Robert Manning


Robert Manning is the Steven Rubenstein Professor of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.

He's the founding director of the Park Studies Laboratory, a group of scientists in the university’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, which administers a long-term program of research for the National Park Service.

Manning spent four year-long sabbaticals with the National Park Service at Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Golden Gate and the Washington Office.

Manning is co-editor of the new book, A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks, and co-author of Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People.

Manning is also the host of VPR's series, "Our National Parks".


Yellowstone was the first national park in 1872 and it set the standard for many that followed – Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Mount Rainier and others.


Birthdays are a time to celebrate, but an opportunity to look forward as well.

NPS Archives

Though the national parks have famously been called “America’s best idea," this sentiment is not universally accepted.

Sean Tevebaugh / NPS

The 1964 Wilderness Act was a milestone in American environmental history. After hundreds of years of clearing away the wilderness, the official policy of the nation was now to preserve the country’s remaining wild areas. Much of this wilderness is now protected in the national parks. In fact, more than half the area of the national park system is wilderness.

Neal Herbert / NPS

Visitors to our national parks may notice that the boundaries of many parks are marked by straight lines. These lines are political boundaries that have little relevance to ecological realities.

Tim Rains / NPS

The National Park Service finds itself in a seemingly paradoxical circumstance: widely admired, but increasingly uneasy about its ability to carry out its mission.

Brandon Blackburn / NPS

National parks have famously been called “America’s best idea." This expression is commonly interpreted as meaning preservation of America’s iconic natural and cultural history. But it’s more accurately a reflection of the foundational democratic ideal represented in the national parks.

Mike Buchheit / Grand Canyon Association

American education is embracing "high-impact” practices such as engagement with real places and problems, experiential and service learning, interaction with people of other backgrounds, and involvement in research. The national parks offer these kinds of opportunities in some of the most iconic places in the nation.

courtesy of Gary and Dorothy Davis

The numbers for 2015 are in and they’re impressive; there were 305 million visits to the national parks last year. And while it’s wonderful that so many people are interested in the parks, these numbers also present challenges. National parks are to be enjoyed, but they must also be protected.

Kristi Rugg / National Park Service

I’m often asked, “What’s your favorite national park?” It’s a question that gets me excited, thinking about all the parks I’ve been fortunate to visit. But it’s a tough question, too, since there are so many good choices — more than 400 of them! So let me answer by talking about what people like to do in national parks and some of the best places to go for these activities.

Ben Minteer

There were national parks even before there was a National Park Service. Yellowstone National Park was the first in 1872. More big western parks followed in the next few decades. These parks were expressions of nationalism, celebrating the monumental landscapes that helped define America.

Jacob W. Frank / The National Park Service

It’s an understatement to say that the views in the national parks are striking. Take Bryce Canyon National Park, for instance, with its legions of multi-colored hoodoos — iconic “forests of stone” left by millennia of erosion. But this is ho-hum compared to the view when the sun goes down.