Mount Hood was once considered for National Park status. That was back in 1940. Mount Rainier up in Washington had already been a National Park for 41 years when Hood was a candidate. Hood’s designation as a NP seemed inevitable, but it remains a national forest. One year after its consideration a new National Park Service director was appointed and the idea just died.
Craters of the Moon in nearby Idaho seems a natural National Park, but it remains a National Monument and Preserve. Idaho is scenically grand but still doesn’t have a National Park. The NPS takes no position on its chances, but the people of Arco, the closest town to the craters would benefit from a change of status. This really may happen.
Arizona’s Chiricahua National Monument, which is said to be a “Wonderland of Rocks” and is great for hiking seems destined to be upgraded to a National Park. In 2016 U.S. Representative Martha McSally began promoting legislation to designate its 12,000 acres as our newest NP. H.R. 6190, The Chiricahua National Park Act, is in the works. This will become Arizona’s 4th National Park.
The Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, like Chiricahua, seems destined to be designated a National Park. The ladies at its visitor center told me that locals don’t look forward to increased visitors. CNM and adjacent canyons, woodlands, and mountains are their playground, and they want to keep it that way. A 23 mile rim rock drive winds through it, but this makes an excellent bike ride too. Bikers don’t want their road choked with sightseers. The Colorado National Monument would make a fine addition to the NPS, and only a few signs would have to be changed to accomplish the transition.
Hells Canyon is another candidate. The deepest river gorge in North America, this area is the border between Oregon and Idaho. The unpaved but outrageously scenic road east of Joseph is the only way I know to glimpse a small part of it from car at a couple of somewhat frustrating overlooks. Again, locals like it the way it is. The National Park Service made this a national scenic area a little more than 40 years ago, and it remains so without national congressional action. This entire part of Oregon, by the way, that encompasses the Wallowa Mountains is remote, not too well-known, and spectacular.
These are only 5 potential candidates to be added to the list of the United States’ National Parks. I suspect that Chiricahua will be the 1st to advance. In the meantime, there are 129 National Monuments to explore. My favorite is Canyon de Chelly. There are some sensational state parks too, like Utah’s Dead Horse Point, which Hollywood uses as a stand in for the Grand Canyon. Thelma & Louise‘s final scene was filmed there.