Best 3 Parks

As I mentioned in a prior post, my good friend Marcia McMillen and her husband Tom have been following our trip through our blog articles.  Marcia and Tom have been inspired to visit our nations parks and so wanted advice on which parks to visit.  Marcia asked,

“If you could only visit 3 parks, which parks would you choose and why?”

Timm and I have spent the past 20 years of vacations visiting national parks.  During this year-long trip, we’ve visited only a few parks we’ve been to in the past.  So, we have two lists of the top 3 parks.  The first is the 3 best parks of all our trips in the past 20 years.  The second is the best 3 parks of our year-long trip.

Best 3 Parks of All Our Trips

  1. Yosemite National Park, California
    Yosemite National Park
    Yosemite is the most beautiful park we’ve ever visited.  Yosemite was one of the first national parks, preserved due to the efforts of one of my idols and the father of the national park system, John Muir.  On the official NPS (National Park Service) website, it describes Yosemite as “a shrine to human foresight, strength of granite, power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra.  Yosemite is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.”  Indeed, Yosemite is magnificent beyond description and must be visited to truly appreciate its grandeur.
  2. Glacier National Park, Montana
    Glacier National Park
    Glacier is a 1 million acre national park located in northern Montana. It shares a common border with Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada and forms the southern half of world’s first International Peace Park.  Boasting 37 active glaciers, Glacier National Park is a gem, with the bluest water you’ll ever see, fed by melting glacial ice.  Glacier is also well known for the 53 mile long The Going to the Sun Road, an engineering feat that crosses the continental divide while traversing the park and showing off her many vistas and sweeping panoramic views.  Sadly, all of Glacier’s glaciers (and most glaciers on Earth) are melting due to global warming and faster than the worst case prediction models.  So, a visit to this park sooner rather than later would be wise!
  3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
    Grand Canyon. Copyright © B. Rosen. Image used under Creative Commons 2.0 License.
  4. The Grand Canyon was the first park Timm and I ever visited.  We hiked there in 1996 and we will visit it again this coming November.  It’s one of only 7 Natural Wonders of the World, which right there, says it all.  It’s 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and over a mile deep.  This vast and intricate canyon was carved by 17 million years of erosion from the Colorado River.  We were in awe as we walked along the river banks, realizing we were walking on rock that was over 2 BILLION years old. That’s enough to make you realize we are but a tiny blip in the evolutionary process of this beautiful, ever changing planet.

Best 3 Parks On This Year Long Trip

Please click on the links to go to Timm’s photo tour web site to see pictures and descriptions of each park.

  1. Chugach National Forest, Alaska
    A young bear in search of berries in Chugach National Forest
    Chugach is a 5.4 million acre park located on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.  It’s the second-largest national forest in the country.  Chugach receives our highest rating because it has it all: wildlife, wildflowers, glaciers, mountains, forests, lakes, streams, sea ports, historic towns, and outstanding fishing.  Located within Chugach are Whittier, Portage Valley and Turnagain ArmPrince William Sound is also located in Chugach, where we took a glacier cruise and had one of the best, most enjoyable days of our trip.
  2. Mojave National Preserve, California
    Lava tube in Mojave National Preserve
    Mojave is a 1.6 million acre national preserve.  What we love about this park is its vastness, isolation and diversity.  Mojave is a wilderness desert that we had virtually all to ourselves.  We camped and explored the preserve for a week and never had to share the experience with other people. It also had a great variety of landscapes.  We scrambled using our hands and feet to the top of an extinct volcano, used flashlights to explore a lava tube, hiked to the top of 60-story singing sand dunes, and challenged ourselves by climbing up the sheer rock face of a mountain.
  3. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
    Bryce Canyon
    Bryce Canyon is like no other place on Earth, with its towering hoodoos arched in a semicircle forming a 10-mile amphitheater.  Bryce is so special that it is one of the few parks we visited before and yet chose to revisit this year.  Its beauty is especially evident when the amphitheater is lit up at sunset, when the hoodoos seem to emit a light from within themselves.  It’s something to behold, a beauty so astounding it brought tears to my eyes.  The downside is Bryce is small for a national park (35,835 acres) and very crowded.  But of course, it’s crowded because so many people come to see this special and unique park.

We hope this list inspires you to visit these and other public lands.  These gems of the natural world were set aside by those with the foresight to realize that these special places are a treasure to be enjoyed, preserved and cherished by all citizens of the United States and the world. 

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