61 National Parks: Classifications, Tips, and Cool Facts

 In Blog, destinations, family fun, Family Travel CK, Reviews, Tips

There are presently 61 U.S. National Parks. 20 of them are a stone’s throw away from civilization, 33 are remote or borderline remote, and 8 Parks are very remote.

Those near civilization include Acadia, Mount Rainier, Redwood, Rocky Mountain, Badlands, Great Smoky Mountains, Joshua Tree, Hawaii Volcanoes, Haleakala, Zion, Saguaro, Cuyahoga Valley, Mesa Verde, Arches, Virgin Islands, Shenandoah, Mammoth Cave, Gateway Arch, Indiana Dunes and Hot Springs.

The 8 “very remote” parks are Dry Tortugas, American Samoa, Big Bend, Katmai, Lake Clark, Kobuk Valley, Gates Of The Arctic, and Wrangell-St. Elias

The smallest park, Hot Springs, is postage stamp sized compared to the others. The largest, Wrangell-St, Elias, is larger than the country of Switzerland.

The highest park is Denali at 20,310 ft. The lowest is Death Valley, where Badwater Basin sits 282 ft. below sea level. The highest paved road is to Mt. Evans in Rocky Mountain and the best stargazing has to be at Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The quietest place in North America is in the Hot Rainforest of Olympic National Park.

ACCESSIBILITY = There is a program to make all of them more accessible by 2020. Seniors are very much encouraged to visit the parks. An annual senior pass costs $20, while a lifetime pass for seniors is currently $80. Glacier Park has a shuttle taking in the hot spots along Going To The Sun Highway. The Great Sand Dunes have big-wheeled wheelchairs for easy going in sand. Grand Canyon South Rim have easily accessed overlooks and, of course, mule rides down into the canyon. Yellowstone has accessible fishing sites.

The 17 parks most visited are Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah, Zion, Acadia, Cuyahoga Valley, Joshua Tree, Arches, Grand Canyon (South Rim), Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, Yellowstone, Mesa Verde, Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes, Glacier Park, Rocky Mountain, and Grand Tetons. The busiest park of these is unquestionably Great Smoky Mountains with 9 million visitors a year. But, with 800 miles of hiking trails in and near the park, you can still find peace in the back spaces.

The dominating features of these parks are:

INTERNATIONAL PEACE PARK = WATERTON-GLACIER

2 WITH FJORDS = KENAI FJORDS; SOMES SOUND OF ACADIA

2 WITH SAND DUNES = GREAT SAND DUNES; KOBUK VALLEY

3 WITH HOODOOS = BRYCE CANYON; TEDDY ROOSEVELT NORTH UNIT; BADLANDS

RAINFORESTS = VIRGIN ISLANDS; AMERICAN SAMOA; HOH RAINFOREST OF OLYMPIC

3 WITH DEEP HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE = MESA VERDE; CUYAHOGA VALLEY; DRY TORTUGAS

4 KNOWN FOR CAVES = MAMMOTH CAVE; CARLSBAD CAVERNS; WIND CAVE; LEHMAN CAVES OF GREAT BASIN

5 WITH VALLEYS = DEATH VALLEY; SHENANDOAH; YOSEMITE; CUYAHOGA VALLEY; KATMAI’S VALLEY OF TEN THOUSAND SMOKES

CANYONS = GRAND CANYON; CANYONLANDS; KINGS CANYON; BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON; ZION; GRAND CANYON OF THE YELLOWSTONE

7 NOTED FOR ROCKS OR ROCK CLIMBING = ACADIA; JOSHUA TREE; ARCHES; CPITOL REEF; YOSEMITE; PINNACLES; ZION
8 VOLCANOES = YELLOWSTONE; LASSEN VOLCANIC; HALEAKALA; HAWAII VOLCANOES; MOUNT RAINIER; CRATER LAKE; KATMAI’S VALLEY OF TEN THOUSAND SMOKES; MOUNTS REDOUBT AND ILIAMNA OF LAKE CLARK
9 ISLANDS = VIRGIN ISLANDS; AMERICAN SAMOA; DRY TORTUGAS; CHANNEL ISLANDS; ACADIA; ISLE ROYALE; VOYAGEURS; HALEAKALA; HAWAII VOLCANOES
9 KNOWN FOR THEIR TREES = JOSHUA TREE; SEQUOIA; REDWOODS; PETRIFIED FOREST; SAGUARO; BRISTLECONES OF GREAT BASIN; ANCIENT HARDWOODS OF CONGAREE; SEQUOIA GROVE OF KINGS CANYON; HOH RAINFOREST OF OLYMPIC
13 NOTED FOR WATER OR WATER ENJOYMENT = CRATER LAKE; HOT SPRINGS; BISCAYNE; EVERGLADES; DRY TORTUGAS; VIRGIN ISLANDS; LAKE CLARK; ISLE ROYALE; VOYAGEURS; AMERICAN SAMOA; BIG BEND; GLACIER BAY; GRAND CANYON
15 ANIMAL PARADISES = YELLOWSTONE (bison, bear, and elk); DENALI (caribou, moose and grizzlies); KATMAI (alaskan brown bear); ROCKY MOUNTAIN (bighorn sheep, bear, and elk); EVERGLADES (birds, gators, dragon and butterflies) ; GLACIER BAY (orcas and eagles); BIG BEND (javelina and wildcat) ; PINNACLES (condor); VIRGIN ISLANDS (coral fish and coqui frog); AMERICAN SAMOA (flying fox and coral fish); GLACIER (grizzlies and mountain goats); GRAND TETONS (grizzlies and moose); KENAI FJORDS (sealion, orca, grizzly, mountain goat); ISLE ROYALE (moose and grey wolf); BISCAYNE (seabird and coral fishes); DRY TORTUGAS ( coral fish, grouper, and tarpon)
20 WITH LOFTY MOUNTAINS RANGES:
SHENANDOAH; GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS; GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS; NORTH CASCADES; OLYMPIC; CHISOS MOUNTAINS OF BIG BEND; MESA VERDE; GRAND TETONS; ROCKY MOUNTAIN; HIGH SIERRAS OF YOSEMITE AND KINGS CANYON;YELLOWSTONE; THE PANAMINTS OF DEATH VALLEY; WATERTON-GLACIER; MOUNT RAINIER; KILAUEA AND MONA LOA OF HAWAI’I VOLCANOES; GATES OF THE ARCTIC; SANGRE DE CRISTOS OF GREAT SAND DUNES; WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS; DENAL

SEASONAL TIMING

AUTUMN = ACADIA (mid-week); SHENANDOAH (mid-week); CUYAHOGA FALLS (mid-week); GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS (mid-week); CONGAREE; VOYAGEURS (but not too late); McClintock Canyon of GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS; CARLSBAD CAVERNS (because they are near to Guad. Mtns.)

WINTER = DEATH VALLEY; BIG BEND; SAGUARO; PINNACLES; BISCAYNE (no hurricanes); EVERGLADES (no hurricanes); CHANNEL ISLANDS

SPRING = WATERTON-GLACIER (when rivers are high); YOSEMITE (when waterfalls are in their prime); KINGS CANYON (when river is high);SEQUOIA (because it’s close to Kings Canyon); CANYONLANDS (to avoid the heat); DRY TORTUGAS (driest weather then)

SUMMER = ISLE ROYALE; NORTH CASCADES; OLYMPIC; DENALI AND ALL ALASKAN PARKS; CAPITOL REEF(but camp in higher elevations west of the park); YELLOWSTONE (but camp outside the park); BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON (cold there otherwise); GREAT BASIN (gets cold otherwise); LASSEN VOLCANIC; TEDDY ROOSEVELT; GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM

ANYTIME PARKS = VIRGIN ISLANDS (constant temps); AMERICAN SAMOA (always hot and humid there); HOT SPRINGS; BRYCE CANYON (can be pretty in winter too); PETRIFIED FOREST

SHOULDER SEASON IS BEST DUE TO CONGESTION OR COST: ZION; ARCHES; GRAND CANYON SOUTH RIM; CRATER LAKE; JOSHUA TREE; GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS; MOUNT RAINIER; YELLOWSTONE; MESA VERDE; HALEAKALA; HAWAI’I VOLCANOES; GLACIER PARK; REDWOOD; ROCKY MOUNTAINS

MY 12 GOLD STARS = ACADIA; GRAND CANYON; ZION; YOSEMITE; YELLOWSTONE; WATERTON-GLACIER; ROCKY MOUNTAIN; MOUNT RAINER; GRAND TETON; DENALI; DEATH VALLEY; HALEAKALA

MY 17 RED RIBBONS = GLACIER BAY; CRATER LAKE; REDWOODS; ISLE ROYALE; VIRGIN ISLANDS; BIG BEND; CARLSBAD CAVERNS; ARCHES; BRYCE CANYON; MESA VERDE; PINNACLES; GREAT SAND DUNES; OLYMPIC; NORT CASCADES; KENAI FJORDS; DRY TORTUGAS; KATMAI

BEST ROADS, IN OR OUT, OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS =GOING TO THE SUN HWY, GLACIER PARK; WYOMING 296 THROUGH BEAR TOOTH PASS, YELLOWSTONE; US ALT. 89 UNDER VERMILLION CLIFFS TO GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM;CALIFORNIA 299 TO US 101, US 101 THROUGH REDWOODS; TRAIL RIDGE ROAD, ROCKY MOUNTAIN; UTAH 9, ZION;SKYLINE ROAD, SHENANDOAH; US 50 TO GREAT BASIN; CALIFORNIA 25 TO PINNACLES; US 160 TO GREAT SAND DUNES;US 285 TO COLORADO 17 TO GREAT SAND DUNES; US 50 TO BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON; UTAH 12 BETWEEN CAPITOL REEF AND BRYCE CANYON; WASHINGTON 20 THROUGH NORTH CASCADES; BUSH PLANE TO LAKE CLARK; US 85 TO TEDDY ROOSEVELT NORTH UNIT; ROAD TO WETHERILL MESA, MESA VERDE; US 1 TO KEY WEST, GATEWAY TO DRY TORTUGAS; CALIFORNIA 120 TO YOSEMITE

BEST LODGES = PRINCE OF WALES HOTEL, WATERTON PARK;

EL TOVAR HOTEL, GRAND CANYON SOUTH RIM; GRAND CANYON LODGE, GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM; ZION LODGE, ZION; PARADISE INN, MOUNT RAINIER; HOTEL TERRA, JACKSON HOLE, GRAND TETON; CRATER LAKE LODGE, CRATER LAKE;

DANCING BEAR LODGE, GREAT SMOKY MTNS.; GLACIER PARK LODGE, EAST GLACIER, GLACIER PARK; OLD FAITHFUL INN, YELLOWSTONE; ASTICOU INN, ACADIA; MAJESTIC YOSEMITE HOTEL, YOSEMITE; ROCK HARBOR LODGE, ISLE ROYALE; TAKE YOUR PICK OF HOTELS ON ST. THOMAS OR ST. JOHN, VIRGIN ISLANDS; HOTELS OF PALM SPRINGS, JOSHUA TREE

OTHER COOL LODGINGS : ZION UNDER CANVAS, ZION (tents up); THE REDWOODS OF YOSEMITE (cabins); ANY HOTEL ON MAUI (HALEAKALA) OR HAWAII, (HAWAI’I VOLCANOES);

SOME OF THE BEST CAMPS = PLEASANT CREEK SOUTH OF CAPITOL REEF ON UTAH 12; PINYON FLATS, GREAT SAND DUNES; BROOKS CAMP, KATMAI; LOCATOR LAKE, VOYAGERS; PINE SPRINGS, GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS; KINTLA LAKE, GLACIER

SOME OF THE BEST HIKES = HIDDEN LAKE (DIFFICULT), NORTH CASCADES; THE NARROWS (MODERATE TO DIFFICULT), ZION; ANGEL’S LANDING (MODERATE TO DIFFICULT), ZION; SANTA ELENA CANYON (EASY TO MODERATE) BIG BEND; MCCLINTOCK CANYON (EASY), GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS; HIKE TO DELICATE ARCH (MODERATE), ARCHES; PEEK-A-BOO LOOP EASY TO MODERATE), BRYCE CANYON; BRISTLECONE MEADOWS (MODERATE), GREAT BASIN; ANY TRAIL IN YELLOWSTONE; CASCADE CANYON (MODERATE TO DIFFICULT), GRAND TETON; PAINTBRUSH CANYON (EASY, MODERATE, DIFFICULT DEPENDING ON HIGH U GO), GRAND TETON; ANY TRAIL IN MESA VERDE; HIGH PEAKS TRAIL (DIFFICULT), PINNACLES; ASK LOCALS FOR DIRECTIONS TO THE TRAIL THAT GOES THROUGH RAINFOREST TO WORLD WAR 2 CANNONS (MODERATE); SMUGGLERS COVE (MODERATE), CHANNEL ISLANDS; GOLDEN DOME TRAIL (EASY TO MODERATE) DEATH VALLEY; BADWATER BASIN (EASY), DEATH VALLEY; HIKE THE DUNES AT DAWN (MODERATE TO DIFFICULT), GREAT SAND DUNES; ENCHANTING VALLEY OF HOH RAINFOREST (MODERATE), OLYMPIC; TRAIL THROUGH JEDEDIAH SMITH PARK (EASY TO MODERATE), REDWOODS; MCKINLEY TRAIL (EASY TO MODERATE TO DIFFICULT), DENALI; TANALIAN TRAIL (MODERATE TO DIFFICULT), LAKE CLARK; VALLEY OF TEN THOUSAND SMOKES (MODERATE TO DIFFICULT), KATMAI; EXIT GLACIER (DIFFICULT), KENAI FJORDS

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS:

—YELLOWSTONE WAS OUR 1ST NATIONAL PARK (3/1/1872 SIGNED INTO LAW BY U.S. GRANT); BUT YOSEMITE WAS THE FIRST LAND PROTECTED BY OUR GOVERNMENT ( A. LINCOLN SIGNED THE YOSEMITE GRANT DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE CIVIL WAR, 1864)

IT WAS PROTECTED TO PREVENT ANOTHER NIAGARA FALLS

— IN AUTUMN OF 1869, JOHN MUIR WALKS FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO YOSEMITE….LATER IN LIFE HE TRAVELED TO GLACIER BAY AND MOUNT RAINIER

— YELLOWSTONE WAS ALREADY A NATIONAL PARK WHEN CUSTER ENGAGED THE SIOUX AND CHEYENNE AT LITTLE BIGHORN (6/25/1876)

— MACKINAC WAS OUR 2ND NATIONAL PARK (1875); BUT BECAUSE THE FORT THERE WAS DECOMMISSIONED 20 YEARS LATER, MICHIGAN TOOK BACK ITS PROTECTION)

— SEQUOIA THEN BECAME OUR 2ND PARK (9/25/1890) AND YOSEMITE OUR 3RD (10/1/1890)

— IN 1903 TEDDY ROOSEVELT TRAVELED TO YOSEMITE TO CAMP FOR 3 DAYS WITH JOHN MUIR. THESE TWO FORGED A VISION OF OUR NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM

TIPS

— VIRGIN ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK ENCOMASSES ¾ OF THE ISLAND OF ST. JOHN; THEREFORE VISITORS MAY USE THE BEACHES (BUT NOT THE ACCOUTREMENTS) OF CERTAIN RESORTS SUCH AS CANEEL BAY (ALSO CAN USE THEIR SHUTTLE TO ANY OF THEIR 5 BEACHES);

—- DRY TORTUGAS = THESE “TURTLE ISLANDS” HAVE THE 3RD LARGEST BARRIER REEF IN THE WORLD. IF YOU SNORKLE OUT, AWAY FROM THE FORT, YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF SWIMMING IN A LARGE SCHOOL OF TARPON – A FISH ALMOST AS BIG AS YOURSELF

—- DEATH VALLEY = HIKE GOLDEN DOME AT SUNSET FOR FULL, GOLDEN EFFECT; THEN DRIVE DOWN TO BADWATER BASIN (ABOUT 20 MINUTES AWAY) TO WATCH THE FINAL GLOW OF SUN BEHIND THE PANAMINT RANGE. IF YOU’RE LUCKY, YOU WILL ALSO VIEW THE MOON SETTING. AFTER ALL THE PEOPLE ARE GONE, WALK OUT INTO THE BASIN (WITH A FLASHLIGHT FOR YOUR WAY BACK). EXPERIENCE THE LOWEST PLACE IN NORTH AMERICA IN DARKNESS

—- HOT SPRINGS = IF YOU TIME YOUR VISIT TO HOT SPRINGS AFTER THE ARKANSAS DERBY (IN APRIL), HOTEL PRICES REDUCE DRAMATICALLY; BUT, IF YOU LIKE THE PONIES, GO FOR THAT GRADE 1 RACE. ROCKY’S CORNER IS A GREAT LITTLE ITALIAN JOINT ACROSS FROM THE RACETRACK (ORDER THE HOUSE SALAD DRESSING)

—- ISLE ROYALE = YOU BASICALLY HAVE TWO OPTIONS FOR LODGING, THE LODGE OR BACKCOUNTRY CAMPING. HOWEVER, OUT OF ITS 20 CAMPSITES AT ROCK HARBOR, 9 OF THEM ARE SHELTERED. IF IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN OR YOU WANT TO REST AFTER A LONG MORNING ON LAKE SUPERIOR, ONE OF THESE MAY COME IN HANDY; DON’T EAT THE BITTER BLUEBERRY LOOKING FRUIT IN THE UNDERGROWTH, FOR IT IS POISONOUS. BUT THE RED THIMBLEBERRIES ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD

—- MAMMOTH CAVE = YOU CAN BE TEMPTED TO DO THIS PARK IN LESS THAN A DAY; BUT TAKE TIME TO HAVE LUNCH OR DINNER AT ITS BEAUTIFUL PICNIC AREA

—- ACADIA = IF YOU HAPPEN TO VISIT IN SEPTEMBER OR EARLY OCTOBER, BE SURE TO BUY SOME MAINE BLUEBERRIES

—- MOUNT RAINIER = IF YOU LOVE WILDFLOWERS, THIS IS THE PARK FOR YOU

—- WRANGELL- ST. ELIAS = IF YOU HAVE TIME AFTERWARDS, TAKE THE HIGHWAY SOUTH FROM MCCARTHY ROAD TOWARD VALDEZ FOR AT LEAST A FEW MILES. NOT ONLY ARE THE WRANGELL MTNS A DISTANT TREAT, BUT THE LUPINE NEAR YOU AT THE HIGHWAYS EDGE IS RESPLENDENT IN ITS PERFUME. TAKE TIME TO SMELL THE FLOWERS

—- WRANGELL – ST. ELIAS = IF TRAVELING THE NABESNA ROAD, YOU MAY BE TEMPTED TO DRIVE TO KLUANE AND THE YUKON. BUT DEFINITELY CHECK WITH YOUR CAR RENTAL AGENCY FIRST, AS SOME DO NOT ALLOW ; ALSO KNOW THAT THESE ARE SOME OF THE HIGHEST MOUNTAINS IN THE WORLD. IF YOUR FLIGHT TO ANCHORAGE IS ON A SUNNY DAY, YOU CAN SEE THE GLACIERS AND ICEFIELDS OF WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS FROM THE WINDOW OF YOUR PLANE. SOME OF YOUR BEST PHOTOS OF THIS PARK MAY BE THOSE TAKEN FROM YOUR SEAT.

—- GRAND TETON, KATMAI, YELLOWSTONE, DENALI, ROCKY MOUNTAIN, GREAT SMOKY MTNS, WATERTON-GLACIER, OR ANYWHERE ELSE YOU MAY HAVE A BEAR ENCOUNTER:

BLACK BEARS MAY BE SCARED AWAY BY LOUD NOISES, BUT DO NOT CHASE THESE FOR A PHOTO OP. TOO MANY PEOPLE CHASE THEM AWAY BY DOING SO. BROWN BEAR (GRIZZLIES) SHOULD BE AVOIDED FOR THEY ARE UNPREDICTABLE. SING, TALK LOUDLY, OR MAKE OTHER NOISES ON YOUR HIKE BEFORE ANY ENCOUNTER. THIS WILL LIMIT THE POSSIBILITY OF SURPRISE. IF YOU DO ENCOUNTER, DO NOT THROW FOOD, EVEN TO DISTRACT THEM. ONCE THEY TASTE HUMAN FOOD, THEY USUALLY NEED TO BE DESTROYED. CALMLY BACK AWAY, TALK IN A LOW VOICE, AVOID EYE CONTACT, AND BACK AWAY. IF THEY CHARGE, HOLD YOUR GROUND. THEY USUALLY STOP A FEW FEET AWAY. IF THEY CHARGE INTO YOU OR TOUCH YOU IN ANYWAY, FALL TO THE GROUND ON YOUR STOMACH HOLDING YOUR HANDS OVER YOUR NECK AND FACE. OFTEN, AFTER ASSERTING THEIR DOMINANCE, THEY WILL LEAVE. SINCE THEY ARE ATTRACTED TO THE SMELL OF FOOD, I VERY RARELY COOK FOOD IN WILD PLACES. RATHER, I EAT TRAIL MIX, CRACKERS AND CHEESE, POWER BARS, OR JERKY. AND I PICK UP ANY CRUMBS.

—- MOUNTAIN LION COUNTRY = MORE UNPREDICTABLE THAN BEARS, BUT ALSO LESS LIKELY TO ENCOUNTER. THE KEY HERE IS NOT TO BE RUNNING OR RIDING A BIKE, ETC. THEY ARE DRAWN TO MOTION AND WILL ATTACK. IF ATTACKED, FIGHT WITH ALL YOU MIGHT KICKING AND SCREAMING. OTHERS NEARBY WILL HELP

—- ISLE ROYALE, VOYAGEURS, DENALI, YELLOWSTONE AND ANY OTHER WILDERNESS HABITATING WOLVES. = DESPITE ANCIENT TALES AND MYTHS, WOLVES VERY RARELY ATTACK HUMANS. THEIR KEEN SENSE OF SMELL HELPS THEM AVOID HUMANS.

—- CONGAREE, EVERGLADES = GATORS AND COTTONMOUTH LURK IN THE WATERS, ALWAYS BE MINDFUL. PREVENTION IS THE KEY

—- BIG BEND, BADLANDS, AND OTHER DESERT PARKS = RATTLESNAKES SURPRISE. ALWAYS VIEW AHEAD OF YOUR FEET

Check out John’s exclusive interview with the Trip Sisters in episode 71 of their radio show!”  
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