I am a national park aficionado. I’ve spent a lot of time in national parks over the years, but still there is so much more that I want to do in the places that are “America’s Best Idea” as the title of Ken Burns’ documentary suggests. In honor of National Park week (this week, which includes free entrance to any national park) and also the Centennial of the National Park Service (whose birthday is in August so I will have a post on that then) this year, I am listing my National Parks bucket list, in no particular order, and a sentence as to why I want to do them:
- Hike the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim – Grand Canyon is primarily a top-down park and I would love to see it from the bottom-up.
- Raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – Same as above.
- Raft the Colorado River through Canyonlands, including Cataract Canyon – Same as above for the Grand Canyon.
- Mountain Bike the White Rim in Canyonlands – Taking it at a slower pace along the White Rim Road will lead to better appreciation of the breathtaking vistas.
- Canyoneer in Zion National Park’s Mystery Canyon – I’ve hiked/rappelled the Subway in Zion and I hear that this is equal to or surpasses its allure.
- Summit Mount Whitney with my high school buddies – One of the trips I missed with my high school buddies was a trip to the top of Mount Whitney, one they can’t stop reminiscing about to this day and one they want to do again (and so do I).
- Stay in the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee) – I absolutely love all of the national park lodges of the 1920s designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood (aka parkitechture) and this is the granddaddy of them all in what could really be considered the nation’s first national park (1864).
- Visit all the national parks in the Western U.S. – I want to do this because they are there and as explained before, visits to national parks are transcendent experiences for me. The top of my list of national parks I haven’t visited yet in the West are Glacier, Olympic, and Mount Rushmore.
- Visit the Great Smoky Mountains and enjoy the tourist trap tackiness of Gatlinburg, Tennessee – in a former life I was a copywriter for travel websites and this place, a gateway community to Great Smoky Mountains National Park really intrigued me because I want to Mini Golf at Davey Crockett’s, visit the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, ride to the top of Gatlinburg’s space needle and much more!
- Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway – I’d love to drive one of the most scenic roads in the nation, from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains in landscape that contrasts sharply to where I’m from.
- Take an Airboat tour of Everglades National Park – I’ll admit that there really isn’t anything in Florida that interests me as a tourist EXCEPT for this – riding an airboat through swampy terrain just sounds fun.
- Visit Acadia National Park – since elementary school the state of Maine has fascinated me and there is no place in that state I’d want to see more than Acadia, especially to see how its transportation system compares to Zion’s.
- Work as a ranger or volunteer in a national park for a summer – I need to fulfill one of my high school career aspirations, even if it is for a short time, and really live up to my college nickname. Doing this surely would not feel like a job to me.
This list is only some very specific things I would like to do in specific national parks. In reality, I am happy in any national park. I will spend the rest of my life exploring and re-exploring national parks. What are some of your national park bucket list items?