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Reader Participation Day: When Do You Feel You've "Done" a National Park?


How much of a national park do you feel you need to see or understand to feel you've "done it"? Does it depend on the type of park unit?

Some people plan their trips out West to do a national park a day.

Others can spend a week in Glacier National Park or Grand Teton National Park. When they come home, they know that there are so many sections of that park that they haven't seen that they feel they just have to go back there.

If I visit a national historic park or monument like De Soto National Memorial, I focus on why it became a park unit. But it's more difficult with larger iconic parks.

Knowing that you've done a park is very subjective. It's probably somewhere between walking all the trails in the park and going into the Visitor Center to get your National Park passport stamped.

So how do you decide when you've really "done" a park?


I'm done when I have done everything I physically can do in that park. I haven't been there yet, but when I do get to Yosemite, I will not be 'done' until I have hiked every trail I possibly can and have seen every inch I can. Since I cannot rock climb, I will be done when that is the last option for seeing things that I haven't yet seen.

And it isn't even just the large or notable parks. I visited Saugus Iron Works NHS a couple of years ago and spent a couple of hours in that small park. It was a rich experience and I know I didn't 'get' everything. If I'm back in the Boston area again I'll try to stop by again. Needless to say, I could spent the rest of my life returning to and embracing the larger wonders I've seen, like Mt Rainier, Yellowstone, National Park of American Samoa, North Cascades, the Chilkoot Trail, and more. 
I guess you're never done until you're done, and at that point spread my ashes.

2011 was our third trip to Glacier National Park.  We ended up spending almost 6 weeks in Glacier this last time and hiked about 250 miles for our website:  I still feel like we only scratched the surface of what Glacier has to offer.  There are still so many more trails to hike, but so many I'd like to do again. When you find someplace that captures your heart, I'm not sure you've every say you've "done" it.

Dick, I've been going to Yellowstone for, oh, about 25 years now, and my trip back in September to the Bechler Region was my first there and opened up an entirely new window into the park for me.

Next up: The Thorofare!

We've been to Yellowstone 4 times in three years and it seems like we have only scratched the surface. I would hope to never feel like I've seen it all-- that would be kind of depressing to me??

Easy to answer for some parks, but impossible to answer for others. I spent 4 days at Arches, photographing every arch and hiking a number of trails. I've 'done' Arches. On the other hand, I've been to Grand Canyon more than a dozen time, backpacked in from the north and south rims and even did a rim to rim hike - each time spending a week in the back country. And I don't think I have enough time left on earth to have 'done' this park.

Our National Parks are living, breathing, natural preserves, and as such, they are constantly changing (seasons, natural or man made disasters, better weather years, worse weather years, etc.).  So even the relatively smaller parks can never be "done". Heck, this might even apply to some of our heritage parks. Can anyone really say after 1 or 10 visits they have seen and done everything at Gettysburg or Antietam? Or maybe this is just my excuse for going back again and again.....Goodness, we love all the parks!

After I work at a park at least 4-5 seasons, then I'm usually done with it. for a while. Yet this will be my 5th season at Grand Canyon's North Rim and I've barely begun to know this place. Could take a lifetime.

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