Like so many others, 2021 was filled with new memories and new adventures. After our national park travels came to a screeching halt the year before, we gradually got back into camping and hiking in the new year. Even though the pandemic continues to challenge even the best of travel planners, we’re still managing to make progress on our goal of checking all 400+ parks off our list. Today we’re sharing Our 2021 Parkchasing Recap with you all as we look back on another incredible year in the parks.
We hope it inspires you to think about your upcoming year and to start making some #parkchasing plans of your own.
Next week we’ll be back to share our travel goals for 2022. We hope you’ll drop us a note in the comments here or on social media with the places your hoping to visit in the coming year.
Until then, we hope you enjoy these last few days of the year!
Our 2021 #Parkchasing Recap
#93 - Arches National Park - Utah
Location: Moab, Utah
Travel Dates: April 5-6, 2021
Our favorites: Early morning hike to Delicate Arch; Sunsets near Park Avenue
During the height of the 2020 lockdown, we spent a lot of time dreaming about places we’d go if we could only leave the house. Utah’s Big 5 repeatedly came up on the list. It’s pretty hard to rack up credibility as national park travel writers without crossing off these GIANT travel destinations of the west. So as soon as we could safely go, we hopped in the car from St. Paul and drove the 1264 miles to spend a week in the Moab, Utah area.
Here are a few of our favorites from the trip:
#94 - Canyonlands National Park - Utah
Location: Moab, Utah
Travel Dates: April 7-8, 2021
Our favorites: Hiking through the Needles District
A few years ago we were camping in Denali National Park and met a fellow Park Chaser who was just returning from Canyonlands National Park. It was the one park he tried to visit every year. We loved getting a chance to explore both the Island in the Sky area and the more remote, Needles District. Both parts of the park offered a much different experience from the hustle and bustle of Arches.
Here are some of our trip recaps:
#95 - Colorado National Monument - Colorado
Location: Grand Junction, Colorado
Travel Dates: April 9, 2021
Our favorites: Taking the historic Rim Rock Scenic Drive through the park; hiking the Devil’s Kitchen Trail
On the way back to Minnesota from Arches and Canyonlands, we were lucky to cross Colorado National Monument off the #parkchasing list. With a quick 3 hour stop, we were able to travel the Rim Rock Scenic Drive (one of the highest rated scenic drives in the National Park Service). The weather started to heat up, so we shortened up our hiking time to just the quick out and back Devil’s Kitchen Trail. A great hike to stretch our legs before getting back in the car toward home.
#96 - Scotts Bluff National Monument - Nebraska
Location: Scotts Bluff, Nebraska
Travel Dates: April 10 & September 18, 2021
Our favorites: Hiking the trail to the top of the bluff in April, and seeing the new visitor’s center spaces opened when we were back in the fall.
It’s not too often that we hit up the same national park unit twice in the same year. Especially not when the park is over 700 miles from home! However during two separate road trips this year–Utah in April and Colorado in September–we stopped in at one of Nebraska’s only NPS units. Both trips we made it to the top of the bluff and enjoyed the stunning prairie views.
Who knows? we might just find ourselves back here for a third visit sometime!
#97 - Mount Rainier National Park - Washington
Location: Longmire, Washington
Travel Dates: June 15-16, 2021
Our favorites: Spending the night at the historic Paradise Inn; hiking to Silver Falls
After nearly 15 months of weekly Zoom calls during the pandemic, we finally were able to travel to the Seattle area to visit Greg’s younger brother and his wife, some of our closest friends. Since they’ve lived there we’ve been planning a trip to Mount Rainier on one of our visits, and finally had the chance to go in June this year. Every minute we were in the park was fantastic and we can’t wait to go back again. The snow was still above the car at the Paradise Inn, but the waterfalls were roaring with the spring run off.
Looking forward to these trip recaps showing up on the blog soon.
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#98 - Minidoka National Historic Site – Bainbridge Island, Washington
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Travel Dates: June 18, 2021
Our favorites: The first national park unit we’ve ever traveled by bike to!
After returning to Seattle from Mt. Rainier, we rented bikes and hopped a car ferry to Bainbridge Island the following day. After just a short 30 minute ferry ride, we spent the day peddling around the island on our way to the Bainbridge Island unit of Minidoka National Historic Site. It’s here that we learned the heartbreaking stories of Japanese American families who were forcibly interned following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The site is small and only took us about 45 minutes to visit. However it was by far one of the most powerful memories we had while visiting a park this year.
#99 – Missouri National Recreational River, South Dakota
Location: Yankton, South Dakota
Travel Dates: July 31, 2021
Our favorites: Our last national park unit in South Dakota!
By mid-July this year, we were really in need of a getaway. It was one of the hottest summers ever recorded in Minnesota and we hadn’t had much time away from work since our earlier spring trips. Thankfully, we were able to snag an AirBnB near Missouri National Recreation River for a long weekend with friends. MNRR was our final national park unit left to visit in South Dakota!
#100 – Independence National Historical Park – Pennsylvania
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Travel Dates: August 20-21, 2021
Our favorites: Catching up with friends in a new city, the Liberty Bell, ranger-led tour of Independence Hall, and the Ben Franklin Museum
August brought us to the East Coast for a college friend’s wedding and our first national park units in the Mid-Atlantic Region. How cool is it to cross off you’re 100th National Park Service site at the Liberty Bell?!?!
Neither of us had been to Pennsylvania before and immediately fell in love with Philly. Cheese steaks. Cobblestone streets. And some of our first colonial-era park units. We were so excited after this trip, we started planning a visit to Washington D.C. just a few months later.
#101 – Valley Forge National Historical Park – Pennsylvania
Location: Valley Forge, PA
Travel Dates: August 22, 2021
Our favorites: George Washington’s Headquarters; Washington Memorial Chapel
We weren’t planning to rent a car during our long weekend in Philadelphia, but at the last minute decided we were just too close to Valley Forge not to cross it off the list also. Just before returning to the airport after an already spectacular weekend, we drove the short ride north to the site where George Washington and the Continental Army spent the bitter cold winter of 1777-1778. The grounds here are beautifully maintained and full of so much history. Our only regret was not getting to stay longer!
Rocky Mountain National Park - Colorado
Location: Estes Park, CO
Travel Dates: September 12-16, 2021
Our favorites: Hiking to Andrews Glacier, Elk watching in Moraine Park
Ever since our last visit in 2015 we’ve had another trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in the works. There’s something about the mountains here that just stick in your bones. This fall we took the opportunity to bring Amy’s parents along for their first trip to Rocky and to Colorado. We had near perfect weather for camping in Moraine Park, plenty of wildlife to view, and such a great time hiking together.
#102 – Fort Laramie National Historic Site – Wyoming
Location: Fort Laramie, WY
Travel Dates: September 18, 2021
Our favorites: Quilts in the gift shop (Amy) and reading ALL the signs (Greg)
As we headed home from our second road trip out west this year, we made a second stop at Scotts Bluff National Monument and checked off Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming. The Fort sits along the Platte River near the Nebraska border and preserves more than 30 different historic structures and ruins. We spent a few hours here wandering through the buildings and having lunch in a cottonwood grove. Off the beaten path and now crossed off our parkchasing list!
#103-116 - Washington D.C. - National Mall & Memorial Parks
Location: Washington D.C.
Travel Dates: November 10-13, 2021
Our favorites: Veteran’s Day ceremony at the World War II Memorial, running our first half-marathon through the city
Our final #parkchasing trip of the year brought us to the nation’s capitol for our first half marathon! After two COVID cancellations, we were able to run the Rock and Roll half marathon through the city and cross off these parks from our list bringing our final total for to 116 of 423!
#103 – National World War I Memorial
#104 – Lincoln Memorial
#105 – Korean War Veterans Memorial
#106 – President’s Park – The White House
#107 – National Mall
#108 – National Capital Parks
#109 – Washington Monument
#110 – Constitution Gardens
#111 – Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial
#112 – Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site
#113 – World War II Memorial
#114 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
#115 – Thomas Jefferson Memorial
#116 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Are you ready to start making travel plans?
Don’t let another year go by without visiting the places you’ve always wanted to go. Check out these articles to help you start planning TODAY for next year’s big adventures!