National Parks Project

Wilderness. The word itself is music. Edward Abbey

It's become one of my goals to visit all of our National Parks. I've always had a deep love for the natural world, and began backpacking as a Boy Scout at a young age. After finishing college, I adventured around North America for a year, living out of a van, meditating and exploring the continent's wild places, including several spectacular National Parks. I've traveled in several other countries as well, from the highlands of New Zealand to the Himalayas of Nepal, and though these remarkable places are all unforgettable, I've learned that my heart belongs to the American wilderness. There are conserved public lands across the country, all unique and significant, but I think it's fair to say that our nation's essential ecological character, in its incredible diversity and unparalleled beauty, is best preserved in our National Parks. I want to experience them all, in at least some small measure, before I die, and I suspect that aligning myself with this intention will set in motion other journeys that I can't now anticipate, further excursions into the world's wondrous wilds. Excluding numerous national monuments and historic sites, there are now 58 National Parks in the United States and its territories. Below is a list of those I've visited so far.

ARP · Chicago, 2009

2013 Update: Central California's Pinnacles was redesignated from national monument to full park status, making it our 59th National Park.

2018 Update: New initiatives to acknowledge and honor Native American roots are bringing long overdue attention to the park system's conflicted history as well as educating visitors about traveling on native lands.

2019 Update: Two recent redesignations, establishing "Gateway Arch National Park" and "Indiana Dunes National Park," have been met with skepticism about the appropriate use of the National Parks "brand." As one commenter notes of Gateway Arch, "This is the first 'capital N-capital P' National Park with no natural or historic significance whatsoever." In another controversial redesignation late in 2019, White Sands became our 62nd National Park.

2020 Update: Late in 2020, parts of West Virginia's New River Gorge were redesignated from national river to full park status, making it our 63rd National Park.

2021 Update: As the nation continues to reckon with its racist history in the wake of the BLM and New Civil Rights movements, there have been increased demands for the re-evaluation and/or removal of Confederate monuments from national parklands. 2021 also saw new leadership and the restoration of numerous public lands protections.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. The whole wilderness in unity and inter-relation is alive and familiar. The very stones seem talkative, sympathetic, brotherly. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty hunger is made manifest in our magnificent National Parks, nature's sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world. John Muir

National Park State When Visited
1. Great Smoky Mountains North Carolina Summer 2000
2. Black Canyon of the Gunnison Colorado Spring 2005
3. Mesa Verde Colorado Spring 2005
4. Arches Utah Spring 2005
5. Canyonlands Utah Spring 2005
6. Capitol Reef Utah Spring 2005
7. Bryce Canyon Utah Spring 2005
8. Zion Utah Spring 2005
9. Grand Canyon Arizona Summer 2005
10. Joshua Tree California Summer 2005
Yosemite (South) California Summer 2005
11. Olympic Washington June 2009
12. Badlands South Dakota July 2010
13. Wind Cave South Dakota July 2010
14. Virgin Islands St. John, USVI February 2011
15. Cuyahoga Valley Ohio June 2011
16. Yosemite California Summer 2012 · JMT
17. Kings Canyon California Summer 2012 · JMT
18. Sequoia California Summer 2012 · JMT
Grand Canyon Arizona Spring 2013
19. Great Sand Dunes Colorado Summer 2014
20. Saguaro Arizona Spring 2015
21. Grand Teton Wyoming Summer 2015
Grand Staircase-Escalante* Utah Spring 2016
22. Congaree South Carolina Winter 2016
23. Rocky Mountain Colorado Winter 2019
24. Yellowstone Wyoming+ Summer 2021
Canyonlands (The Maze) Utah Spring 2023

Last updated: March 2023

*Though not yet classified as a National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante conserves a remarkable wilderness roughly the size of Delaware, encompassing the largest land area of all U.S. National Monuments. It certainly seems worthy of mention. Go there, if you can.


Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

I am here not only to evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus but also to confront, immediately and directly if it's possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bedrock which sustains us. Edward Abbey