By Michael Lanza
Hearing the thunderous roar and walking through the rain of mist coming from some of North America’s biggest and most iconic waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. Seeing mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and one (fortunately unaggressive) sow grizzly bear with cubs in Glacier National Park—as well as incredible mountain scenery almost every step of the way. Backpacking through a landscape of multi-colored canyon walls and wildly sculpted sandstone monoliths in Zion National Park. Paddling a sea kayak past seals in Alaska’s Glacier Bay, while watching a mile-wide glacier with a snout 200 feet tall explosively calve bus-size chunks of itself into the sea. And backpacking through vast fields of wildflowers below jagged peaks on one of the country’s premier multi-day hikes, the Teton Crest Trail.
Those are some of the images that pop into mind for me when I think about America’s national parks—which are being celebrated for National Parks Week, April 20-28. Get to a park this week if you can and enjoy free admission through April 26. But if you can’t, then sit down this week and plan a dream adventure in a national park for this summer.
Below are links to five of the best national park trips I’ve taken. Four of them I did with my family when my kids were between the ages of six and 10; the fifth, backpacking in Glacier National Park, I repeated part of with my kids when they were nine and seven. (For a more family- and beginner-friendly trek in Glacier, read about my family’s three-day hike on Glacier’s Gunsight Pass Trail.)
Don’t just dream or talk about visiting a park. Start planning.
NOTE: I write about adventuring with my family in Yosemite, Glacier, Glacier Bay, and the Tetons with my family and how climate change is affecting these beloved parks in my book, Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, from Beacon Press.