Jul 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm #1260845
In the spirit of my long 4th of July weekend, the fact that I am home alone with my 10 month old son thinkng about backpacking with him in the future, and because I popped in Ken Burn's The National Parks: Americas Best Idea, I figured this was a fun topic.
Pick ONE (hard I know) and support it!
I am going with Zion. It isn't as grand as some, but it was the first NP my wife and I visited together. The Narrows and Angel's Landing are great hikes. I really liked Springdale and the park and bus system is very user friendly.
Yours?Jul 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm #1626374
@mad777Locale: South Florida
I'm going with Acadia in Maine.
I know that the big parks are out west, but I'm in the east. I like Acadia because it has both mountains and ocean. Also, that is the first National Park that my wife and I visited together. (I see a trend going here, lol).Jul 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm #1626378
It's a tie for me–Yellowstone and Glacier. Disclosure: I grew up near Glacier, and I worked during college in both parks (and also in the Bob).Jul 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm #1626392
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Sequoia Natl. Park…just amazingJul 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm #1626403
Without a doubt, Rocky Mountain National Park. I can happily explore the secluded northern boundary (Never Summer Mountains) for days on end, winter or summer, and see no-one else. I can find complete solitude in the park proper in winter, and there's a lifetime worth of rock/ice climbing to be had.
I hear the fishing isn't half bad either!Jul 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm #1626432
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
It is the 8th least visited of the parks, millions of desert acres on both sides of the Rio Grande. You can go for days without seeing a soul. There is a true frontier feel to the place too. It was the site of my first big desert trip back when was sixteen and I continue to go back and find new things.
Haven't had the chance to get to Death Valley yet but it certainly must have the same magic.Jul 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm #1626490
@kwersalLocale: Western Colorado
I worked there when I was much younger; met my husband there; he proposed to me there; got married very near there; first backpacked there.
Gorgeous. Not crowded once you get into the backcountry.Jul 5, 2010 at 8:37 pm #1626491
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
I'm excluding Alaska, both because it's just different, and because I've only visited once and thus have insufficient knowledge. That being said..
The best/most important/greatest national park in the lower 49 is, bar none, Yellowstone. I've been to most of the rest, am very familiar with some of the other leading contendors, and quite frankly nothing else comes close. Some reasons in order of importance.
1: Full spectrum of native mammals, most importantly bison, grizzlies, and wolves. National parks exist to remind us that the world is bigger, greater, and much more important than humanity. Nothing comes close to reinforcing that, in an immediate and emphatic way, than multiple critters that can kill you if you act dumb or just have bad luck.
2: It's big! Size matters, being able to get far from the road in the second biggest reinforcer of human smallness. While it can be argued that other parks provide more effective isolation (ie a shorter distance from roads, but longer travel time due to trying conditions), the answer to that is contained in my third point.
3: A burly winter. More humans live near the tropics for a reason. Cold and snow change a landscape completely, and winter in Yellowstone is 7-8 months long. Yellowstones geography not only make it colder than the surrounding areas, but increase its snowfall exponentially. The result is that Yellowstone is two parks; the friendly tourist mecca of June-September, and the potentially harsh snow-bound land of October-May. Even though snow machines and snow coaches run almost all winter, and even though the park service could plow the road to Old Faithful if it wasn't such a cash cow, winter increases Yellowstones size many-fold.
4: A unique and varied landscape. All that snow melts, which creates the animal haven that is Yellowstone in summer. Elk and Antelope migrate hundreds of miles because doing so is the most calorically efficient thing in the long run. The snow also allows rugged mountains, rolling hills, huge meadows, and rivers large and small to coexist in close proximity. Snowmelt creates the largest high altitude lake in North America, and the largest concentration of thermal features on the planet. Cut Yellowstone into four equal pieces along the cardinal directions and each of the pieces would still be a national park of greater stature than all but a handful of the rest.
Perhaps the greatest national park is the one that almost existed in the 30s, but almost certainly will never come to pass in my lifetime (if ever). Colorado Plateau National Park. Imagine Arches expanding south into the La Sals, linking into Canyonlands, spreading south over the Bears Ears to connect with Natural Bridges, sweeping over Dark Canyon and the Robbers Roost, the southern San Rafael Swell and enveloping Capitol Reef, the Escalante, the Aquarius, Bryce, the Markagunt, and ending in Zion. Ideally, it would encompass the Kaiparowitts and Kaibab, and the Grand Canyon. Almost everything, in short, north of Arizona, west of Colorado, south of I-70, and east of I-15. Imagine Lake Foul never coming to be. Imagine that, in the 30s, not a SINGLE PAVED ROAD existed in this entire stretch. There's a reason so many people get obsessed with that vulvic landscape.Jul 5, 2010 at 11:57 pm #1626512
Capitol Reef, hands down. And I've been to quite a few. Just got back from Olympic and that was nice too.
But you didn't really specify any criteria so these answers are very subjective.Jul 6, 2010 at 7:25 am #1626536
I left it vague on purpose. This way you can pick one you love for whatever reason. Just wanted to see the variety of choices and the reasons why. As you see some love the solitude of the backcountry, others have a special place because of time spent there. We even have the great post by David ( who put the rest of our posts to shame with his support) with all his reasons why Yellowstone is the best.
This isn't even meant to be a debate. Just a chance for people who love to get out into the great outdoors to talk about their favorite NP here in the states!
Care to elaborate on Capitol Reef? :)Jul 6, 2010 at 9:48 am #1626572
The broad, deep valleys harbor majestic old-growth forest. The steep-walled canyons culminate in jagged, snow-capped peaks and sawtooth ridges. The subalpine meadow wildflowers are stunning, and the wildlife populous and varied, including elk, coyote, deer, bears, cougars, and a plethora of birds and rodents like pika and marmot.
We have avalanche lilies, and pines (larches) that turn a blazing golden color in fall. There are thousands of waterfalls, tarns, and glacier-fed alpine lakes. Serpentine Barrens. City-sized volcanoes. Deep gorges (Chelan Gorge is among North America's deepest). Massive cirques and steep headwalls.
Like Yellowstone, it has a nearly overwhelming vastness and majesty.
Mt. Rainier and Olympic are close seconds for me, as well. And who knows, maybe next year Olympic National Park will be my favorite one. I have a feeling that whichever one I end up spending the most time in will wind up being my favorite one ;)Jul 6, 2010 at 5:14 pm #1626735
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"Sequoia Natl. Park…just amazing"
+1 I just don't have the words…Jul 6, 2010 at 5:26 pm #1626743
@trailfrogLocale: Northeast/Southeast your call
The Appalachian Trail, any part thereof. Cool to have a 2100+ mile long National Park.Jul 6, 2010 at 9:34 pm #1626808
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
It is hard I suppose to take a favorite as I have lived near 3 NP's in the past decade and visited many.
Yet I always feel home when I walk below Tahoma. She is my constant.
Yet….I truly feel alive on the West side of Olympic NP. There is nothing like winter in the rain forest.Jul 6, 2010 at 10:03 pm #1626818
Guadelupe National Park. Probably because it's the closest to me, and no one goes there. It's like an uncrowded Big Bend. Although I'd rather go to a state park over just about any national park.Jul 7, 2010 at 1:22 pm #1627016
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Actually, I avoid national parks for several reasons: They attract too many people and I dislike crowds. They are far too bureaucratic; wading through the permit system even in isolated areas can be a nightmare; no flexibility in itinerary or campsites is allowed. They prohibit my dog; for reasons ranging from security to being unable to afford kennel fees, I won't go hiking without him. Finally, I've found so many more beautiful places in national forest wilderness that I don't miss national parks!
That being said, the Tetons are where I received my first real introduction to the mountains and have always been my first love. I was awed by my one visit to Yosemite, despite the valley's being wall-to-wall people. At least in Yosemite I could hike with my dog on the many paved paths in the valley, although progress was slow because so many people wanted to pet him!
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