Club Traveler

Diary of a Club Traveler: Traveling to the USA’s National Parks

To celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, we’re featuring Club Members' national park photos throughout the year. This article features Club Traveler Mark Hamilton’s photos and national parks adventures with his wife, Julie, and sons, Mason and Marshall. (Above, Mason sits overlooking the North Rim Vista of the Grand Canyon).

South Rim view of the Grand Canyon. Photo by Mark Hamilton.

Of the parks the family has visited so far, the Hamiltons' favorites are Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, specifically the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. “We liked them because of the diversity in the ecosystems and their more remote, peaceful locations,” Mark said. Mason and Marshall said they’d both like to do more hiking at Bryce Canyon and go ATV riding. Julie’s favorite activity during the family’s national park vacations was hiking on the Bright Angel Trail, below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. She said that her goal is to someday hike round-trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and maybe even stay at Phantom Ranch.

At Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, near Zion National Park, the Hamiltons went 4-wheeling. Photo by Mark Hamilton.

The Hamiltons have traveled to way more than just these two parks, though. Since 2010, they’ve visited more than a dozen national parks, including: Shenandoah National Park, Everglades National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, White Mountains National Forest, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Greenbelt Park, National Mall and Memorial Parks, Gettysburg National Military Park and Valley Forge National Military Park.

Buffaloes off the main entrance road to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Photo by Mark Hamilton.

Exploring the Parks with Hilton Grand Vacations Club

For many of these stays, the family lodged at Hilton Hotels, Hilton Grand Vacations Club resorts and RCI properties.

For example, during a vacation to Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park, the Hamiltons first stayed at the Embassy Suites in Colorado Springs, where they hiked and went sightseeing to Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods. Next, the family went to Valdoro Mountain Lodge in Breckenridge, taking day trips to Mt. Evans, the Mt. Elbert/Leadville area, Arapaho National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park.

“The boys spent an afternoon riding the alpine superslide at a Breckenridge mountain top fun park and we took in a hayride, chuckwagon-style dinner and Wild West show one evening,” Mark said. “It is easy to plan a memorable trip to this national park and the surrounding areas.”

The Hamiltons also stayed at properties through RCI while visiting Great Smoky Mountain National Park in 2013 and spent a couple of nights at RCI properties in Las Vegas and south of Sedona at Verde Ridge, Arizona, before taking off to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

This photo was taken from the drive through Coconino National Forest in route to the South Rim from Flagstaff, Arizona. Photo by Mark Hamilton.

Up next?

The Hamiltons' next vacation will be in August. Their first stop? Boston for a Red Sox game, partially so that Marshall, an avid baseball fan, can see a game at historic Fenway Park for the first time. After spending some time in Beantown, enjoying America’s pastime and admiring the Green Monster, the family will visit Acadia National Park in Maine, as well as the White Mountain region of New Hampshire.

“Part of my bucket list is to visit all 50 states, [and] Maine will make 41,” Mark said, adding that the family is also considering trips to Yellowstone, Glacier and Yosemite national parks.

Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo by Mark Hamilton.

“Either way, [we have] more states and national parks to cross off the list,” Mark said.

Wire Pass slot canyon trail entrance from inside Buckskin Gulch at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Photo by Mark Hamilton.

Send us your national park photos

Have you visited the Grand Canyon, Yosemite or another national park? Email your photos to [email protected] for a chance to be featured in an upcoming article on Club Traveler.

*All photos submitted by Mark Hamilton.