A National Park for each Month of 2017

Since we are at the beginning of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to list which National Park would be the best to visit during each month of this year.   Of course, at Bighorntravelblog we believe it is always a good time to visit a National Park, but there are some compelling reasons to visit these parks in the month indicated.    I hope that this inspires you to consider visiting National Parks when planning your vacation time in 2017.

January – Rocky Mountain National Park.   Colorado is known for its great skiing in places like Breckenridge, Vail, and many others.   Why not combine a ski trip with a visit to beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park.   Rocky Mountain National Park has plenty of winter activities including ice climbing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and skiing.   This is also one of the few national parks that allows backcountry camping in the winter.

February – Bryce Canyon National Park.   If you think the orange-red hoodoos look amazing in the summer, then you should see them in February when the rock spires are coated with snow.   It is very beautiful and the clear cold skies should make for some great stargazing as well.

March – Death Valley National Park.    Despite the name, in the spring flowers bloom throughout Death Valley.   Perhaps you will get lucky and during a March visit get to see the Superbloom which happens about once a decade (which is about how often they get any substantial rain in the park).

April – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.   Late April after Spring Break is usually one of the more inexpensive times of year to fly to Hawaii.    The weather here is always perfect plus you could tack on a visit to Haleakala National Park as well.

May – Grand Canyon National Park.   The Grand Canyon is always a great place to visit.   In May you can beat the summer crowds and heat and dodge the snow that is here in the winter.


June – Great Basin National Park.  Summertime is when the crowds really come out to the National Parks.  Why not take this time to visit one of the least visited National Parks in the lower 48.   This is one the best places to see the stars in the lower 48.   Summers are the one time a year you can see the yellow bellied rock marmot.   The yellow bellied rock marmot hibernates for 9 months a year and is usually only seen in mid summer as they sunbathe on the rocks.

July – Zion National Park.   Now I know, Zion is a zoo with crowds in July.   But July is the best time to hike the Narrows or the Subway.   Wading through the cold water of the Virgin River feels great when it is over 100*F and the risk of flash floods washing you out of the canyon is minimized.

August – Olympic National Park.   Olympic is normally very rainy and wet, but in August you have your best shot of sunny skies and relatively warm weather.   The clear skies are also make this a great time for a side trip to the Space Needle in Seattle to get great views of Olympic and Mt Ranier National Parks.


September – Yosemite National Park.   Yosemite is another park that in the summer months is difficult to traverse due to crowds.   But visiting in the winter isn’t great because many of the roads are closed and huge portions of the park aren’t accessible.   September is a great time to visit as school is in session so the crowds are down and all of the park is open for business.

October – Acadia National Park.    Acadia in October is stunning.    The New England foliage is showing their full color and the weather is perfect.   Add in some lobster rolls was watching the ocean crash on the black rocks and I can’t think of a better place to be in October.

November – Biscayne National Park.  Visiting this park in South Florida in the summer is like giving yourself over to the mosquitoes as a human sacrifice, but the bugs die down in late fall but the weather is still nice.   This is the best time of year to visit this park.

December – Yellowstone National Park.   Snowmobiling through Yellowstone is one of my bucket list items.   Wildlife is easy to spot in the snow and the cold air really shows off the steam rising from the hot springs and geysers.


The Best Bargain in Travel

The best bargain in travel is the United States National Park Pass.   The cost is negligible really.   We purchased an annual family Interagency National Park Pass last June for $80.   If you are a senior, it is only $10 for a lifetime pass and the US Military get in free always.


Having the National Park Pass gets you into all National Parks, Monuments, and Federal Recreation sites at no additional cost with no limitations on visits.   Before I had the National Park Pass I had been to 6 National Parks in 43 years.   Since June, I have been to 9 National Parks with 7 of them new.   In addition, my adult children have used the pass to visit 3 other National Parks and between all of us have scheduled trips this winter and spring to at least 7 more.   The National Parks are spread all over the country so while some of our trips have been based around the Parks, others have been because we have been in the area.   Work trip to New Hampshire, then drive up to Acadia in Maine.   Weekend getaway to Seattle, lets squeeze in Mt Ranier etc.

The United States National Park system represents all that is great about America.   To quote writer and historian, Wallace Stegner, national parks are “the best idea we ever had.  Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”   The National Park system preserves the most beautiful, special, and culturally important places in our country.   To visit them widens your view of the world and fills you with awe to the beauty created by God.


Parks visited so far this year by our family include Acadia NP, Congaree NP, Cuyahoga NP, Zion NP, Canyonlands NP, Arches NP, Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Canyon NP, Saguaro NP, Mt Ranier NP, Olympic NP, Shenandoah NP, and the Great Smoky Mountains NP.    Scheduled trips over the next six months include Joshua Tree NP, Yellowstone NP, Grand Tetons NP, Badlands NP, Big Bend NP, Guadalupe NP, and Carlsbad Caverns NP.   I’m sure we will sneak in a few more as well!


Sunday Hikes: Angels Landing


Angels Landing is universally agreed to be one of the iconic day hikes in North America.   It is about 5 miles round trip with about 1500 feet in elevation change.     I hiked this several of my children last summer.   I wasn’t real sure if I wanted to do the last length because of my fear of heights, but I succumbed to peer pressure at the top and decided to give it a shot.

To get to Angels Landing in Zion National Park in southwest Utah, you can take the bus from the visitors center.   It starts right at the Grotto bus stop.    The incline is slight to begin, but quickly ramps up and after crossing through a shaded break in the canyon wall concludes with a series of severe switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles.   After the Wiggles, you are at a resting area 1500 feet above the canyon floor and about a ¼ mile from the turnaround point of Angel’s Landing.   This last ¼ mile is about 2 to 6 feet wide on a rock spire with steep drop offs on both sides.

Now my oldest son Josh, had outpaced myself and my daughter and was somewhere out on the rock spire.   My fear for his safety was overridden by my own fear of heights.   The first section veers to the right and is on an angle which gives the feeling that you will slide right off the side and down to your death.   There are chains to hold on to and hold on I did.   I had my daughter stay about six feet behind me because I knew if I could see her then my fear would grow exponentially.   Plus, she could keep anyone from shaking the chain that I was clutching tightly.   As we continued through the narrow ledges and over rocks, I basically spider crawled and hugged the rock and chain.   I doubt I ever once stood straight up.   Josh passed us on his way back as we were about halfway to the conclusion of the rock spire.   Somehow I climbed, crawled, and squirmed my way to the top and I must admit the feeling of elation from not plunging to my death accrued with the beautiful views and blue skies was intense.


After soaking in the views, we turned back and the return trip was surprisingly easier.   I could see that several of the places that were so frightening on the way out on the spire, were actually not so bad.   Now, I still hugged the rock and clutched the chains tightly just in case of course.   After spider crawling the ¼ mile back we then hoofed it back down the trail as quickly as possible.   This was mostly because we had drank all our water and were getting really thirsty quickly.

Once we got to the bottom, I noticed that my right shoulder was a little sore but didn’t think much of it.  However, the next day when I woke it was hurting really bad and when I went to take a breath I had pain in my upper right lung.   It was a sharp pain and it kind of scared me.   I called my Dad (retired respiratory therapist) and explained my symptoms and he diagnosed me with a pulled muscle of some sort in my shoulder area.   I think I may have set some sort of hiking achievement by being the first person to pull a shoulder muscle while hiking.   I guess I really was clutching that chain.

I do recommend the hike and I probably would do it again.   The views really were amazing and the sense of accomplishment was astonishing.   I apologize for the pictures not being that great.  I was so scared I really didn’t take any during the scarier parts.   I do recommend going first thing in the morning as it gets crowded later in the day and in the summer the rock gets super hot which is uncomfortable when you are hugging it tightly.