National Park Week: Start Planning Now

Looking for an affordable place to visit this spring? Look no further than a National Park. From sea to shining sea, the United States has some of the most breath taking national parks and scenic wonderlands. Each national park has very important significance embedded into the landscape and historical heritage.

Every year, mountain travelers flock to America’s national parks like Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most budget friendly vacation ideas just got more affordable as national parks that usually charge entrance or day-use fees are waiving them during National Park Week—April 16-24, 2011.

About 147 of the 394 parks and historic sites operated by the National Park Service charge admission fees ranging from $3 to $25.

National Parks Service has compiled a complete list of the parks that are waiving fees. This list can be accessed by Name and by State.

National Park Week is an opportunity to hike, bike, learn, share, and experience the majesty in the nation’s national parks. Visit any of America’s national parks and enjoy free admission all week long!

Whether you prefer to hike Zion (Utah), photograph the wonders of Arches (Utah), wander in the paths of the Anasazi at Aztec Ruins (New Mexico), explore the desert scenery and granite monoliths of Joshua Tree (California), or tour an ancient cave dwelling at Mesa Verde (Colorado) moving outside is good for you and offers a chance to explore these special places.

The organ pipe cactus thrives within the United States primarily in the 516-square-mile Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and International Biosphere Reserve. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to waiving entrance fees throughout the week, national parks and park partners are offering programs as part of National Park Week festivities. On Saturday, April 16, many parks will be looking for volunteers to help with projects and on Saturday April 23, the younger set will be the special guests for the 5th annual Junior Ranger Day.

Healthy Parks, Healthy People

This year, National Parks Week is focusing on Healthy Parks, Healthy People. Parks all across the country are offering events that highlight the connection between human and environmental health and the vital role America’s national parks play in both.

Commenting on why a stroll in the park is perfect for travelers, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said, “National parks have always been great places to go on vacation, have fun, and learn something, but for millions of Americans national parks are also a daily part of a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve never thought of your national parks that way, we’d like to invite you to come out to see how parks can help you meet your fitness goals.  Getting outside and moving is the first step.”

If that first step toward fitness isn’t in a national park, it just might be in a place that the National Park Service helped to create.

Through the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program, Land and Water Conservation Fund grants, and other programs, the National Park Service works with states and local communities to create and expand local recreation opportunities outside of national parks.

There are approximately 600 cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Park Service also joins forces with Indian tribes, nonprofit organizations, and other partners, to build trails and playgrounds, return historic buildings to productive use, revitalize neighborhoods, protect watersheds, recognize and promote local history, and introduce the next generation to stewardship opportunities and responsibilities.

Almost three-quarters of national parks do not charge entrance fees. Note that “free”, in this case, refers to entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation fees. It does not cover tours, camping, concessions, or third-party fees, unless the individual park states otherwise.

2011 Free National Park Days

If you can’t make it out to a national park in April, the other national park fee free days in 2011 include:

June 21: First Day of Summer

September 24: Public Lands Day

November 11-13: Veterans Day weekend

Here’s another tip—many of the 394 national parks NEVER charge an entrance fee.

Start Planning Your Visit Now!

Let’s Hear From You

Have you been to a national park during free National Park Week or on a free day?

Which one, and was it overcrowded?

What is your favorite national park or the next one on your bucket list?

Worth Pondering…
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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