Reader Participation Day: What Indelible Image Best Reminds You of the National Parks?

There's a reverence steeped into the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. Kurt Repanshek photo

If you've stood before Old Faithful as it erupts against a golden sunset, or perhaps a frosty sunrise, you're likely going to carry that image with you for the rest of your life. Or maybe the profile of Half Dome, as seen from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, leaps first to mind when you think of national parks.

Those are two bold, hard-to-forget images. But perhaps there's another setting in the National Park System that you hold most dear. It could be the sunset that softly backlights the sea stacks at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park, the first rays of sunrise as spied from atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, or the waving sawgrass that sweeps to the horizon at Everglades National Park.

There are other images cast by the national parks -- the Gettysburg battlefield at dusk, the silent cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, the rippling waters of Voyageurs. Tell us what setting in the parks is burned forever into your memory.


Mt Rushmore as a kid was the most memorable for me just because of its enormity!


I am woefully under-experienced when it comes to National Park experiences, a condition that I will start remedying when I retire. However, you happened to have already mentioned two occurrences that I have witnessed: the first rays of sunrise as spied from atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park and the Gettysburg battlefield at dusk. Thanks for the pleasant memories.


P.S. - You've got to love some of these CAPTCHA phrases that we must type to verify us as human posters. Today's phrase: "Grandmother sudsy". Scene brought to mind: "Granny, I told you not to get out of the tub until you put your robe on!"

So many...but Avalanche Lake at Glacier sure left a lasting impression. Such beauty.

Riding Trail Ridge Road across the Rocky Mountain National Park on my motorcycle in early June. I'll never forget that ride if I live to be 100!

My first National Park experience that I remember clearly was rounding the corner to see the Lower Falls of Yellowstone from Artists Point. That remains the image I see in my head when I hear "National Park." Many images have surpassed that one in my recollection of my favorite times in the parks, but that moment when I was twelve years old is burned in as my official image of national parks.

Grand Canyon North Rim...Cape Royal.
The sun rises on time.

Iconic national park images that I relate to would be:

(1) my first view of inner caldera of the collapsed Mt. Mazama revealing the deep blue of Crater Lake and the exposed cinder cone of Wizard Island,

(2) Zion's Great White Throne,

(3) Zion's Great West Temple and Temples and Towers of the Virgin as viewed from Oak Creek Canyon, or the rear veranda of the old Zion VC, and

(4) the view of Yosemite Falls in early June from the meadows on the south side of the Merced River.

I'd agree with Kurt about the iconic view of Half Dome from Glacier Point, but the view of this great granite monolith from Sentinal Bridge in Yosemite Valley with the Merced River in the foreground is perhaps the most familiar image. Of course, the sight of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View is simply unforgettable.

I'd also vote for the view westward into the Grand Canyon and its inner gorge by morning light, while descending Cedar Ridge in winter, hiking towards O'Neill's Butte via the South Kaibab Trail.

Another familiar iconic view of the Grand Canyon, but one that is not seen by the average tourist to this great park, is the vertical view over the Colorado River from Toroweap Point, an observation point on the north side of the Colorado River reacheable only by considerable driving on dirt washboarded roads from Hurricane, UT or Fredonia, AZ

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Lots of great answers. Some bring wonderful memories to mind. Some bring reminders of places I still want to see.
For me, three pop to mind immediately.
1. Views of or from Wizard Island in Crater Lake.
2. Anywhere below the Tonto plateau in Grand Canyon, but especially for some unknown reason, the trail area between the silver and black bridges over the Colorado.
3. The top of Chimney Tops in the Smokies.

Several parks and scenes come to mind:

1. Climbing a dune at Great Sands National Park in Colorado while admiring the snow-topped 14,000+ ft. peaks of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains and overlooking the natural lakes to the south and west. Where else will you see snowcapped mountains, 750 ft tall sand dunes and natural lakes all together??

2 Delicate Arch at Arches--as well as the Three Gossips.

3. The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone.

4. Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

There are so many iconic images that come to mind -- Hurricane Ridge in Olympic NP immediately comes to mind. But the one image that pops into my mind with some frequency is from the Everglades. I don't know where we got the nerve to walk amongst the gators, but there were so many within sight of the trail, it required a certain sense of Zen to take that little tour!

The iconic image of the Grand Tetons on the approach to the park is a fave of mine!
Also unforgettable is watching the sunset and sunrise from the Grand Canyon North Rim...our camping spot was maybe 50 yards back and I was scared I'd wake up in the middle of the night to take care of business and just whoops right over the edge.

We drove into Monument Valley one summer afternoon. As we got out of the car we observed the shadows that stretched out from the majestic rock formations as the summer clouds drifted slowly overhead. The quiet almost hurt our ears as we watched a lizard scurry under a dessert bush, with its glorious bloom.
As we stood motionless for a few moments we felt we were intruding in an almost holy place.

Monument Valley is impressive alright, TJ, but let's be clear on the fact that it isn't a national park. Monument Valley is on an Indian reservation (Navajo Tribal Trust land).

As a child my folks took me to Sequoia National Park and we stayed in a cabin at the now dismantled Giant Forest Village. Each cabin had a grill and a cabinet for temporary storage of supplies on the porch. We bought lots of supplies and put some of it in the cabinet before leaving for a day of exploration.

When we got back there was a hush in the village and some people were talking about a bear wandering through the area. Lighting was poor and we all had flashlights - just the common Eveready 2 D-cell types. I shined mine in the distance and could make out the side profile of a black bear walking away with a plastic bag hanging out of its mouth. That was the first (but not last) time I saw a bear without some sort of zoo enclosure between it and me.

Strangely enough, a park ranger took our report and the village handyman repaired the cabinet with glue and twine. We weren't fined for improper food storage and weren't even asked to pay for the repair. This was certainly a different time, when it was OK to store food in the trunk, although positive seal metal coolers (Coleman still sells some) to reduce odors were recommended. They were still using standard metal trash cans without any bear resistant features.

1. Like for some others, for me the image was standing down on the observation platform next the the Yellowstone Falls. It was snowing. The wind was pulling the snow down into the Canyon, and then wooshing up past us.

It was snowing UP. It was exhilarating. Only a week before I'd been gazing at the Tetons, with a night sky with such density of stars and colors, I'd never seen before or since. But the grand canyon of the Yellowstone in the snow topped it.

2. Much younger, as a kid in the back seat driving along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah NP in Virginia. This American landscape below was flowing by. I thought I had never seen such beauty, and it changed my idea of parks, and of America. The idea that "park makers" could have sculpted that landscaping inside the park to see the beauty of America beyond opened my imagination as well as my heart.

So many sights and memories come to mind:
1-Climbing the dunes and looking out at the Gulf of Mexico at Padre Island National Seashore
2-The view from Zabriskie Point down into the valley at Death Valley National Park
3-The view from the far side of Manzanita Lake looking up at Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park
4-The expression on my husbands face the first time he ever saw a herd of cow elk and calves at Cunningham Cabin, Grand Teton National Park
5-Watching my kids look down into the breaks at Cedar Breaks National Monument as I had done 35 years before.
6-Looking up at the cliff dwellings from the canyon floor at Canyon De Chelly National Monument.
7-The sandpaining at the visitor center at Canyon De Chelly National Monument, the park service arrowhead surrounded by traditional Navajo symbols.
8-Most of all, any park service employee in green and gray, an image I saw daily as I was growing up.

Walking in the fog and rain in Thoroughfare Pass in Denali National Park and have the skies break open and reveal a completely cloud free Mount McKinley.
Watching the face of my students when first seeing the Grand Canyon.
Hiking from Hermit Creek Campground to the Colorado River and back in Grand Canyon.
Watching a wolf chase down and kill a caribou calf in Denali Park.
The stars of the Milky Way on the rim of Bryce Canyon.
Running the rapids of Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park.
Standing in Lincoln's Home.
An afternoon lounging and writing on an island in the Lewis River in Yellowstone National park.
Trying to grasp the experience above the Little Big Horn River
The sight and sound of a rutting bull moose in the morning fog in Denali Park.
And so many more..........
National Parks.....what a treasure!

My National Park Image is a bit smaller than everyone elses. The iconic image I have in my mind is the lowly brown sign that reads "Trailhead". It brings to mind many many hikes & walks in many many National Parks. It brings the anticipation of a great hike, and it's also the friendly sign that greets me at the bottom of the hill, at the end of a great day of hiking.

The beauty of so many of the above is true but to me, the first time I got a glimpse of the Grand Canyon, all I could say was" OH MY GOD..." as I stood in complete awe.
That first sight is still the most awesome I have ever seen and one that I will never forget.

One rarely mentioned but dear to my heart: The mist rising off the Current River in southern Missouri. Part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. No other canoes but ours. 8am. Out of the mist hovering over the river a great blue heron rises with its feathery wings and long dangling legs. There's the burbling of the springs that feed the river. The jump of the fish. The dank smell of the mossy cliffs. The slip of the paddle in the clear water. Peace.

So many! Climbing into Hidden Valley off the Itkillik River in the Gates of the Arctic. Driving a dog team up the frozen North Fork of the Koyukuk between Boreal Mountain and Frigid Crags in Gates. Coming face to face with a brown bear on the trail to Brooks Falls in Katmai. Landing on Surprise Lake in the caldera of Aniakchak. Cycling along the edge of Bryce Canyon. They are all special.

Watching a barred owl fly through heavy fog at Big Meadows in Shenandoah. The colors of autumn foliage along Skyline Drive. Mather Gorge at Great Falls in spring flood. The rainbows seen at Niagara Falls. These are the memories I cherish.

Standing on top of the Half Dome is my most lasting memory.

A close second is standing on top of Carthew Ridge on the Carthew-Alderson Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada a week ago.

Third would be the first time I happened upon the afternoon 400 ft rainbow across Nevada Falls viewed from below on the Mist Trail at Yosemite.

Several thoughts come to mind.

The beautiful blue of the water surrounding the island in Crater Lake.

ANY view of Mt. Rainier.

My view looking up at the snout of the bear entering my pup-tent in the Shenandoah's back in the spring of 1969.

Ofcourse the Grand Canyon. It simiply takes your breath away at first sight. I will never forget that experience. You really cannot grasp the enormity of it until you are standing on the edge looking down at the Colorado River. Pictures of it and the shows on the travel channel don't do it justice. You must go there!!!!

Cades Cove in the morning when the sun starts to rise....just amazing!

C'mon. Nobody has said anything about the most obvious image one thinks of with the National Park Service.

It's not a place or view.

It's that felt or straw campaign hat with the leather band. With a special fitting plastic cover, it becomes a rain hat. It's something that one can see at any NPS unit and instantly turns the wearer into an expert guide. :)

Sequoia NP - Giant Forest - A trail moseying between giant sequoias and a carpet of ferns.

I also like the idea of the simple engraved 'trailhead' sign.

Of course, every view at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone are forever in my head. But, as a young girl, I grew up in NJ and drove to the California desert and lived in 29 Palms. We would go to Joshua Tree every weekend and it took my breath away--so different from anything I had ever seen.

Like everyone else, I have a huge list. But I am going to stick with my very first one: driving Skyline drive in Shenandoah. I grew up right outside of DC and that was always my get-away in the summer. I remember sitting on the stonewalls on the overlooks looking into that beautiful expanse of forest, nothing I would have seen at home. And of course I can't ever forget my first sighting of a black bear. Even though it wasn't allowed I made my father stop in the middle of the road!

Ranger Holly

A smiling Gale Norton and smirking President George W. Bush sitting in front of an iconic NPS arrowhead at some function or another. I successfully fought off the wave of nausea that struck me and took it in stride. Now I have it pinned up in my office as a reminder of why my job is important.

James Watt was before my time, otherwise his photo would be posted too.

America the Beautiful....what more can anyone say. I've been blessed to have been to most of the sites mentioned and just recently, last week, cried again at the sight of the Grand's also a tear jerker when we we leave. THAT is forver in my heart.
But....has everyone forgotten....."Smokey the Bear".
God Bless America!

Seeing Denali from Talkeetna on a perfectly clear Sunday morning

Don't wait until you retire. We have been NP Junkies since 1995 when we saw Haleakala in Hana. We have been going ever since even though retirement is now five years away.

These are the most indelible images of national parks for me:

1. Scenery along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Growing up in South Carolina, my family would take frequent trips to the Parkway on our vacations. Few places symbolize the National Park System for me quite like the Blue Ridge Parkway. The tunnels and the topography and the were all fascinating to me as a kid. The Museum of North Carolina Minerals, Devil's Courthouse, Crabtree Meadows, Craggy Gardens and the Folk Art Center are all images emblazoned on my mind as being part of the quintessential national park experience.

2. Delicate Arch at Arches National Park. There are few other natural wonders in the U.S. that by themselves symbolize to me the treasures held in trust by the NPS more than Delicate Arch.

3. Longs Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park. They even put Longs Peak on my bank debit card. It's everywhere out here in Colorado, and right now at least, every time I look out my window, Longs Peak is there as the ultimate symbol of the sublimity of the national parks in the Rockies.

As an aside, to "Anonymous," who said:

A smiling Gale Norton and smirking President George W. Bush sitting in front of an iconic NPS arrowhead at some function or another. I successfully fought off the wave of nausea that struck me and took it in stride. Now I have it pinned up in my office as a reminder of why my job is important.

I ran into Interior Secretary Ken Salazar yesterday right after a White House clean energy forum in Fort Collins. In typical Salazar style, he was sporting a bolo tie (sorry, Bob, no cowboy hat this time)... an NPS arrowhead bolo tie. Let's hope that portends good things to come.

My wife and I, since we have been retired, have been trying to visit all of the US, including as many of the NPS sites as possible. To date, we have seen more than 75 NPS sites, including most of the big ones. All in all, we have seen some magnificent, awe-inspiring sights. However, in the parks that we have seen, the one setting that is burned forever into my memory is right after we entered the southern entrance to Grand Canyon NP in the late afternoon, around 5:00. We first encountered a heard of Elk with a resident 6 point bull who posed for us. That was pretty cool. Moving on, we tried to find our lodge, the Yavapai. Of course, we missed our turn-off, so we contined on the South Entrance Rd trying to find another way to the lodge. The road made a turn to the NW and then, past some trees which blocked the view, all of a sudden, right in front of us, was the Grand Canyon. It was so unexpected; we had no idea we were that close to the canyon. It was a jaw-dropping experience. We found a parking space, grabbed our cameras, and rushed over to the rim, which was just a few yards away. We found we were at Mather Point, which is one of the prime viewpoints of the park. It was around 5:30 pm on an early October day, so the sun was beginning to lie low in the west and the rocks were just on fire. The colors were just spectacular. I guess the thing that made the sight so indelible in my mind was the unexpectedness of it. It was a great way to start our visit to the park. It makes me wonder how the first Americans felt when they came upon the canyon several thousands of years ago, as they were moving down the continent following the game. I wonder what that first hunting party said to the chief upon their return to camp. Probably something to the effect: "Chief, we are going to have to find another way". Another view that had almost the same effect was Artist Point at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. In the other parks, the views were visible from aways back, so you anticipated them. Here we were just slapped in the face.

The most indelible image from the Parks for me, is still from my first trip and first hike ever. Two buddies and I were in the midst of hiking the loop of Cascade and Paintbrush Canyon in a day, when we came upon a spot about halfway up the trail cut into the wall between Lake Solitude and Paintbrush Divide. From right at that spot there was a view of the Grand framed perfectly in the middle of Upper Cascade Canyon. With the interplay of the sun and clouds, and all of the gorgeous scenery..... Perfect!

Sounds like both an incredible hike and an incredible image, Toothdoctor. Hope you got some shots!

I did, sort of. This was back in July 2001, back before I caught the "outdoors bug", and as such was minimally equipped. All I had at the time was a disposable Kodak camera. The shots turned out extremely good for the gear, but nowhere near as good as what I could take now. It was this moment and this view that awakened a passion in me for hiking and camping as well for nature photography, that still continues strong to this day. Consider me a lesser version of QT Luong.