Inspired To Visit And Support Our National Parks
I was part of the inaugural American Latino Heritage Road Trip in 2012, which has evolved into what is now the @American_Latino Expedition. As part of our national park road trip, we traveled to six national parks and 22 historic sites through California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.
This experience inspired me to take annual road trips and visit all of America’s national parks. But most importantly, it instilled in me the desire to step away from the busyness of daily life and reconnect with nature and celebrate our national treasures. Since the American Latino Heritage Road Trip, my family has visited national parks at least once a year.
Here are my top 5 favorite national parks:
Casa Grande Ruins National Park – This is one of my favorite national parks because it is home to the largest prehistoric structure built in 1300 and home to a gigantic 125-year-old Saguaro cactus. I stood in awe as I toured the structure. I still can’t believe the structure was made of sand and clay. I can only imagine what it was like for travelers to drive through the area hundreds of years ago. It must have been a landmark for many generations. It was during this visit that I had my first-ever ranger-guided tour and the opportunity to interview National Park Service staff. One of the things I appreciated most about the tour was observing the park’s ability to protect and presereve the structure over the decades.
Grand Canyon National Park – Scientists can’t agree how the Grand Canyon was formed, but one thing is certain - it is my favorite park in the world. A visit to Grand Canyon National Park provides spectacular trees, sunset views, and unforgettable memories of the wonders of nature. No matter how many times you visit the same place, the view and experience will always be different. We spent the day hiking through the Grand Canyon and made our way back up the mountain in time for the sunset. We also toured the areas where famous artists spent days and nights writing and painting. A day hike with a quiet sunset overlooking the colorful rock layers is something everyone needs to do in their lifetime, at least twice. There can be a couple hundred people staring in amazement at the beauty of a Grand Canyon sunset , in complete silence. We hope to return to the park and spend the weekend at one of the lodges in the near future.
Petrified Forest National Park – I had never seen a petrified forest prior to my visit. The park looks like something from out of the history books. It looks like someone sawed the logs apart, but the trees are actually cracked and hardened like a rock over a period of time. We were very fortunate to hike throughout the park and discover petrified trees and wildlife. The climate changed several times during our visit. At the beginning of our adventure, there were heavy rains, winds, and monsoon warnings, but the weather was perfect once we went on our hike.
White Sands National Monument – There is no place on earth like White Sands National Monument. This white as snow natural wonder was created over three million years ago and looks like it came from outer space. This park is phenomenal! You can walk on the dunes with bare feet, even in the hottest summer months. The sand feels cool and soft to the touch. Walking through the soft, cool white sand has got to be one of the best experiences of my life.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area - My most recent national park trip included a visit to the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We enjoyed a daylong hike, learned about the Cold War era, and looked out at the most spectacular views. The headlands create their own clouds when warm weather sweeps through the mountains. The misty clouds are a beautiful sight from the Marin Headlands.
Our national parks are rich in natural beauty that we should celebrate and protect so that our children and their children can enjoy them for many generations to come. It’s our duty to support national parks.
I’m so thankful that the National Park Foundation and the American Latino Heritage Fund found me and I’m honored to call our national parks my favorite travel destinations.
Get to know more about Eva Smith by clicking here.