Reader Participation Day: What Do You Look For In A National Park Vacation?

When you start planning a national park vacation, do you look for places such as Long House at Mesa Verde National Park? Kurt Repanshek photo.

What do you look for when you start thinking about a national park vacation? Are you looking for some great hikes, perhaps a paddling vacation, or prefer to steep in some of the country's rich history?

While I love to escape into a park's backcountry, whether by foot or paddle, I'm also drawn to the history on display in the National Park System, whether it's the cultural history in places such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park or Mesa Verde National Park or the nation's history on display in parks such as Gettysburg National Military Park or Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.

What draws you into the National Park System? And where do you find it?


If it's a main vacation - a week or more - the park has to have more maintained trails than we have time for. It has to keep me on the trail for a week, not necessarily backpacking. Day hiking is fine.

If it's a day visit, I'm a sucker for anything that's under the NPS umbrella. History, culture or whatever else I can discover. I had a long range plan to visit every Southeastern park unit until I found out that the southeastern region included the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rica. Now I have to see if those parks have enough hiking trails to make the trip worthwhile.

Danny Bernstein

I like to look for parks with wildlife, vistas and scenery, and good day hikes where I might see them. I often have planned trips where we can go to multiple NPS units.

The wife and I look for rugged long distance day hikes with a big payoff, alpine vistas and secluded lakes our favorites. We hit the trail at daybreak to leave the crowds behind. Most recently on a visit to Yosemite we hiked the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point and did not see another human until later in the day all the way down by the falls.

Well, I'm trying to visit all of them, so I look for the fact that its a National Park..... ;-)

I am a historian so I look for history. :) I also like a park with great views. I like to be able to hike a little as well. Most of all though I am looking for a pretty historical park (mainly Civil War related) and I like a good visitors center to visit at the park.

I guess the main thing that I look for in planning a National Park trip is proximity of Parks to one another. In the past I have found that the majority of the Parks in the Lower 48 are either grouped in two's or three's when looking at a relatively short drive between them. This has allowed for me and my wife to hit mulitple Parks in a seven to eight day vacation---allowing us to stretch our increasingly sparse free time from work. For example, we have hit Theodore Roosevelt, Badlands, and Wind Cave in one trip, and Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic, and Redwoods in another. Hopefully this fall we will take nine days from a Saturday to Sunday to make a circuit of Colorado stopping at all four National Parks there.