Music: Enhancing Your Park Experience

By Jack Steward

Music is a part of everyone's lives. We use it to get excited or simply pass the time. Music makes us feel a certain way; we use it to either confirm our feelings or to transform our moods and attitudes. When things are going well I will put on song that makes me feel like I'm on the top of the world. Adversely, when things aren't going so well I will either confirm those feeling with somber music or try to change my state of mind with a more light hearted song. Music creates emotion within us all and this can really enhance your experience in nature as well.

I like to unplug when I am out in the parks. There is something refreshing about getting rid of all the distractions from everyday life. It's nice to walk through the forest and hear the sound of the wind blowing through the trees or a rushing stream alongside the trail. While it is important to unplug, I believe music can really enhance some of the feelings we get while in nature. 

Music helps establish a sense of place. I listen to certain music as I drive through different parks or sit by the campfire at night. When I am out in Zion National Park or the Grand Canyon I enjoy the sounds of a flute or an acoustic guitar. It affirms that I am a part of the landscape I am exploring and sparks my imagination. I love to listen and imagine what it would be like to have lived in these areas or be part of an old group of explorers seeing this area for the first time. Music inspires me to live in the moment and appreciate where I am.

Music helps motivate us to achieve our goals. Just like a basketball player will have their pump up music before a game, music does the same for us nature lovers. Do you have a song that makes you want to go out and explore? I will play certain songs as I drive to a trailhead because it gets my head in the game. I believe that this gives me a different kind of energy as I begin my adventure. This isn't the same as eating a good breakfast or being properly hydrated, it is a spiritual energy that says, you can do this! Be careful what music you choose because more than likely you'll be playing it in your mind for the next 10 hours as you're exploring!

Music allows us to reflect on our lives. I go out into nature to learn, explore, have a good time and also reflect on the world and my place within it. Music helps me think about what’s currently happening in my life. There is something about music that helps us make sense of seemingly complicated things. Whether you are listen to instrumentals or songs with words in them, it gives us perspective because we know others have gone through similar circumstances. Nature shows us that we are a part of a bigger world. We can see that there is positivity all around us. That in combination with thought provoking music can be the perfect combination for deeper understanding of our own lives.

Music helps create lasting memories. I remember my first trip to Yellowstone National Park with vivid detail. We have many moments caught on film as well as numerous pictures of our adventure, but it is music that conjures up the feelings I had on that first trip. Music puts an imprint in our minds of the situations we were in when we first listened to certain song or genre. I have so many memories of driving through parks listening to certain songs. When I play them today I am immediately brought back to those moments. It is a great way to remember the good times that you had with your friends or family. It is a memory and feeling that exists in your mind instead of a tape or photograph. You don't just see the images, you relive the experience again and I think that feeling is irreplaceable. 

Music is a part of all of our lives. It is there through the highs and lows as we try to make sense of our existence on this planet. There is no replacement for the sound of silence when out in nature, but music can really add to your experience as well. Whether music motivates you, helps you reflect or create new memories, I believe it is an important part of the national park experience.


Favorite Songs for Exploring


Here are a couple of my favorite songs while out in the parks. I hope you enjoy them as I do!






"Falling into you"






"Old Devil"