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The National Parks Highway

The National Parks Highway was the earliest transcontinental route. The highway followed the Sunset Highway in Washington State. This route is sometimes confused with the Park to Park Highway.

An article about the highway from the Spokane Review July 27, 1915
The National Parks Highway Mapped

About the Highway

The National Parks Highway was a early transcontinental route across America. The route was dedicated on June 15, 1915 and actually began in New York but most of the emphasis was from Chicago westward to Yellowstone, Glacier and Mt Rainier National Parks.

The route extended south from Seattle down the Pacific Highway and to the National parks in Oregon and California.

The route is over 3500 miles from Chicago to Seattle and in the early days there were no interstates to drive on. The early transcontinental routes were stitched together by using existing local roads and linking them together to make a transcontinental route.

so a traveler had to rely on the Good Roads Associations that were set up across the country to get them to their destination. In the early days there were no road signs to guide your way.

You had to depend on these associations to provide you with the routes as they had the maps of the way west. These associations had representatives in each sponsored town to advise the traveler of the road conditions and the route.

The towns along the routes appreciated these efforts put in by the volunteers as it helped bring in tourism and ultimately a revenue stream that these towns greatly needed.

These early years beginning at the dawn of automobile travel which began about 1912. created a new type of travel other than the railroad. 

People could for the first time use their private automobile and travel as they wish. Auto camps and hotels began to accommodate these new travelers and a new industry sprang up from the advent of good roads for the new automobile.

Towns quickly got up and organized good roads committees and work teams who would go out and make sure that their part of the highway was in good condition for the traveler. 

The national associations would conduct reviews of the highway and report any problems along the route. Towns along the route did not want a bad report. So they made sure their part of the route was in good shape. 

This was the beginning of interstate travel. The US government started to take notice and looked at several routes as a possible means for military transport. the National Parks Highway was one of those routes the government realized was indeed a good road west across the US.

There was more than one transcontinental route across the country. the most recognized are the Yellowstone trail and the Lincoln Highway.

While both of these routes are well noted and are just as historical as the National Parks Highway. It is that the National Parks Highway needs recognition as one of the early transcontinental highways.

The National Parks Highway and the Yellowstone Trail both followed each other closely. The difference was in Michigan and Wisconsin to the Dakotas but when these roads reached Montana they started to follow the same path all the way to Seattle.

This route today has been modernized as Interstate 90. But today we can rediscover the old routes and slow down and take in the scenery that the travelers of 100 years ago took in.

The main difference is now we do not have to worry about knee deep mud during the winter months and can get a room in a nice motel with a

 


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