With the current Trump administration putting a gag order on, well, pretty much everything, but especially climate change and science in general, our beautiful National Park Service is fighting back. The Badlands National Park Twitter account has been leading the fight and went HAM on climate change facts before it got deleted. Now their “alternative” Twitter account is claiming itself the frontline of the Trump resistance. Mother Nature herself may not be fighting back, but her peeps in the U.S. are not taking this Trump travesty sitting down.
We’re all in on joining the NPS fight and to help honor and support them, here are some of the National Parks we’ve personally been to and can highly recommend. And if you think taking a trip won’t do much to fight Trump, you’re wrong. With federal funding getting ready to be slashed for all things environmental, the little amount of funding the NPS gets might take even more of a hit. They’ll be relying on tourism and donation support more than ever. So grab a map, a camera, and a picnic basket and get your ass to these parks.
Shenandoah National Park
Front Royal, Virginia
Virginia’s Skyline Drive that wanders through the Shenandoah National Park is one of the most beautiful sites you can enjoy in the state. During fall, the riotous colors lining the Blue Ridge Mountains are unbeatable. Running about half the length of the state, you can pick it up anywhere from Front Royal to Charlottesville, as well as popping on and off the Appalachian Trail for some gorgeous hikes. Whether you want to hike, camp, or be lazy and drive your way through nature, there’s something for everyone of all levels of outdoor enthusiasm.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
I’ve been going down to the Outer Banks since I was six months old, and I imagine I’ll keep making the trek southward for the rest of my life. With miles and miles of nearly untouched coasts (no boardwalks junking it up) it’s one of the few places you can go on a beach and walk for ages without seeing another human being (though admittedly, only in the off-season). Once you cross the Bonner Bridge, you’ve got the sea on your left, the sound on your right, and gorgeous windswept dunes all around you.
Olympic National Park
Port Angeles, Washington
The expanse of this park is massive and the mountains here were one of John Muir’s favorite places. I was so taken aback by the beauty on our honeymoon visit, I hardly took any pictures. You can follow the park through gorgeous, majestic mountains to rolling hot springs, to a rainforest, right down to tide pools. All of nature from birds, to abundant deer, to starfish can be found in this haven of the Pacific Northwest. Hiking, biking, kayaking, whale watching, or even lazily enjoying a massage at the hot springs are all available and include a view of Canada across the sound. Not to mention, they have been able to show an illustration of climate change by their annual pictures of their mountains snow caps along with a count of annual snowfall. This place is so breathtaking my husband said “That’s it. I’ve decided this is where all my tax dollars go” when we arrived.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Munising, Grand Marais, Michigan
The Midwest has never been so beautiful and a lake has never brought as much wonderment and wanderlust. This beautifully preserved, quiet stretch in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a wonderful retreat in the middle of a humid summer with cool temperature, vast forest, sandy and rocky beaches, and some of the most beautiful cliffs you can ever find. Lake Superior refreshes both body and soul. Whether a camping novice or expert, you can stay and connect with nature. You can hike, take scenic drives, kayak, canoe, or just gaze at the birds above.
Canaveral National Seashore
This stretch of undeveloped, pristine beach is the best (Atlantic-side) and one of the closest to Orlando, Florida. It isn’t just the beach – where you can swim, see crabs, dolphins, turtles, whales, and even sharks – but Canaveral National Seashore is home to estuaries which are full of gators, birds, and fish. Finding a beach in Florida with the natural dunes and no hotels close by is a rare find, and this barrier island is my favorite beach getaway.
Everglades National Park
No, the Everglades does not have the grandiose beauty that many western National Parks have. But it is beautiful and totally worth not only a visit, but protection. A World Heritage site, and the largest subtropical wilderness in America, the best way to describe Everglades is peaceful. Sawgrass as far as the eye can see. Towering silver cypress trees, hung with spanish moss. Winding estuaries that lead out into the Gulf of Mexico. It is also one of the very few places the critically endangered Florida Panther calls home. That is worth it alone.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Lakeshore
I love this park because it was unexpected. On a clear day you can view Chicago in the distance, but still feel hundreds of miles away as your feet are licked by Lake Michigan. You can roll down the dunes, or trek through the trails in the woods. With 15,000 acres and 15 miles of shoreline, Indiana Sand Dunes is perfect for a daytrip or a camping weekend.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, Colorado
I was only able to be here for two different daytrips, but each of those trips have stuck out to me. Nature is always awe-inspiring, but Rocky National Park is captivating. Come for a day trip like I did, or else thru hike it. Either way, an abundance of wildlife and stunning views is always around the corner.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This was the first National Park I visited, so it holds a special place in my heart. Great Smoky is in both Tennessee and North Carolina, and the Appalachian rustic charm and southern beauty of gently rolling mountains pervades in both. Ramshackled old barns, gently sloping foothills, busy brooks, and deer and bears make this park whimsically perfect.
Badlands National Park
Imlay Township, SD
I fell in love with Badlands National Park even before it proved its badassery by defying Trump with ordinary factual tweets. I visited the park last summer with my less-than-enthusiastic-about-hiking parents, and we drove the Hwy 240 Badlands Loop Road and parts of the Sage Creek Rim Road. The landscape of the badlands, and the sheer diversity of it, is astounding, even seen from a car without going far off the beaten track. It’s hard to believe that the buttes, canyons, spires, and pinnacles, the expansive prairie, and the rolling green hills all make up a single park. The Lakota people were the first to call this place “mako sica,” or “land bad,” probably referring to the rugged and inconsistent terrain as well as the harsh weather conditions and lack of water. Later, French-Canadian fur trappers called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” or “bad lands to travel through.” Today, the park is an amazing place to travel through, and worthy of your time as well as your support!
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is so stunningly green and blue and beautiful that I’d recommend it even if it wasn’t at risk of rapidly disappearing. It’s wonderful for viewing both wildlife and wildflowers — there are so many colors sprouting out of the grass. If you (like my partner, who literally led me on a wild goat chase before I even had my hiking boots on) dream of making friends (from a safe distance) with mountain goats, this is the place for you. But, as reasonable people know, glaciers are melting — of roughly those that existed in the park a century-and-a-half ago, only 20 or so remain today. Because of this, Glacier National Park is a key site for climate research and part of the certain-to-be-dismantled Climate Friendly Parks Program. It also makes up half of the world’s first designated International Peace Park, along with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. Which is to say, Glacier NPS represents all of the things Donald Trump hates — and if that’s not reason enough to visit a place, I don’t know what is. The way things are going, I’d make your plans sooner than later.
Arches National Park
Let me tell you about the single most magical experience of my life. It’s Thanksgiving 2015, Donald Trump is still mostly a joke, and I’m sitting at a picnic table with my partner, tripping mildly on mushrooms and putting together turkey sandwiches in the near dark. Out of a few small clouds in the night sky above us, a massive, radiant sphere that I almost cannot believe is the moon begins slowly rising. Its light bounces off the white sand and the red rocks. It’s breathtaking. Late in the night we hike under its glow. The next morning, in the sober light of day, the park is no less astounding. It’s a red rock wonderland with over 2,000 naturally formed arches, balanced rocks, and pinnacles. Canyonlands National Park is close by, and you can buy a combined pass for both if you plan to do them in one trip. It’s definitely a trip worth making. I recommend trying to catch a moonrise.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
San Luis Valley, Colorado
I swear to god this place looks like real-life CGI. It’s ridiculous. And it’s difficult to hike, because your feet are literally sinking into sand every second. And the wind is intense. But you don’t have to go very far to appreciate the strange beauty of this astounding geographical feature in Colorado’s most magical valley. The 440,000-year-old dunes cover roughly 19,000 acres and are the tallest in North America, rising to a maximum height of 750 feet from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. And you can sled down them! The folks at NPS even have advice on how.
Acadia National Park
Mount Desert Island, Maine
As someone who’s been to more National Parks than I can count, this is one of my favorites. Acadia National Park is on Mount Desert Island, Maine. The views are incredible and there’s so much wildlife and water surrounding the park. The park is home to Cadillac Mountain, which is the highest point on the East Coast and the first place you can see the sunrise. Cadillac Mountain boasts incredible views of the Atlantic and the islands surrounding. Before Acadia became a National Park, it was a vacation spot for Rockefellers, Carnegies, Fords, and so many more. You can take a carriage ride to different points all over the park and you get a history of the park with your ride, it’s a cool way to see the park. The park also boasts tons and tons of blueberries that the public is invited to pick and eat and you’re invited to take them home by the bushel. It’s a huge park that spans most of the island and it’s so hard to visit every part. Don’t forget to have the famous popovers at Jordan Pond House and explore the pond area and the hiking trails, the pond is surrounded by hills and mountains and it’s gorgeous.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is one place everyone tells you to visit, and that’s because it’s absolutely stunning. There’s a variety of places to stay and things to do inside the park for all ages from hiking to donkey rides into the canyon to tourist shops. There’s also The Grand Canyon Railway, which my family rode into the park (great way to cut down on hurting the environment by driving in the park), and enjoyed the train ride, the theatrics (there’s train robbery at one point), and the gorgeous views.
Petrified Forest National Park
While “forest” might be a misnomer for what this national park actually contains, the Painted Desert offers some pretty sights. There isn’t a whole lot to see or do here, but it’s worth driving through.
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde, Colorado
Here you can visit the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. For those who are physically able, you can go on a guided hike around the cliff dwellings (this involves climbing several wooden ladders, so it’s not the easiest trek).
There’s lots to do both inside the park and around Moab. In the park, you can hike, bike, backpack, four-wheel-drive, boat. Outside the park there’s plenty of tourist attractions. When my family visited there we did a white-water rafting trip on the Colorado River.
From petroglyphs to Mormon school houses, this park has a rich history with many sites to see. Along with the usual hiking, backpacking, and camping, you can visit the orchards that have over 2,700 trees and produce a variety of fruits and nuts.
Bryce Canyon National Park
This national park boasts the largest collection of hoodoos (pillars of rock left after erosion) in the world. There’s a variety of short walking trails that lead to overlooks throughout the park. When I visited the park, it seemed that Bryce was mostly experienced from above or around the perimeter instead of walking down into the canyons as you do at the nearby Zion National Park.
Zion National Park
Zion offers a diverse topography including the Virgin River. I remember dipping my feet in the river when I visited, which was a great way to beat the heat! From forests to sandstone grottos and natural springs, this park has a myriad of hiking opportunities full of amazing sights.
Haleakala National Park
This destination is most popular for watching the sunrise and many travel agencies and tour groups offer a variety of packages for this beautiful early morning experience. There’s also the endangered silversword that lives for forty to fifty years before flowering and dying.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The Jaggar Museum and the nearby overlook have a variety of geologic and cultural exhibits. You can even see real time monitors measuring seismic activity. It’s a great way to learn about volcanoes and geology with interactive displays that appeal to all ages.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is truly a hidden gem, and I know, that sounds corny. But it’s true. The park is expansive, with over 800,000 acres of land to explore. It encompasses the Chisos mountain range, part of the Chihuahuan Desert, and the Santa Elena Canyon (pictured) which was carved by the Rio Grande. There’s tons of hiking, awesome wildlife, and gorgeous views. When we went, there had just been heavy rains, so we got to wade through the Rio Grande, which was awesome, because we were technically in the U.S. and Mexico. Go before our new dictator builds the wall!!!!
And if you have the means to financially support the National Parks Service, you can donate, become a member, or shop their delightful gift shop.
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