US National Parks Overview

US National Parks Overview Video

We just returned from our National Park Tour. During our travels we visited 27 National Parks (plus other National Monuments) over 136 days. We covered about 17,000 miles in our 2003 Toyota 4Runner 4WD, visiting 34 states. And we hiked over 400 miles while in the parks, including several overnight backpacking trips. Take a look.

Channel Islands National Park

A Coastal Finale: Channel Islands National Park

Off the coast of California, between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, lie the Channel Islands. There are eight islands in the 160 mile archipelago, and five of those comprise Channel Islands National Park. Our visit to the 27th and final park on our Trekking the Planet NPS journey was an overnight adventure. After a ferry ride from the mainland, we camped on the largest island, Santa Cruz, and hiked to island ridges, along sheer cliffs, and to breathtaking beaches and coves.

Wind Cave National Park

Of Boxwork and Bison: Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave, in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota, was created as America’s eighth national park in 1903 and was the first to protect a cave. During the three days that we visited, we took two tours in the cave, unique in its abundant boxwork formations, which are found virtually nowhere else in the world. In addition to our underground adventures, we completed a ridge hike and an overnight backpacking trip above ground. We also spent time on a safari of sorts, tracking animals, including herd of bison, along Wind Cave’s backcountry roads.

Hiking Under the Sea: Badlands National Park

Seventy five million years ago a shallow sea covered today’s Great Plains area. It spanned north to south from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and east to west from western Iowa to western Wyoming. Sea creatures that died sank to the bottom of the sea and became fossils, as well as a gray-black layer of sedimentary rock. This layer is just one of the bands of rock comprising today’s Badlands National Park area, formed as the sea retreated and the climate dried. The Lakota called it mako sica, and French trappers called it les mauvaises terres a traverser, both meaning “bad lands.” We spent three days in the park exploring the badlands rock formations and viewing fossils, while hiking on several trails under the ancient sea, including an overnight trip to a tree-filled ridge in the backcountry.

Voyageurs National Park

50 Hours by Foot and Paddle: Voyageurs National Park

In the 18th century, French Canadian adventurers, known as voyageurs, traveled by canoe on today’s boundary waters between the United States and Canada. They were primarily fur traders transporting beaver pelts, known as “soft gold,” between the northwestern portion of Canada and Montreal. From there, the pelts were shipped to Europe, where beaver hats were the rage. Today’s Voyageurs National Park, established in 1975, encompasses 56 miles of the former trade route. In order to best experience a park whose primary access is by water, we arranged to be dropped off on the Kabetogama Peninsula and make our way into the backcountry for 50 hours by foot and paddle.

A Majestic Island in an Inland Sea: Isle Royale National Park 

Lake Superior is the northernmost of the five Great Lakes. The largest freshwater lake in the world by area, it seems more like an ocean or an inland sea, measuring 350 miles wide and 160 miles long. In its northwest corner lies Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior. It is part of Michigan, 55 miles away, but even closer to Minnesota and just off the coast of Ontario, Canada. Its remote location and winter park closure makes it the least visited national park in the lower 48 states.

Dueling Plans: Preparing for our National Parks and PCT Adventures

If you have been following us for any length of time, you know that we are planners. We like to know where we are going, and what we will be doing for each day of a journey. Our upcoming United States National Parks (TTP NPS) adventure is no different. But what made things more challenging this time was that we need to concurrently sort out the logistics for this trip as well as our return to the Pacific Crest Trail.