National Park to Park Highway – Best Outdoor Adventure 2016

Best Outdoor Adventure 2016

With the end of 2016 quickly approaching I’ve been looking back at our family’s best outdoor adventures we enjoyed. I realized pretty quickly that all of our great adventures of 2016 can be summed up into one great adventure – Traveling the National Park to Park Highway

As most of you know 2016 was the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service. To celebrate, my family traveled along the historic National Park to Park Highway visiting 23 National Parks and Monuments in the western US in seven weeks.

Baby L on the National Park to Park Highway
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Celebrating The National Park Centennial

We’re getting excited for the start of our National Park to Park Highway adventure. One way that we’re preparing is by getting the word out! @MountainMomTots will be co-hosting next week’s #outfam twitter chat with Outdoor Families Magazine. The theme is Celebrating the National Park Centennial with an Epic Overland Trip and we’d love for you to be there.

Join me Wed May 25, 2016 at 2:30 MST to talk about road trips, national parks and exploring new things.

If you’ve never done a twitter chat before it’s easy! Just search for the hashtag #outfam (short for outdoorfamilies) from 2:30 – 3:00 MST next Wednesday. It’s the best part of twitter.

We’re not the only ones planning a special trip for the National Park centennial this year. These other outdoor bloggers have some pretty spectacular adventures planned as well.

59 National Parks
Shelly and Don Hafner accomplished their goal to visit 59 parks in 59 weeks in June of 2015 but that hasn’t stopped their adventurous spirit. As the host for #campchat Wednesday evenings on twitter, @59NationalParks continues the National Park love. He’s planning an awesome road trip for the Centennial with fellow blogger Missouri Howell.

Missouri Howell
Jeff and Don will be traveling #arch2arch in August in honor of the actual 100 year anniversary on August 25, 2016. Their National Park Service Centennial trip begins at the Gateway arch in St. Louis and continues until the iconic Roosevelt Arch in Yellowstone.

National Park Quest – A Journey of Artists
Karla and Andres began their journey to visit all of the National Parks in April of 2016. Their goal is not only to visit all of these outdoor places, but to create artistic maps and posters for each of the 59 National Parks.

A young couple travels to all 59 National Parks in their 1989 Toyota Motorhome named Vie. Along for the ride is their cat – the adventure kitty!

Ranger Doug – The WPA National Parks Poster Restorer
As a retired park ranger and artist, Ranger Doug is traveling through all of the National Parks speaking about his artists’ work restoring and reproducing National Parks Posters. In the 1920s and 30s the Works Project Administrations created promotional posters for the National Parks. Very few are left, but from those Ranger Doug has remastered the look and created unique posters for many more National Parks and Monuments.

59 Before 18
This outdoor adventure family had a goal to visit all of the National Parks before their kids turned 18. As an outdoors mom I can get behind that! They reached their goal in the summer of 2015.

Switchback Kids
Cole and Elizabeth are traveling to all 59 National Parks on their own dime. They’re taking the journey in sections, returning to their home base in Kansas City between weeks of adventures and exploration.

The 100 Years Tour – Visiting more than 400 National Park Service Sites
This young married couple wasn’t satisfied with just visiting the 59 National Parks. Ryan and Jenn included all of the National Monuments, Historic Sites and areas that come under the National Park Service jurisdiction on their itinerary. The adventure begins in Florida in June 2016.

Our National Park to Park Highway adventure fits right in with these other epic journeys. Each of these bloggers have different circumstances and pressures on their time, but they’ve found a way to enjoy the outdoors and celebrate the National Park Centennial.

That means you can too! Even if your National Park Adventure is to visit ONE place you’ve never seen before – GO DO IT! And be sure to tell us all about it when you do.

Happy Adventuring!

National Park to Park Highway Adventure

We’ve got BIG news for you today, the first day of National Park Week 2016. I mean blow your mind, I wish I were you, experience of a lifetime BIG. Are you ready for it?

Good. Here we go.

Did you know that 2016 is the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service? 100 years is no small feat. It deserves a celebration of epic proportions which is exactly why Mountain Dad and I have spent the last several months planning something HUGE.

I’m talking 5,000 miles, 7 weeks on the road, 15 National Parks and 3 National Monuments huge. That’s right. This summer, we’re taking our Mountain Family on an epic road trip visiting some of the greatest outdoor wonders of the world. Using the National Park to Park Highway as our guide we will be hiking, biking and camping our way through 15 iconic National Parks (and 3 National Monuments) of the West and you’re invited to come along for the ride!

The Original National Park to Park Highway Tour 

Spearheaded by Stephen Mather, our nation’s first National Park Service Director, the National Park to Park Highway was created in 1920 to link 12 National Parks on a loop of mostly dirt roads spanning over 5,000 miles.

The goal was to promote the National Parks by capitalizing on the country’s booming automobile craze. In August of 1920, 12 vehicles set out on a 76 day tour to see the Parks as no others before them had. Roads were rough and cars were not very reliable 100 years ago, so not everyone finished the journey, but the publicity from the tour helped increase tourism to the National Parks.

Almost 100 years later, we have decided to drive the National Park to Park Highway in honor of the National Park Service’s Centennial celebration. In addition to the 12 original parks pictured here we will also include 3 new National Parks (Great Sand Dunes, Olympic, and Grand Teton) as well as 3 new National Monuments (Hovenweep, Canyons of the Ancients, and Devil’s Postpile) on our tour.

Mountain Mom and Tots National Park to Park Highway Tour
If you’ve read this blog you know we’re no stranger to family camping, but this project is a whole different level of camping commitment. To accomplish the lofty goal of sagebrushing (the 1920s term for car camping) through the wild lands of the west we’ll be turning our Chevy pickup into the ultimate camping vehicle. 

No RVs or tents for us. We’ll be sleeping our family of five in a full sized pick up for weeks on end. Even as I write that it sounds crazy, but that’s the plan and if anyone can pull it off it’s me and Mountain Dad.

For seven weeks we will be hiking and biking through some of the most beautiful spaces in the United States, dragging our 7, 4 and 1 year old with us. Literally. Baby L will be riding in the bike trailer or the hiking pack most of the time.

Join Us
Have you ever had a hair-brained idea that you’re so excited about you want to tell the whole world? That’s how I feel about our National Park to Park Highway Adventure. I want to share all the experiences we have along the way with as many people as will listen.

If you’re one of those people, sign up for the Mountain Mom and Tots newsletter for exclusive info on our explorations and discoveries. I promise I won’t bombard your inbox or sell your email address. I just want you to come with me on this exciting adventure and I don’t think anymore people will fit in our pickup truck.

You can also follow along on twitter, instagram and facebook. I’m telling you it’ll be awesome.

This National Park to Park Highway Tour wouldn’t be possible without some amazing gear sponsors. Throughout the trip we will be highlighting the gear that makes this undertaking possible. You can check out all the awesome companies in one place on our Sponsors page, but I have to give a special shout out thank you to Burley and Woom Bikes. Without their elite sponsorships of gear this trip wouldn’t be possible.

So buckle up, hang on and join us for an adventure of epic proportions! Woohoo!

Interested in becoming a sponsor? Contact me at

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

There is a canyon with cliffs more sheer than the Grand Canyon and the same breathtaking, vertigo inducing views. It’s capacious, has easy access to the rim, and is in the neighboring state of Colorado. It’s a National Park! Only I had never heard of it until two months ago.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is remote. The closest towns are Montrose and Crawford, two tiny dots on the map, we’re talking boondocks territory. But, like many people, I love the National Parks and want to visit as many as possible in my lifetime. So when Mountain Dad suggested we check it out I jumped at the chance. Now’s a good time too with the #FindYourPark campaign celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service in August 2016.

On this trip with the tots, Mountain Dad and I were looking forward to some short hikes on the South rim of the Black Canyon. These kinds of excursions are great for kids. Short, with stunning views and fairly level terrain, we can do several in an afternoon.

We visited on Little G’s birthday, so of course we had to visit the gift shop first. Both Little G and Big E got a stuffed animal souvenir and a Junior Ranger activity book. Although Little G had no desire to complete the Junior Ranger coloring book, Big E did. That’s a major step for us. We’ve visited lots of National Parks in Big E’s 6 years and he hasn’t ever wanted to participate in this awesome program.

The Junior Ranger program teaches kids about National Parks through activities and challenges. Once the workbook is completed, the child can receive a badge from a ranger. It’s a fun way to learn about animals, plants, geology and ancient cultures that are part of the Park.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is truly was stunning. The rocks are dark and ominous, the sheer cliffs breath taking. Unfortunately so were the storm clouds overhead.

Our plan to take several short hikes to various viewpoints was thwarted when the clouds ripped open. I haven’t been caught in a storm like that in a long time. Cold, pouring rain that struck when we were at the exact farthest point from our car. It was cold and miserable.

And that wasn’t the end of the misery. Our usually happy Baby L revolted on the two hour drive back to camp and screamed, cried, and wailed the whole way home. Everyone in the car was frazzled and on edge and even though we stopped several times to feed, change and soothe her she wasn’t interested in calming down. It was not fun.

Overall I enjoyed the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, but I’m glad the experience is over.