“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Our National Parks cover more than 84 million acres across the United States and outlying territories. Each park is as varied as the next, preserving and protecting our natural resources and the multitudes of plants and animals that inhabit them. The unsurpassed beauty of the wilderness in the US is one of our greatest treasures. We love our national parks and have hiked many miles through these breathtaking landscapes. We are of the opinion that If you want to really see the country, there’s no better than way than through the lens of our wild places. This month as the National Park Service celebrates its centennial anniversary we wanted to share with you some snapshots and insights into some of our greatest adventures in our parks.
Canyonlands (1964) & Arches (1929)
Utah – 527 mi2/ 119 mi2
The Needles, Canyonlands, © Annie Yencarelli
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to visit another planet? You need only go as far as Utah to experience a martian landscape. Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park are both located accessible from Moab. They are comprised of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah’s high desert. There are petroglyphs, dinosaur fossils and some of the most awe-inspiring, breathtaking trails. Like Ed Abbey said, “There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.” Can I get an amen?
Saguaro National Park (1994)
Arizona – 142 mi2
Saguaro National Park, © Annie Yencarelli
Located on the outskirts of Tucson, Saguaro National Park was established to protect its namesake, the giant Saguaro cactus. Perhaps the most recognizable cactus, it actually unique to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico. You will see them all over Tucson, but to see a forest of them is pretty spectacular. The Park is divided into east and west districts, both of which are gorgeous and make for an awesome day on outside. There are loads of great trails and with the park being so close to Tucson, it’s easy to stop by anytime to get in some wilderness therapy.
Yosemite National Park (1890)
California – 1,169 mi2
Yosemite National Park, © Annie Yencarelli
Set within the Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most awe-inspiring granite you will ever see. Immense waterfalls, iconic cliffs, world-class rock climbing, Ansel Adams, John Muir, there’s a lot of history and happenings in this park. There are also a lot of tourists, a lot of tourists. Be okay with that because it’s still worth the trip to stand within the walls of this granite cathedral and witness El Cap and Half Dome. As John Muir said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
Yellowstone National Park (1872)
Wyoming, Montana & Idaho – 3,468 mi2
Grand Prismatic, Yellowstone National Park, © Annie Yencarelli
I don’t really know where to begin with this one. It’s hands down the best of the best. This family has a long history here and we aren’t done yet. (Everyone needs a retirement plan.) If you want to truly experience the archetypes of Wildness, Wilderness and Solitude this is the place to do it. Yellowstone is America’s first National Park and widely considered to be the first in the world. The park is vast, full of mountains, incredible geothermal features, huge waterfalls and awe inspiring beasts, all nestled inside a gigantic supervolcano. Fun!
Crater Lake National Park (1902)
Oregon – 286 mi2
Crater Lake National Park, © Annie Yencarelli
The most striking thing about Crater Lake, other than the fact that it is in a volcano, is its intense blue hue caused by the depth and clarity of the water. Measuring 1,949 feet at its depth, it is the deepest lake in the United States. The crater is the result of the massive eruption of Mount Mazama, which caved in on itself. Because there are no streams or springs to feed the lake it is made up entirely of snowmelt and rainfall. Nature seems to do her best work wherever there are volcanoes involved and this is no exception.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (1934)
Tennessee & North Carolina – 816 mi2
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, © Annie Yencarelli
When dense fog rolls out across the mountains, filling every nook and cranny, you understand immediately how these mountains got their name. It may be obvious, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t stunning. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most biologically diverse park in the United States due to its varying elevations, precipitation and old growth forests. There are tons of great hikes. You can summit a peak, explore a waterfall, look for salamanders or just be. “The poetry of the earth is never dead.” – John Keats
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (1916)
Hawai’i – 505 mi2
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, © Annie Yencarelli
Other-worldly and intoxicating, those are the only words I know to describe it’s beauty. Lush tropical foliage juxtaposed against a sea of black lava floes. Glowing lakes of magma. Home to many endangered species. Forged in fire. All of this rising from the depths of the Pacific’s ocean floor. The park encompasses two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, both of which are impressive. Mauna Loa is considered to be the largest volcano on earth both in mass and volume. It rises from the sea floor to its summit topping out 56,000 ft. Visit the summit of Kilauea at night and you will see the eerie orange glow of lava inside the caldera. Everything about this place is enchanting.
We want to hear from you! Tell us about your favorite parks and adventures.