National Park to Park Highway Route

This summer 2016 we’re taking a seven week road trip to tour the National Park to Park Highway. We’ve planned our route and wanted to share it with all of you.

Original National Park to Park Highway
Back in 1920, the National Park to Park Highway Tour began in Denver. This inaugural tour followed the roads and trails mapped out earlier that summer by AL Westgard, a AAA pathfinder and contributor to the Official Automobile Blue Book (referred to as the Blue Bible), the leading producer of road guides at the time. The group visited these parks in a counter clockwise direction:

  1. Rocky Mountain National Park
  2. Yellowstone National Park
  3. Glacier National Park
  4. Mount Rainier National Park
  5. Crater Lake National Park
  6. Lassen Volcanic National Park (1920 tour could not drive inside the park because of the lack of developed roads)
  7. Yosemite National Park
  8. General Grant National Park (later named Kings Canyon National Park)
  9. Sequoia National Park
  10. Zion National Park (bypassed by the 1920 tour because of bad roads)
  11. Grand Canyon National Park
  12. Mesa Verde National Park

Our National Park to Park Highway Tour
We’ll visit all of the original twelve parks, even the ones the 1920 tour missed, but we couldn’t limit ourselves just to those. There are so many more National Treasures in the west, at least twenty Parks and Monuments were added to the area since then. We’re adding these National Parks to our trip:

  1. Bryce Canyon National Park
  2. Grand Teton National Park 
  3. Great Sand Dunes National Park 
  4. Olympic National Park 

Plus we had to include these National Monuments as well:

  1. Cedar Breaks National Monument
  2. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
  3. Hovenweep National Monument
  4. Devils Postpile National Monument
We’ll be breaking our trip into two parts. A “dry run” camping trip to test out our ultimate camping vehicle (coming soon) followed by the full National Park to Park Highway Tour a month later. 
We need your help! We’ve never visited many of these places and want to know what the best family hikes and bike rides are in these areas. What trails/campgrounds/things to do would you suggest? Why? Comment and let us know!

What IS the National Park to Park Highway?

Last week we announced our biggest adventure yet. A seven week, 5,600 mile auto tour of the National Park to Park Highway. You may be wondering the same thing everyone I’ve talked to does: What exactly IS the National Park to Park Highway?

Image from Paving the Way: The National Park-to-Park Highway

History
In 1920 there wasn’t good road access to the National Parks of the West. The primary transportation in and out of National Parks was the railroad or roads designed for use by horse and wagon, not the increasingly popular automobile.

A group of intrepid travelers wanted to change that. With the help of AG Westgard, route finder for AAA, and Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, the National Park to Park Highway Tour was born.

The Playground Trail

National Parks were known as The Nation’s Playgrounds in those early days, and this book by Lee and Jane Whiteley is the best resource I’ve found about it. It’s a wealth of information with authentic maps and photographs, plus directions on driving the tour today. 
One thing I learned from The Playground Trail: The National Park-to-Park Highway was that roads in the 1920s were named and maintained by private groups, usually auto clubs. Nowadays we take for granted that some government agency maintains our roads, but at that time private groups provided signs, maps and maintenance of their adopted route.

Although many auto trails existed, nothing connected all of the National Parks of the west. The National Park to Park Highway association banded together to fix this.

View on Amazon.com

Paving The Way
The PBS Documentary Paving the Way: The National Park to Park Highway directed by Brandon Wade is another invaluable resource. It chronicles the efforts of the dedicatory tour that left Denver on August 27, 1920.

Twenty vehicles joined the 5,600 mile caravan on The Longest Auto Highway in the World. Along the way they advocated for paved, well maintained roads to connect the National Parks. Their 76 day schedule is truly amazing considering how slow and difficult car travel was compared to nowadays.

If you have any interest in early National Parks or good historical story telling I highly recommend watching Paving the Way: The National Park-to-Park Highway.

See America First
You can learn all you want from books and movies, but at some point you have to be in a place to truly experience it. That’s why I’m taking my mountain family on a tour of the twelve Parks on National Park to Park Highway, plus six more National Parks and Monuments along the way.

Since 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service it’s the perfect time to celebrate these outdoor spaces. This summer we hope you can #FindYourPark along with us as we take the advice of the 1920s National Park advertisements and See America First. We’re taking off in late June and would love for you to come along.

Image from pbs.org

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Happy Birthday Earth Day!

Happy Birthday Earth Day

This week is not only National Park Week, it’s also Earth Day today – Friday April 22nd. Earth Day started in 1970. This year the Tots and I are saying Happy Birthday Earth Day with a special project we’re doing with our local Hike It Baby branch.

Every week since St. Patrick’s Day the tots and I have biked, strolled and cleaned up along the Provo River Trail. This trail is my Go To Outdoor space, the place I escape to when I need a little outdoor time in the midst of daily life. Because I love this space, I want to see it taken care of. Thus began the Hike It Baby litter clean up series.

Every week the tots and I join other parents of young children to pick up litter on a different section of the trail. The Provo River Trail spans 30 miles from Utah Lake to South Fork Canyon and so far we’ve picked up litter along about seven of those miles. Our efforts combined have removed several gallons of trash from along the Provo River, improving the environment for the ducks, fish and people enjoying the trail.

Why Bother?

It would be easier to ignore the beer cans, plastic wrappers and paper bits we pass. Stopping every few feet means slow going – nobody’s getting a cardio workout on these hikes. But I want to teach my kids to take care of their wild spaces, and what better way to do that than through example?

It’s interesting that for one hour a week my Tots and I are aware of the trash around us and we choose to do something about it. But for the rest of the week I find myself ignoring the litter around me, even the wrappers and discarded plant pots in my own yard. It’s like I have an edit in my eyesight that I disable on the assigned day and time.

It makes me wonder what it would take to make more lasting change. I feel good about the trash our Hike It Baby group has removed from the trail. I feel good about getting my kids outside. I feel good about helping my kids practice riding balance bikes. But I feel bad that I only care for that one hour each week. Green guilt isn’t useful unless it motivates change, but I’m not ready to adjust my life any more than I have already.

The Quest Continues

This weekly litter pickup adventure will continue until the entire trail is clean. Not only because its good for the environment, it’s also good exercise. And we’ve got to get ready for our daily hiking and biking on our National Park to Park Highway Adventure.
Whether you’ll be spending Earth Day at a National Park or cleaning up trash on a local trail, let me know about it. Tag @mountainmomtots on instagram, twitter or facebook and tell me how you’ll spend Earth Day today. You’ll have a chance to be featured in the Mountain Mom and Tots Newsletter.

It’s a day to be grateful for the beauty around us and do something nice for the environment. Now’s your chance to do that something nice. What’s it going to be?

National Park Week 2016

I’m so excited to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service this year! In case you missed my previous post, our Mountain Fam is planning a reenactment of the National Park to Park Highway Tour to celebrate the centennial.

It’ll be a 7 week National Park adventure visiting some amazing sights along the way. We’ll be posting about the history of the National Park to Park Highway as well as cool stuff to do in each of the 15 parks and 3 National Monuments we visit. So stay tuned over the next few months.

But before we get to that summertime adventure we’ve got to celebrate this week’s beauty. This week is National Park Week, in case you didn’t know. From April 16-24, 2016 every National Park and Monument offers free admittance. FREE! So how will you enjoy your National Treasures?

For a little inspiration I thought I’d repost some of our National Park Photos from years past. Click on any photo to enjoy the whole slideshow and take a moment to #FindYourPark.

Arches

Bryce Canyon 

Canyonlands

Capital Reef

Colorado National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Denali 

Dinosaur National Monument

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Kenai Fjords

 Redwoods

Yellowstone

Yosemite

Zion