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Reader Participation Day: So, How Was Your Most Recent National Park Visit?


Was your latest national park visit picture perfect? Rob Mutch photo of Phantom Island at Crater Lake National Park.

So, how was your latest visit to a national park? Were rangers present to answer your questions? How was the parking? Were the restrooms clean? We'd like to hear from you.

National Park Service officials take pride in the fact that their annual surveys reflect a 90-95 percent approval rating year after year after year. Would you score your national park experience that high? It's not hard to give the agency high grades, as most things in the parks seem to be fairly well managed. But there's always something to nitpick about.

Problem with lodgings? We've all stayed in rooms that were so small it was hard to change your mind and where the linens were a tad on the ratty side.

Were the trails well-maintained? Could rangers satisfactorily answer your questions? Were you surprised by the fees for some interpretive programs?

Bring it on, folks! Tell us how your visit was.


My most recent visit to Glacier National Park in Montana was awesome. We hiked over 70 miles in the week we were there. I saw several rangers, one in the backcountry, most in visitor's center or ranger stations. They are, as always helpful and informative. The trails were in great shape, having bridges in locations I wasn't expecting them.

We opted to stay in lodging outside the park because the park lodging is expensive and limited.

The last National Park we stayed in was Yellowstone this past June. Our only negative comment is the lack of up to date campgrounds. I understand we are talking about "protected" and "hallowed" land, and I agree. However there was barely room for our rig in the site. I am not sure what the answer it but there is a problem.
The other negative is the reservation system: there was a busy signal for hours, literally.

During the month of June we visited Florissant Fossil Nat'l Monument, Dinosaur Nat'l Monument, The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and The Badlands with our 9 and 11 year old grandsons. It was an awesome tour. Rangers were present, answered questions patiently, visitor's centers were informative and interesting.

Our National Park System is one of America's best features. We all must work to protect these impressive areas.

We were just at Great Smoky Mountains National Park the first week of August. We were worried about going to our "most popular" national park, but it turns out that if you get out of the car and get on the trails, you can find solitude even here. In terms of nitpicks, the road in Cades Cove is in absolutely horrible shape but apparently will be fixed with extra stimulus money. The rangers at the Gatlinburg visitor center were polite but definitely in a hurry. They handed us a brochure and said that they would answer any questions later. When asked one of our standard questions: "What is your favorite place to hike in the park?" The only response we got was, if you have questions about a trail, I can answer them. At other parks, that question has often generated wonderful half hour discussions.

Went to Acadia in June. Wonderful time. Rained almost every day, which was fine with us, because that always keeps the people away. Every interaction with an NPS employee was awesome. Found a great kayak guide, though he wasn't an NPS person. The Thursday that was our getaway day, the traffic and parking became pretty intense. We were happy to be out of there and on our way to New Brunswick before the weekend!

Last summer we went to Theodore Roosevelt, Badlands, Yellowstone, Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic. All of those were wonderful except Yellowstone. The problem was that we did the drive-thru with only a day to spend there. We were driving home on I94 through Bozeman and decided to take the scenic route through Wyoming so I could show my wife the iconic sights in Yellowstone. We all know you can't appreciate Yellowstone from a car, and on a Saturday in August...let's just say I've been less stressed navigating New York City. But that certainly isn't fair, since I've spent two weeks there and know what you have to do to really see the place.

Friendliest rangers were at the Hoh Rainforest station in Olympic. Got into a bird discussion with a ranger there, completely unrelated to rainforests. She was knowledgeable and engaging, but also genuinely interested in hearing some of my experiences that went beyond hers. I tried to get her to help me make fun of the people complaining about rain while standing under a big sign that said Hoh Rainforest, but just got a knowing smile. Then we went out into the rain and enjoyed the Hoh trail sans people on a weekend in August. We pray for rain every time we're in a park on a busy day!

Best campground was the Cottonwood in Theodore Roosevelt. Waking up to strange sounds at sunrise and strolling down to the Little Missouri River 150 yards from our tent to find a herd of bison getting a morning drink is quite the experience. Nice, private tent spots, too.

Yikes, I forgot we went canoeing in Sleeping Bear Dunes this past May...that was an awesome time too. The rangers in Sleeping Bear are some of the friendliest anywhere. That's our "home" park, so we go at least once every year.

We visited Yellowstone last month. The Park RV sites were full and we had to stay outside at West Yellowstone. From what I heard this may have been a good compromise. We had access to great places to eat in West Yellowstone and we were right next to the Park entrance. We also had a breatheable camp space, not the ultra tight spaces people talk about in the Park. Why not expand the spaces in the Park???We stayed a week and could have stayed a month. Wildlife, geysers, rangers all in the awesome category. Stimulus money directed toward our National Parks would be well spent.

We're doing a few day trips this month. Last Saturday we spent the day driving up into North Cascades and found it as beautiful as ever. We had no [and sought no] interactions with rangers or lodging as we were just doing a wanderabout.

Next Saturday we're driving up to Paradise on Mt Rainier for lunch and back [it's as good of an excuse as any to visit the mountain that I find to be a cathedral]. We last visited Mt Rainier in June, and other than the crowds it was marvelous. In a couple of weeks we'll be over to Olympic NP and in October we'll be visiting the Hoh Rainforest.

Yes, living in the Pacific Northwest is a richness.

Our most recent NP trip was to Great Basin in the spring -- it was a first-time visit, but hopefully not the last. I know better than to doubt the reason any NP visit is worth the drive, and this park was no exception. We toured the Lehman Caves, which was absolutely mind-blowing. The ranger who led us on the tour was great -- she was incredibly knowledgeable about the history and geology of the place and had a great sense of humor. Great trip!

We had a similar experience as the previous Smokies report. Trails were maintained very well. Facilities were all at least adequate, although a pit toilet at Abram Falls would have been appreciated. Rangers on the trails were great. Rangers at the Sugarlands VC (near Gatlinburg) were not very knowledgeable about the trails. They (three of them) went to consult the same book I had in my hands for information. They did save me from making some long, inadvisable drives.
The visitor center near Cherokee has very poor signage, at least from the north. We missed it, and had a bit of an adventure finding the Deep Creek/Indian Creek trail.
The road to Cades Cove could have been better. It would be best if it were two lanes of one way traffic, so that there didn't end up being a train of 20 cars (no exaggeration) because the guy in front was real slow or had never seen a deer before. We would have loved a simple cafeteria at Cades Cove; we ended up making a meal out of various snacks in the trunk.
I would love it if there were signs in the Visitor Centers advising of closed trails. I had to ask to find out that we needed to rearrange plans for a couple days to get a trail open for us.
Having said all of this, it was a great trip, and we are very grateful for everyone at the park. This is entirely meant to be constructive.

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