Why National Parks and Sweeping Vistas Are On our Family’s Travel Bucket List

May 11, 2018

Our family has five travel goals. This post is part of a five-part series of posts that explain more about why our family selected each of our travel bucket list goals. In this post you’ll read more about why we chose seeing national parks, mountains, and other sweeping vistas as a family travel goal.

To see our progress on our travel goals and read about many of our travel destinations, you can look here. To get more bucket list ideas for your family, you can read our list of family travel bucket list ideas.

Links to the rest of this series can be found below:

Visit All 50 States

Explore More of Our Own “Backyard”

Visit All Seven Continents

Experience As Many Zip Lines as We Can Along The Way

If you want to learn more about how your family can create and reach their travel goals, you can subscribe here for my free quick and easy guide, How to Create Your Family’s Travel Bucket List:



Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Why did we select this bucket list goal?

While we often tend to get our mountain and sweeping vista fix in national parks, these views can be found outside national parks as well, in state parks, recreation areas, and just driving around on back roads and highways. In this post I will talk most about national parks.

There are many reasons why our family has a goal of visiting as many national parks, mountains and sweeping vistas as we can in our travels.

  • Mother Nature is astounding: I’ve seen a lot of impressive man-made wonders, and in my mind they never come close to the wonder that is nature.
  • They are family-friendly places for older kids: Our kids have grown to love hiking and photography. What better place to do those things than in amazing scenery?
  • They are affordable: A National Park pass is very affordable for the amount of “wow” factor we get by going. And many sweeping vistas are available to see and frolic in for free!
  • Family bonding: When you stand and behold a natural wonder surrounded by loved ones, that “whoa” reaction is multiplied. It’s awesome to share it with your kids for the first time (or second…or more).


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Yosemite National Park, California

 What is challenging about this bucket list goal?

There are a few challenges we have come across when working toward this travel goal.

  • Weather: To state the obvious, you are at Mother Nature’s mercy in the great outdoors. Sometimes Mother Nature isn’t as cooperative as we’d like. Case in point: our recent trip to California to see Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks. You can read about all that Mother Nature threw at us in one trip here.
  • The sheer enormity of these areas: National Parks often have a lot of real estate you could take in. It’s tough to feel like you’re even scratching the surface unless you have several days to visit. 
  • Accessibility without a car: It’s pretty difficult to get to a national park without a car in most places. That’s why we were able to visit a few national parks when we rented a car in Australia and New Zealand, but not when we relied on trains in Europe. In the US it’s almost impossible to get to a national park without a car (except in rare instances, like the fact that Amtrak stops at Glacier National Park, or via a tour).


Sequoia National Park, California

What is our status on reaching this goal?

We haven’t explicitly named a “countable” goal here, like visiting all of the National Parks in the US. It’s simply a goal that, when we go somewhere new, we would like to scope out national parks and other sweeping vistas. We haven’t gotten a good exact “count” on how many of these places we’ve been.

For US National Parks, the kids have both had National Park passports their whole lives. They have seen the following parks with us:

  • Badlands NP, South Dakota
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
  • Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota
  • Wind Cave NP, South Dakota
  • Arches NP (x3), Utah
  • Canyonlands NP (x2), Utah
  • Bryce NP, Utah
  • Zion NP, Utah
  • Great Sand Dunes NP, Colorado
  • Rocky Mountain NP, Colorado
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Colorado
  • Mesa Verde NP, Colorado
  • Grand Canyon NP, Arizona
  • Sequoia NP, California
  • Kings Canyon NP, California,
  • Yosemite NP, California
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California

In addition, we have been with our son to Yellowstone (Wyoming) and Grand Teton (Wyoming) before our daughter was born. Individually, my husband and I have been to several other National Parks in the US, and our son probably went to some national parks or monuments during a school trip in the Washington DC area (though he did not have his National Park passport with him to mark them off).

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Where do we want to go next for this goal?

Good question.This goal is pretty dependent on other goals of ours, specifically our goal to visit all 50 states and all seven continents. Depending on where those travels take us next, we will be drawn immediately to the natural wonders to be seen in those areas. Stay tuned. 🙂

One goal we do have is to visit more of the grandeur that our home state, Minnesota, has to offer. Minnesota has one national park, Voyageurs, which we have yet to visit. In fairness, it’s very far from where we live and extremely remote. Beyond Voyageurs, Minnesota has the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, an abundance of lakes (over 11,000 of them), beautiful river valleys along the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Root Rivers (to name a few), and amazing river gorges that empty in dramatic fashion into Lake Superior. We are going to be more intentional about exploring this beautiful state.



  • Reply
    Priya Florence Shah
    May 13, 2018 at 4:12 am

    I really admire how active Americans are and how much you love to explore the outdoors. Your national parks are astounding and I hope I can visit some of them someday. Which one would you recommend for someone who doesn’t do any hiking or trekking?

    • Reply
      May 13, 2018 at 8:59 am

      Really, any of them can be enjoyed without hiking. Most people who go to national parks see it by driving through, stopping and taking pictures. It’s by hiking that you can escape some of the crowds. We’ve loved Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon in California, and Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce and Zion in Utah. But there are many more that I haven’t seen, too… They really are a treasure.

  • Reply
    Lucy Pinkstone
    May 13, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    This is a great bucket list! I love visiting National Parks and it’s brilliant that the US has so many. There’s much to be said for spending time outdoors.

    • Reply
      May 13, 2018 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks! We love taking advantage of the natural beauty. 🙂

  • Reply
    a speck in time
    May 13, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    National Parks are the best places to visit in US, in our opinion! We are die-hard fans of National Parks and everything they stand for. I can’t agree more with your journey to explore National Parks. All the best.

    • Reply
      May 13, 2018 at 10:21 pm

      Thanks! All the best on your national park journeys, too! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 14, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Love this post! My husband and his family traveled extensively in the states and have been to all 50 together. My kids are well on their way to all 50 as well. I’ll need to pick up NP Passport books for them this summer as we begin our cross country road trip!

    • Reply
      May 14, 2018 at 8:56 am

      Definitely get the passports! You can get them in the visitor center of any National Park, which is also where they have the stamper set up for you to stamp your passport.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Great and unusual bucket list I need to say, because I didn’t saw that somebody has National Parks on their list – at least not such a huge number. But I like your idea and my fingers crossed that you visit all of them! 🙂

    • Reply
      May 14, 2018 at 8:57 am

      Thank you! The US has a LOT of National Parks. We are lucky in that way. There are a few people here in the US with a goal to visit every NP. We haven’t gotten that ambitious…yet. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 14, 2018 at 9:31 am

    Such setting are the best way to connect with nature. A good family vacation here comes with a package of something for everyone.

    • Reply
      May 14, 2018 at 10:25 am

      Agreed. Something for everyone, for sure! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    Beautiful goal! My love for the National Park system started when I first visited Yosemite in 2013. Since then I have made it my mission to visit as many as possible. Every single one is different and every single one is amazing! You should come visit the parks here in Washington State, they’re super beautiful!

    • Reply
      May 14, 2018 at 2:10 pm

      Yosemite is a great one to start with…so amazing! Washington state is on our list…our kids haven’t been there yet. Looks like a beautiful place, and we’d definitely see national parks while there!

  • Reply
    May 14, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Hi Kristie, Love the reason of family bonding as your motivation factor. I myself wish to bond with the children more often. Sadly, every time I end up having to work during weekend too, life can be challenging at time. Having said that, I do have a great outdoor here where I live.

    • Reply
      May 14, 2018 at 6:46 pm

      It’s hard to find the time, for sure. We struggle as well, with family activities, aging parents, family to visit out of state, etc.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    This was such an interesting read! Those are awesome goals. As an avid traveler, you have me wondering why I don’t have a travel bucket list?! I definitely want to visit New Zealand though!

    • Reply
      May 14, 2018 at 6:47 pm

      I’m a big fan of having travel goals, as you can tell. 🙂 I only spent 3 days in NZ, and I would go back in a heartbeat! Most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

  • Reply
    A thankful Traveler
    May 14, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Love the bucket list! I regret not collecting stamps when we first started visiting National Parks, it would have been fun to see how many we could get! As a fellow Minnesotan I too had not even visited our very own National Park until just last year. Our bucket list is to visit all the US states and are covering 13 this summer on a road trip! Very inspiring!

    • Reply
      May 14, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      Nice! I wish I’d had a NP passport for myself, but at least my kids have most of theirs covered. 🙂

  • Reply
    Shreya Saha
    May 15, 2018 at 10:29 am

    This is a great list. National Parks are damn interesting, great you have the list ready, and ziplining all on the way woah! That’s something interesting. I wish you luck to complete all that you wish for with your family.

    • Reply
      May 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks! We are having fun completing the list. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 16, 2018 at 12:34 am

    Such a great bucket list!! Americans tend to take national parks for granted. I love that you do this with your family, I’m sure such an awesome bonding experience. Also, one park that I love and recommend is the Acadia National Park in Maine!

    • Reply
      May 16, 2018 at 2:36 pm

      Maine is one of 8 states I have yet to visit, and I’d LOVE to see Acadia. Thanks for the tip!

  • Reply
    May 19, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    You don’t even need to explain why visiting National Parks is on your bucket list, it’s a goal that makes total sense! National Parks are amazing, hiking or just being amidst nature is something we should all work towards! But I love how you’ve listed out all your bucket list items with goals, such as visiting all 50 states in the US. It’s always more fun to travel with family when you have such goals in mind. I can imagine that it can be a challenge to visit National Parks, especially because many of them need a car to get to and they’re massive, not easy to explore, as you mention. I haven’t been to many myself (I live far from US & Canada) but I did get to Banff National Park in Calgary a few years ago and the place was simply breathtaking!

    • Reply
      May 20, 2018 at 7:47 am

      Thanks, Medha. It seems like a given that national parks would be on a travel goal list, but I know so many people in the US who never go to them! It blows me away. And Banff is on our list for the next few years. The pictures look amazing. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kat Fox
    November 26, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    My 2019 goal is to explore our Nation’s parks with my husband and our dogs! I love this post. Thanks!

    • Reply
      November 26, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Thanks! I love your 2019 goal! National parks are really amazing. 🙂

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