“I will explore and discover the natural world and other cultures wherever I go” –Kenai Fjords National Park Junior Ranger oath
#5: Arches National Park: Mars on Earth!
On my way down from Alaska, I went through Arches National Park. It is, compared to many other National Parks in the United States, a relatively small park. But it has stunning views of crazy rock formations. It feels a bit like Mars on Earth with its thousands of “Red Rocks” sticking out of the ground as if a giant had placed them many years ago.
My Tip: Make your reservation early for the one and only campground. It only has 50 sites, but this makes it a true out in the wilderness experience at night. Almost everybody is out of the park and you can gaze at the stars and the shadows of the rock formations in the moonlight!
#4: Yellow Stone National Park: Hot, Baby!
For sure, this is one of my favourite spots in North America. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, the colours of the minerals, the steam coming out of the earth and geysers will turn any picture you take into something magical!
My Tip: A few miles from the North Entrance into the Park there are hot springs feeding into one of the rivers of Yellow Stone. Hang out in the warm water while enjoying your surroundings! The parking spot is not marked, but you will see the river on your left driving south.
#3: Wrangell/St Elias National Park: the biggest one!
I have seen only a small portion of this park as it is so big and has hardly any roads. You would spend months of hiking and climbing and trailblazing just to see everything. But the park has nine of the sixteen highest peaks in the United States to offer. It is well worth a scenic flight. But it’s also a paradise for outdoor adrenalin junkies: Rafting, Hiking and Ice Climbing!
My Tip: Even if you have no experiences, a day on Root Glacier Ice Climbing is worth your money. You will hike with crampons on your feet and conquer your fear going down into a Moulin and climbing out.
#2: Denali National Park: Bears, Bears, Bears
In Alaska everything has different dimensions. This Park is, again, too big to see all of it. You can either take a bus ride along the only road in the Park or go off trailblazing! You can ask the bus driver to stop anywhere you like to venture and off you are in bear country. You shouldn’t hike by yourself but in a group it is a true wilderness experience.
My Tip: Get off the bus at Sabel Pass, hike down the road for a bit and eventually disappear into the wilderness. Trailblazing isn’t as easy as you think. No trails means thick brushes or rivers you might have to avoid. The easiest is probably to find a small creek to follow. Don’t forget your lunch!
#1: Kenai Fjords National Park: I got my Junior Ranger Badge!
For sure not as well-known as Denali but with its variety of wildlife (in the sea and on the shore) and stunning peaks and glaciers, it is my favourite! I spotted Orcas, Humpbacks, Sea Otters as well as Black Bears along with a breathtaking (literally!) hike up Exit Glacier. I liked it so much, that I got my junior ranger badge by filling out some quizzes and swearing the following oath (goofy, but fun!):
“As a junior ranger I promise to help and protect, Kenai Fjord National Park, my community and the world. I will explore and discover the natural world and other cultures wherever I go!”
My Tip: Spend one day on a wildlife cruise including one of the calving glaciers and the other day hiking Exit Glacier. If you don’t want to hike up all the way to the top, just go up to Marmaid Meadows where you will have a great view of the Glacier.