The National Parks
Summer means three things – 1) The Phillies are going to smash my heart to pieces (again) 2) ice cream trucks and 3) time to go visit some National Parks.
My wife and I have pretty much established our entire relationship off of visiting national parks (also, having five kids). We’ve made it our goal to visit every single last National Park. Waaaay back in 2010, we drove cross country for 7 1/2 weeks, visiting 22 National Parks. We even went to see Ken Burns talk at Independence Hall about National Parks. That’s how much we love National Parks.
At the moment, there are 63 national parks in the United States of America. We’ve been to 36 of them. And counting!
In my ongoing quest to completely lose focus in this blog, I’m going to occasionally go on a National Park kick and post about places far, far away from South Jersey. I apologize in advance.
In celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th Birthday, a picture from every national park I’ve been lucky enough to visit (29 of them)
Colorado or Bust
6,589 miles of craziness from NJ to Colorado and back! Rocky Mountain NP, Dinosaur NM, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Mesa Verde NP, Great Sand Dunes NP, and more, all with a 3 month baby in tow. 5 kids, 25 days, 2 birthdays, 18 nights camping, 13 states, 6,589 miles, 17 national parks and national park service properties, 4 presidential burial sites, 1 hour of sandboarding, temperatures between 42 and 107 degrees, meeting some old friends and making some new ones… good trip!!!
How I Spent My Summer Vacation 2022
The Great Montana Road Trip
When you read that all the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone in as little as five years, so you save all your pennies and drive the family to Montana to see them. 26 days, 24 nights in a tent, 6,828 miles, 12 states, 2 provinces, 8 national parks, half a dozen bears… good trip!
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – Porter, Indiana – mountain size dunes along Lake Michigan. Now a national park as of 2019!
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – Bayside, Wisconsin – the beautifully eroded rocks of Devil’s Island.
Voyageurs National Park – International Falls, Minnesota – beautiful lakes on our border with Canada, featuring BALD EAGLES.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, North Dakota – badlands and bison and the stomping grounds of Teddy.
Glacier National Park – St Marys, Montana – a week in one of the most spectacular parks in the nation.
Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming – two days of amazing
Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming – two days in my favorite national park
The Black Hills – South Dakota
The Great Great Lakes Expedition
Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, and New York
Somehow “let’s take a short vacation this year” turned into a two week journey to camp on every Great Lake. Five states and two countries later… success! Also, Tree Rider’s first new country!
Day 1 and 2- Lake Erie – Marblehead Lighthouse and Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
Day 3 – Lake Huron – River Raisin, The Henry Ford, and Bay City, MI (Day 3)
Day 4 – Lake Michigan – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Petosky, Michigan – Good Morning America’s “Most Beautiful Place in America – 2011”
Day 5 -America’s 2nd National Park – Mackinac Island – St Ignace, Michigan – featuring beautiful woods, lake views, and rock formations as well as tons of history.
Day 6 – Lake Superior – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising, Michigan – shipwrecks and lighthouses along the beautiful cliffs and Great Northern Trail
Day 7 – The Keeweenaw Pennisula – Michigan – Checking out the Quincy Mine Hoist and Mine Tour and Fort Wilkins State Park.
Day 8 – Backpacking Isle Royale National Park (Day 1) – Rock Harbor Trail from Rock Harbor Lodge to 3 Mile Camp – a ferry ride, 3.5 miles of backpacking, 1 mile hiking
Day 9 – Backpacking Isle Royale (Day 2) – Rock Harbor Trail and Tobin Trail (and hiking the Stoll Trail) – 3 Mile Campe to Rock Harbor Campground – 4.4 miles of backpacking and 3 of hiking
Day 10 – Isle Royale National Park – Hiking the Stoll Trail– 5 miles of hiking and a ferry ride back to the Upper Penninsula
Days 12-14 – Four Days in Canada – driving onto the biggest freshwater island in the world, crossing Lake Huron on a huge car ferry, exploring the beautiful waters of Lake Huron at Bruce Peninsula National Park (where I swam into a cave, it was the coolest thing ever), geeking out at the Hockey Hall of Fame, confusing your child at giant pet statues, and seeing Niagara Falls
Smoky Mountains National Park, Mammoth Cave National Park,
and Stalking Abe Lincoln
North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois
Nothing says “road trip” like a taking a three month old and a 2 1/2 year old to climb Clingman’s Dome, look for wild bears, creep through the most famous cave in America, and visit every Abe Lincoln site between the Appalachians and the Mississippi.
Clingman’s Dome Trail – climb a half mile (one way) to the highest point in Tennessee!
Cades Cove – Great Smoky Mountains NP – 11 mile loop that can be hiked, biked, or driven. Beautiful views and bears. bears, bears!
Mammoth Cave National Park – “Historic Tour” in the cave
Abe Lincoln Tour – 2014 – from birth to death, we stop to visit each home of Abe Lincoln (almost)
Acadia National Park, Maine
Because who says a 17 month old won’t have a great time climbing mountains and looking in tidal pools?
Beech Cliffs Trail – climbing straight up a cliff on ladders. Super awesome.
Bar Island Trail – most popular hike in the park, walk over a sand bar (only at low tide!) to an island, which you can climb for views of Bar Harbor.
Ship Harbor Trail – tidal pools and ocean views.
Wonderland Trail – slightly different, but still lovely, tidal pools and ocean views
Flying Mountain Trail – high views of little harbors
Cadillac Mountain Trail via Blackwoods Campground and Sier de Mont – one of the best hikes I’ve ever taken, climb to the highest point on the coastal Eastern seaboard in North America.
How have your kids done as babies, toddlers, and young children hiking?
So far, so good! The little one hasn’t really done anything yet, he was still at carrying stage last year, and largely will be again this year. The big one was hiking with me at Acadia when he was 17 months old,. We didn’t do much National Park hiking last summer because the baby was so young, but this summer should give us a nice idea what the big one can do. At age 3, he’s done up to 5 1/2 miles in one shot, so I’m not worried 🙂
Gosh Mike, we are practically inseparable now. Given your recent post about guest blogging, I would love to contribute, and promise to keep out any reference to rabid turkeys ( lest I cause any undue concern for your readers) AND politics! I will be heading out to Custer, SD in September and would love to share with you and your readers.
Awesome! Rabid turkeys are scary. And we may be getting inseparable, the family and I will be in South Dakota in Custer State Park in July 🙂
Did you hike Harney?
Howdy, Returned from climbing Mt. Harney in South Dakota and would be a happy to share comments and pics. lmk
Awesome! I have not hiked that one. Easiest way to share might be to email me a write up and a few pictures and I’d be happy to share it. 🙂