13 National Parks You Can Visit in 1 Day

13 amazing national parks that you can see and enjoy with just ONE day! In honor of National Park Week April 20-28, 2024 we wanted to share some of our favorites and encourage you to take a day to visit.

  1. White Sands 
  2. Dry Tortugas
  3. Gateway Arch
  4. Cuyahoga
  5. Carlsbad Caverns – Don’t forget your headlamp for splunking!
  6. Everglades – We LOVED this airboat tour!
  7. Saguaro 
  8. Mammoth Cave
  9. Petrified Forest 
  10. Indiana Dunes
  11. Joshua Tree 
  12. Biscayne
  13. Congaree

National Parks to Visit in One Day – Episode Transcript


Welcome to this week’s episode of the Travel Squad Podcast.

Today we’re diving into National parks that you only need one day to visit.


This week is actually National Park Week, so we thought it would be fitting to honor this week by bringing awareness to these 13 national Parks that we’re going to talk to you about today.

If you squaddies know anything about us, it’s that we love visiting national parks and getting in good hikes.

Maybe not so much Kim anymore now that she’s past 30.


I don’t know if you could handle those hikes no more, Ken.

I can still hang.

But there is so much more to national parks than big hikes.

They preserve and protect historical sites, unique ecosystems and the National Park system was established really for us humans to appreciate and respect nature here in our beautiful country.


Some national parks require multiple days to see and visit because they’re so large, vast and with many different things to see and do that you can’t do it in one day, but there are so many great national parks that you can easily do in just one day or half a day at that to soak up all that they have to offer.


Best of all, a lot of these national parks that we’re going to mention here today are true easy days.

Not travel squad easy days, but real easy days where you don’t need to do any hiking, we’ll.

See about.

That just well paved trail maybe overlooks this, that and the other.

So I’m really excited to dive right into that for you guys today.


We’re talking about national parks.

You can see in just one day.

This is a great one for me.

I’ve kind of started loving shorter trips, like two nights, three nights maximum.

Just enough time to really, really miss the pets and come back home to them.


But this is perfect because you can get a National Park in still.

Plenty of time for travel, still plenty of time for views, visiting or exploring the nearby area, maybe even pairing national parks and hitting two in one little weekend trip.

It’s perfect.

And you know, we’ve always said, make travel happen.


Explore your own backyard.

Maximize these weekend trips with leaving after work on a Friday, coming back before work on a Monday, and this episode is truly going to inspire you to do more of that.

Also, we talk a lot about saving money.

How can you travel more?


Will you spend less on travel?

And these National Park trips are perfect for that.

Because when you visit one for just one day, you probably don’t need to stay at that park, right?

You’re not coming back the next day, so you save on the higher cost of lodging that’s typically found within the park.


And then you save on time too, because you’re not staying an hour outside the park and needing to drive back in the next day.

So truly, it’s just a win win all around for this episode.

Well, I’m really excited to dive in.

So why don’t we go?

Just go ahead and start with White Sands National Park.

White Sands is located in New Mexico.


It’s actually one of the USA’s newer national parks.

It was only established in 2019 and we visited in December of 2022.

But what White Sands is, it’s known because it has this beautiful, glistening white gypsum sand, and it’s the world’s largest gypsum dune field.



Is there some type of history here about years ago, like bomb testing or military activity here?

Well, they still have military testing in the general vicinity.

I think there is a military Air Force Base.

So as a matter of fact it will even tell you when you go to this National Park, when they give you the map or information flyer, when you go in that if you actually see any metal objects in the sand, do not touch it.


It could be just a discarded like military, either aircraft or shells from casings of like test missiles or whatever.

So they have missile silos out here and a couple other things.

So that also makes it unique.

We were here in this beautiful environment and then all of a sudden you hear jets fly over and they’re still doing testing in the area.


But of course now they’re taking more protection to really preserve the sand and the environment around.

And not only is it just sand and this beautiful white sand, but of course the wildlife that’s out there.

So really unique National Park.

What kind of wildlife lives amongst the sand?


There’s a ton of wildlife.

You’re going to have elk, deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, coyotes, mountain lions, or even out here.

I mean, this is a real desert area, so around outside of the sand dunes, of course you’re going to have that more typical desert that you would expect in the American Southwest.


But some of them come on to the sand.

But even not on the sand in the vicinity and surrounding area you have all this major wildlife, Bobcats, raccoons, so a whole host of desert wildlife out here.

And you can see these big beautiful mountains in the distance too.

So I guess the wildlife probably goes between the two diverse ecosystems.


So you 2 have been here.

What did you do in about how many hours would you say to a lot for the single day in the park?

We went here and we probably spent five or six hours in the park only, But the reason why is because there’s only 5 established trails in the park and we did three out of five of them.


I feel like we probably could have done all five of them if we really had wanted to and wanted to stay the whole day.

But I did some research on what trails I wanted to do.

We started with the Dune Life Trail.

It was the first one.

I gave it just a sneak peek of the park and the beauty that was in the park and they had these boards that you walked around and it would tell you history about the park and the wildlife that live there.


So they felt like it was a good introductory hike into the park.

They really need to do something for this trail, the Dune Life Nature Trail, because a lot of the signs that they have as the postings and markings of where you’re supposed to go are sun faded because it’s so hot out here.

I mean, you’re in the desert.

Of course, we went during winter time, so it wasn’t too bad, but they can do a little bit better about fixing those signs or giving you something to have so you really could learn more because a lot of the information on there was faded out, which kind of was a bummer.


The second hike we did in the park was called Inner Dune Boardwalk.

It’s a boardwalk that goes over the dune field and this is accessible.

So if you have kids in strollers or wheelchairs, anything like that, they can access part of this boardwalk and be on the Dune field as well.

Then there’s also the Alkali Flats Trail.


It’s the longest trail and best trail that we did.

You really get to see the sand waves, the mountain scenery backdrop and you could go sand sledding or boarding in this area also.

And then it’s in the desert, so I’m guessing you do not want to go in summer.

Absolutely not.


No shade at all whatsoever.

You’d just be in direct sunlight and super hot.

The sand and probably hot and the sand gets really hot.

I think it can burn you as well so.

I mean these are sand dunes.

You can easily get lost on this one, this trail, the alkali flats, They do have little postings that come up as little markers so that you can really see and keep yourself on point.


But I can imagine during the heat, when it’s hot, you get these little mirages and you may not be able to see those.

So really kind of follow the established footprints that are already there of people who went before you.

If there are any.

If there are any, correct.

But yeah, it’s dangerous out here.


During the summer it’s going to be really hot and even during the winter you get really tired just hiking in sand.

I don’t know if anyone’s ever really like hiked mountains of sand.

It’s tough, It’s hard, but it’s doable and really beautiful out here and worth it.

Is this the park, Brittany, where you were sand boarding down the mountain and just took a huge tumble?


That was actually Great Sand Dunes National Park, another great National Park as well.

But no, after that experience we were like, we’re not going to do any sand boarding or sand sledding here.

We’re just going to go and enjoy the sand.

You learned your lesson, huh?

But it’s fun, right?

So people can and should do that here.

Yeah, you can absolutely do it here.


It’s fun.

It’s worth a try if you’ve never done it before as well.

I thought this was a great National Park to look cute in, so you know it’s one of those.


That where it’s not super strenuous like wear athleisure clothing and look cute at the same time.


Our second National Park that you can visit in one day is Dry Tortugas out in Florida.

Kim, this National Park would be right up your alley.

I’m surprised for how many times you’ve been to Florida, you haven’t made your way to Dry Tortugas quite yet.

So for you squatties out there who are unfamiliar with it, dry Tortugas is a chain of islands that you could only get to by boat or seaplane.


O realistically for most of us who don’t have a seaplane of our own or our own boat to go out there, you’re going to have to go to Key West FL, which is at the very southern tip of Florida and in that island chain that’s connected by bridges.

And from there you take a day ferry out to drive Tortugas National Park and you are out here in the Gulf of Mexico tropical waters.


You can do snorkeling.

On top of that, there’s an old civil war prison Fort that they have here.

So you really get to experience actual U.S. history with a civil war prison and and on top of that just get in the water, do some snorkeling with the fish.

It’s really beautiful out here and this is a full day trip because of the time it takes you to come out here on the initial ferry and go back.


So once you get into dry Tortugas Park, other than the tour of Fort Jefferson and whatnot, what else is there to do there?

I would definitely recommend snorkeling, so they will provide snorkel gear for you with the ferry if you arrive that way.

So if you arrive via seaplane or your own personal boat, you’re going to have to bring your own items.


But if you go through the recommended tour that goes from Key West out to dry Tortugas, then they do provide snorkeling gear.

There is a lot of great beaches on the island, so even if you didn’t want to snorkel and you just wanted a sunbathe and relax on the beach or do some beach walks, really great, really amazing blue pristine water.


So it’s definitely perfect for a beach lover, someone that likes to get away on like little tropical getaways.

We did a whole episode with dry tortugas featured in it.

If you go all the way back to episode 49, you can hear about this park in much more detail as well as some of the other Florida National parks.


Before we get into #3, I did just want to mention that we do have tons of travel itineraries listed on our website.

You squaddies have asked us so many times for more details on the exact trips that we’ve taken.

So we’ve basically taken our trips, detailed them out into these great PDF guides with every single step of the way that we did.


So you can take our exact same trip too.

We have international as well as domestic itineraries and National Park itineraries, so be sure to go on our website and check them out.

Each itinerary is a 20 to 30 page instant PDF downloadable guide that tells you where to fly into the exact routes we took, where to stay, where to eat, driving distances between attractions, the things to do and see, how much time to allot for each activity, and so much more.


We’ll be sure to link these itineraries in our show notes, and like Brittany said, be sure to head to our website, travelsquadpodcast.com and check them out there.

And if you have a suggestion for an itinerary, send us Adm or an e-mail. #3 on our list is going to be Gateway Arch National Park located in St.


Louis, MO.

So this is also a newer National Park.

It became a newer National Park in 2018.

We visited in 2021 and we actually did it on a long day trip from Chicago.

So the Gateway Arch is the gateway to the West, and the Gateway Arch really reflects St.


Louis’s role in the westward expansion of the US.

This is a great National Park for history lovers, anyone wanting to learn more about American history, or if you’re just in the Chicago or Saint Louis greater area and you want something to do for a quick day trip.


This is an easy day trip to do from Chicago or if you’re going to Saint Louis, just a lot, even half a day.

I thought to myself, you know when they made Saint Louis Arch in National Park, why would they do that?

It was already a National Monument.

It’s just this one little square plot of land.

Of course they have the monument of the arch.


However, when we got there, of course you can go up into it, which we did do that, but I didn’t really realize that down below underground from the arch.

They have a whole museum in there and it will talk about the construction of the arch, how they did it, the challenge that they put out to a whole bunch of architects internationally and domestically here in the US to design something that really represented the significance of Saint Louis and that westward expansion of the United States.


And so they came up with the arch on top of that.

They have a whole bunch of other unique history things in there to see.

So you get more than just going up into a building and a view.

You really get a little bit of flavor of the importance of the city of Saint Louis.

And the arch is huge.


The arch is 630 feet tall and the exact distance wide as well 630 feet wide.

So if you do go and make this day trip, I highly recommend purchasing A combo ticket that pretty much includes everything that you can do at the Arch, so you’ll be able to watch the documentary about the inspiration of the design and the construction.


You can take a riverboat ride, it’s a one hour cruise down the Mississippi riverfront.

And then of course the highlight is to ride the tram to the top and you go in these little tram capsules.

It almost feels like kind of being in a Ferris wheel.

But you’re on the inside of the Arch, really cool.


And then at the top, when you get out, there are these windows and you can look out to either side.

One side you can see the Saint Louis skyline, and on the other side you can see Western Illinois and the Mississippi River.

If you want to know more about Saint Louis Arch, we actually have a whole episode on it.

It’s episode 186. #4 Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio You 2 have been here.


I know you really enjoyed it, So what do you think?

Is that a little bit of sarcasm on the We really enjoyed it, Kim.

I mean, when you’re comparing it to these crazy national parks we’ve been to, maybe it’s not the top of the list, but it’s still a good one.

It still is a good one.


We went here because we were in Ohio to go to Cedar Point, which was a lifelong dream of mine because I love roller coasters.

And of course we’re by a National Park and we said, well, why would we not be going?

So we had limited time.

You really can do this in one day.

We spent about half a day.


You can make it a full day because they actually have a train tour that you can take.

And I would have loved to do that.

I really think it would have enhanced the experience.

But what I feel happened here at Cuyahoga National Park is the same thing.

When you read a lot of reviews on something that people really hype it up.


There was this one specific trail that we were told to do.

That’s the absolute best.

Everyone’s writing that as reviews on online and I really liked it, but just the reviews so hyped it up that I was expecting more.

And I think if I didn’t read it I would have appreciated this National Park a little bit more.

But why don’t you tell everybody a little bit more about it, Brittany?


Yeah, Cuyahoga National Park is home to forest, rolling hills and open farm lands.

We saw a lot of open farm lands, but the hike that we did was called the ledges.

This was the must do hike in the park, but it has a lot of really cool rock formations and stunning views.


It’s not a long hike, it’s only about two miles.

But again, like Jamal said, everyone hyped it up and was like focus on this area of the park.

And I just feel like because it was so hyped up it maybe we’re let down a little bit.

People actually were online were saying skip Brandywine Falls and they were hyping down this waterfall.


We went anyways and we really loved it.

It was a really beautiful waterfall and it was our favorite thing to see in the park.


And so I think it was just a mix of reading those reviews like, oh, you want to really do the ledges.

And I don’t want to say we were let down by the ledges, but hyped up.

And then people saying, oh, skip the falls.


Even though it’s a major attraction, it’s not that great.

Both of us really loving the falls.

And then I want to say this, Google Photos of Cuyahoga National Park, you’re going to see amazing, beautiful landscape.

And I was really looking forward to see this.

And I don’t know if what the images that they have in this National Park that come up on Google are not in the areas of the ledges or Brandywine Falls.


Because I want to go back and see that where it has the little meandering creeks and rivers and then fall foliage color change.

Granted, we were there in the summer, we didn’t get to see that, but I think that’s.

What I was just going to say, maybe your experience was a little dimmed because you were there in the heat of July, the summer, maybe in the fall or the spring when they have more water coming down, more lush greenery or the fall, all colors, then it would be just a little bit slightly of enhanced experience.


That and I think if we did the train ride that they have there too.

So I think a lot of things go into it.

All in all, we still enjoyed it, but of course we’re having an episode on single day National Park visits and so take what you will on single day National Park visits, right?

This sounds like a perfect one for a single day.


Get on that train ride, see some of the sights and then move back on to go ride roller coasters.

And find the parts of the park that we did not find, that you see in the Google image other than the Ledges and the Brandywine Falls.

Because it looks like there’s absolute scenic beauty there and we just missed it somehow. #5 Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico This is one that when you visit, you will not miss the scenic beauty of it as long as you go underground.


Yeah, you got to go underground, Caverns.

It’s in the name, you know it’s underground.

And we’ve all been here to Carlsbad Caverns, not together as a squad, but we really hyped this one up for you, Kim.

And so when you were making your move from out West in California to Texas, you were passing through this area you really wanted to go.


What did you think of it?

Did we overhype it or was it everything you imagined?

No, it is not overhyped.

It is the best cave that I’ve ever been in and I’ve been in probably 10 different caves.

Oh, wow.

So it’s huge, it’s beautiful, There’s stalagmites, stalactites, columns, colors.


It’s really really pretty and it’s a great stop for the single day aspect of things.

I only spent maybe 3 hours here, so you can do it in 1/2 day for sure too.

You could only do so much here, right?

Because you said it’s nice if you go underground.


So Carlsbad Caverns is in New Mexico, so out on top is just desert landscape.

Not to say that it’s not scenic and there’s not trails, but you’re not going here to do that.

You’re going to go into The Cave, see the stalagmite stalactites.

What’s really awesome about Carlsbad Caverns is the way that you could get in there.


They still have the natural entrance to The Cave.

It’s paved.

You can hike down that.

Or up it.

Or up it right.

But you can hike down and if you’re saying to yourself, I don’t want to come up and hike up this, well, lucky for you, there is a 700 foot elevator that will take you all the way way back to the top.


Or you could enter in the visitor center and say I don’t want to hike the natural cave, let me just take the elevator down below, make it feel like I’m really an explorer going down in a cave.

And this is like a little mine shaft and just take the elevator down.

So it’s really awesome.

You get in there, it’s 56°F, nice and cool.


Beautiful contrast to that hot desert heat that is outside.

But the big room, which is the main room, it’s the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America.

It’s about one and a quarter miles of a relatively flat trail that self-guided all around to see the beautiful underground formations.


And if you want a different experience, if you’ve been in a lot of caves before, they actually have some guided cave tours.

Jamal and I actually did one of these.

You have to reserve it in advance.

And we got to go in parts of The Cave most people don’t get to see.

We went down some ladders, we had some headlamps and gloves.


We got to sit in absolute darkness when we all turned off our headlamps and got to see some really cool features and structures that even farther down beneath.

I think the tour that we did was called The Lower Cave, but they have a variety of different tours that they offer.

So do some research online and see what possibly peaks your interest.


And more than likely you’re going to be able to do this and some other things within Carlsbad Cavern in one single day.

What would we be as the Travel Squad podcast if we didn’t talk about the toilet situation?

I want to say in Carlsbad Caverns they have full blown flushable toilets down here, so you can actually have a really good experience.


Not in the lower cave because the lower cave isn’t really designed for a lot of people to go into you.

That’s where you have the guided Ranger tours.

But in the upper cave area, you have access to bathrooms, so you don’t really need to worry about that.

Like, oh, is there going to be a bathroom in The Cave?

They have them, and they’re nice, fully functional ones.


There’s even a cafe in the Big Cave area.

Yeah, there is.


So if you’re doing that guided tour and then the independent tour and you want a little break in between, there’s also a ton of restaurants within pretty close driving distance, like 15 ish minutes, so you really can make it a full day if you want.


You can make it a full day.

We recommend making it a full day.

Would only be half if you did the self-guided tour, but we highly recommend checking recreation.gov booking one of the Ranger guided ones to the lower cave.

An absolute must.

And if you want to hear more about Carlsbad Caverns National Park, go back to episode #39 and hear all about it.


So before we dive into park number six, let’s take a quick detour to talk about one of our favorite travel products, Liquid IV.

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They are super easy to carry and keep stocked in your suitcase, carry on day pack or purse.

Liquid IV comes in regular and sugar free flavors.

Some of our favorites are that Tangerine with immune support.

Really good when you’re traveling Sugar free, Peach, lemon, lime and we’re offering you all 20% off when you go to liquid-iv.com and use our promo code TRAVEL SQUAD Podcast when you check out.


Number six on our list is going to be Everglades National Park, located in Florida.

So this National Park lives up to the swampy crocodile field landscape that Florida is known for, and it’s actually the only place in the world where Crocs and alligators cohabitate.

It’s actually the third largest National Park in the contiguous United States, so it’s pretty cool to see.


You’re likely going to be seeing this by airboat, which is such a fun experience in and of itself.

But when you’re gliding on this giant airboat, the scenery is beautiful.

Like, you just don’t see this every day.

It’s green.

It’s lush.

It’s it doesn’t look swampy.

It’s not like Brown and there’s alligators or Crocs within there, so it’s a really, really fun experience even if you just take the airboat alone and don’t see any Crocs or alligators, which there is a chance that could happen.


There is a chance.

I’m so sad that when you went Kim, you did not see any because we went together.

And when we went together that was actually our second time going because Brittany and I have been to Everglades National Park twice and we used Everglades Safari Park.

So be sure to check them out.


But the airboat tour, I’m so glad that you said that, that even though you missed out on seeing Crocs and alligators, you still had a great time.

And I thought to myself, of course you’re going to see it, Kim, when you had asked us.

Because when Brittany and I did, we saw a ton of them.


But the problem was we went a little bit later in the day when it’s hot, a lot of the Crocs and alligators submerge themselves underwater.

So you’re really going to want to do this first thing in the morning or go during winter months because we were there in the month of September when it’s still a little bit hot.


So do your research online, check to see when they say would be the most optimal time to see the wildlife out there of the Crocs and the Gators.

But either way, you’re just going to have a great time.

Even being on the boat is so fun.

It’s also really good for families.

There’s a little experience after the airboat ride where they do have the Gators out there.


There is a park Ranger who’s playing with them, feeding them, talking about them so you can see them in the wild, as well as this little experience afterwards.

We did a whole episode on it as well, episode 49, so if you go back to that one you can get a ton more detail.


So #7 on our list is Saguaro National Park.

So why?

I was located in Arizona, near the town of Tucson, and it gets its name from the very large Saguaro cactuses that grow in this region.

Yeah, so Saguaro National Park is situated in the Sonoran Desert, and these cactuses do not grow naturally anywhere else in the world, So this is the only spot where you can actually find them in their natural habitat.


What’s really cool about these Saguaro cacti is they are the size of trees.

They can grow up to 40 feet tall and live up to 250 years with an average lifespan of about 150.

So these are really old living creatures or objects just here in the Storm and Oren desert and absolutely beautiful.


Yeah, it actually takes some 50 to 100 years to grow an arm on the cactus.

So other like while they’re still young, less than 50 years old, they’re just going to be these big sticks.

But then they start to grow little buds and arms between like 50 and 100 years.


There’s also a bloom period where they get little flowers blooming on them and that’s around the time frame of April to June, right?

Yeah, but the best season to visit is November through March because it’s very hot in the snow and desert.

So you might want to visit in the cooler climate, but if you are interested in the cactus blooming, like Kim said, late April through June.


I would go in April.

I wouldn’t want to be there in June.

So straddle that line of that cooler weather in March to April with that beautiful spring bloom on the cacti.

But there are two separate parts to this park.

The city of Tucson is sitting in the middle.

There is a West and east side of the National Park and so you can do a little bit of offshoot trails, go into one of them, walk around a little bit or not even get out of your vehicle and just drive a scenic route that they have.


So lots of options here.

There are even old petroglyphs in the park and you can do a small hiking show to get to them and see them.

If you want to visit this park, say you’re in Tucson for some type of a trip or work conference or something like that, you have to visit this park.


Go back to episode 61.

We go into much more detail on this park so you can go visit it for yourself.

We also even have an Arizona itinerary that covers all three of of Arizona’s national parks, including Saguaro. #8 We’re headed to Kentucky to see Mammoth Cave National.


Park We paired Mammoth Cave National Park with a trip to Nashville.

Jamal and I visited in February of 2021.

This is the longest cave in the world with over 400 miles traced within it, and it’s so big that they haven’t even finished exploring it yet.



And this cave was created by underground rivers.

And, you know, when we were coming here, I really thought to myself, oh, yeah, it’s going to be another cave, like Carlsbad Caverns.

We’re going to see stalagmites, stalactites.

And somebody might think, oh, well, I’ve already seen something like that.

I don’t need to see anymore.


You know, you see one cave, you see them all.

And that’s not really true.

I didn’t know this until we got in there and then our Ranger guide told us, because you can’t just explore this on our own.

Every time you go into The Cave, it has to be a Ranger guided tour, he said this isn’t your typical cave.

It’s one of the only caves in the world without stalagmites or stalactites.


And I said to myself then, what do I really care about being in a cave if it’s just an open chamber that was carved out by an underground river?

But it was so exciting and unique to be in here.

It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site discovered over 5000 years ago by Native American.


So Native Americans have been exploring this cave for at least 5000 plus years.

And we came across a section within The Cave where our Ranger guide told us they found and exhumed a body in this area.

And then they took it out.

And then they realized later, like we probably shouldn’t have taken him out.


It’s culturally insensitive.

We need to put him in his final place, and they moved him back.

But what other significance does this cave have in uniqueness Brittany?

Well, I’m not the best person to answer this, of course, because I’m not the history buff, but it did play a significant part in winning the War of 1812 due to the Salt Puters, and it’s also the oldest cave tour in the US, so they started making money on this way back in the day.


This whole region of the country has a ton of caves like Tennessee, Kentucky, this area right here, all of them talk about their use of the bat poo to help with ammo in the war.

Some of that, some of the bat poop, plus the saltputers that Brittany was talking about, because the War of 1812 was the 2nd War of the United States versus the British.


It was, it’s considered to really be the second war for our independence in 1812, and the only country that we really bought mass gunpowder from was the United Kingdom and Great Britain.

But why would they sell it to their enemies?

So they were like, we’re not going to sell it anymore.

Sure enough, this cave had the salt pewters that was actually able to be harvested, mined and used to create gunpowder, thus helping us win the war.


So Can you imagine where the United States would be now without this cave?

Probably would have lost.

The world would look a little bit different, unique in that respect also.

Plus with the bat poop like you said.

And what tours did you all do when you went here?

When we went, we did the Mammoth Passage Tour and this has a lot of the artifacts left left by the Native Americans and prehistoric people.


And then we also did the Broadway tour.

I saw in the National Park website that they don’t even offer this tour anymore, but this one is the one that talked a lot about the history of The Cave.

But when I did go online to look at what tours are still available, I think they had over 10 different ones that you can choose from.

So quite a bit of variety.


We were there for probably half a day, but you can definitely spend it a full day here with multiple tours and they also have hiking trails on the outside.

And this is a no entrance fee National Park.

Of course if you’re going to go into The Cave and do a tour, you have to pay.

They’re all like that.


But if you are going to do any of the activities above The Cave in the preserved nature area, no entrance National Park.

We didn’t do any of those hikes.

We wanted to get back to Nashville and it was February during the winter, pretty cold.

Didn’t really want to be out there too much.


And of course, the highlight is The Cave.

If you’re thinking about visiting Mammoth Cave, go back to our episode #92 where we go into a ton more detail on it, even some some other info on Nashville if you want to add on to that part of your trip. #9 on our list is going to be Petrified Forest National Park.


It’s located in Arizona, so one of three Arizona National Parks.

So this is a perfect day trip National Park because the parks only open from 8:00 to 5:00 every day, so you know you’re pretty limited on how long you can spend in the park.


If you’re going for a day, I would highly recommend going as early as possible, and that gives you time to see the park in its entirety.

But what Petrified Forest is, is a it’s a National Park known for its fossils of the fallen trees that grew and lived in the area, and they’ve been fossilized and crystallized.


And So what you get to see now are these big giant crystallized logs that are super colorful.

Crystallized logs that are 225 million years old.

That’s how long it took for this process of these old trees, because this area of Arizona used to be a forest, not so much anymore.


It’s a desert.

It’s covered by sand, mud, debris.

And with that comes a scientific process for that mineralization to create what was once wood, now into stone and crystallized.

It’s so beautiful to see just the different colors that they have from Browns, oranges, red hues and just the different color formations that the trees took which are now stone.


So in this park you can drive through it to scenic overlooks and stops where they have little small paved trails for you to go out and see the rock formations.

So really beautiful, very fast to get through and out.

A couple of the stops and overlooks that you would want to take along this drive Giant Logs Trail has some of the most beautiful, colorful logs in the park.


You’ll definitely want to stop there and see Old Faithful.

Yeah, another one is called the Crystal Forest Trail.

This is one of the best opportunities to experience the petrified wood deposits with beautiful crystals.

Also, just randomly, this is a National Park you can bring your dog into and so dogs are allowed if they’re leashed of course.


And one of our favorite things that we did was we hiked the Painted Desert Rim Trail.

This gives You Beautiful views of the Rocky Badlands landscape, and it has rocks in every color.

Featuring like deep lavender to Gray to red, orange and pink, It feels like you’ve been transported into a painting when you’re in this area.


Bonus for you guys, you can go back and listen to episode 61 where we talk more about this National Park and we mentioned earlier, but we do have an Arizona itinerary that covers all three of Arizona’s National Park.

So we mentioned one earlier with Saguaro.

We have Petrified Forest here.


Of course, the other one is Grand Canyon.

Wouldn’t say Grand Canyon is a one day visit park, so it’s not on the list, but be sure to check out that itinerary if you’re interested in making the rounds throughout Arizona to check out these marvelous parks. #10 Indiana Dunes National Park in Indiana.


We went to this National Park as a day trip from Chicago, so it’s within driving distance there.

The surrounding areas, If you’re anywhere around there, it’s a great one.

Indiana Dunes has over 50 miles of trails.

You have the sand dunes of course, the quiet Woodlands, prairies and wetlands as well.


We hiked up to Lake MI and you know, while we were there, Jamal and I had our first White claws.

Kim introduced us to our first white claws.

We were in the Indiana Dunes National Park.

Yeah, because this is a National Park, realistically that you can do in half a day.


Come from Chicago, you’re on the shores of Lake MI here there is the little forested areas where they have trails, which really surprised me.

You know, you think this is right by Chicago.

How Naturey is it going to be?

There’s forests still there along the lake, but then you come to the sand dunes and the shores of Lake MI so you can go and relax.


And we sat on the shores, watch the Chicago skyline from the distance because you can see that and just appreciated a white claw on top of the nature that you get here.

So I find it to be really unique when I go someplace and it’s different than what I expected.

And I did not expect to really see that here at Indiana Dunes, and I really appreciated that. #11 is Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.


This is a really cool one.

We’re actually featuring a lot of desert on our list here, but this is one that you can spend more than one day or you can really knock it out in one day like we did when we visited.

Joshua Tree is named after the trees in the park.

Trees are obviously called Joshua Trees.


They’re twisted, bristled trees.

But Joshua Tree also has a lot of really cool rock formations in the desert, and it straddles the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert A.

Lot of deserts going on here.

Because this is a desert, we would say the best time to visit realistically is winter.


Of course some people like the heat, but if you go during those summer months, just be aware that it can be hot.

We’ve done 3 hikes in the park collectively.

One of them is the Lost Horse Mine Loop.

It’s a long hike, probably around six to seven miles, so definitely make sure you’re hiking this in winter, but the highlight is viewing the old mine that was in the area.


It produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver in the early 1900s.

Another trail of note is going to be the Hidden Valley Trail.

It’s a one mile loop that winds among the massive boulders through what was once believed to be a legendary cattle rustlers hideout.


It is one of the most popular and scenic hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park.

In Jamal and I, when we went, we went and hiked the 49 Palms Oasis Trail.

It’s located on the edge of the park.

You actually don’t need to enter the park to get to this trail, but you hike down 300 feet into this beautiful fan palm Oasis and there’s a lot of barrel cacti along the way.


But if you do stay longer in the park, you can do camping in the park.

People boulder in the park quite a bit or rock climb.

And if you want to hear more about it, go to episode #30.

We feature it in our Palm Desert Girls trip episode. #12 Rounding out the third National Park in Florida, Biscayne National Park is also a really good one to visit in just one day.



And Biscayne National Park, 95% of it is just water, only 5% is land.

So what it really does is protect the unique water ecosystem that takes place in these tropical waters along the shore.

So your activity, you’re going to be getting on a boat and you’re going to be getting in the water and snorkeling.


That’s all you’re really going to be doing at Biscayne.

How can you go wrong with a day trip to National Park where all there is to do is just get in the water and snorkel with beautiful fish?

This is right up my alley, and it’s very conveniently located if you’re in South Florida.

If you’re in Miami, it makes a great little half day trip.


Yeah, so you can snorkel, Jamal and I did.

You can paddle, board, get on a boat, canoe, kayak, or you can even dive in the area as well.

So they have a lot of different options.

You might even be able to see some manatees.

Yeah, because Biscayne National Park protects 4 distinct ecosystems.


The shoreline is really those mangrove swamps.

Then you have the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay that house those manatees that Brittany were talking about coral limestone keys off the Florida reef, which is one of the largest coral reef systems in the world.

So really great stuff here at Biscayne.


I loved it.

I would go back.

Easy thing to do.

If you’re just going to Miami, make a point to come to Biscayne because it’s not too far from Miami.

We’ve mentioned earlier that we have an episode all about it, so go back to episode 49.

But our last National Park that you can visit in a day is Congaree National Park.


This National Park is located in South Carolina, only 30 minutes South of Columbia.

Because of its location in South Carolina, it also makes a really good day trip from Charleston, SC we visited back in May 2022.

I thought it was a good time to visit.


It wasn’t too miserably hot or humid, so the weather was decent and there was almost no one else in this park.


And so, Congaree, when you look at it online, it’s really kind of, I don’t want to say advertised as a swamp.


But when you look at the photos, you get the vibe that it’s a swamp.

And to some degree it is, it really is a forest that floods.

So then it gives you that type of swamp vibe.

Then of course, and this whole National Park, lots of the trails are really boardwalk planks that you hover and walk around because of course you don’t want to be on the ground.


The trail will get washed away during those flood seasons.

So I came in here thinking to myself, what am I really going to expect out of a swamp right here?

And let me say, I feel like we saw the most wildlife we’ve probably ever seen in this park.

One of the coolest things that we saw is when we were walking along one of the trails.


I think at this point we had gone off the boardwalk and we were walking on the actual dirt and we hear this rustling in the bushes and the trees and as we come up on it, it’s a giant tortoise.

Yeah, forest tortoise.

I thought it was going to be a snake at first, you know, with all that rustling because of course swampy areas.


But we saw the tortoise.

We ended up seeing snakes.

One of the trails that we did has a overlooked to a lake.

We saw an alligator swimming out there More.

Turtles in the water.

More turtles in the water.

Not only that, we started seeing all those caterpillars, we missed the bloom season when they turn into butterflies, but caterpillars galore in the park.


So I never thought I would really appreciate swamp wildlife, but we saw a lot of it and it was really cool.

Yeah, the hike that we did was called the Western Lake Loop Trail.

It was just under 5 miles.

I would highly recommend this.

You start off in the boardwalk, then you go down into the forest floor.


You get to see some lakes and have some overlooks.

So it gives you a really good overview of the park, I would say.

But our biggest tip about visiting Congaree National Park is to bring bug spray.

There is a lot of mosquitoes.

They actually have a mosquito meter when you arrive and you can see how likely it is for you to get bit.


It was actually not even bad.

We were when we were there and we still got bit.

The other cool thing about this park is fireflies.

There is a season for fireflies, so if you’re trying to catch them, make sure to look at the National Park website to see what they’re doing there.

They do night tours too, so if you are planning to see this in just one day, kind of time your trip right so you can see the night time fireflies too.


All right?

It’s the time for the best time of the episode Questions of the Week, and we have two beautiful questions coming in.

The first one coming from Amy out of North Carolina.


Amy is asking what resources do you use to pick your hikes?

Great question, Amy.

I use a variety of different resources.

Sometimes I go to the National Park website, see what hikes they recommend.

Sometimes I go into all trails and look at the top hikes within the park.


And sometimes I just do some Google researching and look at a few blogs and see what else everyone else is recommending.

I find that the National Park website, yeah, it’s a good place to start, but they could do a lot with more information on there for sure.

They could do with more information and I think they probably do that because they don’t want to be biased and put people to 1 area of the park.


They really want people to see all of the areas or at least explain it.

So I don’t think they do a good job of really letting you know what’s the best.

So those alternative resources that Brittany mentioned I think come into play a lot more.

But the National Park site is a good base for you to be like, OK, at least this is this, this is that and go from there.


The review and the pictures on all trails are really, really helpful in the research process.

And then I think the blogs, that’s where it’s at.

The bloggers who post about their hike experience, there’s photos of the whole trip there they talk about wouldn’t do it when not to do it.


They give you that insider detail.

That’s the gold mine of information.

So question number two came in from Gary from Indiana and he asks are there any national parks where you can visit one-on-one day and another on the second day to possibly make a weekend trip out of it and see more?


There’s actually a lot, and some of them we mentioned in this episode.

Saguaro and Petrified Forest is one of those.

Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns are pretty close together within about an hour apart from each other.

Biscayne Bay and Everglades, of course.

Miami is the closest biggest city to those, so you can pair those very easily.


And we didn’t mention them in this episode, but arches and Canyon lands could be good ones as well.

They’re also about an hour apart.

And Bryce and Zion.

We do feel like Bryce and Zion, you would want more time, but if you were short on time and you just wanted to make the most of it, you could absolutely do them in two separate days back-to-back.


Keeping all of them, that theme, something that just came to mind too, would be Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon.

Yeah, because they touch each other in the Sierra Nevadas of California.

So maybe those parks you want to spend a little bit more time, but you can also see the highlights in a day in each one of them and they’re right by each other.


All right, Squaddies, thank you so much for tuning into our episode this week.

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