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Visit a National Park This Year

By on July 1, 2019

Using & Protecting Our Public Lands

By BRIDGET FABEL, Roadking Outdoors Contributor

Protecting one of America’s greatest assets—our public lands—should always be a top priority. As a hunter, fly fisher and avid outdoorswoman, I never take our magnificent public lands for granted. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and unique characteristics. Across the U.S., you can enjoy national parks, national forests, wildlife refuge systems, national monuments, a national system of public lands (run by U.S. Bureau of Land Management), state park systems and state lands. All of these treasures protect our natural resources and preserve some of the most beautiful places on God’s green earth.

“National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of
the earth as we know it today.” 

– President John F. Kennedy

National Park Service

Buffalos grazing at Hayden Valley, Yellowstone, National Park, Wyoming, USA

The National Park Service (NPS) is the Federal agency that manages all national parks across the United States. NPS was created by Congress through the National Park Service Organic Act on August 25, 1916 under President Woodrow Wilson. As of 2019, the NPS employs 27,000 dedicated professionals who oversee 61 national parks.

The First National Park

The first one designated, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, was protected so that all could see its beautiful hydrothermal wonders. Visitors can camp, fish, boat, hike, bike and view some of the most amazing wildlife in their natural habitats. Each year, photographers from all over the world travel to Yellowstone to shoot photos of the bison, bears and natural geysers. Every season offers a different appeal that attracts visitors to Yellowstone.

The winters are cold, but provide solitary snowmobiling adventures where you can travel miles into the backcountry and view wildlife and natural wonders all day long. Spring is my favorite time to see black bear and grizzly bear cubs. Both the grizzlies and black bears like to come out in the spring after a long winter hibernation and indulge in the park’s leftover pine nuts. Summer is also a great time to view the bears, as they’re often out in the meadows eating grass, dandelions, berries, moss, and ants. Grizzlies also eat elk calves in the early summer. After July, the healthy elk calves are too big and too fast for the grizzlies to catch.

Besides bear watching, summer is the most amazing time to witness Yellowstone’s abundant wildflowers. I recommend Dunraven Pass for viewing a sea of lush, yellow wildflowers. And finally, head to Yellowstone in the fall if you want to witness the leaves changing and experience perfect camping temperatures. I also recommend looking for elk in the fall. They’re typically out in the meadows during the rut, making piercing bugle sounds for potential mates to hear.

Eastern National Parks

If you live close to the east coast, you have plenty of amazing National Parks to enjoy. Two of my favorites are Everglades National Park and Acadia National Park. Located at the southern tip of Florida. Everglades National Park provides some of the country’s best birding opportunities. I’ve frequently fished in the Everglades, and during the winter months, it’s common to see a large, beautiful bald eagle perched high in a tree above. Here you can also view tarpon, sea turtles, manatees, alligators, crocodiles, and many other freshwater and salt water animals.

My most-appreciated recommendation: bring bug spray. I have had the best luck with Sawyer Maxi-Deet tropical insect repellent. The bugs in the Everglades are plentiful and ferocious. The out-of-control mosquitoes can carry both the Zika virus and/or the West Nile virus. I recommend the Maxi-Deet, long sleeves, long pants, and a hat to help keep the bugs off and make your experience a lot more enjoyable.

I feel like everyone needs to experience Acadia National Park during the fall at least once during their lifetimes. The autumn colors are some of the most beautiful you’ll ever see. This park offers over 150 miles of hiking trails, both on mountain tops and along Maine’s coastline. It has been named the “Crowned Jewel of the North Atlantic coast” because of its views, landscapes, mountains, and beaches. I highly recommend visiting Acadia in the fall. You’ll enjoy moderate temperatures, view an abundance of crimson red maples and avoid peak-season crowds.

Midwestern National Parks

America’s beautiful midwestern states offer a variety of unique national parks. One of my favorites is the Isle Royale National Park, the largest roadless area in Michigan. The popular Greenstone Ridge Trail offers extraordinary views of the surrounding Lake Michigan. Isle Royale houses large, wild populations of wolves and moose. Bring your camera, and hit the trail.

South Dakota’s Badlands National Park has some of the most amazing rock and fossil formations in the world. The park’s 244,000 acres protect grassy prairies where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets roam. Saddle Pass is a steep, short hike that climbs up to the White River Valley Overlook.

Western National Parks

One of the most well-known, highly visited national parks is Yosemite in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. It protects over 1,200 square miles of granite peaks, glacier-cut valleys and mystical waterfalls. Panorama trail—long, but mostly downhill—is a favorite hike. You’ll see some dramatic granite cliffs along the way. I also recommend hiking the half dome and exploring sections of the John Muir Trail that runs through the park. The half dome is a popular challenge for some of the world’s most-skilled rock climbers.

Another favorite I’ve visited many times is Bryce Canyon located in southern Utah. The dramatic red “Hoodoo” rocks (irregular-shaped columns of rock) are surrounded by ponderosa pines, orange sandstones and thick wilderness. The spectacular views are like no other. The Navajo Loop trail is another favorite hike. It’s a mellow walk down the red rock canyon. You’ll sneak through small red rock caves many times on this hike, while traveling alongside the massive red Hoodoos. Sunset Point is the best place to view sunrises. At the rim of the cliffs, you’re surrounded by pink, red, and orange rocks. This is one of my favorite spots to take photos.

Tips For Every National Park

Before you go, be sure to visit your destination national park’s website. The Park Service does a great job providing information about camping, lodging, hiking, and planning all aspects of your visit. I recommend trying to visit the parks during off-peak times, so you can enjoy more time with the wilderness, rather than tourists. Be sure to bring a camera, backpack, bug spray, snacks, large amounts of water, and some sunscreen so you’re prepared to be in the elements all day. There are many national parks across this country, way more than I could dive into for this article. Research nearby parks and monuments at nps.gov to make the most of your time out of your truck. 

About Warren Eulgen

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