America’s National Parks – it’s not Mickey Mouse tourism!

Many people I meet on my travels have no interest at all in visiting the US. “It’s too touristy” is a common reaction; another is “I don’t like Disney”, or “We’ll do it when we’re older and we can’t get to these places”.

True, visiting America may not carry that badge of honour that a trip to the jungles of Borneo or the mists of west Africa warrant, but those who love the outdoors can hardly find a more varied, dramatic and accessible wilderness to explore than the US National Parks.

The south western states in particular offer such a richness of natural treasures that it’s hard to find a part of the world to match it. Arizona and Utah are home to some great parks (Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands to name a few); California to many more. Each are easy to reach by road, provide comfortable hotel options as well as camping, and offer some of the world’s best hiking routes. Most of the visitors are Americans, and given the lack of mobility of most visitors to the outdoors (it’s the same in the UK), although the car parks may be bursting to the seams, walk more than 100yds away and you have the place almost to yourself.

We hiked here in Bryce for a couple of days, and wished we had stayed longer (as an American employee at the time I had to struggle to get a whole week off work!). The hoodoos (the towers that characterise this park) are an eerie sight, and made for some spectacular backdrops as we wound our way through numerous trails in the park. It was surprisingly cold, but then at 9,000 feet above sea level maybe not unexpected, especially in April.

While we have camped on many occasions, it is done as a necessity where there are no other options, and we will always choose the soft bed and nice bathroom where it is available. And here is the one downside of visiting the parks of the south west – the culinary options are not exactly award-winning. If you like traditional American roadside food (soup n salad, burgers, steaks) you’ll be ok. If, like us, you can only manage it for a few days before craving a bit of variety, then you’ll be rushing to the nearest Chinese restaurant as soon as you reach the urban world again.

For those who still remain unconvinced, I would urge them to explore the natural wonders of America. It’s a world away from Disney, you have vast swathes of the great outdoors pretty much to yourself, and it is certainly best appreciated when fit and able to venture away from the masses in the parking lot.

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3 Responses to “America’s National Parks – it’s not Mickey Mouse tourism!”

  1. Rush #

    u must check out my post on Bryce too…the camping experience was fab!!!
    hahahahaha…running to the nearest Chinese!!!

    check mine out-
    Camp at Bryce –
    BRyce Canyon –

    August 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm Reply
  2. @GotPassport #

    We went to Bryce this summer during our camping and road trip excursion from Texas to California. Bryce was one of our stops. The hike was amazing and the views were breathtaking. Since we were camping we brought our own variety of foods and made our own Asian cuisines! It's true about US national parks and its natural beauties. We can't get enough of it– so much to do and see in the world, eh?? Great post! Oh and we did go to Disney World in March. Our daughter loved it and so did we!

    August 31, 2009 at 2:31 am Reply
  3. Andy Jarosz #

    @Rush – thanks for your comments and sharing your fabulous blog. It's a great story and I love your pictures!

    @gotpassport – Asian cuisine while camping? sounds great! I'll tag along with you next time ;-) Thanks for sharing your experience.

    August 31, 2009 at 8:29 am Reply

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