Search This Blog


Adventure National Parks

National Parks are "...for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations." These are special places to learn, experience, retreat and surrender; they are full of iconic structures and history, breathtaking vistas, glimpses of wildlife, dark, starry nights and peace and quiet. As a family we collectively cherish the Parks and feel that they provide the best ingredients for memories that last a lifetime. 

Roadtrip to... Banff!

Unfortunately and fortunately, this is not a unique perspective and while National Park visits can be a positive and wondrous experience, they can also be stressful, crowded and perhaps not what you expected for your own family.  Here are a few tips from our travels in National Parks to help you make the best of your adventures. 

Go early, stay late and take breaks as needed. 
Yellowstone in the summer can feel more like Disneyland than one of the wildest places on the planet. We've learned that Yellowstone is still extraordinary if you go early, stay late, take a long(er) hike and find time to rest and relax at critical moments (Stop for ice cream, for example, at Old Faithful Lodge which has huckleberry!). Breathe. You're on vacation...HERE!!

Chocolate ice cream at Mammoth Terrace Grill while passing through Yellowstone.

Try a different path. 
When every park visitor seems to be headed in the same direction, take the next exit and try the other way. We eventually realized this after trying to manage line after line in Yosemite. Ultimately, we landed on our own piece of paradise but only after stepping off the beaten path. You might also head out in more difficult weather conditions if you have the right gear. We hiked Angel's Landing relatively alone on a rainy spring day in Zion (but it was slippery and we had our rain gear). Remember that sometimes where you're going is worth the wait so why not just sit back, relax, pull over for a snack or a photo, and enjoy the ride? These are some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Taken while sitting in line to exit Yosemite.

Spring Rain in Zion

Don’t spread yourself too thin. 
Stay longer if you can but know that you can come back, especially to re-do exceptional activities. Many National Parks are huge, and they change. It's worth coming back to experience again, maybe from the other side of the Park or during a different season. For example, the contrast of the Grand Canyon with and without snow.  And, we have driven to Banff and Jasper at every available opportunity and I'm not sure we will ever get our fill of adventure in the Canadian Rockies.

Beautiful, crisp, clear, warm day. Headed to the bottom!

Sloppy hike followed by a hot chocolate at El Tovar.

Mount Edith Cavell: a Tonquin Valley backpacking trip is still on the bucket list.

Don’t sweat the minutiae. 
Leave space for adventure and the unexpected. Per Kenedy: “life happens while you’re planning.” We've left significant opportunity for spontaneity in our travels, i.e. no idea where we were going to sleep, but ended up finding great new places like Ross Cedars and Fernie, BC. Caveat: don’t go overboard because not knowing can be stressful, especially in busy parks or where cell service and wifi are spotty or nonexistent.

Ross Cedars

Say hello to the person on your right. 
Take the time to meet other Park visitors, they are on their own unique journeys and have incredible stories and advice to share. We have heard so many new perspectives and added so many experiences to our adventures because of taking a minute for a friendly chat!

Friendly, island-hopping Kiwis (New Zealanders) en route to Glacier Bay

Stay in the park. 
Staying in the park is darker and quieter, opens up time for longer days, less waiting, and enables more diverse experiences (and light). Most parks have numerous campgrounds and the lodges in many parks are architectural icons worth a visit in and of themselves. Staying at, for example Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park, feels like a step back in time and is a true privilege. I am in awe that we are still allowed in most of these buildings.  

Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes

View from Cedar Pass Lodge in Badlands

Take advantage of the Park Service programs.  
Parks have a wealth of educational programming--everything from ranger-led hikes to evening talks and junior ranger badges. Yellowstone has a junior scientist program. At Two Medicine campground, the ranger dressed up as a mountain goat and the kids learned that male and female mountain goat horns are different. We learned all about edible and non-edible berries and the plants that repopulate glacial landscapes during a ranger-led tour at Wrangell-St Elias.

Evening Program at St Mary campground in Glacier

These are just a few to get you started. Now go forth and find your own strategies and remote places in the National Parks!