It's a century-old idea that remains eternally relevant. Perhaps now, more than ever, national parks are important.
For many years now, soaring numbers of visitors have been drawn each year to our national parks to breathe in the natural world and to understand the power of wilderness. And while they'll learn about glaciology and take photographs of themselves atop mountain peaks, the real goal for these travelers is a sense of wonder. National parks, as much as they're about policy and ecology, are really about a feeling.
Here are four reasons national parks are so important today:
- Parks are for everyone: National parks serve as the ultimate equalizer — everyone is the same in nature. Confronted by the Columbia Icefield, which is as old as a millennium, we all feel small and inspired. And in that connection, we are joined by a common memory of being in a spectacular place at a spectacular moment. Parks belong to all of us equally.
Photo: Hiking near the Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park.
- Parks help us get outside: Their existence encourages us to get out and explore the natural world. Infrastructure — from trails to interpretive signs — help make it easier. Kids come to understand that there is something bigger, something more grand, all around us. Seniors, many who have been visiting national parks for decades, come back again and again in search of enrichment. Millennials find solace from frantic lives amidst the quiet vastness of the wilderness. Without the subtle and welcoming introduction that parks provide to the natural world, many people would not venture into the wilds.
Photo: Glacier National Park’s McDonald Creek.
- Parks are timeless: No matter the incessant rollercoasters of daily modern life, the highs and lows of newscycles and economic fluctuations, national parks stand for everlasting wonder. They're a place free from style, trends and whims. There are no election campaigns, sports playoffs or school calendars in nature. They just are. Just as they've always been.
Photo: A humpback whale breaches at Kenai Fjords National Park.
- Parks put nature first: National parks showcase the natural cycle. The annual return of humpback whales to Kenai Fjords, the first dusting of gold in a Denali autumn and the spring song of a swift in an old growth forest in Glacier National Park's McDonald Creek all represent a world separate from human development. These refuges are apart from our control, forever distanced from any attempt we may have to set a date.
Photo: Autumn gold in Denali National Park.
Just knowing national parks are there brings value to our lives. They make us more curious, more awake. National parks make us better people. In an era with ever-increasing cynicism and irreverence, nature stands tall here and we visitors become humble. National parks remain the epitome of wilderness, on a planet with less and less of it each and every day.
At Pursuit, we offer experiences in six of the world’s finest national parks. Find out more about each of these incredible places:
/ Banff National Park
/ Jasper National Park
/ Denali National Park
/ Kenai Fjords National Park
/ Glacier National Park
/ Waterton Lakes National Park