Happy National Park Week!
I am head over heels in love with our national parks and want to see them continue to be funded and supported. They truly are a national treasure.
During our 15-month RV trip we visiting many national parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges. In the time since we settled down in Phoenix, we have continued to visit and explore our national park system. Consider visiting a national park on your next long weekend, family vacation or road trip, you will not regret it!
You can read my adventures in those I've written about here on Misadventures with Andi, see if you find a new favorite!
Arches National Park
Bosque de Apache National Wildlife Reserve
Bosque de Apache National Wildlife Reserve is 2 hours from Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is a paradise for birds. No matter what season you visit, there will be some visitors on their migration north or south. The numbers are impressive and you won't know which direction to turn your camera!
Bryce Canyon National Park
We visited Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah in the winter and were mesmerized by the hoodoos and rock formations covered in snow. We also hiked the canyon which was snow-free. The thing about visiting the national parks in the off-season is that you practically have them to yourselves!
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park in Utah is massive. The park has 3 sections. The one closest to Moab and Arches National Park in the Island in the Sky and the part that most people visit. There is also the Needles District which is absolutely beautiful, with lots of rock formations, arches, hiking, and 4×4 trails. And then there is the most difficult part to visit, The Maze. We did not visit this part and it is on our bucket list!
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is one of my favorite national parks. There are bright orange rock formations, but I fell in love with the monolithic rocks we encountered on the many offroad trails and delightfully surprised by the park's fruit orchards planted by pioneering Mormons. The fruit orchards still bear fruit that goes into pies they sell at the park!
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Chaco Culture National Historic Park is not easy to access, but so worth it! We visited this ancient pueblos region while staying in Kirtland, New Mexico. You can walk through the well-preserved ruins and buildings, hike around the canyons and enjoy an unobstructed view of the stars. It is amazing to walk through and imagine the very sophisticated lives of the first peoples of the American Southwest.
Grand Teton National Park
I believe that Grand Teton National Park is the most beautiful national park that I have visited to date. You have the majestic mountain range, gorgeous lakes, and beautiful prairies. Throw in all the wildlife – bears, elk, moose, buffalo, and more – and you've got yourself an epic visit. Also, there's Jackon Hole, a little bit of civilization not too far from the park, a bonus in my book.
John Day Fossil National Monument
The Painted Hills of John Day Fossil National Monument are mesmerizing. This park in Central Oregon was quite impressive. You can visit all three parts of this park in one day, but do make sure that includes sunrise and sunset in order to see these magnificently colored layers of earth in a different light.
Petrified Forest National Monument
One of my new favorite parks, in the Petrified Forest National Park you are able to walk through and touch tens of thousands of years of history. Just short of 2 hours from Flagstaff this off-the-radar national park is a great combination of short hikes, stellar overlooks, and a little bit of Route 66 history thrown all together. You can also go off trail without getting in trouble!
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park just outside of Tucson Arizona has thousands of saguaro cacti. This tree-like monarch of the desert is only found in the Sonoran Desert and lives a very, long time. It is home to many species of animals, its fruit is harvested for food production and grows ribs and arms in a unique way. They are a protected species and you can hike through them, bike by them, or drive in the 2 sections of this uncommon park.
White Sands National Park
Much like Saguaro, this spot was created to protect the uniqueness of the rare white gypsum sand dunes in the Chihuahuan Desert outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. I remember visiting as a child and sledding down that powder, but as an adult, both times I've visited have been in the winter and I love the quiet zen that you get from visiting off-season.
Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments
These 2 national monuments just outside of Flagstaff Arizona are great day trip spots. Like Chaco, Wupatki is the ruins of ancient pueblos of the Sinagua peoples, an advanced society that lived in this area thousands of years ago as a community. It is amazing to see how much of the buildings are still intact! As for Sunset Crater, it is super cool to hike amongst lava fields and see the domes of many dormant volcanoes.
Yellowstone National Park
If you are all about seeing wildlife (and you can't get to Africa) then Yellowstone National Park is THE park to visit! Of course, on top of bears, bison, elk, and wolves there are fantastical geysers and hot water springs, canyons, and meadows to hike through, up and over, and much, much more. This park is epic and needs multiple days to visit – so plan for that!
Yosemite National Park
In my book, Yosemite National Park competes with Grand Teton National Park as the most beautiful, but I will say that I have only visited in the winter and not in the summer. I love the misty fog and snow that lays on the peaks and meadows and streams.
Zion National Park
The best time to visit Zion National Park is in the winter. It is very beautiful during the rest of the year, but it is beautiful and empty in the winter! There are epic hikes on canyons, in canyons, along the river, in the river – you choose!
How about you? Have you visited a national park? Which one is your favorite? Or which one do you really want to visit?