I hope this website will encourage people to explore the wonders of the extensive park systems of the U.S. and Canada. After creating over 300 web pages with pictures of the parks I have visited, I added indexes in 2021 to help readers find parks, museums, and geological features on this site. I have been to 47 National Parks as of October, 2022 – not all are represented here.
I bought an Aframe pop up called an Aliner in 2013 and, before selling the Aliner in 2020, I had driven over 50,000 miles (39,800 towing the Aliner) through 47 states and 10 Canadian Provinces. In the U.S., I visited 20 national parks, 14 national monuments, 2 national lake shores, 2 national recreation areas, 2 national scenic areas, 22 national landmarks, and 39 state parks. In Canada, I visited 15 Canadian National Parks and 16 Provincial Parks. I stayed at 99 different camp sites in the U.S. and 48 in Canada.
For trips without the Aliner, I added pictures for trips to
Alaska (1970 – glacier backpacking trip from 50 years ago.)
Colorado (2010 – Rocky Mountain National Park)
New York (2019 Finger Lakes – 2 state parks)
Hawaii (2019 – 2 National Parks, 1 National Botanical Park, and one state park)
The Southwest (2021 – 8 National Parks, 4 National Monuments, 6 state parks)
Florida (2022 – 2 National Parks, 1 National Monument, 2 state parks)
Oklahoma (2022 – 2 National Parks)
California (2022- 3 National Parks)
So. After 8 years of visiting parks, what have I learned?
If you want to know what I have learned about RV camping and travel, look at the “Tips” or “Trailer” sections of this website.
Other than that:
1) Creating the parks was a great idea. The idea of national parks is by the people, for the people. They are not profit centers or amusement parks. Everyone can go to the parks and enjoy them, not just the rich who bought the best land. This is how a great democracy should work.
2) National parks vary a lot. The largest (Wrangell-St. Elias, AK: 20,587 sq mi) is 19 times the size of Rhode Island whereas the smallest (Gateway Arch, MO: 0.14 sq mi) has an area less than 2/100 of one percent of Rhode Island. Many National Parks are majestic and unique and would warrant traveling from Europe or Asia; others might not be worth driving from an adjacent state. An uncharitable person might say that politics had a role in forming some parks; some certainly fit better as a National Historic Site or a National Nature Preserve.
3) Park Rangers work very hard and are still amazingly cheerful and patient, helping everybody they can help. Their work has gotten more difficult over the years, with more time spent in police work in some places. They even have to do the janitorial work in some parks. Please show them respect.
4) There should be more support for the parks. The most popular parks are overcrowded and the national parks system has been under funded and understaffed for years. The infrastructure of many parks needs more maintenance. We are loving some of them to death, so treat the parks gently, for the sake of future visitors.
5) Most national parks have visitor centers. Take the time to learn more about the plants, animals, geology, history, and other unique things about the park. You will enjoy the park even more. Learn something about the park before you go.
6) There are many amazing state parks as well. Do some research if you are crossing the country, and you will find interesting places to stop in any state.
7) Be prepared for forest fires out west. Haze from forest fires was common sometimes and travels for many miles, ignoring the border between Canada and the U.S. Forest fires directly interfered with my trip in 6 different parks in 2016 and 2017. The situation is even worse now. Forest Fires on my Trips
8) The geology, plants, and animals in North America have changed significantly over millions of years. Exhibits at the parks can not only tell us about what we see now but what was there in the past. Fossils from many parks show the rich multitude of species, some quite peculiar, that changed over time in the U.S. and Canada.
Kansas was once under the ocean. The Appalachians may once have been as tall as the Himalayas. Maine was under a mile and half of ice only 25,000 years ago. Sixteen million years ago, lava flows covered much of Washington and Oregon (81,000 square miles.) Much of this land in Washington was scoured by the Missoula floods 12 to 15,000 years ago. Large plumes of ash from volcanic activity also caused deaths multiple times, sometimes for more than a thousand miles. What you see today may have little resemblance to what it looked like in the past. Park information can give you a larger perspective.
What is the future for the parks?
The future depends on us. We must protect the parks from corporations and greedy individuals who want to monetize them or starve them of money to save on their taxes. This has been a continuing battle.
Overcrowding at the popular parks is already a problem; busing and reduced car travel will become more common in these parks. Some heavily traveled trails may need reservations as backpacking does already. It may reduce spontaneity but it is a small price to pay. There are still many uncrowded parks.
Climate change will affect the parks; damage from fire, heat, drought, flooding, sea level rise, and hurricanes will continue to increase. Old Faithful in Yellowstone stopped about 800 years ago in a mega drought and as snow melt lessens it may happen again. Hurricane Hugo hit Congaree National Park in 1989, toppling many of the tallest trees but it still holds 15 world champion record trees. Drought conditions and heat dried out and killed vegetation out west and increased the probability for massive forest fires. Millions of Joshua Trees in the eponymous park may die; although some may still survive at the higher altitudes. Even the Saguaro Cactus may struggle because even though they can handle the heat, they need nursery plants to hide under when young to survive. The Everglades and other parks may disappear beneath the ocean as sea level rises.
And finally, as a nation, we need to discuss what role and what compensation should be given to indigenous peoples who used to live in these parks. Treaties were violated and this should not be ignored.
More details about me can be found below, if you are interested.