Family travel five: Writer offers tips on North American parks

Author Joe Yogerst was barely out of the cradle when his parents whisked him off to Yosemite National Park for his first camping trip. In the years that followed, family road trips often included visits to other parks, sparking a lifelong passion for wildlife, learning, outdoor recreation and conservation. In his new book, “100 Parks, 5000 Ideas” (National Geographic, 2019), Yogerst showcases top national, state and city parks throughout North America, paired with stunning photography and expert tips.

Here are five ideas to consider:

1. Beach Destinations

From Outer Beach on Cape Cod to Washington’s Ruby Beach to Ofu Beach in American Samoa, many North American parks offer pristine options for relishing the pleasures of sea, sun and sand. Padre Island in Texas boasts the world’s longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island. It’s protected, reports Yogerst, within a 70-mile stretch of national seashore along the Gulf of Mexico. The north end, close to Corpus Christi, offers a wide range of family-friendly beach activity. The rest is wild and free.

2. Wildlife Encounters

Look for brown bears, caribou and Dall sheep in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park is the place to observe and photograph polar bears in the wild. Head to the Everglades, Florida’s “river of grass,” to see alligators, manatees, sea turtles and the rare American crocodile. Yellowstone, America’s Serengeti, is famous for its apex predators, grizzly bears and wolves. Bird lovers can scope out 400 different species within the Aransas National Wildlife refuge in Texas.


3. Hiking Trails

From challenging day hikes to epic, multi-month journeys, parks offer a wide range of routes for families on the move, says Yogerst. Popular during the summer months, the John Muir trail offers a 211-mile path across the High Sierra, between Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. The West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island gives visitors the chance to retrace a route blazed by First Nations peoples centuries ago. Choose your stretch on the Appalachian Trail, the 2,200-mile, celebrated hiking route that stretches from Maine to Georgia.

4. Historic Lodges

Combining distinctive architecture and quirky history, landmark lodges often set the mood in national parks, observes Yogerst. Consider the Cavallo Point Lodge for its panoramic views across the water to Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and the city of San Francisco. The world’s largest “log cabin,” Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn, is an historic gem. So too is El Tovar at the Grand Canyon in Arizona; The Inn and The Ranch, part of the Oasis at Death Valley in California, and the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta.

5. Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, Quebec

From the Maritimes to the Rockies, Canada’s history comes alive through their parks. Set at the confluence of two mighty rivers, writes Yogerst, the Marine Park protects a unique environment where fresh water flowing down the fjord-like Saguenay blends with salt water in the St. Lawrence estuary to create an environment where marine life thrives. Families can partake in whale watching, including belugas, kayaking, sailing and camping. Adventurers can consider the Via Ferrata climbing circuit across the fjords’ soaring rock walls.

(Lynn O’Rourke Hayes ( is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via

(c)2019 Lynn O’Rourke Hayes

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