With nearly 400 national parks—and FREE admission all week long—there are thousands of ways to enjoy this highly anticipated annual event. In fact, National Park Week is the perfect opportunity to introduce a young person to a national park because a park is the perfect place to get active and stay fit.
From hiking to biking to swimming, nature walks, kayaking, or bird watching, there are great outdoor activities in national parks for visitors of all ages. By introducing kids to these majestic places, we give the gift of learning a healthy lifestyle and help guarantee the future of parks for generations to come.
“During National Park Week, stroll a woodland path or around the grounds of a presidential home. Kayak through a mangrove forest or on an urban waterway. All 397 national parks are great places to get some exercise while taking in spectacular scenery or learning something new,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Whether you go to a natural, historical, or recreational site, or an urban, suburban, or rural park, every national park provides a place to exercise both the body and the mind. There really is something for everyone in every national park.”
“National Park Week is the perfect time to experience all that our national parks have to offer,” said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation.
“It is also an invitation to join the community of national park supporters. Visit, volunteer or get involved with the Foundation or any one of the local friends groups that support our parks. Together, we can make this National Park Week one to remember.”
Following are several great ways to get some exercise and enjoy National Park Week:
- Take a Hike: There are 18,600 miles of trails in national parks. Hit the trail for a short hike or a day-long expedition. Cross the Continental Divide on the High Line Trail in Glacier, go vertical on the Moro Rock Trail in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, or tackle a section of the Appalachian Trail. If you’d like to hike with an expert, many parks offer daily ranger-led guided tours, including the Everglades, Jean Lafitte, and Hot Springs.
- Dive In: Enjoy 43,000 miles of national park shoreline. Walk on the beach, go for a swim, snorkel an underwater trail in the Virgin Islands, or dive the aquamarine water and fish-bejeweled coral reefs of Biscayne or the kelp forests and sea caves of Channel Islands. Or, take a canoe or kayak ride through Big Cypress to observe manatees and birds.
- Go Underground: Travel below the surface and discover the dazzling sights found along more than 900 miles of passageways in caves. Check out Mammoth Cave—the longest cave in the world or the 14-acre Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns. If you are really adventurous, sign up for a spelunking trip.
- Sleep under the Stars: Experience the simple pleasure of an evening campfire, sleep in the great outdoors, and wake up in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the world. Choose your setting—mountain, ocean, or even city view. The 12,000 campsites in national parks include spots in New York City and in Boston.
- Go For a Ride: Some of the prettiest scenery you’ll ever see is along the 5,450 miles of paved road in national parks. In fact, 1,100 miles are designated parkways designed especially for sightseeing. Just be sure to get out of the car at overlooks or trailheads and stretch your legs. It’s amazing what you will find not far off the road. Wander to a waterfall at Shenandoah or meander through a meadow at Rocky Mountain.
- View Wildlife: National parks are the best places to view wildlife in their natural habitats. Don’t get too close but enjoy seeing everything from baby birds to two-ton bison in a park. Watch the strutting grouse perform its annual courtship dance in Grand Teton or the spring migration of grey whales at Point Reyes. Or, encounter prehistoric wildlife such as a saber tooth cat at Badlands or a Stegosaurus at Dinosaur. There are 233 national parks with preserved fossils, some which date back two billion years.
- Take to Two Wheels: One of the most popular things to do in a park is ride a bike. You set your own pace and can easily stop to relax or take in the view when and where you want. One of the newest bike trails was recently built in New River Gorge. More than 1,400 Boy Scouts and leaders volunteered 78,544 hours to construct a 12.8-mile mountain bike trail. Other popular parks for biking include Acadia which has 45 miles of old carriage roads, Canyonlands, home of the 103-mile White Rim Road loop, and the C&O Canal and its 184-mile long towpath.
Be sure to share photos, videos, and stories from your national park travels.
The site also contains a calendar of events and plenty of information on how to visit and support national parks.
I only went for a walk, and finally concluded to stay till sundown, for going out I found was really going in.