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Reader Participation Day: Help Us Name the Best Adventures In the National Park System, Lower 48 Edition


Climbing the Grand Teton, which often entails a night spent in the camp on the mountain's Lower Saddle, is one of the best adventures in the National Park System in the Lower 48. NPS photo.

What are the best adventures in the National Park System in the Lower 48? For sure, three weeks floating the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park has to be one, and climbing the Grand Teton in its namesake park is another. But then what?

To help start this list, here are five great adventures in no specific order:

1. Colorado River trip, Grand Canyon National Park

2. Climbing the Grand Teton, Grand Teton National Park

3. Climbing El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

4. End-to-end on the Appalachian Trail, Appalachian National Scenic Trail

5. Wild cave tour, Mammoth Cave National Park

What else, travelers? Are there 50 great adventures? 100?


Hiking into Bumpass Hell (thermal basin at Lassen Volcanic NP) by moonlight under the full moon last month. Seemed like I was the only person in the entire park. Eerie and wonderful, an experience I won't forget.

Best adventures don't have to be big tours for the experienced wilderness expert:
One of my best moments in a National Park was my first sunrise in a desert environment ever. It was a morning in early May in the Jumbo Rocks area of Joshua Tree NP (back then as Joshua Tree NM). The night before, with the milky way and all the other stars as bright as it can only be seen in a desert, was great. The morning was spectacular. As long as the sun was below the horizon the indirect light was blue and the air was dry and clear. The morning light coming over the horizon with the silhouettes of the bizarre Joshua Trees was magic. Then the direct sun light slowly set the red rounded rocks on fire.

But they can be:
I'd like to do the "wilderness waterway" in Everglades National Park by canoe sometimes. Or a canoe trip in Voyageurs NP.

Some of my favorite hikes: Mist Trail at Yosemite, Delicate Arch at Arches and Hidden Lake at Glacier. However, my favorite national park memory is walking around Biscuit Basin at Yellowstone after an October snow. My husband and I were the only people in sight; steam was rising up through the snow and there was a small herd of elk nearby. Virtually the only sound was that of the bull elk bugling to the females. It was as if we had stepped back in time. Beautiful!

You know, everything is relative. For my wife and I, two seniors from FLORIDA, driving in and out of Mesa Verde is all the adventure we need. Same goes for driving the Rim Road in the Colorado NM. I also agree with Meg, watching Grand or Great Fountain Geysers put on their show is exhilarating .

Some that have not been mention:
1) Rock climbing on El Capitan at Yosemite
2) Canoeing in Conagree NP
3) BASE Jumping from The New River Gorge Bridge during Bridge Day
4) Wind Surfing at Cape Hatteras
5) Kayaking in Apostle Islands
6) Snow shoeing or cross county sking in Yellowstone
7) 4X4 driving in Canyonlands NP

A few experiences come immediately to mind:

(1) Signing out for and hiking the 1 mile ledge trail behind Curry Village to the top of Glacier Point.

(2) Hiking to the top of an unnamed peak on the ridge above Fletcher Lake in Yosemite National Park to see Mt. McClure and the Lyell glacier through the saddle between Parsons' Peak and Amelia Earhart Peak and then look down to see ice on Ireland Lake.

(3) Hiking to Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park

(4) Hiking to the top of Lady Mountain in Zion National Park when the trail to the top was still open to the public. Other hikes in Zion include the East and West Rim Trails, the Subway, and the Kolob Arch.

(5) Experiencing Carlsbad Caverns for ourselves by visiting the Natural Entrance in the dead of winter.

(6) Hiking to the top of Guadalupe Mountain while winter camping at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

(7) Star gazing with telescopes and binoculars while staying out all night at Discovery Point at Crater Lake National Park.

(8) Hiking quickly from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome during the summer of 1970 with the intent to take photos of Yosemite Valley by night (using my first tripod, purchased from Best Studios) and then returning by the light of a full moon, with no need to use a flash light. There were no crowds on the cables at that time.

Oh - and snorkeling the underwater nature trail at Buck Island Reef National Monument in the Virgin Islands. When a memory sticks with you for 30 years, it's a good one.

Here's one that's not so strenuous -- watching Grand Geyser in Yellowstone. I've sat and waited for it for four hours before and never regretted a moment.

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