This week, the National Park Service celebrates #NationalParkWeek. National Park Week is designed for you to find out more about America’s national parks. With over 400 units in the Park system, from historic sites, monuments, battlefields, and parks, there’s a lot to discover. You might be surprised what you can find in your own backyard by exploring nature, history, and culture. You can find out more about these places during special events available during National Park Week.
Our family has been visiting the National Parks since our first major road trip back in July 2006. Since then, we have explored more than 60 parks, monuments, and historic sites across the American West. We’ve seen some of the classics, plus a few less-traveled places as well. This week, we are going to share with you some of our favorite locations in the national park system–and why we think they are the some of the best places for your family to discover your next adventure!
With so many parks, there’s a lot to experience and enjoy. Every family member will have their favorites for different reasons. Here are my favorites out of the parks we’ve had some adventures in.
ROBYN’S FAVORITE NATIONAL PARKS
Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. Arches feels like one of those places that you imagine would only be in a fairy tale. With its red rocks and sweeping views, it’s nearly impossible to take in every single sight that mother nature whipped up. With over 2,000 sandstone arches, a day is not nearly long enough time to spend here. Drive thru or hike up the many different trails that are for any skill levels. While we did not hike up to the famous Delicate Arch (it is recommended for advanced hikers and can get too hot during the middle part of the day), we were able to take a beginner hike to a view point. Our older teenagers loved climbing up the sandstone rocks, but I think they did it just to make me nervous. We have been here twice in the past 10 years and will likely visit again!
Mesa Verde National Park in Cortez, Colorado. Spanish for Green Table, Mesa Verde is so rich in history, that even our youngest kids stayed engaged as we took tour after tour to discover more about the history of the Ancestral Pueblo people. The nearly 600 cliff dwellings have existed for over 700 years. Although the popular Spruce Tree House closed to the public in 2015 due to excessive damage and falling rock, there are still dozens of cliff dwellings to visit. My favorite was the ranger-led Cliff Palace, which allows visitors to look inside the doorways of the ancient dwellings and gain a better understanding of why the Pueblo people originated here then suddenly abandoned their homes. If you prefer to stay on your own timeline and save some money, there are plenty of family hikes that you can do on your own.
Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana. Known as the Crown of the Continent, Glacier has some of the clearest, bluest water, I have ever seen. Whether you’re choosing to hike, take a guided tour, or drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier has several days’ worth of outdoor activities and natural habitats to discover. My favorite was Going-to-the-Sun Road, where the road hugs the cliff walls so closely I could reach out my hand and touch it as we drove up the mountains. I’m a bit nervous on these high roads, so this really helped with my nervousness. This drive takes about 2 hours, but with several stops along the way–to look at waterfalls, watch native wildlife like deer or mountain goats–it was well worth it. Typically, you can only drive Going-to-the-Sun in the summer, because it takes so long to clear the road from all the snow during the winter. From wildlife to waterfalls, the drive does not disappoint. Glacier now offers an audio tour to accompany you on your drive.
Whether you have your own favorite National Park or have never visited, I encourage you to get out and try something new this summer. One of the mottos of the National Park System is #FindYourPark. Every park is different and every park will bring out different feelings in your family. Luckily, there are plenty of parks, which means plenty of adventures for every member of your family to enjoy. The memories you bring home will be unforgettable, and make you want to start planning your next trip.
In Part Two, Duane will share his favorite parks we’ve experienced on our journeys.