National Monument is the most common designation in the National Park Service (NPS) System. Many of our favorites among the roughly 130 National Monuments are wild places managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The NPS typically has a more developed, tourist-friendly infrastructure with visitor centers, trails, and tours. Here is a ranking of our top 10 National Monuments of the 88 run by the NPS.
Travel is our passion.
It can be challenging, both mentally and physically, but the rewards are
incalculable. Travel is always
unpredictable. We have to be adaptable
and self-sufficient, whether we find ourselves in a city or a wilderness. Travel can also rejuvenate. It provides perspective on work and the
media; a mental reset that lets us focus on the important things in our
lives. Working out in a gym can become
tedious after an hour, but when we are hiking we find that we can keep going
for hours. Perhaps it is that
“explorer’s high” that keeps us going when we experience a new place.
We enjoy the logistics of travel. Preparation and anticipation are two
fundamental components of any trip. We
hope that Raven About The Parks inspires our readers to plan their next
excursion to one of the 418 units in the National Park Service (NPS)
system. The NPS recorded more than
330-million visitors in both 2016 and 2017.
More than half of them were tallied at the top 30 parks alone. Only the top 81 sites see more than
one-million visitors annually. That
leaves 337 other parks for the rest of us to discover the historical and
natural wonders of America without the crowds.
We love learning new information when we travel. Even when we return to a place our experience
is never the same, since we change as we age, gaining a fresh perspective as
though seeing through a different lens.
Many of the units in the NPS system are historical in focus. We have fun finding similarities with the
present time and take solace in the fact that most every challenge of today was
faced in past. We are inspired by people
that stood strong in the face of adversity.
The greatest acts of bravery often came from the least likely sources.
We are truly humbled to be in the presence of the natural
wonders of America. Given the perception
of one human lifetime, it is often impossible for us to comprehend how many of
Earth’s features formed on a geologic timescale. We relish being able to interact with a
landscape beyond the designated pullouts and overlooks; to feel the ground
beneath our feet and not just look at it.
We enjoy photography, but find the immersive experiences are more
satisfying than taking a good photo. We
believe that the best photos will trigger a fond memory in the future, in
comparison to just having something pretty to look at.
Even though we have visited 323 of 418 NPS units, we realize we will probably never make it to them all. That is not our goal, though we will strive to see more of them. We have had great experiences at most of these special sites, many of which we visited without high expectations. In 2019, we plan to explore 35 NPS sites new to us in the Northeast U.S. and Virgin Islands, as well as some old favorites in new ways (like a paddling trip through Dinosaur National Monument). We thank you for following Raven About The Parks as you plan your next adventure in a National Park.
Sand dunes are like giant sandboxes for big kids to play in and hike on, so we came up with a list of our favorites from across the National Park Service (NPS) System. Unlike most NPS backcountry trails, dogs are allowed on many of these dunes if they are leashed and picked up after.
The only thing that is nearly as fun as visiting National Parks is reading about them. Here is a list of our 10 favorite non-fiction books that cover multiple units of the National Park Service (NPS) System. Our previous list was limited to those set in a single park.
10. Hey Ranger! True Tales of Humor and Misadventure from America’s National Parks by Jim Burnett (2012) Like the historic Oh, Ranger! books, this one covers the lighter side of interactions between NPS employees and tourists.
9. My Wild Life: A Memoir of Adventures within America’s National Parks by Roland H. Wauer (2014) The first half of this autobiography of a National Park Ranger is an interesting look at research in Big Bend, Death Valley, and other National Parks before devolving into his life list of international bird species.
8. Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks by Mark Woods (2016) This Florida journalist received a grant to explore National Parks across the United States of America and brings an interesting perspective on them.
7. The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest by Timothy Egan (1990) The author visits many National Park Service sites in this good introduction for outsiders to the landscapes and people of Washington and Oregon.
6. Travels in the Greater Yellowstone by Jack Turner (2008) The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem also includes Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and this is an interesting journey across its many corners by an always opinionated and interesting writer.
5. Desert Time: A Journey through the American Southwest by Diana Kappel-Smith (1992) The author’s pencil illustrations add a wonderful layer to her vivid descriptions of American deserts from Idaho to Texas, including numerous National Park Service units.
4. House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization across the American Southwest by Craig Childs (2007) Craig Childs has written several great non-fiction books set in the Southwest U.S. This one describes the world of the Ancestral Puebloan (formerly called Anasazi) people at multiple sites including Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and Mesa Verde National Park.
3. The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons by John Wesley Powell (1874) The author, a one-armed Civil War veteran, led the first expedition down the unmapped and untamed Green and Colorado Rivers through the Grand Canyon in 1869.
2. Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks by Michael Lanza (2012) The writer travels to some of the most imperiled National Parks with his family to experience them before they are permanently altered by climate change.
…and finally our number one non-fiction book set in multiple National Parks:
1. Our National Parks by John Muir (1901) Famous preservationist John Muir wrote many colorful descriptions of America’s wonderlands in his books (especially his beloved Yosemite), but none covers as wide a range as Our National Parks.
Honorable Mentions Travels with Charlie in Search of America by John Steinbeck (1962) Perhaps a bit dated now, but this is a cherished travelogue from a national treasure.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (2012) The Pacific Crest Trail crosses many parks in the National Park Service System and is considered an affiliated unit. This sometimes painful-to-read autobiography contains beautiful descriptions of the natural landscape.