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Top 10 blog Posts from Our Second 100

To celebrate reaching the milestone of our 200th blog posts, we are linking to our top 10 posts from 101-200 based on number of likes. Click here to see our Top 10 from the first 100 (or here if you want to see all of our Top 10 Lists). Thank you to our readers for continuing to inspire us to visit new National Park Service (NPS) units and share the wonders with you all. We are planning a roadtrip to the southern U.S. in September to visit some new NPS sites.

Our first hardcopy guidebook to the National Parks was released in November 2019!

10. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (Hawai’i)

9. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (Arizona)

8. Big Thicket National Preserve (Texas)

7. Point Reyes National Seashore (California)

6. Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

5. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

4. Acadia National Park (Maine)

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee-North Carolina)

2. Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area (California)

…and finally the #1 most popular blog post from our second 100:

1. Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Honorable Mention

White Sands National Park (New Mexico, renamed December 20, 2019)

Top 10 National Parks for Kayaking

We own a 17-foot long tandem kayak that we have taken all over the United States, including some rivers where it may have been preferable to canoe.  Some of our most memorable National Park experiences have happened while seated in our kayak.  This does not include two amazing trips through Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana, which you can read about on our other travel blog since it is not managed by the National Park Service.  Please check out all of our Top 10 lists for more adventure ideas and book recommendations!

10. Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (U.S. Virgin Islands)

There is no dry land in this Caribbean monument that borders Virgin Islands National Park.

9. Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Missouri)

Canoes are also commonly used to explore the Jack’s Fork and Current Rivers.

8. Biscayne National Park (Florida)

A kayak can get close to the mangroves since most of this park covers ocean south of Miami.

7. Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

Find a free lakeside campsite and fall asleep listening to loons call.

6. Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

Get up close to wildlife and baldcypress knees on Cedar Creek.

5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Nevada-Arizona)

Stop at Emerald Cove for photos on the way to or from Arizona Hot Springs.

4. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)

The only way to see Petit Portal is from the water and a kayak is necessary to go through it.

3. Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

Canoes may be preferable to run through the Ponca Wilderness during spring runoff.

2. Everglades National Park (Florida)

The best way to see this park is from a small boat, plus by staying overnight on a chickee.

…and finally our #1 National Park for kayaking!

1. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

Sea caves carved by the waves of Lake Superior require a small craft to explore.

Honorable Mentions

Point Reyes National Seashore (California)

Located on the San Andreas Fault, Tomales Bay is a protected spot to explore north of San Francisco.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

We have heard the best way to see this park is by kayak, but it sounds really cold.

Channel Islands National Park (California)

We hope someday to take a guided kayaking trip to the sea caves on Santa Cruz Island.

Big Thicket National Preserve (Texas)

Spanish moss-draped baldcypress trees line these picturesque bayous.

Top 10 National Parks with Designated Backcountry Campsites

We love backpacking and America’s National Parks are some of the most scenic places for it.  We previously posted our Top 10 National Park Service units that allow dispersed backpack camping, so this is our corollary list.  These are some of our favorite spots to spend a night in the backcountry.  They nearly all require permits (some take reservations), so check the regulations before you go.  Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles, as not all of these backcountry campsites offer toilets.

10. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Campsites are mostly in the forest and not very scenic, but there is a great trail system connecting them.

9. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Backcountry permits are expensive and hard to get in the lottery, which indicates they are worth it.

8. Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

Backpacking is the main attraction to this large island surrounded by Lake Superior; come prepared for bugs.

7. Big Bend National Park (Texas)

There are multiple ecosystems to explore from the Rio Grande and the Chihuahuan Desert all the way up to the pine forest.

6. North Cascades National Park (Washington)

Expect to gain (and lose) elevation on the trails in this mountainous wilderness park.

5. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

With no campground, this is the only way to spend the night in America’s newest National Park.

4. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

A sea kayak is recommended to access the island campsites dispersed in Lake Superior.

3. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

While the campgrounds are full all summer, you can typically get a walk-in permit to backpack.

2. Everglades National Park (Florida)

Paddle your way to spend the night atop a chickee and you will never forget the experience.

…and finally our #1 park with designated backcountry campsites!

1. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Alaska)

Climbing the Golden Stairs up the Chilkoot Trail is a bucket list-worthy endeavor.

Honorable Mentions

Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

There are many boat-in campsites on the lakes and also the 28-mile Kab-Ash Trail on the mainland.

Glacier National Park (Montana)

Most trails gain significant elevation, but that is not a problem if you camp on the shores of Lake McDonald.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

The steep hike up to Guadalupe Peak is popular, but much of this park is not as well-traveled.

Update to Our Guidebook: A Park to Yourself

Since White Sands National Monument was upgraded to the 62nd National Park on December 20, 2019, we decided to update our guidebook to the parks.  If you already bought your copy on Amazon, please find the new page 308 posted below.  White Sands is one of our favorite of the many National Park Service units in New Mexico.  You can read more about the park on this blog

White Sands

New Mexico

148,558 acres

Established 2019

603,008 visitors in 2018

Dunes composed of gypsum make a great destination for snow sledding year round, especially when the sand is wet.  Gypsum readily dissolves in water, but here it forms dunes because no river drains the Tularosa Basin.  Follow markers on the five-mile roundtrip Alkali Flat Trail that goes up and down dunes and provides views of the San Andres Mountains.  Most of the wildlife here is nocturnal, but during the day you may spot bleached earless lizards that evolved to camouflage in the gypsum.  The white dunes take on the colors of the sunset if you attend the ranger-guided Sunset Stroll or backpack camp.  There is no campground and only ten backcountry campsites, and their availability is dependent upon whether the military is conducting missile tests overnight, so call ahead or check the schedule online.  Oliver Lee Memorial State Park offers a full service campground in a beautiful setting south of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

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Wishing You All Happy Travels in 2020

2019 was the first complete year of our National Parks travel blog and it was a big year for us.  We wrote 112 blog posts and finished drawing our 50th logo for a National Park (see them all here).  In November, we published our first hard copy guidebook to visiting the 61 National Parks (which is available on Amazon). Then on December 20, White Sands was named the 62nd National Park so we will soon be working on a 2nd Edition (see our new logo on Cafe Press).

In 2019, we also worked toward our goal of visiting at least 400 of the current 419 units in the National Park Service (NPS) system.  In April, we took off two weeks to see all five NPS sites in the U.S. Virgin Islands (Virgin Islands NP, VI Coral Reef NM, Salt River Bay NHP, Buck Island NM, and Christiansted NHS).  We crossed off 29 NPS units from our list on a September blitz through Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.  In December, we made it to our final NPS sites in both Florida and Georgia.

We have now visited 364 of 419 NPS units, but most of the remaining sites are far flung, so it will take many separate trips to see the rest.  We hope to return to Washington, D.C. soon to see the leftover NPS sites there and in the surrounding states.  We are very grateful for the opportunity to travel and see some of the most wonderful parts of America. 

We wish you all happy and safe travels in 2020.

Thank you for reading our travel blog. 

Tiff at Christiansted NHS on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands
This design we created to celebrate the new White Sands National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.