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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Washington, United States
    Posts
    6

    Default Visit ALL of the National Parks?

    I tried a search, but it looks like most people stick to the SW parks.
    I'm in the planning stages of a most Epic Roadtrip with my kids over a summer. I don't know if it will be summer 2015 or when, because I can't do it until my dogs die. I won't board them and it's too stressful for them to travel or stay home with the rest of my family.
    I can't find a good route to visit all of the continental national parks. We've live near Seattle and have been to Crater Lake, Mt St Helens, and Mt Rainier. (We just got back from that trip, in fact!) I've been to Yellowstone too, but was pregnant and miserable, so it was a windshield tour, so I'd like to go back!
    I have no set timeline since I'd be going without worrying about time off from work or school. If there's a good route that takes 8-10 weeks, that's fine! Even using route planning websites, I can only add up to 27 destinations. Including non-NP things I want to see, I probably have at least 100!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Wow, that would be quite a trip. There are national parks all over the USA, including three in Alaska and some in Hawaii as well. You might do well to start with the NPS website to see if it's even do-able in one summer!

    I know there are two that are difficult to get to. One is Isle Royale, accessible by boat. Another is Voyageurs, also accessible by boat.

    If you were to list the ones that you are interested in (the 27), it might help us. You could also take a good USA map and flag all of them. You'll see a route start to develop before your very eyes. Then post it to us, and we can probably add to your list.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default The Size of the Problem

    This is the traveling salesman problem writ large. The traveling salesman problem is a famous mathematical challenge, so famous that it goes by its acronym TSP. There are n! (n factorial) solutions to that problem. The TSP is generally considered unsolvable when n gets to around 20. In the case of U.S. national parks, n=59 (currently) and is rising. What is 59 factorial? 59!=1*2*3*...*59. Work it out and you discover that there are around a billion billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion possibilities. No one is going to be able to tell you the best route!

    Good luck, though. Sounds like a wonderful endeavor, but I wouldn't worry if it takes you more than a year (or two).

    AZBuck

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default A State by State approach.

    A similar thought has crossed my mind, from time to time, but as ourlined by Buck, is just too complex. Instead, I have thought that perhaps a State by State approach could work. I'm not saying that it will, as I am yet to pursue it. But remember to add all the National Monuments, which basically are National Parks in all aspects, other than name.

    If you were to do a State a year, your trips have been planned for the next 50 years. (Oh! the thought of it.)

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Washington, United States
    Posts
    6

    Default

    Donna,
    I would have to skip the Alaska and Hawaii Parks for now.
    I got through 27 NPs, and was able to see a route begin to form, so I guess I may have to do sections or break out down (Points A-M, M-Z?) I went to the NPS website and printed their planned routes, but you have to visit each parks' page individually. I did go to the library and pick up a few NP books so maybe I can prioritize.

    Buck,
    I realize there are as many routes from Point A to Point B as there are roads, but I was hoping someone could at least say something like "We did it in this order... and it took us this long..." I can tell you the three ways to get to my house from the freeway, and I can tell you the benefits of each option and the downfalls. I can also tell you how it may change depending on the time of day or the weather. I can tell you about how long each one will take. I was hoping someone...anyone... would have some helpful insight.
    It is a huge task to plan this trip. The extent of my trip planning has been our trip to Yellowstone, San Diego, San Francisco, and our recent Rainier/St Helens/Crater Lake trip. The first three were easy. There was a starting point-our house, and a destination. We took the shortest/fastest route there, saw what we wanted to see and took the same route home.

    Lifey,
    I'm not patient enough to wait 50 years to see stuff. I've already waited 31! I'd like to show my kids the NPs, then spend the rest of the years they're home to focus on other trips. When they're a little older, I'd like to pull them out of public school for a year or two and use that time to do a history tour of the US, and visit historic landmarks to learn in depth.

    My husband has lived in 11 states, visited countless others, toured Europe by backpack for 5 weeks, and been back to France for another 2 weeks. He doesn't want to travel anymore. He wants to ride his dirt bike. I have lived in Seattle and San Diego. I've been to Portland, ME and Portland, OR. I've driven up and down the West Coast half a dozen times, focusing on getting somewhere. We went to Yellowstone, but I only got a windshield tour due to all-day sickness. I want to SEE what this land has to offer. I'm tired of looking at pictures.

    Click here to read about the August, 2014 epic adventure
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-14-2014 at 09:53 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Washington, United States
    Posts
    6

    Default

    I used findthebestroute.com and clustered the parks a little to get a rough route. I'll have to split the trip into two summers to spend quality time in each park. My next step is to break each "leg" down further, but my rough route will go about like this:
    Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Maine, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana.
    Obviously, since I'm not a Muppet and lack the ability to travel by map, I will be driving through other states as well, but those are the states that have parks or park clusters I'm planning on stopping in.
    To split the route into two summers, I may do an Eastern half of the US, and the Western half.

  7. #7

    Default Lower 48

    I already posted some of this information on your recent road trip report, just saw this thread - a bit behind times. Defining National Parks is a first step, as I mentioned in the other thread there are 401 NPS sites. Even if you stick to the 59 NPs there are a number not accessible by car and outside the Lower 48. My husband just finished visiting all of the NPS sites in the lower 48, it took many years. I hope to accomplish the same this Fall, 10 more to go. We have also visited all the park sites in Hawaii and a few in Alaska. We do not have a goal of all 401 because we cannot afford the other ones in Alaska, or Guam or American Samoa or the Virgin Islands.

    Just focusing on the accessible NPs in the continental US can be done in several extended trips. Besides the ones Donna mentioned you also need to take a boat or plane to Dry Tortugas, off Florida. The other problem is weather, some like Saguaro in my back yard, as well as Big Bend and Death Valley are better experienced in the Winter.

    Lots to consider with your goal, good luck and have fun along the way,
    -Pat

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    My thoughts are very similar to PMount's. It's an amazing goal, however I don't think it is one that could be completed in just 8-10 weeks - assuming you want to do more than just stop by each one for an hour or two to say you've been there. In fact, I suspect, even doing it in 2 full summers would be tough.

    But that also depends upon what you are calling a National Park. Are you only including the 46 official "National Parks" in the 48 states? What about the National Memorials, National Battlefields, National Rivers/Lakeshores/Seashores, National Recreational Areas, etc? If you only included "National Parks" then some of the places that would not be on your list would include Mount Rushmore, Gettysburg, The Blue Ridge Parkway, or any of the sites in DC, including National Mall, White House, etc.

    Getting to all of them, no matter what your definition, is certainly an amazing goal, but doing them all in a relatively short period of time (anything in weeks, not years) is one that is more difficult than it appears on the surface.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Though Wikipedia isn't always known for its accuracy, this article is an excellent list of the 401 units related to the national park system. If you only stuck with the national parks, you'll have more than you can possibly visit in one summer or even two. The national monuments and battlefields, if added, would make enough for 4 or 5 complete summers.

    I'm in my 50s, and have been fortunate enough to visit 33 NP's. Only a few have I been able to repeat (Acadia, Denali, Yellowstone, Tetons, Yosemite). That has always been the focus of travels for my parents as I grew up, and for my husband and myself. We try to fit in any of the other varieties -- NHPs, battlefields, recreation areas -- as they come up. I will also admit that at my age, I've seen a national monument or two suddenly get national park status -- happened a bit in 1980. It is a lofty goal to visit all of the parks in a lifetime, especially considering that some of them are in out of the way and far off places like Hawaii, American Samoa, and Alaska, and some are (as I pointed out early) water accessible parks.


    Donna

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