I have a slight obsession with National Parks. I’ve been to 10 in total: Yosemite, Yellowstone, The Redwoods, Death Valley, Crater Lake, The Channel Islands, The Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, Joshua Tree, and Zion.
I am always thinking about my next adventure and planning can often be the best part. I love looking at the park maps and researching the best sights to see. Although every National Park has similarities - a few Visitor Centers, backcountry hiking, camping, and spectacular views - every park is drastically different.
Mount Rainier and a creek at Mount Rainier National Park
Grove of the Patriarchs at Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park was one of my favorites because it was drastically different than the rest of the national parks that I have visited. Last summer, I took a trip to the Pacific Northwest with my best friend, and it was quite green and luscious the entire time. We only had one full day at the national park, so we spent our time exploring hiking trails with views of the surrounding mountains, visiting the informative Visitor Center, and admiring the Giant Sequoias in the Grove of the Patriarchs. It was certainly a park that I would like to spend more time visiting and exploring.
Views at Zion National Park
Juvenile American Toad in Zion National Park
Zion National Park was certainly a treat - we had the luxury of being alone with fantastic views most of the time. My boyfriend and I decided to go backpacking at the beginning of June. We were told the campsite at our destination had running water, so we brought a water purifier with us. However, we were not prepared for how hot the hike up would be, and we drank most of our water before we finished three miles. At the site, we couldn’t locate the flowing water for another thirty minutes. We finally found a tiny, trickling spring, hidden in a cool, shady spot. Once we found it, it was such a relief! We rested for a while and were also accompanied by some American toads as we refilled our waters. After sleeping in the next day, we hiked back down to the Visitor Center, explored all of the touristy sights, and hiked back up, totaling a 13-mile day. The entire trip, we didn’t see a single person except for down at the Visitor Center. My advice for Zion: bring plenty of water, hike when it’s cool out, and go backcountry - it’s worth it!
View of Death Valley National Park
Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park stood out to me because the park is ginormous! Over 3.4 million acres make up this park, and I only got the chance to see a tiny portion of it when I visited last spring. I was in the Astronomy Club at the University of Nevada, Reno, and we wanted to take a spring break trip to a national park to see some stars. We definitely saw stars, as well as a full day of the major sights. We visited the sand dunes, salt flats, Darwin Falls, and hiked to the top of a shale mountain for the vast views of the dry desert. But it wasn’t all dead like the park name suggests - we saw flowers, lizards, frogs, trees and more! I definitely will visit this park again, but only in the spring when the heat won’t melt my tires. The park can reach up to 134 degrees Fahrenheit!
Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree National Park
A Side-blotched lizard at Joshua Tree National Park, with some wildflowers.
Joshua Trees at Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park was my most recent trip - just last month at the beginning of March - and it was not a disappointment. There were huge Joshua Trees that speckled the horizon and abundant hiking trails with great views at the top. There were great quick stops to see, such as Arch Rock, Skull Rock, the Cholla Cactus Garden and the Wall Street Mine. There were great opportunities for wildlife viewing- we saw lizards, shrikes, hawks, squirrels, butterflies and more. Joshua Tree National Park is also a rock climber’s paradise, and we found plenty of boulders to climb!
National parks are fascinating and wonderful to visit, and I learn something new every time. They deserve to be respected and taken care of. Although I encourage everyone to visit as many national parks as they can, I also wish to encourage everyone to enjoy their local parks. I often take what I learn and try to apply it to my local parks here in Reno. I enjoy visiting Rancho San Rafael or Idlewild Park to find cool animals or pick up trash, and admire what I am lucky enough to have in my own backyard. At Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation, we strive to bring awareness of all parks to our community, be good stewards of our environment, and appreciate what we have available to us - whether it be National Parks or our own local parks.