At the beginning of 2018, my number one goal for the year was to visit at least 25 U.S. National Park units. That seemed like a lot, especially since I didn’t have a single trip booked, just a few vague ideas about maybe taking myself to the Grand Canyon for my birthday or finally getting to see Crater Lake on my annual trip to Oregon.
Somehow it all worked out and I managed to get myself to 31 national parks spread across eight states and Washington, D.C. It was my best year of national park travel to date, with impactful adventures that I’m still reeling from, even months later. They’re changing me, these parks, bit by bit.
1. HERBERT HOOVER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE – Iowa – Jan. 19 — Work sent me to Iowa in the dead of winter, when it was, according to my friend who lives there, “cold even by Iowa standards.” Still, I managed to see one of the state’s two national parks.
2. GUILFORD COURTHOUSE NATIONAL MILITARY PARK – North Carolina – Jan. 26.
3. GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK – North Carolina – Jan. 27— This was a farewell tour for me and my ex and the trip didn’t include nearly enough time in the mountains. Fingers crossed I can make it back down there in the next month or so.
4. SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK – Arizona – March 8-9 – The first stop on my solo birthday trip to Arizona!
5. CASA GRAND RUINS NATIONAL MONUMENT – Arizona – March 9.
6. SUNSET CRATER VOLCANO NATIONAL MONUMENT – Arizona – March 10.
7. WUPATKI NATIONAL MONUMENT – Arizona – March 10 — This is maybe the most haunted place I’ve ever been, but in the best sort of way.
8. PETRIFIED FOREST NATIONAL PARK – Arizona – March 11 – The park was rainy and empty when I got there early in the morning and the wet allowed me to collect a rainbow of mud on my hiking shoes.
9. GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK – Arizona – March 12 – Walking into the Grand Canyon on my birthday is maybe one of the best ways I’ve ever spent a birthday.
10. MONTEZUMA CASTLE NATIONAL MONUMENT – Arizona – March 13.
11. RICHMOND NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK – Virginia – March 17, April 22 & April 28 – This park is headquartered inside the city limits, at Tredegar Iron Works, but it’s made up of smaller units located in and around the city. I’d really like to knock out a few more visits in 2019 and then put together a guide on the little units.
12. SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK – Virginia – March 31 & December 20 – Both of 2018’s visits to Shenandoah were waterfall-related and, best of all, I was finally able to take my best bitch for a hike there a few weeks ago.
13. PRINCE WILLIAM FOREST PARK – Virginia – April 8.
15. HARPER’S FERRY NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK – West Virginia – May 12.
16. BELMONT-PAUL WOMEN’S EQUALITY NATIONAL MONUMENT – Washington, D.C. – May 13 – I was covering a bike ride for work that finished in D.C. and the schedule allowed me just enough time to sneak in a visit to this site, one of the newest national parks.
17. LINCOLN MEMORIAL – Washington, D.C. – May 13.
18. CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE – North Carolina – May 24 – I hadn’t been to the Outer Banks in years so when a lull in my insane work schedule appeared, I booked an impromptu trip, threw the wolves in the car and went.
19. FORT RALEIGH NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE – North Carolina – May 24.
20. WRIGHT BROTHERS NATIONAL MONUMENT – North Carolina – May 25.
21. BOOKER T. WASHINGTON NATIONAL MONUMENT – Virginia – June 5 — I met a turkey named Turkules here.
22. INDEPENDENCE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK – Pennsylvania – July 21 – I spent a long weekend doing all the park things with my friend Tara, who lives in Philadelphia.
23. THADDEUS KOSCIUSZKO NATIONAL MEMORIAL – Pennsylvania – July 21.
24. EDGAR ALLAN POE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE – Pennsylvania – July 21.
25. VALLEY FORGE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK – Pennsylvania – July 22.
26. CEDAR CREEK & BELLE GROVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK – Virginia – Aug. 15 – On the way to West Virginia for work, I stopped here to check out the Belle Grove mansion.
27. OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK – Washington – Aug. 25-27 – I go to Oregon every year to see my best bitch and when Crater Lake was filled with smoke from the forest fires, we headed north instead, to Olympic.
28. THEODORE ROOSEVELT INAUGURAL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE – New York – Sept. 4.
29. JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK – California – Oct. 21 – In the midst of a weekend away in Palm Springs, I grabbed three beautiful lady friends and headed to Joshua Tree, a park I’d been trying to get back to for years.
30. DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK – California – Oct. 22-25 – This place is my favorite. I still can’t stop thinking about it.
31. MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE – California – Oct. 25.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 8 STATES + D.C. — Arizona, California, Iowa, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania , Virginia, Washington
- 31 Total National Park units, including:
- 8 National Parks
- 7 National Monuments
- 6 National Historic Sites
- 4 National Historical Parks
- 2 National Memorials
- 1 National Seashore
- 1 National Military Park
- 1 National Battlefield Park
- 1 National Preserve