The U.S. National Parks
"One learns that the world, though made, is yet being made, that this is still the morning of creation, that mountains long conceived are now being born, brought to light by the glaciers, channels traced for rivers, basins hollowed for lakes. When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. The whole wilderness, in unity and interrelation, is alive and familiar. The very stones seem talkative, sympathetic, brotherly. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty hunger is made manifest in our magnificent National Parks: Nature's sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world." - John Muir
To us, John Muir articulates the way we feel about the National Parks in a way that very few people are capable of doing. They are truly some of the most beautiful areas of the world, and we are all lucky to be able to call them our own. The National Parks belong to every American. No matter who you are, where you came from, how much money you make, or what you do for a living, you own a piece of some of the best real estate on the planet.
Ken Burns made an excellent (although very long) film called The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Check out the web page for the film here.
Image: Me in March 2015 on a ridge above Deer Haven of Badlands National Park, South Dakota
As you may know, Katie and I are on a mission to backpack all 58 US National Parks. We have a long way to go, but we're loving every second of it. Besides being a great way for us to continue backpacking together, it's a goal that we've set together to keep us returning to the trail and the wilderness.
If you’re looking for a backpacking trip idea, check out one of the National Parks. The NPS websites for each park have excellent information on backpacking, safety, and travel plans. Most parks also have guided tours and other attractions for those of you who prefer to stay on the road and off the trail (although that isn’t what we suggest!).
Image: Sunset at the summit of Mount LeConte of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, March 2014
Katie and I live in Indiana, which is just about as far away from most of the National Parks as you can get. Our closest park is Mammoth Cave, which is obviously known for its underground caverns but also boasts a great backpacking loop with some incredible remote campsites. The Smoky Mountains aren’t too far from us either, and we really had the time of our lives when we backpacked there. We did 60 miles over 6 days, part of which was spent on the Appalachian Trail and none of which we will ever forget. Catching a sunset on Mount LeConte, looking down at the clouds from Charlies Bunyan, watching some falcons dive for prey off a cliff, and meeting some very interesting characters through-hiking the AT were some of the highlights of that trip.
No matter which you choose, we know you’ll have a great experience backpacking the National Parks. Check out our Learn and Plan pages for information on how to get started. Also be sure to read our #TripRecap blog posts to see a few of our own trips through these amazing areas.