America’s best kept secret- Our National Parks!

America’s National Parks are in the news this year because 2016 marks their 100 years of existence. For me, however, they have always held a special place- in my heart, in my annual travel plans, and as one of my lifetime goals. My goal is to visit all 59 (as of 2016) of this country’s national parks during my lifetime.

Some relevant statistics and facts are:

  • The National Park Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
  • The National Park System covers more than 84 million acres.
  • It is comprised of 413 different sites with at least 19 different designations.
  • These designations include 128 historical parks, 84 national monuments, 59 national parks, 25 battlefields or military parks, 19 preserves, 18 recreational areas, 10 seashores, 4 parkways, 4 lakeshores,  and two reserves.
  • Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 as the nation’s (and the world’s) first national park.
  • According to the US National Park Services (nps.org) website; since 1916, the National Park Service with the help of volunteers and partners cater to more than 275 million visitors every year.

What attracts me to national parks?

I am not really sure if one can codify the feeling one gets being in nature. I think the best quote that sums it up for me is this one from John Muir, the founder of Sierra Club and the man instrumental in the creation of the national park system. It is:

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

I like that visiting a national park takes me away from everything artificial, that you can see, and hear, and admire birds and animals, that you can smell and breathe fresh air, that you can work up a sweat in the most pleasant manner possible by hiking through and in nature, that you don’t have wifi but are more connected than ever with yourself and your surroundings.  That last quote, by the way, was something I read recently when I visited a state park in upstate NY.

List of National Parks I have visited and one line memory of it:

I decided to write this blog because I myself wanted to have a list to refer to of all the parks visited and the ones that remain to be stamped. I thought it would be a good trip down memory lane and also be a good inspiration for the future. I promise to update it every year but here’s the list for now:

Name State Location My memories of it
Acadia Maine East coast Love it, can be visited in a day if in a time crunch. Try Maine wild blueberries when there.
Arches Utah Central Go when not crowded. The arches are made completely of sand so be careful when standing under one.
Canyonland Utah Central Very close to Arches. I spent less than a full day there so I would probably want to go there again. A little similar to Grand Canyon.
Channel Islands CA West coast Loved it for so many reasons. You have to get there by ferry (book in advance) and then you can spend the whole day or go prepared to spend overnight. Very raw. Lots of birds and wind and water all around.
Congaree South Carolina East coast It’s a very different park. The only  park that’s marshy (IMHO), and because of that, it’s mosquito infested. Make sure to wear bug spray before going in (wish I knew this when I went.)
Cuyahoga Valley Ohio East coast One of my favorites as it’s so accessible. It’s nature in a very urban setting. Brandywine waterfall is a must visit in this park. The scenic train that takes you through out the park is very busy in fall so plan ahead.
Denali Alaska West coast I guess this is the most exotic (in distance) park I have visited till date. It was lovely, very wide open. I was fearful of encountering bears whenever we took a hike in it.
Everglades Florida South Such a different park. It is alive in both day and night. You will be able to tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator after visiting this park. We took a hike through a swamp and it was a scary experience because you never know when and where you will come across a muddy crocodile’s jaws; especially after you sign your life away before starting on the hike!
Glacier Montana West coast This park we had to visit before its name became an oxymoron. Claimed to have 125 active glaciers when the park was first created, now it has less than 25. A very sad state indeed.
Grand Canyon Arizona West coast Most Americans and tourists have visited this park. It really is that special. Sunrise or sunset at this park will remain a lifelong memory. I have had the opportunity to hike down the canyon and will remember that trip very fondly.
Grand Teton Wyoming West coast Although I consider this visited, I could go back here again and spend more time. I stopped here when passing by as part of a bus tour to Yellowstone. We didn’t do much exploring in the park. It is the reality behind the Paramount pictures logo.
Haleakala Hawaii Pacific coast Hawaii itself is a beauty, on top of that visiting a national park in such a place; felt twice as good. I attempted biking down the mountain but found the turns a little too sharp. I decided to choose ‘certain life’ over ‘certain anxious adventure’.
Joshua Tree CA West coast This park is famous for two things- the uniquely shaped Joshua trees and the star-spangled night sky. We saw the former but were too cold to stay late to see the star-studded sky. We were compensated with an early morning beautiful pink-orange sky; one of my favorite sunrises.
Kenai Fjords Alaska West coast I didn’t even realize I had visited this park since it’s not really a land park. It’s all water and we had taken a glacier boat tour of the park which started at 10 pm and ended at 1 am; all in bright daylight. What an experience.
Kings Canyon CA West coast Again one of my favorite parks (can they all be my favorite?). It was very pretty because the entry way to the park is along a river on one side and beautiful rock formations on the other. I remember it being very green and very peaceful to wander around in.
Lassen Volcanic CA West coast This is a very underrated park because it’s almost a mini-version of Yellowstone. I would say it’s as nice and definitely worth visiting when in the area.
Mount Rainier Washington West coast This park is very Instagram-friendly because it has just amazing wildflowers for many months in the year. I visited it in August so didn’t see much but had a great time never the less. Would love to see it in more leisure.
Petrified Forest Arizona West coast I loved this park. It’s so different and really brings the concept of evolution directly in front of your eyes. The fact that route 66 cuts through it makes it that much more special.
Rocky Mountain Colorado Central I always say one can experience all four seasons in one day in this park. It’s that majestic and beautiful; even the road leading up to it is worth the visit.
Saguaro Arizona West coast I went there in 2015 and learned so much about this particular type of desert plant; especially how to pronounce the name correctly (the g is silent.) My friend who visited with me was very intrigued by the name of a particular native lizard called ‘Gila monster’. She did not want to encounter it!
Sequoia CA West coast You feel humbled standing near these old and giant trees. You feel awe-inspired and you feel grateful and thankful to be in and a part of nature. If we could only remember that thought and feeling more often.
Shenandoah Virginia East coast This is a no frills park but just as lovely as any other. It has a beautiful road that goes through the park-up, down, up, down. You do need a car to enjoy this park.
Yosemite CA West coast This park is very popular amongst the more athletic folks; climbing up the mountains (El Capitan) is the thing to do for rock climbers I guess. I find this park too crowded to be enjoyed but Ansel Adams loved it and therefore it’s special to me.
Yellowstone Wyoming West coast And the last but definitely not the least..the park that started it all. To me it was visiting this park that started my life long goal of visiting them all, so in that respect, I consider this park the most special and close to my heart.
Saguaro NP

Saguaro NP

Everglades NP

Everglades NP

Arches NP

Arches NP

Petrified Forest NP

Petrified Forest NP

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