59 Before 18: A Family’s Epic Journey Across All US National Parks

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NEWS - If you haven't already heard of the Goldsteins, you'll want to get to know them! Bill, Alisa, and their sons, Luke and Winston have achieved a major family accomplishment. They've traveled to and explored all 59 US National Parks (every congressionally designated protected area in the US) and made it happen before the boys turned 18 years old. 

It all started with a trip to Yosemite National Park in 2009 and realizing that, "...they want to see more of that" kind of overwhelming natural wonder. The youngest son, Winston, was only 10 years old then and Luke was 11. So, this gave them a timeframe of about 7 years to achieve their goal.

The summer immediately after their first national park experience as a family, they went on the road to visit 11 other parks and there was no stopping them from then on!

At first, it was something fun to do with the kids as they joined each park's Junior Ranger Programs to learn more about the parks and wildlife. Like other kids, Luke and Winston would proudly display their badges on their vests and feel a thrill with every stamp addition to their park passports.

The Goldsteins saw it as a good opportunity to strengthen their family bond by spending quality time together with their boys. After all, time flies so fast! Why not make the most of it! 

Making It Happen

Travelling enthusiast woman happy for the Glacier Point aerial view in Yosemite National Park, California, US. Glacier Point panorama Half Dome, Liberty Cap,

"Our goal was just to connect with our kids and have them disconnect from other things," Alisa said. So, they set about to accomplish this seemingly daunting task because we're talking about going all over America here. For an ordinary family from Charlotte, North Carolina, it isn't exactly a walk in the park. 

Bill and Alisa each had to make sacrifices including, "eating granola bars and ham and bread out of a cooler in their trunk," which served as their refrigerator for weeks, as their youngest son Winston recalls.

The Goldsteins invested time and money in this quest of a lifetime.

They scheduled their trips so that they could go on family vacations during the kids' school breaks and long weekends. Alisa was the master planner. She strategized how to cover national parks that were within the same regions during their trip.

The budget was a big concern so Alisa was always mindful of how to keep the family expenses down. Flying from North Carolina to get to the other side of the country can get expensive.

They weren't choosy about where to stay as long as they could all get a decent sleep. They'd be outdoors most of the time anyway. Having free breakfast included in their lodging was a bonus!

They even started a family business and sold t-shirts for extra income and to promote our parks at the same time. As Bill shares, "The whole quest was about pulling it off without going broke and, of course, not messing up our family."

Takeaways from the Journey

It is a feat they accomplished on August 7, 2014, six years after deciding to embark on their journey. And they made it before the kids turned 18!

Winston was 15 while Luke was 17 when they landed on the Gates of the Arctic via a small aircraft. It was the last national park to cross off their list and the family hugged each other tightly to accomplish this quest.

It was truly epic! In a span of six years, they spent their free time together exploring the wonders of nature.

They've enjoyed the best that the great outdoors has to offer. They've endured different obstacles thrown their way such as the kids' constant complaining when the hikes get strenuous, running out of drinking water in the middle of a trek, getting caught in an undertow, and hiking in a swamp with giant spiders hanging above the trees. 

As the Goldsteins say, "Simply seeing the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, grizzly bears in Glacier, or bison in Yellowstone are all adding up to an overwhelming memory of wonder. "

They've flown and driven thousands of miles and as a bonus, traveled in each of the states in America. How cool is that?!

Their key takeaway? It might sound cliche but it is the ">journey that you take together, more than the destination, that matters. They will forever have those moments etched in their memories.

"It got us to grow our bond together and become a really tight family," said Luke.

The Goldsteins know that it is a blessing to be able to witness the breathtaking beauty of our country. This makes all their sacrifices worth it.

They want to encourage others to get into the wildlife and enjoy our national parks. You don't need fancy gear. Just bring water and a pair of good hiking boots and prepare to be amazed by the awesome landscape and wildlife.

Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming, USA - June 5th, 2010 A Bison, or American Buffalo, walks near tourists in Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming, USA.

Some more reminders from the Goldsteins: Be flexible because your trip will never be perfect no matter how carefully you planned the trip.

React to the situation in real time and savor each moment.

Make sure you leave no trace behind. Don't worry because your heart and mind will be full of wonderful memories from your outdoor and wildlife experiences.

If you want to follow this inspiring family, they've documented and shared their epic adventures on YouTube, and even self-published a book titled, 59 Before 18.

Purchase this paperback on Amazon.

You might also enjoy reading:

Everglades National Park: A Complete Visitor's Guide

Alaska National Parks: Which Ones You Should Visit (And Why!)

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