Mountain ranges are stark features of the western U.S. and in their heights are many outdoor wonders: Yosemite valley and Crater Lake, steamy geysers and ancient glaciers, volcanos and canyons. Many of these spectaculars are preserved by the National Park service for us to visit and enjoy. This trip I planned to do exactly that.
Since I was driving from D.C. to Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles for the JazzTrax festival I decided to leave early and visit some parks. I chose to focus on parks in the mountain ranges of the Rockies, the Cascades and the Sierra Nevadas. Furthermore, in the time available I’d try to find at least one hike in each which I’d consider “great”. My initial goal was ten parks.
Across four weeks I visited 13 national parks. Most I had visited previously, multiple times, but some were first-time visits. In every case I could easily have spent more time but managed to have enough time to do some hiking and exploring. Only Badlands didn’t fit my criteria of being located in a western mountain ranges so I didn’t blog about it. Neither did I write about the national monuments I visited. There is no shortage of beautiful places to visit in this country!
In chronological order, the national parks I visited were:
- North Cascades
- Mount Rainier
- Crater Lake
- Lassen Volcanic
- Sequoia and Kings Canyon
- Joshua Tree
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Great Sand Dunes
Clicking on any of these will take you to my blog post for that park where you’ll learn about my “Great Hike”. You’ll also find links to primary NPS resources along with 10 of my favorite pictures for each park. If nothing else then I’d recommend you scroll to the pictures as I was blessed with amazing weather in some of the world’s most beautiful spots.
The mountains of the west are dramatic and recent and stand in contrast to much older and more worn mountains of the east. Each has its charm but the drama of nature is much more pronounced in the western ranges. I love the outdoor west; I love that the NPS preserves best bits of it for me to visit.
This won’t be the last time I go hiking in western national parks.
The next time can’t come too soon!