Canaveral National Seashore

Overview

When NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) prevented this portion of Florida coast from development in the 1950s, surely they did not imagine it would soon become one of the last long stretches of wild coastline left on the Atlantic seaboard.  The area north of John F. Kennedy Space Center was set aside as Canaveral National Seashore (in 1975) and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (in 1963).

Highlights

Eldora State House, shell mounds, wildlife, fishing, kayaking, beaches

Must-Do Activity

About 310 avian species have been spotted in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Other than birds, we were excited to see our first living armadillo and manatee outside of a zoo.  Despite its unappealing name, Mosquito Lagoon is a nice spot for fishing and paddling.  We hope someday to return to witness a rocket launch from John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Best Trail

Human activity in Canaveral National Seashore is evident in Timucuan shell mounds that date back thousands of years, with a separate trail to Eldora State House preserving more recent history.  At the southern end of the park in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, you will find Oak and Palm Hammock Trails, as well as Cruickshank Trail that leads to an observation tower.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The park ranger told us the most likely place to see a West Indian manatee was at the boat launch in New Smyrna Beach, Florida just north of the park boundary.  There were also dolphins, great blue herons, anhingas, great egrets, ospreys, brown pelicans, and royal terns.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle day use or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The main access roads are paved, but the six-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive and some boat launches are not.  Unlike at other National Seashores, there is no driving on the beach allowed, but you can bicycle or walk to remote Klondike Beach.

Camping

Inside the park boundaries there are no campgrounds, but backcountry camping is allowed with a permit.

Related Sites

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Florida)

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Georgia)

Fort Caroline National Memorial (Florida)

Explore More – What did engineers build in the 1950s to limit the breeding area for saltmarsh mosquitoes?

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Overview

Cliff dwellings were built in Walnut Canyon around the same time another group of Sinagua was living at nearby Wupatki National Monument.  These cliff dwellings were only occupied for about a hundred years and abandoned by AD 1250.  Since 1915, they have been protected within Walnut Canyon National Monument, a 3,541-acre park on Interstate 40 east of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Highlights

Museum, ruins, scenic views

Must-Do Activity

To get up close with the ruins requires a hike down 200 stairs on the one-mile Island Trail loop.  At 6,690 feet in elevation, downhill is easy, but getting back up is another matter entirely.  It is well worth the effort to get a feeling for a life spent inside the shallow limestone recesses in the canyon walls.

Best Trail

The paved Island Trail drops 185 feet and takes you right up to the 25 rooms built into the cliffs.  Above the canyon, 0.75-mile Rim Trail is handicap accessible and provides views of the ruins.

Instagram-worthy Photo

October is a great time to visit to see changing leaves in Walnut Canyon, especially the bigtooth maple trees.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$15 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Access road is paved

Camping

There is not a campground at the site, but dispersed camping is allowed down the dirt road that turns off to the left just before entering the National Monument.

Related Sites

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (Arizona)

Montezuma Castle National Monument (Arizona)

Tuzigoot National Monument (Arizona)

Explore More – There are multiple Arizona sites in the National Park Service system dedicated to the vanished Sinagua people; what does their name mean in Spanish?

Top 10 NPS Sites for Hiking

Some of the best places to hike in the entire United States of America lie within our National Park Service (NPS) system.  We already ranked the best places to hike within the 63 National Parks, so in this Top 10 list we focus on the best of the rest.  We decided to leave off the 2,185-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia (one of three long trails managed by the NPS).  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Kentucky-Tennessee-Virginia)

85 miles of trails lead to Tri-State Peak, Wilderness Road, Hensley Settlement, and Gap Cave

9. Mojave National Preserve (California)

Rings Loop Trail requires metal handholds to navigate a narrow canyon, plus climb Kelso Dunes

8. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania)

Short hikes lead to Raymondskill and Dingmans Falls, or summit Mt. Minsi on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail

7. Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah)

A nine-mile loop hike connects all three natural bridges, also accessible individually by shorter trails

6. Navajo National Monument (Arizona)

Canyon hiking (or backpacking) is required to access the Ancestral Puebloan ruins protected here

5. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Idaho)

There is no shade in this stark yet beautiful landscape, except inside the lava tubes

4. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve (Oregon)

After a cave tour continue on the Cliff Nature Trail and hike the Big Tree Trail up to the largest diameter Douglas-fir tree in Oregon

3. Colorado National Monument (Colorado)

Many colorful canyon hikes, plus the Serpents Trail once known as the “Crookedest Road in the World”

2. Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (Washington)

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is just one scenic option through here and adjoining North Cascades National Park

…and finally the #1 NPS site for hiking:

1. Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona)

We recommend an all-day loop hike through Echo Canyon to the Heart of Rocks Loop

Honorable Mentions

Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

The volcanic plug looks different from every angle on the Joyner Ridge, Red Beds, and Tower Trails

Muir Woods National Monument (California)

Only six miles of trails through towering coast redwoods, but they connect with Mount Tamalpais State Park

Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

Not just for canoeing, trails access Hideout Hollow, Hawksbill Crag, and Hemmed-In-Hollow

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