A few years ago W and I went on a long roadtrip. We started in Bozeman and drove all the way down to Las Vegas, with a stop in the desert, in Canyonlands and Island in the sky. We drove through the outskirts of Yellowstone, down through the mighty Tetons and through snow and ice storms. I think our route looked something like this:
Canyonlands, Island in the Sky
I had never ever been to an environment like that in my whole life so I was pretty excited to go. As always, our travels happen during winter break, but that is usually the best time to go, because no one else goes. This January in 2013 happened to be the coldest January in several years, I feel like this was a common theme for my winter travels from Alaska, I managed to go somewhere else where it was colder than Alaska, every single time. Driving towards Canyonlands was so breathtaking to me, these sandstone creations in the middle of the desert were piling up like large red stone thrones through the seemingly otherwise flat landscape.
Ice cold nights
We seemed to be the only people camping in Canyonlands, at least based on the zero other cars at our camping spot, and the lack of gear in the few other cars we saw during the day. We arrived at our campsite and decided to have something to eat and watch the sunset. There were a few other people there too, but as soon as the darkness fell over us and these red stone thrones turned into different shades of darkness we were the only people left. Temperatures dropped down towards 10 and 20 below and with it being so dark already we decided to sleep in the car, because it would be warmer we thought. That was one of the coldest nights I have experienced, my guess is that the metal in the car insulated the cold air whole lot more than a tent would have done.
We went hiking during our time in Canyonlands, we picked out a route that seemed fairly easy, short and interesting. No one else could be seen out there, absolutely empty, just us and the stone thrones. During the day it got warmer, and while we hiked with hats and gloves, jackets were not really needed.
National Parks are becoming Popular
In January 2013 when we were camping in Island in the sky (that is a part of Canyonlands), the total number of campers, in a tent, was 90 (in all of Canyonlands). The total number of visitors was only 3617 (only 2700 in Island in the sky). In May 2013 the total visits that year was 75000 (51000 in Island in the sky), so quite a few more during peak season. The last few years the number of people that are visiting national parks in the US has sky rocketed! But the people that are representing that increase in visitors are retired white folks, so not an increase in younger visitors, which I would have thought. Total number of visitors in May 2016 to Canyonlands was at 128000, a lot more than in 2013, and in January this year (2017) they had 7400 visitors, but still only 147 people sleeping in a tent. Can you guess which national park in the US has the most visitors? I can give you one clue, which may or may not help. I have never been to that national park. You can read the answer at the bottom of this page :)
Most visited National Park
So, what national park receives the most recreational visitors? Well the answer is, Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It received a whopping 11 MILLION visitors in 2016. Yellowstone National Park only received 4 million visitors and Denali? A little over half a million.
Are you going to visit any of these national parks this year?