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.
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!
Water dominates Voyageurs National Park on the border of Minnesota and Ontario, Canada. So much so that many of the land formations were never given names by the French fur traders (or “voyageurs”) that navigated these waters beginning in the late-1700s. It was a hard life, paddling large birch bark canoes full of supplies up to sixteen hours per day. Today the park is famous for its manmade destinations, including Kettle Falls Hotel, Hoist Bay Resort, and the unique sculptures at Ellsworth Rock Gardens.
Kettle Falls, Ellsworth Rock Gardens, Hoist Bay Resort, Kab-Ash Trail
Be sure to get out on the water via a ranger-led tour or take your own boat to one of the shoreline campsites inaccessible by car (permit required). Reservations can be made for the free ranger-guided North Canoe Voyage that lets passengers paddle a 26-foot canoe, just like the “voyageurs” of old. For more information, check out our National Park guidebook, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).
There are several short trails that lead from the visitor centers at Rainy Lake and Ash River, in addition to the 28-mile long Kab-Ash Trail that allows backpacking.
On Namakan Lake, you can explore the remains of Hoist Bay Resort, which was a logging camp before it became a vacation destination. It feels haunted in the evening, exploring the empty ruins while listening to the eerie calls of common loons.
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.
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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Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon at all, but instead a cliffside amphitheater eroded away into extravagant creamsicle-colored hoodoos. Your first view from Sunrise or Sunset Point will surely take your breath away and not just because you are standing above 7,000 feet in elevation. A portion of the main park road is only open during the busy summer season, but seeing the amphitheater under a fresh carpet of white snow makes the effort worthwhile to get here in the winter. Learn more about the logistics of a winter visit in our first travel guidebook to the National Parks (available on Amazon).
Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Navajo Loop Trail, Queens Garden Trail, Natural Bridge, Rainbow Point
The amphitheater is beautiful from the overlooks, but to really experience this park you have to hike down from the rim. Peakaboo Loop is a strenuous four-mile hike with approximately 1,700 feet cumulative elevation gain that offers up close views of the hoodoos. It is accessed from Sunset Point or Bryce Point. You could easily spend your whole trip in this northern section of the park and not be disappointed, but be sure to take a slow drive south with stops at Natural Bridge and Rainbow Point to complete the experience.
It is four miles out and back on the Under-the-Rim Trail from Bryce Point to the Hat Shop, in the quiet backcountry area where hoodoos are topped with boulders (like they are wearing hats). Ask a park ranger about the “I Hiked the Hoodoos” program to earn a prize.
Douglas-fir trees snake their way to the light in the narrow Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop Trail. A photograph of Tiff walking into a snowy Wall Street made the cover (see below) of our first travel guidebook to the National Parks (available on Amazon).
Summer due to long, snowy winters at this elevation.
The main park road is paved, but there are dirt roads that access the lower elevations of the park, though we have been warned that they are in rough shape.
The National Park Service has a campground that is open year round, but we prefer camping along the dirt roads in adjacent Dixie National Forest. A free permit is required to camp in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.