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Reader Participation Day: How Do You Decide Which National Parks To Visit?


With the snows of winter on their way, most people are bringing an end to this year's travels and looking ahead to 2012. Which has us wondering: How do you decide which national parks to put on your travel calendar?

Are you looking to expand your list of national parks visited, or are you planning to go back to old favorites?

And what resources do you rely on to help with your planning? The National Park Service website? AAA? Chamber bureaus in gateway towns? The Traveler?

Tell us, travelers, how do you go about planning your national park vacations?


We're changing up the same ol' same ol' plan of visiting the parks out west in AZ/southern UT. This year we spread our wings to Mesa Verde and were blown away by the fall
beauty, wildlife and the cliff dwellings! We hit a few western AZ places that were new plus a stop at Canyonlands Needles district to scope out camping for next year. Our next trip at Christmas
we're doing a wild and furious sweep of New Mexico - Christmas Eve in
Santa Fe - should be awesomely different!

Is "all of the above" an acceptable answer?

Both.  We live in the Central Valley so frequently visit Yosemite and even go into the valley occasionally.  Yesterday we took a spin over to Point Reyes and spent the day along Tomales Bay; we're planning to head down to Joshua Tree in a couple weeks for our first overnight visit there. In the last year, we have been as far east as the Smoky Mountains and Gettysburg; as far north as Teddy Roosevelt and as far south as Saguaro.  Our NP Pass has paid for itself over and over!

After working at Grand Canyon all summer it's time for a road trip. Where else to go but National Parks. Going to Escalante and Bryce right in the back yard. Then off to Capital Reef, Canyonlands and Arches where I haven't been in 35+ years. Plus taking in new sights along the way and including Navajo NM and Canyon De Chelly. How to decide depends on what direction I want to go.

I am super lucky to have already been to a number of parks.  Now when I decide where to go, I take the following things into consideration: where I haven't been, what I missed when I was there before, a different time of year.
EXAMPLE: I am lucky to have been to Yosemite before -I've seen the big trees and big granite.  I was there both times in the fall though so I have never seen fast flowing waterfalls.  Someday, I will get there early in the year to see gushing waterfalls.
I use everything to research: nps website, this site and other websites.  The internet is my friend when it comes to travel planning.

Todays economy and proximity is what i go by. This November i will take my yearly trip to Big Bend. I also frequent Guadulupe Mountains NP, and i visited Carlsbad Caverns earlier
this year. When the economy is in good times i venture to parks outside of Texas and New Mexico. Places like Lassen NP, Mesa Verde and Olympic NP.

Depends on how expansive your definition of "National Parks" is. If that includes all units, then it varies.

It can be random. I once made a winter visit to Yosemite on a whim. At other times I planned more carefully, especially when I had a backpacking trip planned.

I had to plan a trip from Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon months in advance in order to secure lodging.

If it's local I can decide on the day. I've made last second calls on visiting Muir Woods NM or Point Reyes NS. Even on vacation on Maui we decided to visit Haleakala NP without any previous solid plan to do so. helps. 

When I went to a nephew's wedding in Massachusetts a year or two ago I just searched by state. If I hadn't, I would have missed Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works, both worth a visit. I suggest using the web help early in trip planning.

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