You are here

Traveler's Five Picks For New National Parks

Pretty enough to be within a national park. Green River Lakes, Wind River Range. Photo by G. Thomas via Wikipedia.

Creating national parks doesn't happen every day. Lately, it seems the quickest way to create one is to legislatively redesignate a national monument as a national park (See Pinnacles National Park). But it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

Here are five picks from the Traveler for new national parks. We offer up these nominees without consideration to fiscal impact because once you start to consider the costs -- mainly economic costs, but also political -- the possible can become impossible. With that understood, we view the following locations as truly spectacular places that should be preserved for future generations.

* Wind River Range, Wyoming

The Wind River Range in west-central Wyoming visibly defines spectacular. With 40 peaks that soar above 13,000 feet, including the state's highest point at 13,809 feet, glaciers, grizzlies, elk, bighorn sheep, lakes and trout streams, this craggy range runs roughly 100 miles north to south and 30 miles east to west.

Currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the range contains officially designated wilderness and is one of the country's premier hiking and backpacking areas. The range also harbors the headwaters of the Green River.

You can lose yourself in the Winds for days on end, spot North America's largest herd of bighorn sheep, find challenging climbing routes, or fancy yourself as a latter-day mountain man.

* Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

This 756,000-acre NRA long has been considered for inclusion in the National Park System. Indeed, back in 1911 a group of women in Idaho called for such a move, according to a history of the NRA's creation.

Alternate Text
Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth NRA. Photo by Fredlyfish4  via Wikipedia.

In 1960, then-U.S. Sen. Frank Church introduced legislation to have the area considered for park status, and six years later even introduced a bill calling for Sawtooth National Park, but local opposition derailed it.

This wide expanse of wild lures river runners, climbers, backcountry skiers, anglers, backpackers and more. Cyclists challenge themselves on attacking the highway over Galena Summit, while families carry on long traditions of camping at Redfish Lake.

* Maine North Woods, Maine

New England needs another national park, and the one proposed for the North Woods would not just be gorgeous, but would benefit wildlife species such as Canada lynx, Atlantic salmon and the eastern timber wolf threatened with extinction for lack of habitat and protect the "wild forests of New England."

The hardwood forests, lakes, and rivers would help build a strong recreation sector that would pump money into the surrounding towns. The streams and lakes here long have been plied by canoeists.

Talk of creating such a national park extends back over two decades. Proponents, along with pointing to the natural resources that could be protected, believe the cachet of a "Maine North Woods National Park" would bolster the region's economy through businesses that cater to park visitors.

* Ancient Forest National Park, California and Oregon

With climate change under way, protecting migrational routes, and providing migrational routes, for wildlife and even plants is vital to help ensure their survival.

Alternate Text
The boundaries of the proposed Ancient Forest National Park run from Oregon south into California.

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis back in August of 2011 called for establishing "a national system of parks and protected sites (rivers, heritage areas, trails, and landmarks) that fully represents our natural resources and the nation's cultural experience." He also cited the need for creation of "continuous corridors" to support ecosystems.

The proposed 3.8-million-acre Ancient Forest National Park spanning parts of southern Oregon and northern California would meet those goals.

Within its proposed borders there already exist officially designated wilderness and roadless areas, places perfect for both recreation and wildlife.

The proposal is to set aside a solid block of land 3.8 million acres from the Rogue River in Oregon to the Eel River in California. It will forever allow the free migration of species from the coast and Redwood National Park to semi arid inland canyons. The park would include already established wilderness areas and already designated critical wildlife areas along with about 1 million acres of unprotected inventoried roadless areas.

* San Rafael Swell, Utah

Talk of turning the Swell into a national park has simmered for decades, going back to the 1930s when local officials proposed a "Wayne Wonderland National Monument." The proposal went nowhere, for the Swell, but is pointed to as an impetus for Capitol Reef National Park.

Nevertheless, the wondrous landscape of colorful reefs of rock, deep canyons, and sandstone walls bearing ancient pictographs remain. So, too, do the tales of outlaws such as Butch and Sundance losing possees by galloping into the maze of canyons. Within the Swell you can find ancient granaries, stone arches, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, feral horses and mules, homesteader cabins, and old mining operations. There are opportunities for canyoneering, river running, backpacking and day hiking and more.

Today there are fewer and fewer pristine and preserved areas left in the country, a fact that has the clock ticking on the few remaining places that deserve national park status. While much opposition no doubt exists to each of the above proposals, they could be crafted in such a way to mollify many of the critics.

By creating a "national park and preserve," the enacting legislation could be written in a way to allow some traditional ways of life, whether they involve grazing livestock, hunting, or logging in a sustainable fashion. Communities could remain in place, with the "park-and-preserve" boundaries excluding them. 

What other places do you think should be added to the park system?

Featured Article


Guess it's a matter of perspective on a place like Dolly Sods. Yes, it would attract more people (though it is already a Wilderness area and plenty rugged, which would deter the ice-cream-cone-and-grandma crowd), but in WV, our lands are very prone to natural resource extraction (our politicians and state DEP are the slaves of Big Coal), and it would be awesome to finally get the full protection of the NPS. It's worth the trade off to me. I speak as someone whose family has been going to Dolly Sods for over a hundred years, and have seen so much of the state reduced to wreckage. The Sods have always been well used (not just by hikers, but by berry pickers and bear hunters) and one of the most heavily used parts of the Mon. Over Father's Day weekend I probably saw 70 cars at the various trailheads, and 95% were out of state tags. So the secret's long been out of the bag. I mean, I saw Delaware and Georgia tags. That's a pretty good haul.

Now if you want real solitude , there are some very lightly used spots in that region...

Gila Monster, spot on. There are those who think the only things worthwhile with a NP is that it is a way to spur the local economy.

I'll be deeply interested in your book when it's done. I am very sure there has never been a serious attmpt to identify all serious candidates for new parks- yet this should have been done long ago

afterthought I forgot to mention my example of an obvious candidate: the Cascades west of

bend, Oregon. I challenge anyone to explain to me after seeing Mckenzie Pass and surroundings why this should not be a park (actually the Bend area more generally has a great or greater a variety of recent volcanic features in the country; it's just that to the west these come with a scenic grandeur that also may be equalled but is not surpassed).

I don't know why Oregon is relatively under-represented in the NPS. Quite a few areas -- Mt Hood/Columbia Gorge, Three Sisters and/or Newberry Caldera, Steens Mountain, Wallowa Mtns/Hells Canyon, Owyhee Canyonlands, Siskiyous/Rogue River Canyons -- would be outstanding parks. And Oregon Dunes should be a National Seashore, as was once proposed.

I have to agree with dahkota and Gila on their input let's see how many Natl Parks we can have.

Many of these lands I have visited and have agreed this should be a Natl Park. Then I think what would happen if these beautiful natural wonders would be turned into Natl Parks.

Vermillion Cliffs comes to mind because of it's shear natural beauty and it's quiet.Would that change if it were a Natl Park? You bet in a heart beat.

Just last fall I spent a few days at Custer State Park,those people do just fine with the way it is now. If these land are being cared for properly their is no need to get the Gov't involved. After many travels across this great land of ours and the disagreements that come up all to often involving the Natl Parks I say let's just enjoy them as they are.

While on lists Colorado National Monument comes to mind. It's an awesome place that most people just fly by on the interstate because it's not a Natl Park.Why would you want turn that into another Zion Park with shuttle buses.

Not everything has to be called a Natl Park to love and enjoy.I didn't always think that way but my travels took me to the over crowded and over priced Natl Parks I discovered the less crowed and less traveled wasn't bad either. Be careful what you wish for .Remember you play by an entire different set of rules under the Natl Parks system.

I understand that this was a topic on wish lists but I think it's important to point out the pitfalls as well.

Not everything has to be called a Natl Park to love and enjoy.

Bingo! In fact - it may be more enjoyable if it isn't a National Park.

Hi Quiet please,

I totally share your wish to keep wild and quiet areas that way. And I appreciate that you are a national park supporter. However, I have to disagree with a number of your statements.

There is a common misconception that national parks all have major tourism development and significant crowds. That is not the case. More than 99 percent of National Park System lands are roadless wildlands. In fact, over 52 percent of parklands are designated wilderness.

In contrast, less than 19 percent of National Forests, 14 percent of National Wildlife Refuges, and 8 percent of BLM lands are designated wilderness. The National Park System is by far the most unspoiled and natural of all the land agencies. I have been to numerous National Park System units across the country, as well as countless lands of other federal agencies, and I have seen on the ground that this is true.

Zion Canyon, Yosemite Valley, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Old Faithful are anomalies in the National Park System. Most of those facilities were built before the National Park Service was created in 1916. National parks created since the 1960s, such as Great Basin, North Cascades, Guadalupe Mountains, Redwood, Voyageurs, Congaree, and the new Alaska parks, do not have any significant new facilities. These new areas have reduced existing road systems and healed the damage caused by previous land management.

As for Custer State Park, I would disagree that it is being cared for properly. The park has an active commercial logging program, which would never be allowed in any national park unit. They also allow "trophy buffalo hunts" as well as hunting of mountain lions, an important predator that is under siege across the country. No national park would this kind of destructive practice.

So creating national parks does not mean a loss of wildness and solitude. It is just the opposite. The "rules and regulations" you mention help to keep it that way. The "pitfalls" you cite are very rare. The vast majority of national parks protect the values that you are advocating better than any other land mangement agency.



Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments