Over a decade ago, my brother excitedly told me “It’s my dream to visit every National Park in America.”
I had no idea what he was talking about.
Like a park, with grass, trees and a playground? Cool (not).
Fast forward about 3 years ago, when I discovered Arches National Park… and the rest of Utah. So THIS is what my brother meant. These pockets of astonishing beauty scattered about the United States, wow!
It was then that I started an interest in photography, I mean how could you not when you visit places that take your breath away? I started with a Canon Powershot point and shoot, then graduated to a full frame DSLR Canon 6D. I finally started to understand those little words my brother once said to me. It was him, who guided me on my first steps into DSLR land and it’s his equipment he’s given me that I take on each journey.
Last June, he left this life too early.
I had no idea how to proceed with life. So I hit the road.
It was a heavy idea. I only shared it with about 5 people, the idea of road tripping up the west coast and hitting 11 National Parks along the way. I wanted to fulfill my brother’s dream with the time I have left that he didn’t. I still to this day do not know if this means anything to him. But it felt right, and off I went.
From Los Angeles to Seattle, the desert to the Pacific Northwest, my close friends and I drove a Jeep Wrangler 2,000 miles in 10 days. Here’s to you, big brother… #NgoDangNormalRoadTrip
To commemorate, I’ve been collecting each NPS patch and sewing it onto a Pendleton wool blanket. I’ve brought my brother’s favorite GAP hat to every park, and photographed it next to each entrance sign.
I will share each National Park as I tackle all 59, details of the hikes, where the best photo ops are and accommodation in individual posts to come.
Anacapa Island, California
An hour and a half ferry ride from Oxnard, CA (which is an hour from Los Angeles), lies 5 islands that are more than a respite from the busy city life of L.A.
Anacapa Island sparked my interest due to the beauty of the vantage of Inspiration Point. A barren volcanic island with dramatic cliffs, western gulls and sea arches. The perfect day trip!
Accommodations: Staying in L.A. would be great, but staying in Oxnard or Ventura would be very convenient to catch the ferry.
Two hours drive from Los Angeles, lies the California desert and it’s gardens of cactus otherwise known as Joshua Trees. Stacks of Flintstones-like rocks and shooting stars illuminating the night skies… a perfect weekend trip away from L.A.
Accommodations: Rising Sun Tipi (Airbnb) in Yucca Valley
Four hours drive from J. Tree is my favorite National Park to date. It’s so extreme, from the hottest location on earth, to rocks that mysteriously “move” by themselves, sand dunes, salt flats, the “devil’s golf course” and an Artists’ Drive which guides you through multicolored mountains.
Accommodation: Paramint Springs Resort on the NPS property
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Four and a half hours drive from DV, are these two connected National Parks that house the world’s largest tree: General Sherman. Black bears roam the grounds and the giant trees will mesmerize you.
Accommodations: Best Western Village Inn, Fresno, CA (1 hr drive)
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK
Lassen is a 5.5 hour drive from Fresno. Sacramento is the halfway stop point for lunch. The park is known for it’s volcanic activity: boiling mud pots, stinky milky blue steaming lakes also known as fumaroles.
Accommodations: Thunderbird Lodge, Redding, CA (1 hr drive)
REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK
Four hours drive from Redding, is where the tallest trees on Earth live! This day consisted of a hike through Fern Canyon and scenic drives with an open roofed Jeep under the giant trees.
Accommodations: Half Moon Cabin (Airbnb) 2 hour drive from the park
FAVORITE stay of the trip!
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Three hours drive from the cabin is one of the best hidden gems in America.
Crater Lake is exactly what it sounds like- a lake, in a crater. When the volcano collapsed, a crater formed and with time, rain and snow collected and formed a pristine lake. The color of the lake is sapphire blue and one of the most beautiful sights I’ve visited.
Accommodation: Glamping Tipi, La Pine, Oregon (1 hr drive)
Three and a half hours away, we spent the day recuperating in PDX. We had plans to see Cannon Beach and eat at some local favorite restaurants (Pok Pok, American Local, Taylor Railworks, Bollywood Theatre) but we ended up napping and having dinner at Ava Gene’s and walking around Division. It was Labor Day Monday and most places were closed.
Accommodation: Jupiter Hotel
MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK
Two and a half hours from Portland is one of the most famous National Parks, where the active volcano of Mount Rainier lives. The overcast day did not diminish the beauty of the park and it’s waterfalls.
Accommodations: Seattle, Washington (friend’s house) (2 hour drive)
NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK
Two hours from Seattle is the alpine park of North Cascades, known for it’s turquoise Diablo Lake.
Accommodations: Seattle, Washington
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Two and a half hours from Seattle is Olympic National Park, with areas in the Pacific Northwest where you can see over to Canada! After visiting the park, we took the car on the ferry back to Seattle and enjoyed a great evening view of the skyline.
This road trip was taken last August/September, but it’s been very difficult to even write the introduction to this publishing. It’s been avoided and procrastinated, but the time has come and I hope this will help you plan any future road trips up the west coast and invigorate an interest in our country’s treasures.
Thanks for following along, I’ll link each park soon!
All photos taken by Melllypoo via Canon 6D.