When 1,000 Places to See Before You Die was published in 2003, it quickly rose up the New York Times bestseller list. If you've managed to visit a good number of national parks since 2003, more than likely you've made some pretty good inroads on Patricia Schultz' checklist.
My oldest brother and his wife sent me this book for Christmas, and I quickly turned to the U.S. section to see which locations Ms. Schultz thought memorable enough to include in this incredible life-list. Here are the parks that I turned up:
Mount McKinley and Denali National Park
Visitors return from the 6-million-acre wildlife reserve (larger than the state of Massachusetts) with excited tales of sighting grizzlies, wolves, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, and golden eagles cruising the skies.
The Inside Passage and Glacier Bay
The far northern end of the Inside Passage is capped off by the beautiful Glacier Bay National Park, a branching 65-mile fjord that's home to a dozen glaciers and abundant wildlife.
Though it can't compare with the awesome immensity of the Grand Canyon, a four-hour drive away, Canyon de Chelly serves as a showcase for 2,000 years of Native American history with a quiet magic and spirituality all its own.
The Grand Canyon
Few things in this world produce such awe as one's first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. The mesmerized John Muir wrote, "It will seem as novel to you, as unearthly in color and grandeur and quantity of its architecture as if you had found it after death, on some other star."
Imagine the best of the West -- its gnarled buttes, red-rock walls, surreal spires, and otherworldly, erosion-sculpted landscapes -- then add water. That's Lake Powell: a 186-mile-long artificial lake, created by construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which was proposed in the 1920s, begun in the 1950s, and completed in the 1960s, though it wasn't until 1980 that enough of the Colorado River's glassy blue-green water was trapped to fill the lake to capacity.
Death Valley National Park
Located in the heart of the Mojave Desert, Death Valley National Park enjoys the dubious distinction of being the lowest, driest, and hottest spot in America, with scorching summers that can reach 120 degrees -- and in 1913 topped out at 134. Its fearsome name draws folks from all over the world, but what strikes them is not just the area's brutality, but its spectacular and varied beauty, with parched Deadman Pass and Dry Bone Canyon standing in contrast to the dramatic hills and mountains, such as 11,000-foot Telescope Peak.
"No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite," wrote naturalist John Muir, whose efforts led to the establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890. Most of the millions who converge in high season on this temple of nature head for the awesome beauty of the mile-wild, 7-mile-long Yosemite Valley, the park's "Main Street," cut by a river and guarded by sheer granite cliffs and domes that rise 2,000 to 4,000 feet.
Of the more than 300 national parks in the United States, 52,000-acre Mesa Verde is the only one devoted exclusively to archaeology.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park boasts 191 craggy peaks within its 415 square miles -- 113 of them more than 10,000 feet and 78 above 12,000 feet. The granddaddy of them all, Longs Peak (14,255), most likely inspired the well-known lyrics that celebrate America's purple mountains' majesty.
Nature lovers and the eco-curious will have a field day in the largest protected wetlands in the United States. The Everglades is a 1.5 million-acre subtropical freshwater marshland and the third largest national park in the lower forty-eight states after Death Valley and Yellowstone.
Big Island, Hawaii, U.S.A.
The island's real show, where Mother Nature pulls out all the stops, is at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home of Pele, the volcano goddess. Mount Kilauea (meaning "spreading, much spewing") has been erupting since 1983, adding hundreds of acres to the island in the longest continuous eruption ever recorded.
Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A.
The "Valley Isle" is named after the Polynesian demigod who, after having plucked all the Hawaiian islands up out of the sea, decided to make this one -- the most beautiful one -- his home. Nothing beats the views of and from the hulking mass of 10,023-foot Haleakala (House of the Sun), whose dormant volcanic crater is the largest in the world -- so big that the island of Manhattan could fit inside.
Oahu, Hawaii, U.SA.
Honolulu reminds you that Oahu is the most densely populated of the islands (with nearly ten times the density of Maui, the second most crowded), and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor reminds you of the city's place in 20th-century history.
Acadia National Park
Mount Desert Island (from the French word meaning "bare," and pronounced like the English word dessert) is Maine's national treasure, a 12-by-14-mile domain of walks, sights, inns, and eating places that are as captivating today as when the Rockefellers, Astors, Fords, Vanderbilts, and their fellow "rusticators" founded a summer colony here in the early 20th century. The families later bequeathed much of the island to the government, which in 1929 set aside 60 percent of it as Acadia National Park, throwing a few neighboring islands in for good measure to create a park that's 35,000 total acres of craggy grandeur.
The Freedom Trail
Boston is compact, navigable, and steeped in history, making it one of America's finest and most interesting walking cities. Everything is within easy reach if you tour on foot via the 3-mile, self-guided Freedom Trail. Beginning at Boston (a onetime cow pasture that is today the nation's oldest park), it follows a signposted, red-striped trail to eighteen Revolutionary War-era landmarks, including churches, graveyards, monuments, houses of government, and the U.S.S. Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides.
Cape Cod National Seashore
A 40-mile strip of sea-pounded sand dunes, Cape Cod National Seashore has enjoyed federal protection only since 1961 (thanks to longtime summer son John F. Kennedy), but in fact precious little has changed since Henry David Thoreau roamed the area in the 1850s, describing it as a place where "a man can stand and put all America behind him."
Glacier Park's soul-inspiring landscape was carved by the movement of massive glaciers millennia ago, and so awesome is its beauty that the Blackfeet Indians consider the area sacred ground. "If it isn't God's backyard," said comedian Robin Williams, "He certainly lives nearby."
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
One of the world's most spectacular cave systems, Carlsbad Caverns National Park encompasses more than 100 known caves, including Carlsbad Cavern, renowned for its aptly named Big Room, with an area the size of six football fields and a 225-foot ceiling, and Lechuguilla Cave, one of the world's largest caves.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Cherokee called this area of western North Carolina Shaconage ("mountains of blue smoke") owing to the "smoke" or vapor that clung to the mountain peaks then as now, caused not by fire but by evaporation and transpiration. Today, the 800-square-mile Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts more than twice as many visitors as any other of America's 300-some national parks (even the Grand Canyon runs a distant second).
The Outer Banks, Duck, North Caroline, U.S.A.
Some of the most unusual and beautiful beaches on America's Atlantic coast can be found in North Carolina's Outer Banks, a string of skinny barrier islands that stretches 150 miles from the Virginia border to the southernmost point at Cape Lookout and Beaufort, a charming mainland town first settled in 1710. The candy-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the most famous structure on the Outer Banks and the tallest of America's lighthouses.
The 6-mile-wide caldera in which Crater Lake sits was created more than 7,000 years ago by catastrophic explosions that caused a volcano to collapse on itself and slowly fill with water. Today it's America's deepest lake (at 1,932 feet) and is the centerpiece of the only national park in Oregon.
Gettysburg National Military Park and Cemetery
In the first three days of July 1863, the Union and Confederate armies clashed on these grounds in a battle that has come to be seen as the turning point of the American Civil War.
The City of Brotherly Love has what is arguably the most important historic district of any American city, an L-shaped seventeen-block swath created by an act of Congress in 1948 and encompassing more than fifteen buildings and monuments, all anchored by the Georgian-style red-brick Independence Hall.
General Alfred Sully described it as "hell with the fires burned out," and to the Lakota Sioux and 19th-century French trappers and explorers, it was the Mako Sica and "les mauvaises Terres" -- the bad lands. ... For 500,000 years, erosive forces have eaten deep into the soft soil of Badlands National Park and carved out an alien landscape of cones, ridges, gorges, gulches, pinnacles, and precipices, with some formations more than 1,000 feet high, all painted in the shifting colors of layered mineral deposits.
The Black Hills
It took the obsessed Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum, his son Lincoln, and some four hundred workers fourteen years to complete an artistic and engineering project so monumental that no one believed it possible: carving and blasting the six-story faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln out of stony Mount Rushmore.
Bryce Canyon isn't a canyon at all, but a magical amphitheater that millions of years of rain, snow, and ice hollowed out of the pink and white limestone cliffs. Like a cave without a roof, its eerily shaped, stalagmite-like "hoodoo" pinnacles and pillars rise up out of the ground, unique for their brilliant, mineral-tainted colors and top-heavy shapes -- the result of their harder upper levels staying firm as the lower levels eroded away.
Moab and Red Rock Country
...Canyonlands, the largest national park in Utah, with entrances 35 miles southwest and 30 miles northwest of Moab, contains hundreds of miles of dirt prospectors' roads cutting through a surreal, colorful landscape of buttes, mesas, spires, balanced rocks, soaring arches, and deep gorges. Arches National Park, 5 miles northeast of Moab, is a photographer's paradise, home to more than 2,000 natural arches formed by the elements.
The 19th-century Mormon settlers saw the vertical monoliths, precipitous 2,000- to 3,000-foot canyon walls, and sculptured rocks, and decided this was the promised land, the "natural temples of God." And so they named it Zion.
Stretching for 200 miles between the Allegheny Mountains to the northwest and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the southeast, the Shenandoah Valley has long inspired. Washington Irving found it "equal to the promised land in fertility, and far superior to it in beauty," while Herbert Hoover, riding horseback along the crest of the Blue Ridge, was said to have remarked, "These mountains are made for a road." That finally came to pass in 1939 with the completion of the 105-mile Skyline Drive, which bisects long, skinny Shenandoah National Park's wild backcountry, offering views that the appreciative Hoover called "the greatest in the world."
The National Mall and Its Monuments
"Hanging out at the mall" takes on a decidedly different meaning at Washington, D.C.,'s version, an emerald-green esplanade that serves as America's Main Street and Town Square. ... Today its green, 2-mile-long National Mall is lined with the city's most important monuments and museums, with the U.S. Capitol at the eastern end, the Lincoln Memorial at the western end, and the stark Washington Monument in between.
Misnamed by French missionaries who thought these islands numbered 12 instead of 22, the heavily forested Apostles begin just a mile off the Lake Superior coastline and spread out for 600 square miles, with the outermost lying some 20 miles offshore. Of their number, only one is residential, with the other twenty-one (plus a slice of the Bayfield Peninsula) comprising the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, an area of unspoiled wilderness amid the world's largest spring-fed body of water -- so huge that you can see its outline from the moon.
Less lofty and snowy than many other American mountain ranges, the dozen peaks of the Teton Range still win America's geologic beauty pageant as the most photogenic of them all.
Founded in 1872, America's (and the world's) oidest national park is best known for its geothermal features -- remnants of its tumultuous volcanic past that Rudyard Kipling described as "the uplands of Hell."