This year we were lucky enough to visit three spectacular National Parks: Badlands National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park. After getting our greedy little hands on an America the Beautiful National Parks pass, we’re more eager than ever to check some more parks off our list!
So that got us thinking: Which parks do we want to check out in 2016? When we checked out the list of all 59 National Parks, we learned some interesting facts before making my wish list.
- There are national parks in 27 states and the territories of American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands.
- California has the most (nine), followed by Alaska (eight), Utah (five), and Colorado (four).
- The largest national park, at over eight million acres, is Wrangell–St. Elias in Alaska. It’s larger than nine US states. (The smallest is Hot Springs, Arkansas.)
- National parks protect a total area of approximately 51.9 million acres.
- The most-visited national park is Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee (over ten million visitors in 2014), followed by Arizona’s Grand Canyon.
So, without further ado … here’s our National Parks Wish List for 2016!
This spring we’re visiting Arizona, home to three awesome national parks. I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll be able to see all of them, but at the top of our list is the Grand Canyon. We’ve heard it’s a view that takes your breath away, and we can’t wait to see it!
Zion National Park in Utah features massive pink and red sandstone cliffs against brilliant blue sky. It’s famous for its hiking trails – like the 16-mile Narrows hike where you wade through a riverbed canyon through a gorge with walls a thousand feet tall and the river sometimes just twenty to thirty feet wide. Zion also features some really fantastic natural arches, the most famous of which are Crawford Arch and Kolob Arch. It’s a little out of our way, but I’m crossing my fingers that we make it to Zion National Park during our southwest travels this winter.
We’ll be making our way through Arkansas when we return east this spring, and I’m pretty excited to check out Hot Springs National Park. It’s pretty cool that at Hot Springs, unlike at Yellowstone, the thermal waters aren’t death traps.Nicknamed “The American Spa,” this may be the most luxurious of the National Parks, featuring gorgeous historic and modern bath houses where you can still test out the thermal waters!
It’s a little embarrassing to me to say we’ve never visited Shenandoah National Park, considering that we lived in Virginia for ten years! Shenandoah is famous for its cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, and quiet wooded hollows. There’s also some fantastic hiking — and I’m thinking this might be a good place for us to start doing some backcountry camping, as well.
Cuyahoga Valley is less than five hours from our home base in Virginia, and we’d love to make a weekend trip there this summer. I love rail-to-trail paths, and the Ohio & Erie Towpath is the major trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I also get super excited about trains, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad looks like the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Cuyahoga Valley is also home to Brandywine Falls, 65-foot high falls complete with a 1.5-mile gorge trail hike.
We’ve been to Acadia National Park before (most recently, a week-long camping trip in 2014) but we love it so much, we had to include it again! One Acadia highlight is Cadillac Mountain, the highest mountain on the East Coast — where you can see the sunrise before anyone else! Whether you like mountains or ocean, Acadia offers the best of both worlds: unparalleled hiking and gorgeous coastal views. We’re hoping to spend some time here in August and September.
Which National Parks are on your 2016 wish list?