I started this site to share my experiences and lessons learned while trying to fulfill my quest to visit every single National Park in the United States. Yes, every single one. The quest started when I declared a bucket list to visit all of the National Parks in the United States. Since it is a bucket list, the time frame is hopefully a long one – before I kick the bucket.
For those of you who may be familiar with the National Park Service and all the various sites they manage across the United States, you may be thinking “Holy Cow!” All these folks will be doing is traveling. To set the record straight, I should point out that we are only visiting National Parks, those things noted in the Ken Burn’s documentary as “America’s Best Idea.”
There are currently 59 National Parks. I say currently because in January 2013 that number changed from 58 to 59 when Pinnacles National Park was created by an act of congress. My father has asked me what will happen if a new National Park is created? Well, if it is created before I kick the bucket, I have to go, don’t I? Here is the full list of National Parks as well as when I visited them.
What this bucket list does not include are all of the National Monuments, National Preserves, National Historical Parks, National Historic Sites, International Historic Site, National Battlefield Parks, National Military Parks, National Battlefields, National Battlefield Site, National Memorials, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, National Lakeshores, National Rivers, National Reserves, National Parkways, National Historic and Scenic Trails, National Cemeteries, or National Heritage Areas. That’s not to say that I won’t visit those places If I happen to be near by, but I am not going to go out of my way to visit them for purposes of this bucket list.
What Constitutes a “Visit”?
As luck would have it, I did actually visit a few of the parks before I established the Bucket List. (Those parks are marked with an asterisk by the visit date until I meet the criteria below). To make sure I kept things above board, I established the following rules in consultation with the others involved in this quest, my wife Beth and my daughter Paige.
- I have to physically be in the National Park.
- Proof of a visit is via the official stamp in my National Parks Passport which shows the date of my visit. (This makes the Passport book a very precious commodity). This is also an indication that one of us was actually in the Park Visitor Center
- Preferably view the main sites in the National Park and go on at least one hike.
Those are the rules. We tried to keep them simple and straightforward. We obviously try to make the most of each trip because it would be kind of silly to make a long trip from say Iowa to Alaska solely to get a stamp. We spend more time in some parks over others. The shortest time spent in any of the parks was probably Cuyahoga National Park. I spent a couple of hours there in March while on a trip to Cleveland for a speaking engagement. I at least went and saw Brandywine Falls. Probably the longest we have spent at any Park is Rocky Mountain National Park – we have been there four times twice for a week at a time. As you could probably suspect, that’s our favorite.