Amazing US National Parks

“Lose yourself in nature and find peace.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I love spending time in America’s National Parks. I would love to see them have a greater level of support than they currently get from the government. And it turns out I’m not the only one who thinks they are important. A recent study by the National Parks Conservation Association found that almost 90% of respondents believe that it is important that the federal government protect and support the National Park System.

To me, each park is unique – representing a beautiful place that is like no other. I’m just back from visiting four National Parks – and each was wonderful in it’s own way.

Sapphire Pool, Yellowstone National Park

Sunset at Wind Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The first park I visited on my July trip west was Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. Theodore Roosevelt first visited the Dakota Territory in 1883 – mainly to hunt bison. It was while he in the Dakotas that he developed his lifelong passion for conservation of the beautiful natural places of the world. His legacy includes establishing five National Parks during his presidency and passage of the 1908 Antiquities Act that has allowed other presidents to declare historic sites as national landmarks.

What I found that I loved about Theodore Roosevelt National Park was the wide open spaces. Seeing the vast landscapes during the day and at sunset reminded me just how large parts of this country are. It seemed as if I could see for miles and not see hardly any sign of other people. The solitude and the silence was wonderful. And in the silence of no cars, no radios, etc – I could listen to the birds, the insects and the wind. Not surprisingly, I spent some time meditating at Roosevelt National Park.

My next visit on the trip was to Glacier National Park in Montana. With Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, Glacier is part of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Spanning the border of the US and Canada, this combined park is a World Heritage Site. Individually, each park has been named a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

What I love about Glacier National Park are the mountains, the alpine lakes and meadows, and the wildflowers. I finally made it over Going to the Sun Road (it was covered with snow in June 2011) and got to explore both sides of the park. I also had a good reminder of how dangerous it can be in an alpine environment – a few hours after I crossed over Logan Pass to the western side of the park, landslides closed Going to the Sun Road for several days. Glacier is a park I could easily spend weeks in exploring the trails and lakes.

Cow Parsnip, Glacier National Park

Wildflowers, Yellowstone National Park

When I left Glacier National Park, I headed to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Established in 1872 as America’s first National Park, I’m not sure I can say anything that hasn’t been said before about the park. From the thermal area with geysers like Old Faithful, to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – the landscapes are unique. And then there are the wildflowers and wildlife – varied enough to keep any photographer happy for weeks.

At Yellowstone I finally found the hillsides of alpine wildflowers that I was hoping to see and photograph. In certain sections of the park, there were wildflowers and mountains as far as the eye could see.

I photographed this set of paintbrush and salvia along the side of the road. Since I was photographing the flowers from a distance, I was using my longest telephoto lens. So of course – several people had to stop and ask “Is it a Grizzley?” The looks on their faces when they realized I was photographing wildflowers not wildlife were priceless.

The final park I visited was Grand Teton National Park, also in Wyoming. As big National Parks go, Grand Teton National Park is a fairly new park. The current park was created in 1950 with the merger of an older Grand Teton National Park and National Monument in the area. John D. Rockefeller, Jr donated 35,000 acres of land to park to create the current park.

What I love about Grand Teton National Park is the way the mountains of the Teton Range dominate the landscape wherever you are in the park. As you drive along the main roads in the park, you can find pull outs with magnificent views of the mountains. By crossing Jackson Lake, you can hike in the mountains. I headed out for several sunrises – hoping to catch the magical morning light on the mountains. And then spent the rest of day looking for and photographing wildflowers.

Pipsissawa, Grand Teton National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Every National Park I’ve visited has been wonderful. I’ve only visited thirteen of the fifty-eight U.S. National Parks.

Do you have a favorite National Park that you would put on everyone’s must see list? If you do, please let me know so I can start planning a few more trips. I would love to visit all the U.S. National Parks – guess I’ve got some more traveling to do.

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One Response to “Amazing US National Parks”

  1. Kathy Says:

    We’ve been to each park you mentioned and they are spectacular…but there are so many left to explore! Heading to Bryce Canyon and Zion next month – both new for me and can’t wait.

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