Here we are, the very first day of 2013. Everything is fresh and open to possibilities when it comes to enjoying time in the National Park System. With that in mind, here are 52 suggestions on how to have fun in the parks this year.
1. Following a hurricane or tropical storm, stroll the beaches of Cape Cod, Assateague Island, Fire Island, Cumberland Island, or Canaveral national seashores to look for unusual seashells the storms might have tossed up.
2. Plan to visit Gettysburg National Military Park on either July 1, 2, or 3 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle that played out over those three days in 1863.
5. Walk a stretch of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. (Read The Undying Past of Shenandoah National Park by Darwin Lambert.)
6. Try to catch a reflection of Mount Rainier in the still waters of Reflection Lakes. (Take along a copy of Hiking The Wonderland Trail: The Guide To Mount Rainier's Premier Trail by Tami Asars.
7. Hike the Upper Caprock Coulee Trail to the CCC Shelter in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. (Read The Home Ranch by Theodore Roosevelt to understand how this rugged landscape shaped the future president.)
8. Take a "wild" cave tour at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.
11. Pedal your bike up the park road to the visitors center at Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming.
13. Tour Wilderness Battlefield or walk the Wounding of Stonewall Jackson Trail at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia.
16. Paddle deep into Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota for a multi-day adventure. (Read Paddle North, Canoeing the Boundary Waters-Quetico Wilderness by Greg Breining.)
17. Hike to Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana. (Read This High, Wild Country, a Celebration of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park by Paul Schullery and Marsha Karle.)
18. Visit Death Valley National Park in August and see if you can stand the temperatures that approach, and might exceed, 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Just be sure to pack lots of water. (Take a copy of Death Valley Photographer's Guide: Where And How To Get The Best Shots by Dan Suzio.)
19. Explore Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin by sea kayak.
20. Hike through the Cactus Forest in Saguaro National Park in Arizona. (Bring along a copy of Common Southwestern Native Plants, An Identification Guide by Jack L. Carter, Martha A. Carter and Donna J. Stevens)
21. Wander with your youngsters through the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park and count all the banana slugs you come across. (Carry a copy of Olympic National Park, A Natural History by Tim McNulty.)
22. Visit Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in North Dakota, tour the grounds, then close your eyes and imagine how it looked when Lewis and Clark arrived in 1804. (Read Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose)
24. Make the day-long trek to the summit of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, or hike the Cathedral Lakes Trail. (Thumb through Spectacular Yosemite that features QT Luong's beautiful photographs of the park)
28. Ride the rapids through New River Gorge National River.
30. Watch sunrise, or sunset, from the summit of Haleakala National Park in Hawaii.
32. Spend three days on the Under-the-Rim Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. (Prepare with a copy of Shadows of Time, The Geology of Bryce Canyon National Park by Frank Decourten, John Telford, and Hannah Hinchman.)
36. Visit the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to take in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the African American Civil War Memorial, Ford's Theather National Historic Site and the House Where Lincoln Died, and the other sites at the Mall. (Pick up a copy of the World War II Memorial: "Jewel of The Mall" by Stephen R. Brown.)
37. Go fly a kite at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina.
39. Join a float trip down either the Yampa or Green rivers through Dinosaur National Monument. (Read Run River, Run by Ann Zwinger or Adios Amigos:: Tales of Sustenance and Purification in the American West by Page Stegner)
41. Walk the tallgrass prairie of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas.
44. Go underground at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
46. Admire the artworks at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire.
47. Take six months off and hike the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from Maine to Georgia, or Georgia to Maine. (Read Becoming Odyssa, Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis.)
48. Spend a day at the beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
49. Learn about the fur-trapping days of the 18th century at Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota.
50. Snorkel or scuba dive in the Research Natural Area of Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.
51. Take a week to drive either the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Natchez Trace Parkway.
If those aren't enough ideas, I'm sure Traveler's readers will suggest additional ones.