Best National Park Adventures

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In 1872, the area that is now known as Yellowstone National Park became the first piece of land that the US government put aside strictly to be preserved for the recreational use of its citizens, setting an example that the rest of the world would soon follow. This federal land, and subsequent national parks and monuments, remained largely unprotected until 44 years later, when in 1916 the National Park Service was officially established by the US federal government to protect and conserve these lands for the enjoyment of future generations.

August 25th marks the National Park Service’s 101st birthday and to celebrate we’d like to share some of our favorite “must do” activities in 6 of the 21 National Parks we visit on Backroads trips. And of course, the best way to experience these activities is on a Backroads trip!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Take the long way back to your room after dinner and stroll to the rim of Bryce Canyon. Benches line the rim trail–find one on a clear night, look up to the skies and enjoy the view. This area of Utah boasts one of the darkest skies in the country, which means that you can see around 7,500 stars on a moonless night. If you’re lucky, you may even see the subtle glow of the Milky Way galaxy stretching from one side of the horizon to the other. If you happen to catch this view during a full moon, you may be able to get a glimpse of the thousands of silhouetted hoodoos that stand quietly below the rim.

– Dirk Badenhorst

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Halemaumu Crater

Pay your respects to the powerful forces of nature that are present at the summit caldera of Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from a seldom-visited viewing platform along the rim of Halemaumau Crater. Amau ferns, from which the caldera takes its name, are perched at the crater’s rim and with their “scorched” fern leaves, varying from green to red in color, they make this place all the more special. Enjoy some solitude at sunset as the skies start giving way to the creeping glow of the volcano, or at dawn in anticipation of the rising sun looking east. This is your chance to have one last moment to see the glowing spirit of Madame Pele (the Hawaiian goddess of fire) before the sun guides your day.

– Alex Steele

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park North Rim

Enjoy a “sundowner” (an evening drink, alcoholic or not) from the patio of a historic lodge that overlooks one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. The setting sun creates a warm lingering glow that constantly adds more depth to the already massive vista. If you’re holding a drink in one hand, be sure to have your camera in the other to take advantage of the canyon’s golden hour.

–  Dirk Badenhorst

Zion National Park

Zion National Park Towers of the Virgin

The perfect complement to hiking Angels Landing is to take the park shuttle up-canyon all the way to the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. From there, cross the road and access unofficial yet well-traveled social trails on which park service naturalists conduct guided hikes. What you gain from a short one-mile hike to the Big Bend shuttle stop is unparalleled solitude as you meander alongside the Virgin River. It’s a wonderful way to take another opportunity to marvel at the massive monolith of Angels Landing from a completely different perspective.

– Alex Steele

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park Geyser, Wyoming

Wake up early when staying at Old Faithful Lodge, leave your camera in the room and grab a warm beverage from the lobby before you go out on a meandering walk on the boardwalks surrounding the geyser. You don’t need to have a specific route in mind. The cold air mixes with the thermal vents, creating an otherworldly “steamscape.” While there are herds of tourists by day, the place is beautifully quiet and still early in the morning. If Old Faithful happens to go off while you’re out there, you’ll witness an eruption almost entirely to yourself (without the tourist photo frenzy). This is the perfect time to appreciate the magic of the geyser–the experience will etch this beautiful sight so deep in your memory that you won’t need a camera to capture it.

– Nick Baker

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

At Jackson Lake Lodge, stroll out the back door, veer right and head to Lunch Tree Hill. A quick scramble up the hill will lead you to an epic vantage point that will serve as the perfect perch to enjoy the sunrise. Find a comfy spot overlooking the majestic west face of the Tetons as the rising sun warms them from the east. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a moose in the willows below!

– Ed Krajsky

The National Park Service was established to preserve these incredible scenes–and many others–in nature and history that otherwise would likely have had a finite existence in America. There are currently only 58 national parks but a total of 409 protected areas that cover more than 84 million acres in the United States and its territories. One of the most important things we can do to help protect these areas is to visit them and to share our experiences with others. We’re happy to celebrate 101 years of the National Park Service and hope to honor many more in the future.

“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” – John Muir

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Dirk Badenhorst

Dirk Badenhorst

Trip Leader at Backroads
After earning his bachelors in marketing, Dirk moved out west on a whim and has since enjoyed living a “simple life”—which he defines as a life free from clutter but rich with exciting new experiences. Everything he owns fits in his car, but everything he needs fits in his memory, he says. In 2010, after spending three months hitching and cycling across America on a shoestring budget, he discovered his love for the “charming nature” of adventure travel. He hasn’t stopped traveling since, and has even spent a summer as a writer/photographer in Africa. Dirk spent his first season with Backroads working on the Camp Crew in Alaska, the Tetons and the Canyons. He now works as Trip Leader and blogs for the Back Beat.
Dirk Badenhorst

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