Lincoln Memorial

Overview

Abraham Lincoln has even more National Park Service (NPS) sites dedicated to him than Theodore Roosevelt (and both are carved into Mount Rushmore National Memorial).  The Lincoln Memorial at the west end of the National Mall in Washington D.C. is by far the busiest with around 7-million visitors annually.  President Lincoln will always have his place in history for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War.

Highlights

Bookstore, statue, view of the National Mall

Must-Do Activity

The Lincoln Memorial was inspired by Greek temples and features 36 Doric columns, a giant statue of the seated man, and two large murals.  Be sure to walk to either side of the statue to read two speeches: his Gettysburg Address of 1863 and his Inaugural Address of 1865.  We looked long and hard for a penny-crushing machine at the Lincoln Memorial.  We thought it would be awesome to have that building stamped onto a penny.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you ever have the chance to visit the National Mall in Washington D.C., do yourself a favor and come after dark.  Seeing the white marble and limestone shining under spotlights is quite spectacular (but you might need a tripod for photographs).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/linc/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

As with most NPS sites in Washington, D.C., it is easier to walk or take the Metro than find parking for your car.

Camping

There are no NPS campgrounds in the Washington, D.C. area, so it might be best to head for Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Related Sites

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Vietnam Veterans Memorial (District of Columbia)

World War II Memorial (District of Columbia)

Explore More – The Lincoln Monument Association was incorporated in 1867, but when was the Lincoln Memorial finally dedicated?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Top 10 of the 63 National Parks for Hiking

Some of the best places to hike in the entire United States of America lie within our 63 National Parks.  When we wrote our guidebook, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon), we had a hard time choosing only two favorite trails for each park.  So in this Top 10 list we are simply going to list all of the hikes we like in each of the selected National Parks (with roundtrip mileage in parentheses).  We also ranked the best places to hike within the other National Park Service sites (click here to see all our Top 10 Lists).

10. Shenandoah (Virginia)

Old Rag (7.1 miles) Dark Hollow Falls (1.4) Little Stony Man Cliffs (0.9) Jones Run Falls (3.4) Cedar Run-Whiteoak Circuit (8.2) Appalachian National Scenic Trail

9. Pinnacles (California)

Bear Gulch (2.2) High Peaks Trail (5.3) Balconies Cave (2.4) North Chalone Peak (9.0) North Wilderness (9.3)

8. Glacier (Montana)

Avalanche Lake (4.0) Hidden Lake Overlook (3.0) Iceberg Lake (9.6) Grinnell Lake (6.8) Two Medicine Loop (21.0) Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

7. Isle Royale (Michigan)

Stoll (5.0) Suzy’s Cave (7.4) Mt. Franklin (4.0) Greenstone Ridge (42.2) Minong Ridge (9.4)

6. Zion (Utah)

Observation Point (8.0) Angels Landing (5.4) The Narrows (4.0+) Canyon Overlook (1.0) Kolob Arch (14.0)

5. Yosemite (California)

Mariposa Grove (6.9) Upper Yosemite Falls (7.2) Nevada Falls (5.0) Tuolumne Grove (2.5) Wapama Falls (5.0) Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

4. Big Bend (Texas)

Mariscal Canyon Rim (6.6) Santa Elena Canyon (1.7) Window (4.0) Hot Springs (1.0) Grapevine Hills (2.2)

3. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)

Adams Falls (0.6) Mt. Ida (10.0) Dream Lake (2.2) Sky Pond (9.8) Ouzel Falls (5.4) Spectacle Lakes (11.0) Lost Lake (15.6) Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

2. Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee-North Carolina)

Ramsey Cascades (8.0) Look Rock (1.8) Laurel Falls (2.6) Clingman’s Dome (0.5) Hen Wallow Falls (4.4) Alum Cave (4.4) Chimney Tops (10.0) Appalachian National Scenic Trail

…and finally the #1 National Park for hiking:

1. Yellowstone (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Upper Geyser Basin (2.0+) Brink of Lower Falls (0.8) Mt. Washburn (6.2) Lone Star Geyser (4.8) Fairy Falls (7.0) Sky Rim (16.0) Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

Honorable Mentions

Acadia (Maine)

Precipice (2.5) Beehive (1.6) Jordan Pond (3.2) Ocean Path (4.4) Beech Mountain (1.1) Schoodic Head (2.5)

Arches (Utah)

Delicate Arch (3.0) Double Arch (0.5) Devils Garden (7.2) Broken Arch (1.3) Tower Arch (3.4)

Lassen Volcanic (California)

Bumpass Hell (3.0) Lassen Peak (5.0) Devils Kitchen (4.2) Cinder Cone (4.0) Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Pinnacles National Park

Overview

California has nine National Parks, which is more than any other state, including Alaska.  The newest is Pinnacles National Park, upgraded from a National Monument in 2013.  Rising above the agricultural Salinas Valley, it does have quite a long history, going back even before President Theodore Roosevelt officially recognized its significance in 1908.  The park’s West Entrance is accessible from Highway 101 and the East Entrance is closer to Interstate 5 and the Central Valley.  It is actually faster to hike from one side to another, than to drive two hours around. 

Learn more in our guidebook to the National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Scenic views, talus caves, rock climbing, endangered California condors

Must-Do Activity

In addition to its striking granite spires, the park is known for talus caves, which are tunnels formed by boulders falling and catching between narrow canyon walls.  Flashlights are necessary to navigate through them, although small gaps in the chaotic ceiling often allow shafts of light through in picturesque fashion.  You might spot a bat flying through the caves, which are seasonally closed for their protection.

Best Trail

Mild temperatures make this a park for hiking in all seasons.  Just be sure to hold onto the chains while navigating the Steep and Narrow section of the steep High Peaks Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

While you may not see a bat in the talus caves of Pinnacles National Park, it is likely you will spot the nine-foot wingspan of a California condor slicing the blue sky outside the caves.  This is perhaps the most successful of all release sites for this species teetering on the brink of extinction.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$30 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but there is not a road connecting the East and West Entrances, which are about a two-hour drive apart.

Camping

The West Entrance gate is locked every night as it is day use only, but there is a campground that takes reservations at the East Entrance.  No backcountry camping is allowed.

Related Sites

Yosemite National Park (California)

Channel Islands National Park (California)

Sequoia National Park (California)

This design we created to celebrate Joshua Tree National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Accessible by a nine-mile roundtrip hike with more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain, how tall is North Chalone Peak?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Muir Woods National Monument

Overview

Named for passionate preservationist and Bay Area resident John Muir, this old-growth forest of coast redwood trees is a world away from the bustle of the city.  Originally established in 1908, the National Monument is administered by the National Park Service (NPS) as part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  It is located just south of Point Reyes National Seashore and here you can also access the coastline at nearby Muir Beach.

Highlights

Coast redwood trees, Redwood Creek Trail, Canopy View Trail, Muir Beach

Must-Do Activity

North of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco sprawl gives way to a rugged and idyllic landscape.  The twisty drive over the coastal mountains to 554-acre Muir Woods National Monument is part of the adventure.  There is a café and gift shop, plus the NPS operates a small bookstore, but not a museum at the site.  This small park receives an average of one-million visitors per year, so expect the trails to be crowded on weekends and sunny days.

Best Trail

There are only six miles of trails in the National Monument, but they connect with the extensive system in surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park.  It is often foggy and always shady beneath these massive trees, so it is best to dress in layers.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The coast redwoods growing here are more than 250 feet tall, so hike up the aptly named Canopy View Trail to get a birds-eye view.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/muwo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$15 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The winding access road is steep and narrow, so RVs over 35 feet in length are prohibited.

Camping

There are walk-in tent campsites at Mount Tamalpais State Park and backcountry campsites (permit required) at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Related Sites

John Muir National Historic Site (California)

Redwood National and State Parks (California)

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (California)

Explore More – Coast redwood is the tallest species in the world, requiring coastal fog to stay hydrated; how far inland do the trees naturally occur?

Colorado National Monument

Overview

The name Colorado translates from Spanish as “red colored” and Colorado National Monument is exactly that.  From the numerous overlooks along Rim Rock Drive, the farm-dotted Colorado River Valley stretches out to the Book Cliffs and the evergreen forests of Grand Mesa.  But your attention will be drawn to the red rock formations in the foreground, like Independence Monument topped by an improbably placed American flag.  Do not miss a visit to neighboring McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (held by the Bureau of Land Management), which has been proposed to be combined with Colorado National Monument to form a new National Park.

Highlights

Museum, film, Rim Rock Drive, Serpents Trail, Independence Monument View, Liberty Cap Trail

Must-Do Activity

Enjoy the stellar scenery and hiking while watching the cliffs for raptors, especially during the golden hours when the red rocks really shine.  While Interstate 70 offers easy access to the National Monument on the way to Arches National Park, we recommend heading south along twisty Highway 141, passing through stunning Dolores Canyon.

Best Trail

There are many great (and steep) canyon hikes in this area, including the former roadbed of Serpents Trail, once known as the “Crookedest Road in the World” until closed to vehicles following a highway reroute in 1950.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Sunrise and sunset are the best times for photography at the numerous overlooks along 23-mile Rim Rock Drive.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/colm/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$25 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

From Saddlehorn Campground you can see the lights of Grand Junction, Colorado and Interstate 70, but up here you feel like all of that is a million miles away.  Free backcountry camping permits are also available.

Related Sites

Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado)

Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Explore More – John Otto petitioned hard for the creation of Colorado National Monument in 1911 and served as its caretaker for 26 years at what ridiculously low salary?