Many individuals have made it their goal to hike every trail within a national park. For those achieving that goal in the Great Smoky Mountains, for example, they earn the right to become a member of the exclusive 900 Miler Club.
Even more ambitious are those that seek to hike every trail in a national park over the course of just one year. In 2011, Montana resident Jake Bramante became the first person ever to hike all 734 miles of trails in Glacier National Park in only one year.
And then there’s Donna and Mike Guthrie, who have taken it upon themselves to hike at least one trail in every national park in the United States. They plan to achieve this goal by 2016, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, as well as their 70th birthdays. If you consider the logistics of reaching all 58 national parks – from the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, to the Everglades in Florida – the travel alone is an enormous undertaking.
The Colorado Springs couple set their ambitious goal in late 2009 as a way of seeing more of the country. To date, the Guthrie’s have already been to 32 parks, including a winter excursion to Yellowstone earlier this month. They’ve also seen some of the lesser-known parks such as Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, and Dry Tortugas in Florida. However, some of their favorites so far have been Crater Lake in Oregon, and Yosemite in California.
Throughout 2012 they plan to tackle Canyon Lands in Utah, Mesa Verde in Colorado, Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
Asked what her favorite hike has been so far, Donna responded; “I think the hike to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier Park. It was an all day hike that was challenging but very doable. And it was worth the climb!”
Their most challenging hikes, they expect, will be in Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley National Parks in Alaska. Neither park offers any established trails. Kobuk Valley, in northwestern Alaska, is so isolated that it can only be reached by chartered plane.
Although their plan was hatched a few months before the airing of the Ken Burns documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” the Guthrie’s drew further inspiration from a segment in Episode 4 that featured Margaret and Edward Gehrke. The Lincoln, Nebraska couple traveled thousands of miles while touring the national parks between 1915 and 1939. While Edward snapped photographs, Margaret recorded their adventures in her journals. Just as the Gehrke’s did almost a century ago, the Guthrie’s have been documenting their adventures on their website: Hikeallthenationalparks.com.
In addition to recording the parks they’ve already visited, the Guthrie’s use their website to seek out suggestions from the public about accommodations, restaurants, trails and “not to be missed sights” in the parks they’ve yet to visit. You can even post a photo or two.
In 2016 they plan to hold a very big party in Estes Park to celebrate their birthdays and their accomplishments. If you happen to earn one of Donna and Mike’s “Take a Hike” caps, by joining them on a hike, you may receive an invite to the party yourself. So far they've given out about 45 hats.