One of the purposes of 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 initially was a long one – before I kick the bucket. Since we originally created the bucket list item, we’ve refined the time frame a little bit, hopefully making it a bit more restrictive for reasons which should seem fairly clear.
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 63 National Parks. I say currently because the count:
- Went from 58 to 59 in January 2013 then Pinnacles National Park was created
- Went from 59 to 60 in February 2018 when the Gateway Arch was made a national park
- Went from 60 to 61 in February 2019 when Indiana Dunes went from a National Lakeshore to a National Park
- Went from 61 to 62 in December 2019 when White Sands National Monument became White Sands National Park.
- Went from 62 to 63 in December 2020 when New River Gorge National River became New River Gorge National Park.
My father has asked me what happens when a new national park is created. Well, if it is created before we finish the list, we have to go, don’t we? Here is the full list of National Parks as well as when we 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 we won’t visit those places if we happen to be near by, but we’re not going to go out of our way to visit them for purposes of this bucket list.
What Constitutes a “Visit”?
As luck would have it, we did actually visit a few of the parks before we established the Bucket List. (Those parks are marked with an asterisk by the visit date until we meet the criteria below). To make sure we kept things above board, we (my wife Beth and my daughter Paige) established the following rules.
- We (at least one of the three of us) 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.
As of January 2022, we’ve visited 41/63.
|Name||Location||Date formed||When Visited|
|Acadia||Maine||February 26, 1919||July 2010|
|American Samoa||American Samoa||October 31, 1988|
|Arches||Utah||November 12, 1971||March 2012|
|Badlands||South Dakota||November 10, 1978||July 2012|
|Big Bend||Texas||June 12, 1944||January 2013|
|Biscayne||Florida||June 28, 1980||November 2016|
|Black Canyon of the Gunnison||Colorado||October 21, 1999||March 2012|
|Bryce Canyon||Utah||February 25, 1928||March 2014|
|Canyonlands||Utah||September 12, 1964||March 2012|
|Capitol Reef||Utah||December 18, 1971||March 2012|
|Carlsbad Caverns||New Mexico||May 14, 1930||March 2021|
|Channel Islands||California||March 5, 1980|
|Congaree||South Carolina||November 10, 2003||July 2018|
|Crater Lake||Oregon||May 22, 1902|
|Cuyahoga Valley||Ohio||October 11, 2000||March 2012|
|Death Valley||California, Nevada||October 31, 1994||March 2013|
|Denali||Alaska||February 26, 1917||August 2016|
|Dry Tortugas||Florida||October 26, 1992|
|Everglades||Florida||May 30, 1934||November 2016|
|Gates of the Arctic||Alaska||December 2, 1980|
|Gateway Arch||Missouri||February, 2018||April 2021|
|Glacier||Montana||May 11, 1910||June 2017|
|Glacier Bay||Alaska||December 2, 1980||June 1995*|
|Grand Canyon||Arizona||February 26, 1919|
|Grand Teton||Wyoming|| |
February 26, 1929
| July 2009*|
|Great Basin||Nevada||October 27, 1986||July 2021|
|Great Sand Dunes||Colorado||September 13, 2004||March 2012|
|Great Smoky Mountains||North Carolina, Tennessee||June 15, 1934||June 2018|
|Guadalupe Mountains||Texas||October 15, 1966||March 2021|
|Haleakalā||Hawaii||August 1, 1916|| February 2000*|
|Hawaii Volcanoes||Hawaii||August 1, 1916||February 2015|
|Hot Springs||Arkansas||March 4, 1921||December 2012|
|Indiana Dunes||Indiana||February 15, 2019||May 2019|
|Isle Royale||Michigan||March 3, 1931||August 2014|
|Joshua Tree||California||October 31, 1994||March 2013|
|Katmai||Alaska||December 2, 1980|
|Kenai Fjords||Alaska||December 2, 1980||August 2016|
|Kings Canyon||California||March 4, 1940|
|Kobuk Valley||Alaska||December 2, 1980|
|Lake Clark||Alaska||December 2, 1980|
|Lassen Volcanic||California||August 9, 1916|
|Mammoth Cave||Kentucky||July 1, 1941||June 2019|
|Mesa Verde||Colorado||June 29, 1906|
|Mount Rainier||Washington||March 2, 1899||August 2013|
|New River Gorge||West Virginia||December 27, 2020|
|North Cascades||Washington||October 2, 1968|
|Olympic||Washington||June 29, 1938|
|Petrified Forest||Arizona||December 9, 1962|
|Pinnacles||California||January 10, 2013|
|Redwood||California||October 2, 1968|
|Rocky Mountain||Colorado||January 26, 1915|| November 2002|
|Saguaro||Arizona||October 14, 1994||March 2021|
|Sequoia||California||September 25, 1890|
|Shenandoah||Virginia||May 22, 1926||June 2018|
|Theodore Roosevelt||North Dakota||November 10, 1978||July 2012|
|Virgin Islands||United States Virgin Islands||August 2, 1956|
|Voyageurs||Minnesota||January 8, 1971||August 2014|
|Wind Cave||South Dakota||January 9, 1903||July 2012|
|White Sands||New Mexico||December 20, 2019||March 2021|
|Wrangell –St. Elias||Alaska||December 2, 1980|
|Yellowstone||Wyoming, Montana, Idaho||March 1, 1872|| July 2009*|
|Yosemite||California||October 1, 1890||October 2015|
|Zion||Utah||November 19, 1919||March 2014|