Ranking the 24 (of 59) national parks I've visited based on my personal experiences. File under memories. Photos from the net unless noted.
  1. 1.
    Rocky Mountain Natl Park - Colorado
    This is my home park as its closest edge is about 40 mins from my driveway, and I go up there 2-5 times per year, probably 50 total visits (thanks annual pass!). So much high country, so many waterfalls and cascades, so many mountaintops. Been hiking here for 20 years and spend many lovely long days on the trails every summer and fall. And spring. And winter. Go to spot: Wild Basin. (That's the view of the tallest peak in the park from the street in front of my house last week #humblebrag)
  2. 2.
    Yosemite Natl Park - California
    Made so many visits (7? 8?) as a young man, hiked, backpacked, camped, ice skated, walked to top of Half Dome and shot a lot of film. So lovely.
  3. 3.
    Great Sand Dunes Natl Park - Colorado
    When my kids were young we went camping here each spring for about 7 years in a row. Playing in Medano Creek and sliding down the massive dunes with my kids are highlight memories of parenthood. Climbing up the dunes at 8000 feet elevation is a workout. Just sayin. (The view from the campground in 1998)
  4. 4.
    Yellowstone Natl Park - Wyoming
    So big, so interesting. Geysers and big mammals. Been maybe 4 times, but best memory may be reading most of the 5th Harry Potter book to my kids on the seven hour drive across Wyoming to get home. (Yellowstone Falls in 2003). Update: Visited for four days in Autumn 2016: WILDLIFE SPOTTED IN YELLOWSTONE LAST WEEK
  5. 5.
    Mesa Verde Natl Park - Colorado
    It's simply amazing to wander through the ancient Anasazi dwellings, to climb the wooden ladders and walk in the footsteps of the ancients and think about their lives. The hiking and views are pretty swell too. Been here four times, once on my son's fifth grade school trip around Colorado. (My photo from 1989)
  6. 6.
    Zion Natl Park - Utah
    My favorite of Utah's wondrous parks. Driven through a couple of times and camped once with the kids for a few nights. Fun to hike on the canyon floor and look up at the massive walls. I love river bottoms of the American west and this one is the gem. (Family camping in 1997)
  7. 7.
    Arches Natl Park - Utah
    Beautiful desert scenery near Moab. The hike to Delicate Arch is one of the best. Carry water. (That's my son standing in 2011 inside the arch, which you may recognize from the Utah license plate)
  8. 8.
    North Cascades Natl Park - Washington
    Big mountains, deep lakes, Bigfoot? Bike camped my way around and through this park 35 years ago, including taking the ferry boat to Stehekin at the far end of Lake Chelan. Took a day hike through amazing windflowers to a high country lake, too. Froze on a wet bicycle descent off Rainy Pass, too. Great memories.
  9. 9.
    Lassen Peak Natl Park - California
    I've hiked to the summit of Lassen Peak but it's also fun to camp and explore the lava flows. Made several visits in my early 20s as I attended college not too far away.
  10. 10.
    Redwood Natl Park - Californa
    Driven through a couple of times and once memorably bicycled through on a west coast tour. Such lovely trees and quiet forests. So peaceful. I grew up among the Sonoma County redwoods. Watch for banana slugs. (Me climbing a tree in 1990)
  11. 11.
    Bryce Canyon Natl Park - Utah
    Driven through 3 or 4 times but never slept here. The hikes through the hoodoos are amazing particularly just after dawn or near sunset. The color: wow!
  12. 12.
    Grand Teton Natl Park - Wyoming
    Yellowstone's often overlooked spectacular little brother. And most people (including me) only see it from afar while driving into or out of Yellowstone's southern entrance. Some day I hope to explore the mountains more closely and when I do I suspect it will move up the rankings. (My photo from 2003)
  13. 13.
    Olympic Natl Park - Washington
    Briefly made a day trip in and out via car. Bicycled the perimeter once too. Dense, lush temperate rain forest. I remember the so many layers of plants, from ferns on up to giant cedars.
  14. 14.
    Crater Lake Natl Park - Oregon
    Been here 3 times over the years, twice driving through, once camping. Lovely views on the rim drive. Kind of a one-trick pony -- spectacular for sure! -- but no Yosemite or Yellowstone.
  15. 15.
    Capitol Reef Natl Park - Utah
    Another Utah desert and river bottom park. Most of it is inaccessible to us minivan and Subaru drivers. Lovely cottonwood tree river bottom picnic grounds. Carry water!
  16. 16.
    Badlands Natl Park - South Dakota
    Drove through once headed someplace else. Stark beauty.
  17. 17.
    Sequoia Natl Park - California
    Drive through visit as a child on way to Yosemite. I remember the massive trees, naturally. Not much else.
  18. 18.
    Petrified Forest Natl Park - Arizona
    Drive through visits twice on family road tips headed elsewhere (Phx for spring training and San Diego for breaches). Beautiful country, small park. Can see myself spending more time there when old and retired, in winter, avoiding snow back home. (My son in 2001)
  19. 19.
    Black Canyon of the Gunnison Natl Park - Colorado
    Hard to get to and only recently named a national park. (I was there when it was still a national monument) Have only made a brief look-see from the rim. It's actually deeper than the Grand Canyon but only because the surrounding mountains are higher. Need to go back and spend time.
  20. 20.
    King's Canyon Natl Park - California
    Drive through visit with my parents when I was about 10. Barely remember it.
  21. 21.
    Theodore Roosevelt Natl Park - North Dakota
    Only made a brief drive through visit on way home from a Minnesota road trip when my kids were car-seat small. Would like to go back and explore.
  22. 22.
    Saguaro Natl Park - Arizona
    Drive through visit to see the crazy roadrunner cartoon cacti.
  23. 23.
    Death Valley Natl Park - California
    Teen-age family vacation with the parental units in a family motor home. Interesting history and sights. Sand dunes. Lowest elevation of my life. Scotty's Castle. Borax mule teams. A long way from anywhere, no strong desire to go back (but glad I visited once).
  24. 24.
    Grand Canyon Natl Park - Arizona
    I've been here five times between 1978 and 2015, and each time (sadly) has become more disappointing than the time before due to the crowds and the traffic. I'll go once more before I die, but it will be to the remote and unvisited north rim. Go in winter if you can, or fall, or early spring, and go as early in the day as you can (6 am) on a weekday. And please spend some time hiking down to get off the rim. (That's my daughter visiting on National Day of Dance in summer 2015)