Everyone needs a National Park Bucket List!

A call to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial by creating a National Parks Bucket list, such as hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim
Everyone needs a National Park Bucket List, such as rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon or hiking it from rim to rim.

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 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. 

    A canyoneering adventure like the Subway in Zion should be on everyone's National Park Bucket List
    The Subway in Zion National Park is a canyoneering adventure much like Mystery Canyon
  • 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?


26 thoughts on “Everyone needs a National Park Bucket List!

  1. We are going to Yellowstone this summer. Can’t wait! I’d love to get to the Grand Canyon someday too!

  2. We agree! My favorites so far are Denali National Park Smoky Mountain National Park, but I haven’t been to many of them just yet. We are actually going on a 3 month long summer road trip visiting 11 national parks this summer (9 in the US, in Canada)!! We are counting down the days till our big adventure.

    1. I’m envious of your three-month trip. Sounds like a blast. Denali is high on my list of Western parks, and as you saw Great Smoky Mountains is one I would love to visit in the Eastern half. Thanks for stopping by and have a great time on your vacation!

    1. Yep, it’s awesome. Just a note though, Tiffany – canyoneering is what you do in the canyon – rappelling and having to wade through water during the hike. The other canyon I want to canyoneer through is Mystery Canyon, which is similar to the Subway and some say better. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I lived in Utah for a long time and have been to most of the parks there. I’m surprised Arches isn’t on your list, not only is seeing the famous arch awesome, but getting a backcountry permit and doing those hikes, it’s really a must-do. Btw, rafting the Colorado river is an amazing experience.
    Have fun on your adventure!

    1. Alicia – thanks for stopping by. I visited Arches extensively in high school and college. That’s why it’s not on the list. It’s on the to-go list for my family though because my wife and kids haven’t been there. I’ve only rafted the Snake River, so I really look forward to the Colorado!

  4. My goal is to visit all the parks in the NPS. Slowly I’m making my way through! I grew up next to the Blue Ridge Parkway and have to say it’s lovely. I hope you make it out there soon! I’m trying to convince my husband to make Acadia our next stop.

    1. That is a lofty goal and one I’d like to achieve, too. I’m trying to be realistic and set my sights on just the western parks for now. I hope you do convince your husband to go to Acadia! Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

  5. Acadia is one of our absolute favorites – we’ve been there a few times & it is flipping fabulous!!! Rocky Mtn. National Park is awesome, too. The last time we were there it was early Sept. & elk mating season so there were elk EVERYWHERE – it was very cool heading out before dawn & watching them eat at the sides of the roads! I would love to hit Yosemite soon but hear that the crowds are awful in the summer so I think we’ll look for an off-time to go.

    1. Wow! Sounds fun to see all that wild game. Yosemite is amazing, but I would recommend you go in March. The last time I was there was in March and it wasn’t too crowded and the weather wasn’t too nippy.

    1. Yep, Parkitechture is the term for a lot of the buildings designed and built in parks in the 1920s especially. They were supposed to blend with the natural environment and they did a pretty good job, I think. Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Reply to Kim Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *