America’s Best Idea!

Mt. Rainier National Park

Quite seriously one of our favorite pastimes is visiting the various gems our country has within the National Park System. These parks include areas of grand landscapes, beautiful shorelines, historical landmarks, exploratory trails, educational opportunities, ability for physical activities & sports, and allow the public to “own” a little piece of Heaven!

Growing up in the shadow of Mt. Rainier National Park, I was instilled with a love of the outdoors at a young age. I remember the weekend adventures taken with my father to go hiking at some of the wonderful rainforest and alpine locales within the park such as Mowich Lake or the Carbon Glacier Trail. I’ll be the first to admit, I was a stubborn kid who didn’t fully appreciate those hikes or the outdoors, but looking back on it, I’m nostalgic for those trips.

Every time I see Mt. Rainier, my heart sings a little, my pulse slows, and peace comes over my body. This is quite simply a lot of what the writers about playful living and nature deficiency disorder discuss (look for an upcoming review of “Last Child In The Woods” by Richard Louv). When Bee was born, I knew that I wanted to give her room to roam, space to breathe, and an appreciation of the great outdoors.

Do know that most (but not all) places within the National Park System have an entrance or parking fee. We found it best to just grab ourselves the America The Beautiful Annual Pass. For $80 a year, it includes: entrance for one vehicle, up to 4 adults, and all children under 15 (who are always free) into any locations run by these agencies:

  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclaimation

Lastly, if one is going to get out & about with one’s family to visit the National Parks and begin passport stamping, this is the year to do it. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the program (run by Eastern National) and thus every park has a special anniversary cancellation stamp to mark the occasion.

Important Informational Websites –
National Park System:
National Park System Annual Pass:
NPS Passport Cancellation Stamp Wiki:
Eastern National:
National Park Travelers Club:
“America’s Best Idea” PBS Documentary by Ken Burns:

Finally, here’s a list of the parks we’ve been able to visit thus far. Each one will have a post written about them and linked here, so that you may find tips, tricks, thoughts, and ideas about family travel at each park. Every Friday, look for a review of a location within the National Park System.

Western (out of 57 Units)

  • Eugene O’Neill NHS
  • Fort Point NHS
  • Golden Gate NRA
  • John Muir NHS
  • Lake Mead NRA
  • Muir Woods NM
  • Pinnacles NM
  • Pipe Spring NM
  • Rosie the Riveter / WWll Home Front NHP
  • San Francisco Maritime NHP
  • Santa Monica Mountains NRA

Pacific Northwest & Alaska (out of 43 Units)

  • Hagerman Fossil Beds NM
  • Minidoka NHS
  • Klondike Gold Rush NHP
  • Mount Rainier NP

Rocky Mountain Region (out of 43 Units)

  • Golden Spike NHS
  • Zion NP