By Michael Lanza
How many national parks have you visited? I’ve been to close to half of the 59, and although that includes numerous return trips to some major parks, I still have more work to do. Then again, you could hardly call seeing our national parks “work,” right? What writer and historian Wallace Stegner famously called “the best idea we ever had” has grown from a handful of parks created in the early days to a system in many ways without parallel, that protects 52 million acres of mountain ranges, canyons, rivers, deserts, prairies, caves, islands, bays, fjords, badlands, natural arches, and seashores in 59 parks. Without that protection, these places that draw visitors from around the world would otherwise almost certainly have been exploited and destroyed.
After the designation of Yellowstone in 1872 (lead photo, above) as the world’s first national park, several more followed before the NPS was born in 1916, many of them now legendary names: Sequoia, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, Glacier, Haleakalā, Hawaii Volcanoes, Wind Cave, Lassen Volcanic, Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain. During the same time period, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed 18 national monuments (a number exceeded by only one president, Barack Obama, who designated 19), many of which later became national parks, including Grand Canyon and Olympic.
In our current times, when certain powerful interests and the politicians that ally with them are trying to oppose the designation of national monuments, protection of other public lands, and even advocate for selling off federal public lands—which would lead to us, the public, getting shut out of those places—it’s ever more important to remember our history and cherish and protect this amazing natural heritage.
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The photo gallery below includes images from nearly all of the national parks I’ve visited and some National Park Service-managed national monuments. Below the gallery, find links to my numerous stories about national parks at The Big Outside.
Click on any picture in the photo gallery to view it in slideshow mode.
See the All National Parks Trips page for a menu of all stories about national parks adventures at The Big Outside, or click on the name of any park in the list below for stories I’ve posted at this blog about that park.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Death Valley National Park
Everglades National Park
Glacier National Park
Glacier Bay National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park
Olympic National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Sequoia National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yosemite National Park
Zion National Park
Be comfortable on your hikes. See my review of “The 5 Best Rain Jackets For the Backcountry.”
Click directly to these stories for ideas for your next trip:
“Photo Gallery: 10 Amazing National Park Adventures (and How to Pull Them Off)”
“5 Classic (Age-Appropriate) National Park Adventures For Families”
“10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit”
Read about my National Outdoor Book Award-winning book, Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, which chronicles the year my family spent taking wilderness adventures in 11 parks threatened by climate change.
Find a national park and more information about the National Park Service at nps.gov/findapark.
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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of this post, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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