The Ten Best of Everything National Parks

As the days shorten, and autum winds blow, it's time to dream about and plan your next national park vacation. We are lucky to live in a country with so many outstanding natural places to visit: the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Acadia, Yellowstone, Zion...the list goes on and on.

If you can't decide which national park to visit next, this guide will give you lots of ideas. Whatever your interests--photography, horseback riding, climbing summits, mountain biking, fly-fishing, petroglyph-viewing, you'll find lots of great recommendations.

Say you're a history afionado, how about the ten best parks to follow our presidential footprints?  Try Gettysburg, Mount Rushmore (of course), Theodore Roosevelt N.P., the Jefferson Monument, etc.  Each list has at least a half page entry on why it's included.

One of my favorite entries came from the seasonal category section: Dark Skies. Can you guess which parks offer the best star-viewing? Big Bend makes the top of the list

but Sleeping Bear Dunes in our neighboring state is high up there along with many western parks: Bryce Canon, Great Basin, Chaco Canyon, Hawaii Volcanoes, Haleakala, and Capitol Reef. If you have family or friends back east, Maine's Acadia is another great park to watch meteors or observe eclipses.

If you're a romantic or just someone thrilled by the varieties of sunrises and sunsets there's even a list for you: Acadia, Canaveral, Joshual Tree, Badlands, and Death Valley offer some great places to welcome the day and/or night.

How about the best park for natural sounds? Wolf howls, elephant seals, bugling elks, loons anyone? In order, try Yellowstone, Point Reyes, Rocky Mountain, and Voyageurs in Minnesota.

One of my favorite sections included is "Geological Oddities." Have you heard of the racetrack in Death Valley, where rocks mysteriously start skidding on their own across a dry lake bed? Or have you scene the huge Star Dune, 750 feet high--huge white sand dunes against the backdrop of the snowy Rockies? If not, Great Sand Dunes N.P. is for you. Don't forget to bring your sled and your camera.

As you might guess, even if you have no interest in planning a park trip, this book offers lots of entertaining armchair travel. And if you do have a national park trip on your horizon, check out the index so that you don't miss any of the amazing things to do or experience in your chosen piece of heaven.