few people. The absence of civilization here is a blessing, not a curse. If you’re willing to embrace the wilderness, this is one of the best experiences to be had among our national parks. May and September are perhaps the best times to visit to avoid the mosquitoes, black flies, and people of the peak summer season. This park is closed to the public late October-early April due to horrific northern weather.

——————————————-

DSCF5913

#7: Dry Tortugas (FL)
Visited: April 2012
Duration: 6 hours
Trip Reports: Dry Tortugas National Park, Snorkeling 1, Snorkeling 2, Snorkeling 3
Features:  Located 70 miles west of Key West, this isolated group of tiny islands harbors one of the best escapes from civilization in the United States. A wide variety of colorful birds fill the skies and shores, while countless colorful fish and coral fill the crystal-clear waters. And if you get tired of the abundant wildlife, the massive Fort Jefferson welcomes exploration. Built in the mid-nineteenth century to combat pirates and then house Civil War prisoners, this brick structure provides a beautiful juxtaposition against the white sand and turquoise waters.
Memorable moment: While snorkeling here my wife asked “What are all those big fish?” When I responded “barracudas” she made a hasty beeline for the shore.
Tips: Getting here requires passage on a ferry or float plane from Key West, and services are almost nonexistent. Be sure to snorkel and explore Fort Jefferson, and bring sunscreen. Although most people day-trip for about six hours like we did, camping here looks extremely inviting.

——————————————-

scorpionanchorage

#8: Channel Islands (CA)
Visited: October 2013
Duration: 6 hours
Trip Report: Channel Islands National Park
Features:  Rugged, rocky islands host interesting plants, animals, and cultural features while the scenic waters nurture kelp forests, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales.
Memorable moment: Watching harbor seals play in the kelp forest of Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz. They would occasionally pop their heads up to look around, only to slip back down below the water for food.
Tips: Although close to the Los Angeles area, these isolated islands provide a great escape from civilization. A ferry or float plane from Ventura or Oxnard is required, but the trips are almost as exciting as the islands themselves. Certain times of the year provide more sea life than others when gray, humpback, and blue whales migrate through the area. The islands themselves provide for some excellent hiking and camping, with rocky canyons, misty peaks, and beautiful shorelines found throughout.

——————————————-

glacierpoint

#9: Yosemite (CA)
Visited: August 2011, January 2012, October 2013
Duration: 3 days
Trip Report: A Four-Hour Whirlwind Tour of Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley Revisited
Features: Massive granite peaks dominate lush, narrow river valleys and provide some of the most spectacular views among the parks. Tall, spectacular waterfalls cascade down the cliffs to the serene rivers below, while abundant wildlife like squirrels, mule deer, and black bears roam the pine forests.
Memorable moment: Sunset at Glacier Point when numerous deer strolled past.
Tips: Most visitors flock to Yosemite Valley, and this small area gets gridlocked in the summer. Although the views are amazing, the crowds ruin the experience. Visit outside of summer, or if you must visit in summer, concentrate more on the outlying areas.

——————————————-

kingscanyon

#10: Kings Canyon (CA)
Visited: August 2011
Duration: 2 days
Trip Report: Kings Canyon National Park
Features: Home to one of the deepest canyons in North America, this park also harbors some of the largest giant sequoia trees on earth. Nestled within the scenic granite peaks are forks of the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers, and along their raging whitewater are dense forests, hidden waterfalls, quiet meadows, mule deer, black bears, and solitude. Similar to Yosemite but without the iconic peaks and crowds.
Memorable moment: Sitting along the edge of Kings River at Cedar Grove after sunset, having a beer with a friend while watching the moon rise over the pines.
Tips: This underappreciated unit of the NPS closes in the winter, so be sure to visit during the warmer months. The Cedar Grove lodge is the smallest and most distant, providing a quiet escape in a relatively isolated setting.

——————————————-

DSCF0222

#11: Redwood (CA)
Visited: April 2013
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: Redwood National Park
Features: Home to the tallest trees in the world, this park protects some of the most impressive coast redwoods in California. These trees blanket the fog-laden mountainsides, and in the moist environment many interesting organisms can be found. Giant banana slugs are among the most fascinating.
Memorable moment: Racing along the curvy roads through coast redwood forests felt like riding a speeder bike on the forest moon of Endor.
Tips: Although it takes a while to reach, this remote and misty forest is like a trip back into prehistoric time. Villages are small and widely scattered, and people are few and far between. The roads through the Klamath Mountains (299 and 36) are not for those prone to motion sickness. US-101 from the south may be a bit easier.

——————————————-

DSCF3472

#12: Sequoia (CA)
Visited: August 2011
Duration: 6 hours
Trip Report: A Tale of Two Giant Trees at Sequoia National Park and Muir Woods National Monument
Features: This park is home to many giant sequoias, the largest of which is General Sherman. The largest tree in the world, this impressive organism is 275 feet (84 m) tall and nearly 37 feet (11.3 m) in diameter. Within the park boundaries is Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48. Many other features like scenic granite peaks, dense forests, waterfalls, caves, and rivers are also found throughout.
Memorable moment: Hugging a giant sequoia, the largest tree on earth.
Tips: These startling large trees must be seen up close to be believed. Summer is relatively busy but not terrible. Spring and autumn are less busy, and winter provides its own unique experience. Roads are prone to snow closures during colder months.

——————————————-

DSCF8216

#13: Lassen Volcanic (CA)
Visited: April 2013, October 2013
Duration: 2 days
Trip Report: Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lassen Fumaroles and Mudpots in Action
Features: Located at the south end of the volcanic Cascade Range, this park offers an up-close look at active volcanoes, steaming fumaroles, boiling mudpots, and other fascinating and unique geologic features. Between these features are fantastic views, dense pine forests, streams, and wildlife.
Memorable moment:  Gagging on the sulfur-rich steam at Bumpass Hell.
Tips: Most of the roads are closed in winter due to the abundant snowfall here. Warmer months provide a great experience, and since this park is among the least-visited crowds aren’t typically a problem. Hiking trails provide worthwhile up-close looks at the unique features. Bumpass Hell in particular is a must-see.

——————————————-

zioncanyon

#14: Zion (UT)
Visited: March 2010
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: Textbook Cross-Bedding
Features: Gigantic, beautiful, and multi-colored sandstone monoliths tower over lush river valleys filled with scenic cliffs and waterfalls and abundant plant and animal life.
Memorable moment: Standing in waterfall spray near the Temple of Sinawava while looking up in amazement at the Great White Throne.
Tips: This park gets incredibly busy in the summer when shuttle buses are mandatory. Visit in the off-season for a more satisfying experience.

——————————————-

DSCF0690

#15: Guadalupe Mountains (TX)
Visited: February 2014
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Features: The massive limestone remnants of an ancient reef are now a home to impressive landscapes, isolated canyons, challenging trails, and a variety of plant and animal life.
Memorable moment: Hearing rocks tumble from the edge of a nearby canyon and fearing the presence of a mountain lion, only to realize it was a small herd of mule deer.
Tips: The remote mountain trails here provide a physical challenge as well as excellent isolation and beauty. There’s much to be discovered for those willing to get away from their cars for a while. Winds can be brutal in winter and early spring, and snow is also possible. Summer heat can be rough as well, so autumn or spring are perhaps the best times to visit. Autumn in particular is popular for hikes among the maples in McKittrick Canyon.

——————————————-

DSCF1443

#16: Grand Canyon (AZ)
Visited: March 2008, March 2010, April 2013
Duration: 2 days
Trip Report: Grand Canyon National Park
Features: A massively impressive hole in the ground, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, over a mile deep, and it exposes diverse rock deposits from nearly 2 billion years of geologic history. The rim offers up pinyon-juniper forests and wildlife, while the raging Colorado River holds countless isolated nooks to explore.
Memorable moment: Seeing the vastness of the canyon completely filled in with fog and clouds in March 2010.
Tips: If there is one sight everyone should see before they die, this is perhaps it. Most people simply look out at the enormity of the canyon in awe and then leave, but this huge park invites closer exploration. I would personally like to backpack the Bright Angel Trail and spend a night or more along the Colorado River, and perhaps see Havasupai Falls. I suspect that experience would lead me to rank this park much higher. As a culinary aside, the Navajo tacos at the nearby Cameron Trading Post are to die for.

——————————————-

DSCF4342

#17: Arches (UT)
Visited: March 2010
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: Arches National Park
Features: This park holds the largest concentration of natural rock arches in the world, with over 2,000 waiting to be discovered. The intricately sculpted red sandstone, deep green foliage, and distant snow-capped peaks provide for some beautifully contrasting colors.
Memorable moment:  Standing beneath the gigantic Double Arch.
Tips: March (spring break) and summer see quite a few visitors and traffic congestion. Other times of the year are more laid-back and rewarding.

——————————————-

DSCF9110

#18: Voyageurs (MN)
Visited: July 2012
Duration: 1-1/2 days
Trip Report: Voyageurs National Park
Features: A maze-like wonderland of interspersed lakes, rivers, forests, and ancient rocky coasts, this park is among the least-visited and most delightfully isolated. The waters hold abundant fish, the shores feature a wide variety of birds, and hidden within the woods are moose, deer, black bears, and other wildlife. This is a real gem to explore on foot and by kayak or canoe.
Memorable moment: While trolling around Lake Kabetogama in a rented motor boat, my wife and I found a nice isolated cove to drop anchor, eat a packed lunch and watch ducks, mergansers, loons, and other birds float and fly around us.
Tips: This is really a great park to visit any time of year. Even during the summer people are few, and it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinthine forests and waterways. Makes for a great laid-back summer escape. Winter presents some challenging weather, but even then cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and guided interpretive hikes are welcome attractions. The Wooden Frog campground at Kabetogama State Forest provides a quiet place to stay right on the edge of the park, and right on the edge of Lake Kabetogama.

——————————————-

DSCF4524

#19: Great Sand Dunes (CO)
Visited: August 2013
Duration: 1 day
Trip Report: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Features: Although the centerpiece of this park is a wind-blown field of the tallest sand dunes in North America, this park features a wide variety of environments to explore. Aspen and conifer forests, wetlands, grasslands, rivers, and tundra invite the intrepid traveler.
Memorable moment: Looking down on the dunes from the Mosca Pass Trail.
Tips: The Great Sand Dunes Lodge provided a nice base of operation with its scenic views, clean rooms, and adequate general store and restaurant. This isolated park is perhaps fit to visit any time of year, but the warmer months provide better weather. Mountain runoff in the spring fills Medano Creek with water, providing for an additional feature to explore.

——————————————-

DSCF5583

#20: Biscayne (FL)
Visited: April 2012
Duration: 2 hours
Trip Report: Biscayne National Park: Convoy Point
Features: Lush oceanside stands of mangroves and other plants provide a home for anole lizards and other sub-tropical wildlife, while the warm waters harbor coral reefs, colorful fish, and distant, isolated islands. Fossiliferous limestone from ancient reefs lines the shores.
Memorable moment:  Looking across Biscayne Bay at the distant skyline of Miami while anole lizards pranced in the foliage all around.
Tips: To really appreciate this park one needs to get out in the water. Most of this park can be found within Biscayne Bay itself, where scuba diving and snorkeling provide the most up-close experiences with marine life. With my limited time I didn’t get to do this, and I suspect if I had I would rank this park more highly. Summer can harbor a bumper crop of mosquitoes, when entrance fees are sometimes waived in order to draw people in.

——————————————-

saguaro

#21: Saguaro (AZ)
Visited: March 2008
Duration: 3 hours
Trip Report: Saguaro National Park
Features: Divided into two units to the east and west of Tucson, this park is home to countless saguaro cacti. Limited to only a small portion of the Sonoran Desert, saguaro are the largest cacti in the United States. These icons of the American west can be found interspersed with other desert plants and animals, surrounded by the interesting metamorphic rocks of the surrounding mountains.
Memorable moment: Looking down on the hot, dry Sonoran Desert from a lush creekside campsite high in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
Tips: Summer highs regularly exceed 100 degrees F (38 C), so cooler months provide a more comfortable experience. Winter weather is typically lovely. The close proximity to Tucson makes city traffic an issue, so be patient.

——————————————-

joshuatreesunset4

#22: Joshua Tree (CA)
Visited: December 2012
Duration: 2 hours
Trip Report: Joshua Tree National Park
Features: This park is home to a large concentration of Joshua trees, an uncommonly large yucca species that is rather impressive. Other Mojave Desert plant and animal life are equally interesting. Massive outcrops of weathered granite and scenic views of Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, the San Andreas Fault, and distant mountain ranges round out the experience.
Memorable moment: Watching the sun set over Coachella Valley from Keys View, with silhouettes of Joshua trees dotting the crimson sky.
Tips: Although not far from Los Angeles, this park sees only about 1.5 million visitors a year. Since this is a relatively hot climate, the cooler months of the year are perhaps ideal for a visit.

——————————————-

DSCF4952

#23: Black Canyon of the Gunnison (CO)
Visited: August 2013
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Features: A deep, dark canyon carved by the raging Gunnison River provides a home for a variety of plants, animals, and interesting geologic features.
Memorable moment:  Hearing the roar of the distant Gunnison River even though we were thousands of feet up on the canyon rim.
Tips: Since this isn’t a heavily-traveled park, visits during the warmer months are probably ideal. Winter can present issues with the weather.

——————————————-

#24: Petrified Forest (AZ)
Visited: March 2008, March 2010
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: When wood is not wood
Features: If the vast petrified remains of Triassic Period trees don’t get your attention, the multi-colored mudstone slopes of the Painted Desert will.
Memorable moment: Standing among some of the gigantic logs of the Triassic trees that had been preserved by colorful quartz, amethyst, and citrine mineral substitution.
Tips: Don’t be one of those people who steals petrified wood from this park. Buy it from an outside gift shop, and save your receipt in case park rangers question where you got it. Fines for stealing it are steep.

——————————————-

greatbasin

#25: Great Basin (NV)
Visited: April 2013
Duration: 2 hours
Trip Report: Great Basin National Park
Features: Soaring snow-capped peaks interspersed with low, dry basins are typical of the basin-and-range province of Nevada. Nestled among the higher elevations are bristlecone pines, perhaps the oldest organisms on earth. Caves, rugged hiking trails, and beautiful scenery can also be found here.
Memorable moment: Getting shut out of the higher elevations in April because of the remaining snow pack.
Tips: This park is out in the middle of nowhere, and crowds should never be a problem. It’s over four hours from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, so reaching this park is a bit of a trek. Winter presents snow closures, so May-September are probably ideal times to visit.

——————————————-

DSCF2729

#26: Pinnacles (CA)
Visited: December 2012
Duration: 3 hours
Trip Report: Pinnacles National Monument (now a National Park)
Features: Tall, rugged volcanic peaks dominate the landscape. A variety of hiking trails traverse the terrain, providing up-close looks at a variety of plants, wildlife, and natural features. Below ground there are caves to explore, and above ground California condors can sometimes be seen.
Memorable moment:  Climbing atop the highest, most precarious rock I could find on the High Peaks Trail.
Tips: This is our newest national park, being officially “elevated” from national monument status in January 0f 2013. Although off the beaten path, its new status may invite more visitors in the future. Winter is cool and summer is warm, but the moderate climate here welcomes exploration any time of year.

——————————————-

carlsbadcaverns

#27: Carlsbad Caverns (NM)
Visited: March 2008, February 2014
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Features: A vast and impressive system of natural caves, this park protects perhaps the most scenic in North America. An array of dripstones like stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, and columns fill this void in the dissolved limestone mountains. The Big Room can be seen in 1-3 hours, but more intricate guided spelunking tours can also be had.
Memorable moment: Watching researchers climb down one of the seemingly endless pits in the Big Room.
Tips: This park is a bit off the beaten path, and although I’ve only seen it in the barrenness of late winter, I suspect summer isn’t terribly busy either.

——————————————-

DSCF6150

#28: Mammoth Cave (KY)
Visited: May 2012
Duration: 5 hours
Trip Report: Above and Below Mammoth Cave National Park
Features: Home of the longest known cave system in the world, the scope of this park is astounding. Most of the caves that are open to the public are rather plain, but vast. Frozen Niagara offers some dripstone, but the overlying sandstone bedding prevents dripstone from forming in most other parts of the caves.
Memorable moment: Standing in absolute darkness and silence at one point during the Historic Entrance tour.
Tips: Although the caves are the main attraction here, extensive surface trails like the Cedar Sink Trail can provide top-side views of cave features as well as intimate encounters with nature. The forests here are serene, and the wild turkeys are plentiful.

——————————————-

shenandoah

#29: Shenandoah (VA)
Visited: October 1996, October 2007
Duration: 2 days
Trip Report: Not yet available
Features: Following the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, this park offers up spectacular views of the surrounding ridge-and-valley topography. Thick forests of maples, oaks, and other eastern trees shroud the presence of deer, black bears, and other wildlife.
Memorable moment: Looking out over 60 miles of misty, tree-lined ridges.
Tips: Skyline Drive, the main road through the park, can get congested in summer and autumn. Visit in the morning or evening, in the winter or spring, or see outlying areas to avoid the crowds. Skyline Drive is prone to snow closures in the colder months.

——————————————-

DSCF2145

#30: Congaree (SC)
Visited: June 2013
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: Congaree National Park
Features: Home to the tallest trees in eastern North America, this park preserves the largest hardwood bottomland forest remaining in the southeast. Flood plains, swamps, and rivers are filled with a dense, sub-tropical forest that is home to alligators, armadillos, lizards, birds, and many insects including ubiquitous mosquitoes.
Memorable moment: Trying to find shelter near Weston Lake when a sudden summer thunderstorm came raining down upon my wife and I.
Tips: Among the least-visited parks, this wonderland of large trees and rivers is rarely busy. Although the boardwalk trail is a scenic and rewarding experience, the extensive ground-level trails offer even more. Paddling can extend a visit throughout the abundant waterways. Flooding is not uncommon and can affect accessibility, so adapt accordingly.

——————————————-

cuyahogafall

#31: Cuyahoga Valley (OH)
Visited: September 2011
Duration: 4 hours
Trip Report: Waterfalls of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Eastern chipmunk, Midland painted turtle, Yellow pond-lily, American white water-lily
Features: Although situated in close proximity to Cleveland, Akron, and local suburbs, this relatively small park has some notable features. Hardwood forests, cliffs, rivers, streams, waterfalls, wildlife, hiking trails, and nineteenth-century buildings, canals, and locks litter the landscape.
Memorable moment: Sitting alone at the base of Blue Hen Falls, listening to nothing but the water cascading through the ravine.
Tips: The nearly invasive nature of surrounding civilization may at first seem to sour the experience here, but wilderness solitude can be found on the extensive trails. Winter is typically cold and snowy, but spring wildflowers, summer wildlife, and autumn color are inviting.

——————————————-

Next month I have plans to visit Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands in Utah, as well as Mesa Verde in southwest Colorado. A business trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer should invite the possibility of visits to Crater Lake (OR), Glacier (MT), and Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades (WA).

The remaining parks in the lower 48 (Acadia (ME), Hot Springs (AR), Badlands (SD), Wind Cave (SD), Theodore Roosevelt (ND), Yellowstone (WY), and Grand Teton (WY)) should be relatively easy to see. Beyond that, however, things get a lot more challenging and expensive. Eight parks in Alaska, two in Hawaii, one in the US Virgin Islands, and one in American Samoa will likely prove to be difficult to visit. If there’s one thing on my bucket list, however, seeing all 59 of our national parks is definitely it.

…and don’t get me started on the other 342 units administered by the National Park Service (monuments, memorials, shorelines, battlefields, historic sites, etc.)…I’ve only seen about 35 of those…

About these ads

About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Culture, Ecology, General, Geology, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ranking and Reflecting on our National Parks at the Halfway Point

  1. rosie alsup says:

    Very impressed with your visits and comments….glad Crystal is being exposed to all your ventures and knowledge of the parks.

    Like

  2. This took a lot of time… I realized that I had been to the one in Ohio….

    Like

  3. wisreader says:

    I Love this list! And your project to visit all our national parks.

    Like

  4. Jeremy Sell says:

    Thanks for the feedback. It took forever to compile, but I felt compelled to do it.

    Like

  5. wisreader says:

    It’ll always be a good resources – for yourself, for sure; others as well.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s