Putting Find Your Park to the Test

Theodore Roosevelt was passionate about America’s wilderness. While the National Park Service wasn’t formally created until 1916, Roosevelt worked to protect 230 million acres of public land during his presidency. His role in establishing national lands and prioritizing conservation are part of his lasting legacy.

August 25, 2015 marks the start of a one-year celebration of the National Parks Service Centennial. “America’s best idea” is deserving of at least a year’s celebration.

Cait and I have been fortunate enough to go to Olympic National Park and see a bit of Lewis and Clark National Park. It’s been an embarrassment of riches here in the Pacific Northwest and I find it hard to believe anyone who can drive to places like this leaves any vacation time on the table. People of Washington and Oregon with unused vacation days: call me! I have plenty of ideas for you!

Most Americans are familiar with Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and the Everglades, but with more than 400 national parks, everyone is just a short drive away from an amazing day trip—or weeklong adventure.

Where I live in Washington, D.C., a lunchtime stroll can bring me to the monuments of the National Mall, all part of the National Parks system. Right now, you might be thinking, “Oh, sure, D.C. But what about real America?” I put the short drive theory to the test on FindYourPark.com, an awesome tool that will tell you all the parks closest to you.

Saginaw, Michigan

Did you know that the University of Michigan campus is considered a National Park? I didn’t either, until FindYourPark.com told me it is. As a proud alumna of Indiana University and a native Ohioan, I’m not sure how I feel about this, but in 90 minutes, Saginaw residents can be at their closest park. Saginaw residents are only three hours away from one of my personal favorite places on earth, Sleeping Bear Dunes with its clear blue water and mountains of sand for kids of all ages to roll down.

Beaumont, Texas

Small-town Texans have great options, too. In about 40 minutes, the people of Beaumont can be at Big Thicket National Preserve, exploring 40 miles of hiking trails and tremendously diverse wildlife—including several kinds of snakes, so somebody might have to go in my place and tell me about it later. 

Mobile, Alabama

In an hour, Mobile residents can be at Perdido Key, FL, part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, a beautiful stretch of white sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. I can attest to this area, as my parents have made their retirement home in the Santa Rosa area just east of Perdido Key. The mornings bring calm ocean waters, perfect for paddle boarding and kayaking alongside rays and dolphins. 

Elko, Nevada

Okay, you almost caught me, Elkoans (?). But in three hours, you can be at Idaho’s Hagerman Fossil Beds, where you can practice your paleontology skills. We’ll need some dinosaur experts in case someone decides that bringing back dinosaurs as theme park attractions is a good idea again.     

Happy birthday to our National Parks! We would have brought a cake, but Smokey told us only we could prevent forest fires. 


The Project: Time Off team is on the road, exploring the Pacific Northwest, showing how easy—and affordable—it can be to turn a vacation or day or two into a memorable experience. Follow our adventures on Twitter and Instagram via @ProjectTimeOff and using the hashtag #TakeADay.

"It was here that the romance of my life began." –Theodore Roosevelt, on South Dakota’s Badlands

August 25, 2015