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Mikah Meyer in 2016 set out on a mission to honor his late father and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service: Become the youngest person to visit all 417 NPS sites.

More than 170 parks into his journey, Meyer, 31, has reached Utah and is bringing his hymn-singing, mountain-climbing, sight-seeing, son-of-a-preacher brand of LGBT outreach to the Mighty Five and Utah's other monuments and recreation areas.

"The first site I went to was Natural Bridges [National Monument] on May 5, and it just set the precedent for everything the state has to offer," Meyer said recently in a phone interview from the rim of Bryce Canyon. "It was better than some of the capital-N capital-P national parks."

Meyer embarked on his first road trip when he was 19, immediately after his father died from cancer. His dad, a Lutheran minister, loved to travel but died at age 58, just before his retirement. Meyer began taking his father's Hyundai Elantra on trips to see America. In 2011, at age 25, he took the car on a nine-month, 16,400-mile trip through 46 states.

As Meyer, who is gay, launched his national parks trip last year, he wanted to help promote the parks to other LGBT visitors, especially in rural areas. (Follow his campaign at

"I grew up in Nebraska, with — well, I didn't know an openly gay person until I was 19 and moved away," said Meyer. "On TV, it was just guys in Speedos, and if you're gay, you have to like shopping, and that's it. I never had a role model, an outdoorsy LGBT role model."

Meyer said he struggled to find LGBT people among sponsored athletes in outdoor sports or hosts of outdoor travel shows, and he worried that LGBT people might feel left out or unsafe in far-flung adventure destinations.

"I'm trying to use this opportunity to be the role model I never had growing up and make the LGBT community feel more welcome outdoors," he said.

He unfurls his rainbow flag in national parks for photos that typically net more than 1,000 likes on Instagram.

"I want to show that … if I can stand there with a giant rainbow flag and be OK, you can be OK in the parks," Meyer said. "You are welcome in the parks."

Meyer said he is experimenting with the "Find Your Park" campaign ( to explore some of the lesser-known NPS sites along with the 59 national parks.

In Utah, Meyer said, his biggest surprise so far has been Dinosaur National Monument.

"It was like this combination of multiple parks all in one. … River views, mountain views, plateau views, snow-capped mountain views," Meyer said. "I was so blown away. I rank parks on a scale of 1 to 10, and even without [a rafting trip] I gave Dinosaur a 10."

He also added it to a handful of parks that he considers standouts: for example, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, Buck Island Reef National Monument in the Virgin Islands, Big Bend National Park in Texas, and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

After hiking the Queen's Garden Loop this weekend, he said, he added Bryce Canyon.

Meyer also searches for a church to sing in every Sunday of his trip. New Promise Lutheran Church in St. George was on the calendar for May 21, with Page Community United Methodist Church in Arizona set for May 28, a day before he hits Rainbow Bridge National Monument near the shore of Lake Powell.

Twitter: @erinalberty