Wilderness or National Parks – Which is Right for You?
The United States offers a wide array of natural land to adventure and explore. From desert to high alpine and ocean to lake, the options are endless. Within that natural world of adventure lies perhaps one of the largest traveler attractions: National Parks. Consisting of a total of 58 National Parks covering roughly 85 million acres of land, diversity is abundant. The park system has even gone as far as as offering passports in which visitors can endeavor to get unique stamps at every park in the country. Major names in the National Park system include the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Sequoia. According to the NSW Governments Office of Environment and Heritage, a National Park is defined as:
“Large areas of public land set aside for native plants, animals and the places in which they live. National parks protect places of natural beauty. They also protect places important to Aboriginal people, and places that show how people lived in the past.”
In 2016, more than 282 million people visited the National Parks. Many parks have incorporated modern comforts in order to accommodate the influx of tourists. Paved roads, bus transportations, restaurants, and hotels are all examples. Therefore, one could visit a scenic wonder such as a sunrise over the Grand Canyon and walk a short distance to a hot meal and cappuccino shortly after.
An often-overlooked alternative exists for the more outdoor minded. The hidden treasure of the states is National Wildernesses. Currently, there are 107.5 million acres of wilderness in 44 states. These areas are parts of National Parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and public domain. What is a National Wilderness? Well, according to the definition found on the NSW Government website once again defines wilderness as:
“Wilderness areas represent the largest, most pristine areas in the state's reserve system. They are managed so that native plant and animal communities are disturbed as little as possible”
Most importantly, the last phrase emphasizes the largest difference immediately; “disturbed as little as possible”. Translated, this means there are no tour buses full of groups or pizza parlors selling ice cream for after the hike. The wilderness in these protected areas is still wild.
Now the question of which is right for you: Wilderness or National Parks?
National Parks are ideal for individuals seeking a classic view of some of the most unique geological and natural features that the United States has to offer. Yosemite Falls, Old Faithful and Angels Landing are all gorgeous and special areas that are incomparable. However, the crowds are inevitable. Therefore, a classic National Park visit is right for travelers seeking quick easy trip holding the most iconic views. The park system makes visiting easy so that planning is not necessary and comforts are always accessible. Families, kids, elderly and recreational hikers will all find beauty and enjoyment in the parks.
National Wildernesses is for the rugged backpacker and outdoor enthusiast. The challenge is the planning and physical demand. Permits, maps, route finding, meal preparation and gear packing are all requirements for many overnight journeys in the wilderness area. Most of the beauty hidden in the area requires hard work and determination to find. However, the reward for the suffering is serenity, solitude and seclusion. Being the only person on a trail in many of the wilderness areas is not uncommon. A quote featured in an article on PBS describes the areas perfectly:
“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
If interested in planning a trip to the wilderness of the United States the bottom line is that the reward amounts to the effort invested. Beauty is easily accessible but for a truly beautiful experience, that you’re going to have to work for.