Are you wondering why you should visit our national parks? Last year, I was one of the 281 million people who visited our nation’s parks. I could give you a ton of reasons to visit our national parks, but here are the 5 best reasons we should visit our national parks this summer.
National Parks Are for Everyone
The National Parks are often called America’s backyard and for good reason. They have something for everyone. They can give children their first experience with the great outdoors and let adults reconnect with nature. They can teach us lessons about history and conservation, or simply provide a much-needed escape from the daily grind.
National Parks blanket 84.6 million acres, or 3.4 percent, of the United States and offer a variety of attractions that can fit anyone’s lifestyle. People often think of national parks as located in “wilderness” areas. While parks are often located near towns or cities, some parks do celebrate the natural beauty of the country; Yellowstone National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Yosemite National Park are some examples.
Other parks are located in cities or metropolitan areas. Many of these, but not all, are centered on historic events or archaeological sites. These parks provide unique opportunities to plan a visit to a national park as part of larger vacation or trip experience. Examples of these parks are The Alamo, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi.
Fun Fact: A National Park can be found in 49 of the 50 states. Delaware is the only state without a National Park. However there are National Parks in US territories such as the American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands.
National Parks Are Spectacular
The wonders on display in America’s parks go far beyond a few bushes and trees. The parks often offer countless hiking, biking and walking trails. Every bend of the road encourages an opportunity to get out, breathe the fresh air and have a little adventure of your own.
The National Parks protect some of America’s greatest natural treasures. There are volcanoes (Lassen Volcanic, California) and glaciers (Kenai Fjords, Alaska), mysterious caves (Mammoth Cave, Kentucky) and snow-topped mountains (Mount Rainier, Washington). Visit the Petrified Forest in Arizona to see fossilized trees or Mesa Verde in Colorado to explore the ancient cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan people.
No matter which park you choose, whether you prefer solitude, scenery or a more adrenaline-packed journey, there’s sure to be a trip perfectly suited to your interests.
National Parks Are Educational
A trip to a National Park is a great opportunity to teach your child (or learn more on your own) about nature, science, conservation, and history—all while having fun.
National parks offer a variety of activities for visitors. Most parks offer tours with professional guides who will teach you and your family all about the park. Some even offer classes on everything from geology and natural history to photography and fly-fishing. Some parks offer miles of hiking opportunities, while others offer driving loops or tours. Each national park has a website with information about activities, tours, and area attractions. Be sure to check the websites before your trip to check for any closures or alternate schedules.
National Parks also offer the Junior Ranger program. This program includes an age-appropriate booklet of activities for children to learn about the park through discovery. Upon completion of certain activities, children can take the Junior Ranger pledge and earn a pin or badge. The Junior Ranger program, like the National Park Service mission, focuses on conservation of natural resources, appreciation of historical sites, and responsible citizenship and usage.
Fun Fact: I have an app on my phone called Parkopolo that I use when traveling. The app includes maps, operating hours, and descriptions of parks to help you plan your trip. You can search by topic (American Presidents, Early Explorers, Human Rights) or Activity (Auto Touring, Camping, Snow Skiing) to help you choose the best park for you.
National Parks Are Affordable
The perfect vacation destination for travelers on a budget, National Park entrance fees vary, but even the most iconic destinations will only set you back a few bucks. Fees vary from park to park, but some are free. A vehicle permit for the Grand Canyon, for instance, only costs $30, while weeklong individual passes to Yellowstone cost $15 per person. Not only that, but the National Parks periodically offer free entrance days, opening the parks up to everyone for no cost. The next Fee-Free day will be August 25 in celebration of the National Park Service Birthday.
National park passes are available for $80 per year, a great price for the individual who does a lot of traveling. Members of the U.S. military branches receive a free pass, as do all 4th graders in public, private, or home school. Finally, seniors (age 62 and over) can purchase a lifetime pass for $10.
National Parks Are Good for Your Health
Studies have shown that spending time outdoors has a vast range of health benefits, from boosting your immune system to enhancing creativity. In fact, according to one study, just seeing trees can make us feel healthier. They’re also a romantic place to watch the sun set with a loved one, and the perfect place to meditate or unwind in solitude. You can even visit Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas and take a soothing bath in the park’s thermal waters for a natural spa vacation. Vacationing in a National Park is a great way to ensure you return home feeling better than when you left.
These are only 5 of the best reason to visit our national parks this summer, but there are innumerable other reasons.