Walk The Parks Route
Blue - My plan for this trip
Numbers - National Parks that I plan to visit, in order
Red - What I've already hiked/explored (10,000 hiking miles, 30 National Parks)
Green Dots - National Park Locations
I will be attempting to finish Walk The Parks starting April 24, 2021. I'm so excited! Can't even begin to describe how excited I truly am!
Looking at the image above (I know, I'm not the best graphic designer...) , I've already completed around 10,000 miles of human powered exploration through 30 National Parks. The Red lines are what I've already completed since July 2017. The Blue numbers and lines are what I will attempt starting in just a couple weeks! The numbers are National Parks I'll be travelling to, in the order I hope to reach them. I've got 21 more parks to go and I'm going to explore them in a variety of styles. I'll lay out a detailed plan below. It's funny because the question "where are you headed?" seems like such an interesting one, but the trip is so long that it's a bit too drawn out most times. My hope is to show most people the photo, and if they have additional questions I'm happy to answer!
Below, I'll take you through each national park and the corresponding trails. Note that these are future goals at this point, so take the below descriptions with a grain of salt. Really hoping to see them all through!
1 - Gateway Arch National Park, MO. Road Trip. This park is in downtown St. Louis. I have a ticket to ride the elevator to the top of the arch, and I'll explore around a bit. This is the smallest of any National Park, at 91 acres. Plan to spend about half a day here.
2 - Mammoth Cave National Park, KY. Road Trip. Backpacking. Cave Tour. I've got a self-guided cave tour reserved, plus I'll be backpacking for 4 nights around the park's trails.
3 - Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH. Road Trip. Day Hiking. This park doesn't offer any camping within it and is rather close to urban areas. I am car camping for 2 nights outside of the park and going to explore with some day hikes.
4 - Indiana Dunes National Park, IN. Road Trip. Day Hiking. Car Camping. Indiana Dunes has a state park and a national park combo happening. I'm car camping for 4 nights at the state park. I will be doing a bunch of day hikes and hopefully weather will be nice for some beach lounging.
5 - Voyageurs National Park, MN. Road Trip. Paddle Trip. Backcountry Camping. Very excited to do a canoe paddling trip for 5 nights in northern Minnesota. Do I know what I'm doing? Not really, but that's part of the adventure, right? Hopefully I'll see the Northern Lights, but if not I'm sure it'll be amazing to explore the beauty of some lakes and trails in the North Woods!
Superior Hiking Trail, Border Route Trail, Kekekabic Trail - 400 mile thru-hike. Although this route does not connect any parks, it does go quite close to Voyageurs and Isle Royale. I'm very excited to explore Northern Minnesota! It looks like I'll be here during peak mud and black fly season, so that'll surely add to the adventure.
6 - Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND. Road Trip. Thru-hike Maah Daah Hey Trail. North Dakota is the only state in the lower 48 that I have yet to visit. I'm excited to spend some time exploring Theodor Roosevelt National Park on my first visit! There's a North and South unit of the park and I hope to connect the two utilizing the Maah Daah Hey Trail. There are a couple of hurdles that need to be worked out though. I'm not really sure where to leave my car and how to get a ride from one terminus to another. There's also an issue with lack of water and blazing hot badlands. Hopefully I'll be able to thru hike the trail though, but otherwise I'll explore the North and South Unit for a few days each.
7 - Badlands National Park, SD. Road Trip. Backpacking. Looking forward to spending a few nights backpacking here. There's super limited knowledge on water sources, and it's supposed to be incredibly hot and unshaded during the day. I originally wanted to hike across the whole park, but with COVID, it's tricky to find shuttles and hitches, so I think I'll end up just going on a couple of short backpacking trips.
8 - Wind Cave National Park, SD. Thru Hike of the Centennial Trail. I am hoping to park my car, then get on a bus to Wind Cave National Park and hopefully get in on a cave tour before thru hiking the Centennial Trail. I'm excited to explore the Black Hills region of SD more!
9 - Glacier National Park, MT. Thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Extremely excited to explore Glacier National Park, first on a shorter backpacking trip with a friend, and then continuing on to complete a thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. So many things to be excited about on this one.
10 - North Cascades National Park, WA. Thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. I've already visited this park once during Walk The Parks, while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but I'll pass through again, exploring a different area of the park while I work to complete my Pacific Northwest Trail thru hike.
11 - Olympic National Park, WA. Thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. I've never been to the boreal rainforests of Olympic National Park, but I'm truly looking forward to it. The biggest challenge here is that this park is requiring advance permits for all backcountry travel. This is quite challenging when you're on a long thru hike, but I'm hoping for the best! The Pacific Northwest trail travels over some higher points throughout the park and finishes with a long walk along the coast. Very excited for this one!
12 - Zion National Park, UT. Thru Hike Zion to Mexico, mostly along the Arizona Trail. I visited Zion previously on my Walk The Parks adventure, but I wasn't the happiest with the route, so I thought I'd do it again! I am attempting to create my own route from Zion to the Grand Canyon and reconnecting to the Arizona Trail near Tusayan, AZ. I'll certainly be taking cues from the Hayduke Route, but hope to add in my own mix as well, if I can get needed permits...
13 - Grand Canyon National Park, AZ. Thru Hike Zion to Mexico, mostly along the Arizona Trail. I LOVE the Grand Canyon. When I'm asked what my favorite park is, although so many have so much to offer, so far I've always answered: Grand Canyon! I've been lucky enough to spend a ton of time here and can't wait to explore some more! I've explored the park in depth during Walk The Parks, including a 21 day raft trip and a total of 70 days below the rim or so! This time around it'll be much shorter than 70 days, but I'm so freaking excited to explore a new area of the Grand Canyon. Hopefully permits will come through!
14 - Saguaro National Park, AZ. Thru Hike Zion to Mexico, mostly along the Arizona Trail. Saguaro National Park is basically an excuse to hike almost the entire Arizona Trail and add on a few miles to get to Zion National Park... Why not, right? I have yet to explore Saguaro, and I'm super excited to do so. I love desert hiking and I'm sure this will be no exception!
15 - White Sands National Park, NM. Road Trip. Day Hikes. Who doesn't like white sand dunes? I'm hoping I love them! I'd love to camp on the dunes, but that's currently not an option due to COVID... Hoping it will open up by the time I get there!
17 - Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Road Trip. Cave Tour. Thru hike Guadalupe Ridge Trail. I feel like most people have heard of Carlsbad Caverns, but I'm excited to finally go check it out! Very excited for the Guadalupe Ridge Trail, as well.
18 - Big Bend National Park, TX. Road Trip. Backpacking. I've heard from a bunch of people that Big Bend is absolutely amazing, and often overlooked. Very excited to explore here, as well. What else is new? Exploring National Parks is so exciting!
19 - Hot Springs National Park, AR. Road Trip. Day Hikes. Car Camping. Apparently Hot Springs National Park used to be like Las Vegas, before Las Vegas existed? Sweet! Kind of an interesting park as it looks to be more of a historic downtown area? Excited to see it for myself, and maybe enjoy a spa day in the hot springs, since that seems to be the thing to do?
20 - New River Gorge National Park, WV. Road Trip. Day Hikes. Backpacking? This is the newest National Park. I'm not sure at this point if the order of the parks will be correct. I have family that lives in West Virgina that I used to visit and we would stop at the New River Gorge. We went rafting once too, which was really cool. Excited to go back and check things out with the new national park status.
21 - Congaree National Park, SC. Road Trip. Backpacking. Day Hiking. Car Camping. A swampy park in central South Carolina. Apparently sometimes the whole park ends up flooded? Should probably consider a paddle trip, but I was planning on doing some hiking, hopefully some backpacking and some car camping as well.
22 - Dry Tortugas National Park, FL. Boat Ride. Camping. Snorkeling. So far, I have mixed feelings on this one. Had to make camping reservations a year in advance. It's an expensive $200 boat ride to get to the park. But, it looks like it's island paradise, and I'm extremely excited about that! Hope to figure out how to snorkel and lounge on the beach and it should be amazing!
23 - Biscayne National Park, FL - Boat Ride. Snorkeling. Road Trip. I'm excited for this park as the beach and ocean is not my normal place to be. Almost the entire park is on the water though, so I'm currently signed up to go for a day long excursion, very normal tourist type deal. It's all good though! In a dream world, I'd find someone who has a boat who would take me for an extended tour, or better yet: camp on Elliott Key or another island, but it's all good!
24 - Everglades National Park, FL - Paddle Trip, Backcountry Camping. The everglades is a place that kind of freaks me out!
The Grand Finale: Thru Hike most of the Eastern Continental Trail - Florida Trail, Alabama Roadwalk, Pinhoti Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, International Appalachian Trail. So, the plan is to end Walk The Parks with another huge thru hike.
The Eastern Continental Trail starts in Key West, FL, but after years of researching, I am just going to skip that section and start just outside of Everglades National Park. Starting at Key West means a super long paved road walk, and ultra-expensive lodging or hiding out in the bushes, trespassing to camp, all of which I don't like... So instead, after my paddle trip in the Everglades the plan is to thru hike the Florida Trail, do the "Alabama Roadwalk", connect to the Pinhoti Trail to the Benton MacKaye Trail to the Appalachian Trail (yes, I have already hiked this twice, but it's my favorite and I'd love to do it 100 more times if possible!), then take a left on the Long Trail, hike to the Canadian border and back to the Appalachian Trail, then continue hiking past Katahdin via the International Appalachian Trail and end at the Canadian border in Northern Maine.
25 - Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN. I'll be passing through the Smokies again during the Grand Finale thru hike mentioned above. If you haven't already guessed I'm excited!
26 - Shenandoah National Park, VA. I'll be hiking through the Shennies along the Appalachian Trail, which brings a large smile to my face just thinking about!
I used the word "excited" quite a bit above. Can you tell how I feel?
As always, feel free to reach out with questions, comments, etc, would love to hear from ya!
COMPLETED: Billions of Smiles, 19.5 Million Steps, 1.5 Million Ft. Elevation Gain, 10,000 Miles, 30 National Parks, 23 States, 2 Feet, 1 Huge Dream
Please send me any questions/comments/ you may have and I'll be happy to answer as soon as I can!