It's the U.S. National Park's 100 year anniversary! Free admission to parks 8/25-28! I'm hoping to hit all 59 U.S. National Parks in my lifetime but I'm not so insanely dedicated to that goal. Some National Parks (like Gates of the Arctic in AK or the America Samoa) are extremely hard to get to. Inspired by @andersun (all photos taken by me or @AJ)
  1. Yosemite National Park
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    One of the marquee parks of the U.S. National Park system. It's surprisingly close to SF, and yet I've only been twice. It's beautiful and lives up to the hype. One of the first real adult hikes I've been on was the Yosemite Falls hike. I was woefully underprepared for it. It was still amazing, despite the blisters (cheap hiking boots), sore muscles (out of shape) and near dehydration (didn't bring enough water). I need to explore this park more.
  2. Great Sand Dunes National Park
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    It so surreal to walk on huge sand dunes while the Rocky Mountains are in the background all around you. Surreally gorgeous that is.
  3. Rocky Mountain National Park
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    We need to go back and explore this park more. We stayed on the less populated west side, while the east side of the park has more to do and see. We did do a lovely hike up to a lake (though we foolishly forgot to use bug spray and were eaten alive by mosquitos at the end of the hike).
  4. Haleakala National Park
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    This is almost two parks. The center of Maui where you go and watch the sunrise and then can hike down into the cinder cones and see the silversword plants (which ONLY grow at that location, the leaves are actually silver). And the southern part of the park (a different entrance, there is no connecting road through the park) where you can hang out in the 7 Sacred Pools as well as hike through a bamboo forest to a waterfall. Both are amazing and so different. One of my favorite experiences ever.
  5. Arches National Park
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    Another one of our favorite parks, though it's smaller than other parks. It has over 2000 rock arches. Just stunning in the geographic formations. I did a memorable solo hike that was one of the more difficult hikes for me (I felt very empowered at the time, though I've since gone on more significantly difficult hikes since). We've been twice because we like it so much. We also witnessed a woman collapse from heat exhaustion - they had to helicopter her out. Bring water. A lot of water.
  6. Zion National Park
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    The Narrows hike is in my top 5 favorite hikes I've ever done. This is where I discovered my love of slot canyons. The way the light that wraps around the canyon walls is just incredibly gorgeous. And walking in the river at times up to our waist was super fun. We didn't do the other signature hike "Angel's Landing" because AJ had a fear of heights. Maybe one day...
  7. Pinnacles National Park
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    The newest national park (Thanks Obama!) it's not very popular which is great. It's only a couple of hours away from San Francisco so we can go there for a long weekend to camp. We did a lovely night hike using the moonlight up to a lake and it was really contemplative. The stars were just brilliant.
  8. Redwood National Park
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    The grand majestic trees, some up to 2000 years old, just tower over you as you walk around under them (and occasionally on top of the fallen ones). It feels very much like Endor in Star Wars (which makes sense, as Lucas filmed there) but there are no Ewoks. The silent giants really do give you perspective in life.
  9. Joshua Tree National Park
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    One of our favorite parks, the kooky Dr. Seuss-like trees as well as large rock formations (it was the first time we had gone rock scrambling) make for a really surreal park. There's a cactus garden that is just stunning at sunrise, though I nearly fell asleep driving there (AJ quickly took over the driving...). I'm not a morning person.
  10. Sequoia National Park
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    If the Redwoods are tall and majestic, the sequoias are their larger heavier and thicker cousins. These massive trees are the biggest in the world. Like the redwoods, they live for 1000s of years and the sheer size of the trunks is awe inspiring.
  11. Kings Canyon National Park
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    Adjacent to Sequoia National Park. I think we just kind of peered into the canyon. We didn't really explore it too much. We need to go back.
  12. Grand Canyon National Park
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    The signature marquee park in the US, it's incredibly crowded for a reason. Yet the canyon lives up to the hype, utter grand and gorgeous. We went on 2 or 3 hikes. The first, The Grandview Trail was a less popular hike that had us running into only three or four other groups of folks (this was middle of summer too, the height of tourist season). It was spectacular. The second, the Bright Angel was the popular hike and it was insanely packed with people. I can't wait to go back and do more.
  13. Yellowstone National Park
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    The third signature marquee park. I'm not a HUGE fan though I did like it. I think the interesting features probably are best seen from an above aerial perspective. Also the entire park smells of rotten eggs. That said, it's a really interesting park. I wouldn't mind going back and maybe exploring some of the less popular features and do more hiking there.
  14. Grand Teton National Park
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    Adjacent to Yellowstone, I feel like this park is overlooked. We went on an amazing hike where you hike up to a boulder the size of a house then turn the corner and the valley floor just opened up. It was gorgeous. It was also the place where we heard about SCOTUS' ruling deeming DOMA unconstitutional and also declined to hear the the Prop 8 case, allowing those marriages in CA to stay legal. Grand Teton holds a special place in my heart.
  15. Capitol Reef National Park
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    An overlooked park in Utah, next to the flagship Zion, the stunning Arches, the hoodoo formations of Bryce and the grandeur of Canyonlands. It's an easy park to camp at, kid friendly and historically interesting. We did a few really interesting hikes here and had a nocturnal experience with a mountain lion that was scary. Nature!
  16. Bryce National Park
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    The odd hoodoo rock formations really are amazing. Hiking into and around the amphitheater is stunning. Photos don't do it justice because the scale just doesn't translate. Well worth the trip.
  17. Mesa Verde National Park
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    I want to know which person decided "I have a great idea! Let's go live IN the cliffs!" "You mean on the cliffs?" "No, INSIDE the cliffs! We'll climb down into the cliff, then carve out our homes!" "Golly that's a genius idea!" Yeah, it's actually really cool and also really insane that whole tribes of people did this.
  18. Canyonlands National Park
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    Another park we need to really go back and explore. We drove to the Island In the Sky (such a cool name) and then had lunch as we peered into the canyon itself. Next time I want to drive down into the canyon. Though I think you need a 4x4 jeep to do that. Still, pretty amazing to look at from above.
  19. Badlands National Park
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    Badlands are actually the name of a geological formation that happen all over the word, though the biggest concentration of them is on North America. The Badlands National Park really feels magical and other worldly - almost mythical! Hiking up and around them you can imagine another world that has since decayed or eroded or perhaps enchanted. Definitely worth a visit.
  20. Crater Lake National Park
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    The stunning blue lake has no outlet for the water. It is strictly glacially fed, with the rate of evaporation about the same level as the rate of the melting ice feeding the lake. The water is suppose to be quite cold. We didn't go down there to feel it but walking the rim of the crater, the impossible blue color almost hurt my eyes with its beauty.
  21. Petrified Forest National Park
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    I wouldn't go out of my way again for this park, but the petrified wood is fascinating. For me the best part was actually seeing their badland formations which are purple and blue. Just stunning. The petrified wood is super cool but a bit one trick pony.
  22. Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
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    The time we visited The Big Island of Hawaii, we wanted to hike out to the lava flow but it was 13 mile hike under harsh conditions with no guarantee that we would even see lava. So we went to a different part of the park and hiked the through the cooled lava crater. It was my first experience hiking through such an incredibly different landscape other than mainland woods and lakes. It felt like an episode from Star Trek or a sci fi show. Utterly stunning.
  23. Olympic National Park
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    The biggest national park in Washington, there are three distinct climates, the mountain and lake are where we camped, the ocean coastline which we hiked on (and that is featured in the Twilight series of books, yes we drove through Forks, it's a really boring town) and the temperate rainforest which sadly we didn't get to. I can't wait to go back and explore more!
  24. Mt. Rainier National Park
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    We barely visited this park, just basically driving around the mountain on the way from North Cascades to Olympic. But it's gorgeous and I really want to go back. I have friends who tell me this is their favorite in Washington. From what little we saw, I can believe it! The mountain is majestic and it basically dominated the background.
  25. North Cascade National Park
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    Kind of overlooked because of the other two parks in Washington, this beauty of a park has great camping and some really nice hikes. We hiked up to Blue Lake (which lives up to its name) and saw mountain goats. Up close and personal. They were within arms reach. And those horns are sharp looking! We finally scared them off. But not before I took some snapchat videos of them!
  26. Death Valley National Park
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    There are so many wildly different parts of this park. From the lowest point in North America (Badwater Basin, 282 ft BELOW sea level) to the Artist Palette with the various colored stripes to the Devil's Golfcourse filled with weird salt formations. This is suppose to be one of the driest places on earth (and, of course, the one time I went it actually rained). Check out @bobbyhundreds great list on this park. 23 REASONS TO VISIT DEATH VALLEY.
  27. Everyone go visit the U. S. National Parks!
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    For their centennial birthday, the U.S. National Parks are offering free admission from August 25 (today) to 28th, 2016. Also Sept. 24 & Nov. 11 are free! On top of that all 4th grade students get a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program! Go to http://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm for more details! And use the hashtag #FindYourPark and #NPS100 to help share the love on social media!