Steam rises off the surface of the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of Yellowstone’s best-known sights.
If ever there stood a testament to the resurgent popularity of America’s national parks, it might be found in the two-hour-long spring break line of vehicles stretching outside the Grand Canyon’s South Rim entrance.
For all the doors it has closed, covid-19 has simultaneously thrown open our windows to the outdoors. My wife, Mica, and I joined the throngs over the past 12 months, visiting eight national parks, including four treasures of the West, across four seasons.
Collectively millions of years in the making, the parks each feature at least one iconic lodge that opened roughly a century ago. We explored summer in Yellowstone, fall in Zion, winter in Death Valley and spring in the Grand Canyon.
Although national park visitation fell by 28 percent overall in 2020 largely because of spring pandemic-related closures, from July onward the reverse held true. For example, July-October visitor numbers set records at Yellowstone and the Great Smoky Mountains.
The pandemic placed park newcomers, us included, upon paths previously unconsidered…