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Announcing the North American National Parks Project!

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As most of you know, during the last 6 1/2 years of traveling around the world, I’ve set to visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage sites as possible. One question I always get is if I plan on visiting them all, and the answer is, no. I’m not sure it is possible as they are always adding about 20 new sites every year. Moreover, some of them are extremely remote and difficult to visit. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever done it or even come close.

In the back of my mind however, I have been also attempting something else: To visit and photograph all the National Parks of the United States and Canada.

In any country the national parks will usually be the best that they have to offer. There are several reason why I am setting this as a goal:

There are several reasons for this:
First, they are in my global backyard, so to speak. I am always returning to North American so there are always opportunities to visit.

Second, there are finite number of parks. They do occasionally add parks to the list, but it is on the order of one every few years, not 2 dozen every year. That makes it a manageable and achievable project.

Third, most of the sites are very easy to visit. I estimate that 90% of the sites are accessible by car to some degree. All of the parks in the lower 48 states, Hawaii and the Canadian provinces are not difficult to visit in the big scheme of things.

Fourth, there are a small number of parks in the arctic which are insanely hard to visit. To give you an example of hard, there were 9,289,215 people who visited the Great Smoky Mountains NP in 2007, where as Vuntut NP in the Yukon gets only 25 visitors per year!! The difficulty of visiting the parks in the arctic is exponentially harder than visiting anything below the arctic. This difficulty adds a definite challenge to the project.

To make this quest manageable, I am limiting it to only sites with a National Park designation. The US National Park Service for example oversees 401 different sites. This includes historic sites, battlefields, monuments, recreation areas and parkways in addition to national parks. Likewise, Parks Canada has many historic sites under their control as well. I will certainly visit other sites in the process, but I’m going to focus just on the places that are called “national parks”.

As of 2013, there are 59 national parks in the United States and 44 in Canada, for a total of 103 that I will have on my list. (Canada currently has 3 on a tentative list that will eventually be added).

I have been to several US parks in the past, but for the purposes this project I am only going to count visits since March 2007 when I began traveling full time. This is mostly because I have no photos from my previous visits.

I have visited 23 national parks since 2007, which gives me an even 80 parks to visit. There are 5 other sites I have visited previously, but will revisit as part of this project.

This will take years to complete. I will be able to probably visit several at a time via regional road trips. The arctic sites will probably need to be tackled separately. Several of the arctic parks can be visited by ship, but there are 3-4 which are inland and can only be reached by float plane or kayak.

Over the next few months I’ll be releasing daily photos with brief write ups for each of the 23 parks I’ve visited before. Several of them I’ve already written about as they are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Once I visit all the parks, I’d like to release a photography book or maybe integrate it into an app. It is something which very few people (if any) have ever done.

Below is a complete list of all the national parks in the United States and Canada. Parks in bold are ones I have visited since 2007. Parks in italics are ones I visited prior to 2007 and will be revisiting.

Canada

Aulavik, NWT
Auyuittuq, Nunvaut
Banff, Alberta
Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia
Elk Island, Alberta
Forillon, Quebec
Fundy, New Brunswick
Georgian Bay Islands, Ontario
Glacier, British Columbia
Grasslands, Saskatchewan
Gros Morne, Newfoundland
Gulf Islands, British Columbia
Gwaii Haanas, British Columbia
Ivvavik, Yukon
Jasper, Alberta
Kejimkujik, Nova Scotia
Kluane, Yukon
Kootenay, British Columbia
Kouchibouguac, New Brunswick
La Mauricie, Quebec
Mingan Archipelago, Quebec
Mount Revelstoke, British Columbia
Nááts’ihch’oh, NWT
Nahanni, NWT
Pacific Rim, British Columbia
Point Pelee, Ontario
Prince Albert Saskatchewan
Prince Edward Island, PEI
Pukaskwa, Ontario
Quttinirpaaq, Nunavut
Riding Mountain, Manitoba
Sable Island, Nova Scotia
Sirmilik, Nunavut
Terra Nova, Newfoundland
Thousand Islands, Ontario
Torngat Mountains, Labrador
Tuktut Nogait, NWT
Ukkusiksalik, Nunavut
Vuntut, Yukon
Wapusk, Manitoba
Waterton Lakes, Alberta
Wood Buffalo, Alberta
Yoho, British Columbia

United States

Acadia, Maine
American Samoa, American Samoa
Arches, Utah
Badlands, South Dakota
Big Bend, Texas
Biscayne, Florida
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Canyonlands, Utah
Capitol Reef Utah
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Channel Islands, California
Congaree, South Carolina
Crater Lake, Oregon
Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio
Death Valley, California
Denali, Alaska
Dry Tortugas, Florida
Everglades, Florida
Gates of the Arctic, Alaska
Glacier, Montana
Glacier Bay, Alaska
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Teton, Wyoming

Great Basin, Nevada
Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee
Guadalupe Mountains, Texas

Haleakala, Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes, Hawaii

Hot Springs, Arkansas
Isle Royale, Michigan
Joshua Tree, California
Katmai, Alaska
Kenai Fjords, Alaska
Kings Canyon, California
Kobuk Valley, Alaska
Lake Clark, Alaska
Lassen Volcanic Park, California
Mammoth Cave Park, Kentucky
Mesa Verde, Colorado

Mount Rainier, Washington
North Cascades, Washington
Olympic, Washington
Petrified Forest, Arizona
Redwood, California
Rocky Mountain, Colorado
Saguaro, Arizona
Sequoia, California
Shenandoah, Virginia
Theodore Roosevelt, North Dakota
Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands
Voyageurs, Minnesota
Wind Cave, South Dakota
Wrangell-St. Elias, Alaska
Yellowstone, Wyoming
Yosemite, California
Zion, Utah

  • 16 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. And now unfortunately due to the government shutdown you can’t even get to any of the National Parks … I hope the politicians get their act together ASAP. I am not going to say which party I vastly prefer.

  2. Eric says:

    Great Goal Gary! Interesting with the app idea…I think that interactive photo journals are wonderful…and if you can connect your beautiful photos with your great story telling and notes it would be a valuable travel tool and resource…

  3. Anwar says:

    Great goal and a great plan. It is something I’ve been trying to do myself for quite a while, although it’s been more of a life goal to visit all the national parks and photograph them. I wish you the best, I cannot wait to see your photos from there.

  4. Tom says:

    Visiting San Fran Francisco next year definitely will make it Yosemite. We got a great deal with Tour America. We have been planning it for a while so really looking forward to it.

  5. I just Googled to refresh my memory. You forgot one, Gary! VA
    Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
    or is it because of the “for the Performing Arts” that made you drop it from your list?

    • Gary says:

      A “National Park for the Performing Arts” is distinct from a “National Park”.

      That being said, I’d have no problem seeing a performance there.

  6. Ivan Taptrip says:

    Really great idea! Look forward for it!

  7. That is a great goal, to visit all the North American parks. I have about 25 US parks and 4 in Canada.

    Europe has cities, the middle east and Asia have culture and ancient sights, Africa has animals, but the American west has incredible geography. I doubt I visit them all, but my goal is to visit all the park in the west.

  8. Rebecca says:

    such a great plan! can’t wait for this series!

  9. Brilliant idea. As you’re in the Toronto area, be sure to check out Rouge Park – soon to be Canada’s first ever National Urban Park, part of the Parks Canada family (and my 9-5 gig – happy to tell you more.)

  10. Jenn says:

    I live in Acadia – you’re going to love it here!

  11. Michelle says:

    I love this idea! We are planning an across the country road trip soon.

  12. Brian says:

    Interesting project. We never set out to see all the parks, but I’m happy to say that of the 59 U.S. parks on your list we’ve hit 35 already. Most of the one’s we’ve missed are in Alaska where they’re quite a bit harder (read “more expensive”) to get to.

  13. Jonny Duncan says:

    Good luck! I love getting into nature as much as possible. Planning to come to the USA someday to check out some of the parks there.

  14. Gary says:

    I’ll mainly be doing the National Parks during summer road trips and smaller side trips near big cities. I’ll still be doing mostly international travel, but this gives me something to focus on in the US and Canada.

    I’m planning a big road trip next summer that will go through most of Western Canada and up to Northwest Territories.

  15. You should have no trouble turning this project into a book. You could easily break the book in to sections by region, & climate or landscape & wildlife – or even by season.

    How are you going to incorporate this project into you international travel outside NA? Will you continue to visit the other beautiful places in the world?

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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