Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Visiting a national park? Get out of the car!

Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park.
Given the many grand wonders to be at America’s national parks, not surprisingly they are a major travel destination. Indeed, many parks reporting record attendance during past few years. In 2014, annual visitation at parks administered by the National Parks Service jumped to 292.8 million visits – its highest number yet and up 20 million visitors from the previous year. Day hikes often are a major part of the experience for those visitors.

But with so many sights and given most national parks’ distance from major population centers, how can visitors be sure they’ll make the best use of their time and see all of the highlights? A day hikes – which usually is only a couple of miles long on average – allows visitors to see everything our national parks offer, from wildlife to interesting geological features, from historic locations to fantastic vistas.

Unfortunately, though, many park visitors treat a national park like a drive-in theater. Fully experiencing any national park requires that you “get out of the car,” however. As W.H. Davies once wrote, “Now shall I walk/Or shall I ride?/‘Ride,’ Pleasure said; ‘Walk,’ Joy replied.” A day hike can deliver the joy that each park offers.

Here’s a list of great day hikes to be experienced at a few of the most popular national parks:
Grand Canyon
Great Smoky Mountains

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.