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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

National Parks Hall of Fame: Park Finder

Zero in on your perfect hike, from thrilling slots to soak-awhile hot springs.

by: Jim Gorman

Big Trees Redwood Creek Trail, Redwood National Park Trees come in two sizes here: enormous and OMG. Hike 8.5 miles upstream, through the green cathedral of Tall Trees Grove, and you'll pass under two of the world's 10 tallest specimens. Camp on a gravel bar, where a little extra sunlight filters through a break in the canopy.
Hot Springs Kern Hot
Springs, Sequoia National Park
Picture this: a 115°F hot spring tucked up against an icy mountain river, deep inside a glacier-carved canyon in the Sierra Nevada. Now imagine hiking the 72-mile High Sierra Trail, from Crescent Meadow to Mt. Whitney, and arriving at this mind-blowing soaker midway through. Ahhh.
Wild Berries Mink-Deer Lake Loop, Olympic National Park Huckleberries rule. Don't take our word for it; trust Olympic's bears, which load up on the Northwest's finest at The Potholes, and at Mink and Deer Lakes. Link all three areas on an 11-mile dayhike departing from Sol Duc. Berry-picking peaks in late August, and there's plenty to go around.
Stars Upper Muley Twist Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park On a clear night, the darkest place among the Lower 48 parks is actually pretty bright: A gajllion stars shine like electric bulbs. Hike Upper Muley Twist eight miles through redrock narrows and camp atop the Waterpocket Fold.
Geothermal Wonders Devil's Kitchen, Lassen Volcanic National Park Forget tranquility. Bubbling mud pots, boiling springs, hissing fumaroles, and powerful sulfur fumes make the scenery here volatile, to say the least. Witness it on a dayhike to isolated Devil's Kitchen, with a side trip to 125°F Boiling Spring Lake and steaming Terminal Geyser (nine miles total).
Birding Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park Acadia ranks as a top 100 birding spot in the U.S. Check out peregrine falcons on the steep .8-mile Precipice Trail, which scales a 1,000-foot cliff via ladders and iron rungs. Expect closures from spring into early August as falcons fledge.
Volcano Sliding Sands Trail, Haleakala National Park Pitch a tent in the quietly eerie Haleakala Wilderness. The moonscape of red cinder cones and lava rock was created when a flank of the volcano collapsed. Hike nine miles to reach Paliku Campground, nestled in a meadow fringed by steep slopes covered in evergreen ohia shrubs.
Swimming Holes Cedar Run Trail, Shenandoah National Park You'll never be far from an emerald plunge pool on this hike. Go in June for the perfect combination of Southern swelter and high water in the steep, cliffy canyon. Link to the Appalachian and Whiteoak Canyon Trails (with six waterfalls) for a perfect, 13-mile weekend loop.
Private Island Dryweed Island North (Site R73), Voyageurs National Park Only billionaires–and paddlers–can lay claim to a private paradise like this. Ignore the other 899 islands here and cruise five miles from Rainy Lake Visitor Center to a sandy beach on the north side of Dryweed Island. Swim, fish, nap. Repeat.
Thrill Orderville Canyon, Zion National Park Like it narrow, cold, a little insane? Several short rappels in 12-mile Orderville repel dilettantes. Could it get any better? Yup, Orderville dumps right into the prettiest part of The Narrows.

National Parks Hall of Fame

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Reader Rating: -


Nov 01, 2012

I agree with Jake above: Isle Royale.

Apr 12, 2012

If you want good stars, pick a night with a new moon. Otherwise, the moonlight will cast a shadow as well as the sun.

Jan 09, 2012

Isle Royale probably has the best stars in the lower 48.

Nov 10, 2011

I don't know Capitol Reef too well, but was in Escalante in clear weather and other southern Utah parks. I had better stars on Isle Royale.

Jim Sykora
Dec 11, 2009

For STARS in a close second I would recommend Guadalupe Mountains Natl Park for sheer remoteness from major cities. Nearest real town of any light pollution is Carlsbad NM and it's 50 miles line of sight. Salt Flat TX is about 25 miles but is a very small town.


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