⛺ National Park Notes

I’ve been to 18 national parks and counting. Here are my thoughts on each:

  • Arches
    • The hike to Partition Arch is a fun little scramble with an amazing view at the end.
    • Double Arch is a short stroll from a parking lot and just incredible.
    • The hike to Delicate Arch is probably the most popular in the park. The most difficult part of the hike is over sun-exposed rock, so bring plenty of water.
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison
    • Small park. You need a wilderness permit to hike below the rim.
    • If you don’t get a wilderness permit. Hike to Warner Point and enjoy the view and quiet.
  • Bryce Canyon
    • The red hoodoos look especially beautiful in the snow.
    • Of all the parks I’ve been to, this one most feels like walking on a foreign planet.
  • Canyonlands
    • The name is appropriate. The canyons are wide and vast.
    • Next time I would like to check out the Needles District, particularly Chesler Park.
  • Congaree
    • I found Congaree underwhelming, though I was there for only half a day. It might be worth a revisit to go kayaking.
  • Denali
    • I didn’t go far into the park, but Denali Mountain is incredible from a distance.
  • Glacier
    • You will have to wake up super early in the morning if you want to hike the Highline Trail. Parking fills up quickly.
    • Hike to Grinnell Glacier. See marmots and bighorn sheep. Bring a Gatorade Glacier Freeze for color comparison (spoiler: they are identical).
  • Grand Canyon
    • Hiking down to the canyon on an icy morning without clamp-ons is reckless and not recommended. We went carefully, but saw several people slip and fall.
    • Bucket list items: Rim-to-Rim Trail and kayaking the Colorado River.
  • Grand Teton
    • Like Yellowstone, the wildlife is incredible.
  • Joshua Tree
    • Yucca trees, boulders, and influencers.
  • Mount Rainier
    • I did not anticipate liking Mount Rainier as much as I did. It is a stunning mountain.
    • Hike to a fire lookout tower for amazing views.
  • North Cascades
    • It’s difficult to get to, so I would recommend on planning an overnighter.
  • Pinnacles
    • It’s a small park, a bit out of the way from anything interesting.
    • Sometimes the caves are open, sometimes they aren’t.
    • The park has a pool. You’ll have to share it with bees looking to cool down.
  • Redwoods
    • The park stretches over a huge area. Make sure to visit the coast while you are there.
    • The hike to Fern Waterfall is busy even in shoulder season. The waterfall was more impressive than I expected, thanks to recent rainfalls.
  • Sequoia
    • Big trees.
    • The High Sierra Trail is gorgeous.
  • Yellowstone
    • Yellowstone feels a bit like the Disneyland of national parks. You go from attraction to attraction, taking a stroll along a boardwalk at each stop.
    • It’s huge and there is so much to see.
    • The wildlife is stunning. Everywhere you look, you’ll find something — bison, bears, deer, marmots, foxes.
  • Yosemite
    • Half Dome looks incredibly intimidating from below the cables, but isn’t so bad, and is absolutely worth it.
    • In the summer it is hot, dry, and packed with tourists. Bring a mask or handkerchief to cover your face so you aren’t inhaling too much of the kicked up dirt.
    • Don’t keep to the valley. At least hike to a waterfall.
  • Zion
    • Absolutely stunning, maybe my favorite national park.
    • I went in December several years ago. We woke up early enough in the morning that there weren’t a ton of people hiking Angel’s Landing. I highly recommend going in the downseason.

Not a national park but still in the system:

  • Alcatraz
    • Great audio tour.
    • I hear the night tour is the way to go.
  • Cabrillo NM
    • Near San Diego and very busy.
  • Carrizo Plain National Monument
    • During wildflower season it’s packed with tourists behaving abominably as they take their Instagram selfies.
  • Colorado NM
    • More worthy of national park status than many national parks.
  • Edgar Allan Poe NHS
    • Cool gift shop.
  • Independence Hall
    • Reserve a tour before your visit.
  • Manzanar National Historic Site
    • Such a tragic, desolate place.
  • Marin Headlands National Recreation Area
    • Cool lighthouse.
    • Gorgeous views of San Francisco.
    • Say hi to Karl.
  • Montezuma
    • It’s a brief walk, but cool to see these cliffside dwellings, even from afar.
  • Muir Wood National Monument
    • Redwoods!
    • As an alternative, consider visiting Big Basin State Park with equally amazing redwoods and far fewer tourists.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore
    • Really cool lighthouse.
    • Stop for oysters on your way home.
  • Presidio of San Francisco
    • Go for a picnic when you’re in The City.

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