Early on, even as a young nation, the people of the United States felt that there were natural places worth protecting, so that not only would they be enjoyed in the present, but far into the future as well. It’s been a 100 years since our country decided that there was a need for a federal agency to oversee these special places, when the National Park Service was created. It has dual purposes, sometimes at odds with one another, in that it needs to protect our natural heritage while also providing access to all. Not an easy job at all. I, for one, wish there were more land set aside in the Midwest, as we lack the number of parks found elsewhere, but I also realize that the plains are less glamorous than other areas and it’s unlikely to happen. Thus, it will take travel for me to celebrate the Parks, just as it does for so many others. Over the past half year or so, I’ve been collecting resources that can help you get the most out of visiting the Parks.
Lonely Planet has published a guidebook, National Parks of America, with all the information one needs to plan a trip to all 59 parks. For each park, the guidebook offers stunning photos to whet your appetite, information on when to go and how to get there, and suggestions of activities and places to stay. Local fauna and flora are identified, along with recommended itineraries that tie it all together. Just a real wealth of information included here, great place to start your planning.
Falcon Guides know that not all people will be content to just visit a National Park, stay at the nearest hotel or inn, and drive through to see the wonders. It has published Backpacker: The National Parks Coast to Coast 100 Best Hikes to get people out of their cars and onto the trails. From day hikes to multi day treks in 44 of the Parks suggests routes, gives a difficulty rating, expected duration in time and distance, and gives a description of what you might see. Directions to the trailhead with GPS coordinates mean you’ll start off at the right place and on the right foot. Very inspiring to get out there and tackle the trails, whether you’re a novice or a more seasoned adventurer.
If you are going to drive and stay at the Parks, skip the hotels and inns and get to a campground instead. If you’re not a tent camper, why not travel and stay in style, in a classic American icon, an Airstream trailer. Lagging not very far behind the National Parks Service, Airstream is celebrating its 85th birthday, making it the oldest travel trailer brand in the United States. A new book, Airstream: America’s World Traveler, tells of the company’s history of getting people out and on the road. It’s a great read, and I can well imagine leafing through it at the campfire as I visited all 59 parks (might have to rent a trailer in Hawaii). To further connect Airstream and the NPS Centennial, Airstream created a limited edition travel trailer (only 100 to be built), built in collaboration with Pendleton Woolen Mills. All have been sold, and $100,000 was donated to the National Park Foundation to help support the Parks.
These books were provided for editorial purposes – all opinions are my own*.