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The Best US National Parks
Any Favorites Or Must See Spots?

 5:47 am on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Gonna be taking 8+ months to float around the US. Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Great Basin, Arches, Badlands and some smaller ones are already in the bag.

What are some of the most amazing places to visit across the US (in the lower 48 states) as far as national parks go (or other awesome spots)?



 6:49 am on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've been to the vast majority of the National Parks. The one I highly suggest is Carlsbad Caverns; it is incredible.


 7:52 am on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Assateague Island and south of there the Outer Banks. Best time to hit those spots is probably early/mid fall. I know we went late September to Assateague and the temps were hovering in the low 80's. No bugs and most importantly the large crowds weren't there.

FYI, Assateague is where the wild horses are if you've seen them mentioned before. South of there is Chincoteague, I thinks it's August they do a roundup each year. They cull some of the herd and drive them across the water off the island onto the mainland. Pretty spectacular scene.


 8:21 am on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

i'd ditto Carlsbad Caverns, although when we went the bats were not 'in season' so we didn't see them, so make sure you go at the right time - the sight of a huge number of bats flying out the cave is said to be awesome. the caverns themselves are awesome.

grand canyon of course.

i like joshua tree too, it's pretty small and not so much awesome but good fun to hike around a bit if you like that kind of thing.

slightly OT. the ballon festival at albuquerque was incredible, queuing up at 4.30am on the highway in order to get in was an interesting experience too! (you need to get there before what they call 'dawn patrol'


 9:24 am on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

There's a fantastic hot spring located near the Idaho/Montana border called Horse Creek Hot Springs. If you're near Salmon, ID, stop in the ranger station and ask for directions.

It's worth the trip to the top of the mountain, great place to relax for a few days.


 9:56 am on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

It really depends on how adventurous you want to be, and what you want to do (do some hiking, just driving around seeing the sights, stay on paved roads or head off onto the gravel). So, without knowing that, it's kind of hard to make some definitive suggestions.

That disclaimer aside, here's a few spots you'll want to look up on the map that might be of some interest to you on your wonderfully long road trip. I've traveled extensively throughout the West (on and off road), so am familiar with lots of places most tourists zoom right by.

1. Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. Endless stuff to do here with beautiful views.

2. Driving the Beartooth Highway between Red Lodge, MT the outskirts of Yellowstone Park. It's an absolutely gorgeous drive, and the traffic isn't too terribly horrendous. Open in summer/early fall only.

3. Mountains of Central Nevada. If you'll be visiting Great Basin Nat'l Park, be a bummer to zoom right by the mountains of Central Nevada (south of Austin). The mountains of Central Nevada are one of the loneliest places around, and are an ideal place to explore if you have a 4 wheel drive, high-clearance vehicle.

4. Crater Lake in Oregon. It's just so different, you got to see it!

5. Driving the Coastal Highway in Northern California and up through Oregon. Lots of traffic, but gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. The open use of Oregon beaches is great, too. Don't forget about the Olympic Peninsula, either.

6. Rocky Mountain National Park. You really weren't planning on bypassing this, were you?

7. Hiking in Glacier Park. Hard to beat the day hiking of Glacier National Park. When visiting Glacier, get out of the car and hike the Highline Trail, Iceberg Lake Trail or the Grinnell Glacier Trail - or best of all, do all three. Just watch out for the bears.

8. Devils Tower in Wyoming. If you're visiting the Badlands, it isn't a huge detour to go see this. Who knows, maybe you'll have a "Close Encounter" while visiting it, too.

Hmm...I can go on for hours on this topic, but hopefully this gives you a few more ideas.


 1:04 pm on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Gonna be taking 8+ months to float around the US. Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Great Basin, Arches, Badlands and some smaller ones are already in the bag.

What are some of the most amazing places to visit across the US (in the lower 48 states) as far as national parks go (or other awesome spots)?

We tend to go to national parks, been to:

Acadia - rocky coast of Maine
Badlands - speactacular drive
Death Valley - devils golfcourse is great
Grand Canyon - disappointing for me, but we didn't go down the canyon
Grand Teton - spectacular
Olympic - like to see some BIG trees, awesome sights
Redwood - more BIG trees, nice area
Shenandoah - it rained nost of the trip :(
Yellowstone - a favorite, going back this summer
Yosemite - great sights, great park

We plan to go to Bryce / Zion and others. We had been visiting dry places, so we went to Olympic last year. Loved it. Some big driftwood along those shores.


 9:07 pm on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm rather partial to the north shore of Lake Tahoe, where I lived for 16 years before moving off the mountain to Carson City in 1996. It's still only a 30 minute drive for me to get there. A favorite place of mine at the lake is Vikingsholm at Emerald Bay, but you can't get there during the winter months. I'm not fond of the south end of Tahoe, it's too much like visiting a big city compared to the rest of the lake. Anyway, there are great views to be found all the way around.

South of me, down Hwy. 395, are several more favorite places. Bodie Ghost town (closed during the winter), Mono Lake (the tufas are amazing), and the June Lake loop (fun for fishing). All can be visited and explored in a one day trip.

I've got to second the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake as well, both beautiful places to see.


 12:45 am on Jan 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Isle Royal NP, one of the most unusual and possibly wildest. Has its own wolf population. Its almost a full day boat ride to get to, or else float plane.

Don't overlook the Virgin Islands. Buck Island off St Croix is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and no resorts or other commercial development! Not sure its a NP, might be a National Something else.


 11:31 pm on Jan 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

North Cascades NP. Not on the list yet. Beautiful scenery, and if you get off the only through highway very secluded as well.

Also in the PNW, Crater Lake is a must see, although a single day is probably sufficient for it (assuming it is not filled with clouds on the day you visit.)

Death Valley is great in the winter, as is most of the desert.

Little known and seldom visited it seems, check out Taos, NM. Ask the locals for the name of the resaurant that serves avacado pie for desert - unique and scrumptious (I can't remember the name, although I could take you to it.)


 5:13 am on Jan 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wow, lots of great places! The Grand Canyon will probably not make the list this time around, figure that would be a week-long vacation at some point in the future when the time comes to go back to reality.

The Tahoe area is definitely on the list as is a return to the Mammoth Lakes area. Bodie is really cool, Mono Lake (esp with a fiery sunset!) and that whole area including Big Pine/Lone Pine.

Death Valley in winter sound like a good time to go. The Utah parks are on the list, Carlsbad looks like a must see and looks like there are a lot of sights through Arizona.

Big Bend (TX) looks like a cool spot and Hot Springs Arkansas will be along the route.

Rocky Mountain NP looks and sounds awesome but probably will be to far south to get there but its definitely on the list at some point!

The Outer Banks was in October, out out to Oakracoke (sp?) and windsurfing down in that area. Oct was an awesome time to go, everything was cheap the weather was still great and the crowds were minimal.

In Idaho, spent a night in the Sawtooth area and Sun Valley on the way back last year, awesome area! Craters of the Moon is sweet, secluded and not crowded, City of Rocks was cool too.

Devils Tower is quite a sight and a great place to spend a day hiking around. Pictures are awesome with a good sunrise or sunset.

Might try to do the Beartooth Highway from Yellowstone to Cody and hope to time that right in the fall to drive it before it gets snowy or shuts down.

Crater Looks cool, definitely want to try to get there.

For this time around, the Virgin Islands and mot anywhere off shore will be beyond time and budget but maybe the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. Anyone been out there?

Right now the storms in the south east are getting in the way so Shenandoah will probably be the first major stop as soon as the storms blow over. For now just bumming around at a hostel trying to put at least a rough list/route together.


 5:00 pm on Jan 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

We did Yosemite last year and loved it. We stayed at the historic (and crazy expensive) Awahnee hotel which is fantastic but book way ahead. The dinner room is world class but book a table months ahead of time. If you are into fine dining it is worth every penny. Did the 8 mile hike down from Glacier Point and that was the highlight of our stay in Yosemite.

I would mention, if you are going to do the drive along the Oregon Coast and Northern California coast it is way better to do it North to South. That way the coast is on the right hand side of car so you get better vistas. It is some of the most stunning coast line I have ever seen.

You Americans should be really proud of your National Park Service. They do a great job in those parks you have down there.


 5:54 pm on Jan 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Grand Canyon - disappointing for me, but we didn't go down the canyon

If you don't hike into the Canyon itself, it's probably not even worth visiting. If/when you go, you MUST hike into the Canyon. Even if you don't go all the way, go at least a few miles down the trails. It's a completely different perspective.

I also second Death Valley- had wanted to go for years and ended up going twice last year. Still need to go back for a t least a 3rd trip. Definitely visit Artist's Drive and Zabriske Point.

You Americans should be really proud of your National Park Service. They do a great job in those parks you have down there.

Yes, serious kudos for the NPS! Every time I visit a new (for me) park or revisit an old one, I am always amazed at the work they do. The NPS is about the only government agency I don't complain about. :)


 9:55 pm on Jan 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

When visiting the southwest here is a little off the beaten track route. Bryce Canyon past Kodachrome Basin take Cottonwood Canyon(30 miles dirt) to 89. Continue to House Rock Road 8 miles to buckskin Gulch parking - do Buckskin or hike to "The Wave" at Coyote Buttes. Drive south another 28 miles to 89A and hit the north rim of Grand Canyon - much cooler than South. Take the boat trip on Lake Powell to Rainbow Bridge and a tour of Antelope Canyon- 50 feet deep and can't see the sky. From Page you can drive to South Rim on the way to Vegas or Sedona, don't miss Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings. Also, the Gila Cliff Dwellings are awesome, near Silver City, continental divide NM.


 10:22 pm on Jan 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

[tangent]Thankfully where I am, we don't need no stinkin' national park service :).

I just head north until there's few people around. Then I turn left until there's really really no one around. Set up camp, and I'm good for a few days of peace and quiet. Did this a bit last year with my son, expecting to do a lot more of it this year.


 1:30 am on Jan 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Another nice place to visit is Sequoia National Park. The trees there are truly awesome.

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