Essential Travel Experience #28 – See Conservation at work in America’s National Parks

      The National Park system of the United States has been a model for the entire world since its inception. It flowed from the vision of Theodore Roosevelt to preserve and protect our special places. From Yellowstone, our nation’s first national park, to the new areas being set aside even today, America has committed itself to immortalizing and maintaining areas which have considerable beauty, historical significance, or cultural value for future generations. Could there be a nobler enterprise?

     A visit to a national park should be a requirement for citizenship, and frequent visits should be encouraged throughout a person’ s life. Lee and I have spent time in many of America’s national parks and some of these visits have been among the most memorable in our travels.

    Other countries around the world have also adopted the American idea and have begun to preserve large areas. The United Nations has included many of these national parks as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    But this post is about America and its national parks, so here is a list with pictures of the parks that we have visited.

    In the East, we have gone to Acadia National Park in Maine

Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park

 and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina/Tennessee

Great Smokies

 as well as Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

Shenandoah Valley

 In Florida, we have seen Biscayne National Park, near Miami

Mangrove Trees at Biscayne NP

 and the Everglades

Alligators at Everglades NP

  In the Caribbean, the US has Virgin Islands National Park which features the island sanctuary of St John

Trunk Bay, St John

  The largest cave system in the world is preserved as Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

Lee in Mammoth Cave

   In the Southwest, there is another cave system which is even more impressive, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, in New Mexico

Stalagmites at Carlsbad Caverns

   In the region known as the Colorado Plateau, there are a number of national parks. In Utah, we traveled to Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

 with its hoodoos, like Thor’s Hammer

Thor's Hammer

Also in Utah is Capitol Reef National Park where a portion of the Waterpocket Fold, an extensive geological feature, is preserved. 

Capitol Reef National Park

  Utah is also the home of Zion National Park, a sort of Grand Canyon upside-down where visitors are in the bottom of the canyon looking up at the walls

Great White Throne, Zion NP

Of course, the most famous national park in the Colorado Plateau is Grand Canyon National Park, one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places on the planet.

Grand Canyon

  Also in Arizona is Petrified Forest National Park with its amazing trees turned into rock

Petrified Tree

 and its colorful Painted Desert

Painted Desert, Petrified Forest NP

 Further south in Arizona is Saguaro National Park, created to preserve the largest variety of cactus in the world

Giant Saguaro

  Lastly in the namesake of this region, Colorado, is Mesa Verde National Park, which preserves the rock homes of Native American communities.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde NP

  Moving to the Pacific Southwest, there are a number of significant parks. In California, you will find Yosemite, one of the gems of the park system.

Yosemite Valley

with its incredible vistas and striking glacial geology. Notice the awesome view from Washburn Point

Washburn Point, Yosemite

 Also in California is the eerie and otherworldly landscape of Death Valley National Park. Notice the colorful Red Cathedral area

Red Cathedral, Death Valley NP

and the flat barren landscape of Badwater, the lowest point on land in the Western Hemisphere.

Badwater, Death Valley NP

and the interesting features at Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley NP

Also in California are the twin parks of Sequoia-Kings Canyon which feature the largest living things in the world, the Giant Sequoias.

Lee at the General Sherman Tree

 and the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon

General Grant Tree


The Hawaiian Islands contain several national parks as well. I have featured Haleakala National Park in  another post recently

Haleakala Crater, Maui

 and of course the famous Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island where visitors can actually see red-hot magma  

Fresh Magma, Hawaii Volcanoes NP

and the crater of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes


 Another region with several national parks is the Rocky Mountain area. Parks here include Grand Teton National Park, in Wyoming

Gary with the Grand Tetons

Nearby is Yellowstone National Park, the standard-bearer of the entire system, with its many geothermal features such as

Terraces, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone


Old Faithful

and its sheer beauty

Lower Yellowstone Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Another favorite Rocky Mountain destination is Glacier National Park in Montana

Bird Woman Falls, Glacier NP

 Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is another place where breathtaking vistas are common.

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain NP

 Next we move to the Pacific Northwest where volcanic mountains are fairly common and a significant attraction.

Mount Rainier dominates the Seattle area.

Mount Rainier

  The national park here surrounds the mountain.

Mount Rainier NP

  On the Olympic Peninsula, west of Seattle, Olympic National Park combines a variety of ecosystems into a huge and popular destination. There are mountains

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic NP

There are beaches

Ruby Beach, Olympic NP

 and there is a unique ecosystem known as a Temperate Rain Forest

Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic NP

 Also in this region is Crater Lake, the remains of Mt Mazama

Crater Lake NP

 and Lassen Volcanic National Park, in northern California

Lassen Peak

 Finally, in Alaska, there is Denali National Park, celebrating the tallest mountain in North America, Mt McKinley,

Denali in the Distance

 We spent some time in the national park as well

Inspiration Point, Denali NP

 and last, but not least, Glacier Bay National Park, a symphony of glaciers

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay NP


Glacier Bay NP


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