Rock the Park for our National Park Service Centennial

Mt. Rainier with Sally Jewell

What do our National Parks mean to you? It’s a funny question for us at Gearminded since we just returned home from a camping trip in Sequoia King’s Canyon National Park. Why so funny you may ask? Well to be frank, it was packed with families!

As outdoorsman we have learned to embrace crowds at our National Parks as a sign that people care. Sure, it would be pretty incredible to have free reign over Glacier without another body in sight but would that truly be sustainable for its future? In order for our National Parks to remain in place we need everyone on board to support them and fight for their future.

This is where Jack Steward and Colton Smith come into play. As fellow outdoor enthusiasts, they have figured out how to earn a living by exploring our National Park system while creating a tv show that visually shows the beauty waiting to be explored by anyone. They also do a great job engaging both families and children that might otherwise skip e parks for a family vacation.

I think back to my childhood and remember my family trips to Glacier National Park, Grand Teton National Park and The Grand Canyon. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything and they likely played a role in my development towards conservation and environmental awareness.

Glacier National Park
It’s Jack Hannah!

As you may know, this year marks the Centennial Anniversary of the National Park Service, and it officially turns the big 100 on Thursday, August 25. To help you celebrate America’s diverse national treasures, we wanted to offer up Jack Steward and Colton Smith, hosts of the Daytime Emmy Award winning series “Rock the Park” (ABC), to talk about how to best explore what’s in your own backyard.

Together, the co-hosts and best friends tap into America’s love affair with national parks, taking viewers you a journey to some of the most awe-inspiring places on Earth. From majestic geysers in Yellowstone to molten volcanoes in Hawaii to the tallest living trees in the world in Sequoia National Park, wherever they travel, there’s always plenty of adventure.  An episode in which Jack and Colton are joined by US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, to explore Mount Rainier National Park in her home state of Washington, will re-air during Centennial Week, on Saturday, August 20.  Check your local listings:

Rock the Park ABC 7

What’s the point here? As you may have noticed, 2016 marks a big year in the history of our National Park system. With so many travel incentives and events, there has never been a better time to visit at least one National Park in a year. And with that said, you never know how many other families and friends you will meet while sharing a bond for the beautiful areas in your own backyard.

Tips and Tricks for Getting the Kids Hooked on the National Parks

Sequoia National Park

1. Get them Excited!

Everybody loves something to look forward to! When you begin planning your trip into the parks, include your kids. This will engage their sense of curiosity! When I was younger and my parents were planning our trip to Yellowstone National Park, they gave me this book about the park. After seeing these images of mountains, geysers and grizzly bears, I was so excited to get out there.

2. Hit the Road!

At first, a long road trip your kids might sound daunting, but it can create some of the most precious memories. Hitting the road teaches kids that it’s also about the journey rather than just the destination. Also, you can stop by some really cheesy roadside attractions. Who doesn’t love that?!

3. Make it Cool! 

Kids spend so much time learning in school, and there is a lot to learn in our national parks –  but to get your kids excited about nature, they have to learn how cool it is to explore! When you first get to the park, try to find an activity that will be overwhelmingly fun! Some good ideas are hiking, rafting and swimming.

4. Challenge Them!

After a few warm up activities, pick a hike that will challenge them physically and mentally. Pushing yourself beyond your known limits not only boosts confidence, but it motivates you to dream big. This is definitely true for kids as well as adults. Maybe don’t jump right into a massive mountain climb right away, but try to pick an adventure that will offer a good challenge!

5. Come Back!

As often as you can, try to get your kids out into nature. This will not only give them an appreciation of our incredible country, but more so a hunger for seeking out the unknown. You never know what these adventures will mean to your kids. It might set them off on a path to greatness.

The National Parks are all about hiking. Here is a quick checklist to always keep in mind:

Top 5 Hiking and Camping Essentials

1.A Good Pair of Boots!

A solid pair of boots will allow you to push yourself as far as you want to go… not just as far as your feet will allow. Boots can be a little pricey, but once you get a solid pair, they can last you a really long time!

2. Rain Gear!

You never know when you are going to get caught out in a rain storm. A good set of rain gear includes a jacket and pants. This will allow you to stay dry and potentially avoid getting into a rough situation. Who likes being soaking wet anyways?!

3. A Tent!

You can’t go camping without a tent! Well, you could always sleep out under the stars… but I would recommend having a solid tent just in case. If your planning on spending most of your time in campgrounds, your tent doesn’t have to be too pricey. Just get one that will comfortably fit your family and you will be all set.

4. A Camp Stove!

If you’re like me, you enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning, or a hot meal after a long day out in the park! A camp stove gives you so many options for different meals or beverages you can make. A lot of parks don’t allow fires at camp, making a stove a must have.

5. A Camera, Journal or Both!

I don’t go anywhere without my journal or a camera. You just need something to document all of your adventures.

Now that you have the family psyched for a trip here are a few recommendations from Jack and Colton.

Must See Natural Wonders of The National Park System

1. The Grand Canyon – Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon Scenic Image

2. Yosemite Valley – Yosemite National Park

El Capitan

3. Badwater Basin – Death Valley National Park


4. The Big Room – Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns State Park


5. Cade’s Cove – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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