What's your favorite National Park and why?
I just came back from a trip in which I visited Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park. The part in Joshua Tree National Park I was guided around by a Joshua National Park expert who had offered to show me around in the past. And he asked me what my favorite National Park was. Tough question, but now that I've thought about it, I'd have to say Death Valley.
I'm defining "National Park" the way the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation do, i.e., all 423 units of the system and not just the ones whose name end in "national park." By that standard, I'm a frequent visitor to George Washington National Memorial Parkway (just across the street from me!), Assateague Island National Seashore, Shenandoah National Park, Prince William Forest Park, the National Mall, C&O Canal National Historic Park and some various national wildlife refuges and assorted other designations. But the combination of natural splendor, the diversity of ecosystems, the sheer size, and human history (we forget that we're part of nature too!) in Death Valley are unmatched. It has high mountains that get downright chilly as well as some of the driest, hottest terrain on earth.
Other candidates in no particular order: Assateague Island National Seashore, Kenai Fjords National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, King's Canyon National Park, Shenandoah National Park.
My absolute favorite park is Arches N.P. Sadly, Arches has become the poster-child for park overcrowding, but I still love it and I feel that I have to defend it to outdoorsy friends many of whom refuse to go there any more. It's the one park I keep going back to over and over again because no matter who you go with they have a good time. I was taken there as I kid, and I took my own kids there pretty much every year of their childhood. I camped there with my grandmother when she was in her mid 90s, and with my parents who are in their 80s. The trails are short with a big scenic payoff, and if you are with people who can't hike they can still see plenty from a car window. This year they are implementing timed entry, so I hope that solves the overcrowding problem a little bit.
My other favorite NPS thing is the California Zephyr Amtrak route through the Rocky Mountains. Riding the train is also something I did as a kid and still do. As part of the NPS Trails & Rails program, they used to (pre-pandemic) have National Park intepreters in the lounge car, and kids could earn a Jr. Ranger badge. I hope they start to do this again someday because it's really great.
I've only been to Joshua Tree once. I went there to go rock climbing back when I used to climb rocks. Climbing was fun, but the thing I actually loved most was hiking to the palm oases which were so magical I'd like to go back some day and see them again.
I've also only been to Death Valley once, and I remember it as cold and bleak. It probably deserves a second chance.
Death Valley is really cold. I was there in the early70s, repairing the charcoal kilns in Wildrose Canyon. At the end of the road begins the trail to Telescope Peak. Climbed it twice (straightforward hiking, non technical) and one of those ascents was the coldest I have ever been - sleet freezing on my parka, etc.
I am told it gets pretty warm there, but not in March at elevation......
The Wildrose Canyon Road is my favorite way in and out of the park. 🙂 But yes, it's a whole lot cooler than the valley floor. Most people don't realize just how cold the desert can get. But the temperature plunges at night. Winter can be very cold. And, in fact, on this visit, I ended up booking out of Death Valley on an alternate route to avoid major winter storms that were expected to drop 24+ inches of snow up in the mountains. Getting in and out of there involves some high mountain passes.
But in the summer? Let me put it this way. One benefit of going there in the summer is that when I come home to 95 degrees and tons of humidity, it will feel chilly! 🙂 But even as temps top 110 degrees on the valley floor, I've still found mountain temps in the 80s. It's truly a happy place for me. It has an unfortunate name, but it is bleak, desolate, and awe inspiring. Star Wars fans may also go up to Dante's View and note that something looks familiar. 🙂
O Boy!! Great topic!! This requires a lot of thinking for this retired parkie, who loved nearly every minute of his career and I think the winner is...(may I have the envelope, please...) CANYON DE CHELLY NATIONAL MONUMENT. narrowly beating out Channel Islands National Park, and a host of others.
Why de Chelly? It is a beautiful canyon system engraved into the Colorado Plateau which contains spectacular and notable archaeology, found in many other notable parks, Mesa Verde, for example. But de Chelly has a living, breathing Native American population of Dine' (Navajo) who provide an atmosphere which combines modern and traditional in a unique Dine' fashion, unlike any other park unit.
Example Directly across the canyon from the ruin I work in for four summers was a corn field, nourished by an irrigation ditch. Most likely, that same field, fed by a very similar ditch, was cultivated back in the 1100's by the Ancestral Puebloans, who preceded the Dine' in that neck of the woods. Other archaeological are calm and still, but de Chelly is bursting with life.....
Great topic - Actually there are 423 correct answers......
Yellowstone National Park. I love it because of the backcountry canoe trip to Shoshone Lake. Always a great trip with equally outstanding fishing! I have not seen anyone else there, several times. Nice and quiet, remote, and relaxing!
Yosemite is my number 1. The waterfall trails are beautiful and some are quite challenging. There is great cross country ski trail system leaving from badger pass in the winter and early spring that brings you by some amazing views as well. Glacier is probably my second favorite. It is not normally as crowded as Yellowstone and has some spectacular trails though I do really like the thermal features at Yellowstone, especially in the winter. I am also partial to Acadia and Pictured Rocks.
I don't know that I have been to that many national parks or forests (maybe 2 or 3). I have backpacked in one national forest. I don't think it gets a lot of visitors and it seems to get really trashed. So, I doubt I would put it high up on lists. I guess one that I can remember (if it was a national park back then) a little bit about is Carlsbad Caverns. I guess that would be the one.