The United States is a treasure trove of wonderful, insightful, and inspiring vacation destinations. What are these destinations? They’re called National Parks, Monuments and Lakeshores, all part of the Winter Activities at Yellowstone National Park. All just waiting for you explore their natural beauty, historical stories, and beautiful beaches.
Why consider a National Park, Monument or Lakeshore as your summer destination? Why not! There are so many reasons. To begin with, U.S. National Parks, Monuments, Lakeshores and other Federal Recreational Lands can be some of the most affordable vacations around, especially when families are involved. In fact, they are one of our family’s favorite summer – and winter – vacation destinations.
Here’s eight reasons why we return year after year to at least one National Park. Perhaps after reading our reasons, you too might include a national treasure from the National Park Service in your summer vacation plans.
1. Budget-Friendly – Once the nominal entrance fee is paid, you can explore a National Park for practically nothing. Why? Because many of activities found within a National Park are free. See more information regarding entrance fees down below.
2. The scenery – Enough can’t be said about the spectacular vistas found in many National Parks. Some of the world’s best scenery and natural wonders are located in this vast network of Federal Lands open to the public.
3. The wildlife – Yep, they live there too! National Parks are protected grounds, and that includes the animals. Check the park website to see what types of wildlife might be spotted as well as where to best spot them. Moose, wolves, wildcats and bears oh my! They might be seen wandering a National Park – and many other critters too.
4. The hiking – Get out of the car and hit a trail. The National Parks trail systems offer plenty of opportunity to enjoy a walk in the park, whether or not you fancy yourself a hiker. Many parks have wheel-chair accessible trails as well. Craving a bit more than than a “simple” walk in the park? Then take on the more challenging trails! The parks have them too. Many parks offer some of the finest back-country hiking around.
5. Other “active action” – Find mountain biking trails, kayaking, rafting, fishing, even cross-country ski trails at the more northern parks. National Parks are an outdoor enthusiast’s mecca!
6. The Ranger-lead programs – These programs are great opportunities to explore a park with the help of those who know the park best. And they can be so much fun! Explore a tidal marsh or take a boat cruise in Acadia – hike to Grotto Falls, enjoy an early morning hayride, or learn about the Aniktuwahgi Indians in The Great Smokey Mountains – join a fossil walk, enjoy ranger lead hike and bike tours, or a join an ecology discussion in The Grand Canyon. Each park offers it’s own unique ranger-lead program, specific to that park.
7. The Junior Ranger programs – These programs allow kids of all ages to explore a park’s natural and historic wonders, all geared towards a child’s viewpoint. Junior Rangers can partake in programs such as Blacksmithing, Animal Olympics and Nature Detectives. Upon completion of a park’s Junior Ranger program, the kids receive a special National Park Junior Ranger badge specific to that Park. Learn more about the Parks offering a Junior Ranger Program.
8. The history – Become immersed in local stories at National Battlefields like Gettysburg, revel in the nations’ capital at the National Mall in Washington DC, find out why Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named after the 26th President of the U.S, or explore how local Indians lived in The Great Smokey Mountains. Who knew learning could be such fun?
Wow! There’s a lot going on at these National Parks And – a National Park trip can be so easy on a family’s budget with all these free activities.
Are there admission fees to enter a National Park? In many cases, yes, but when you compare the price of admission to a National Park with that of many other vacation activities, you’ll find these prices quite reasonable. In fact, you might find them a major reason to go. The entrance fee for a seven-day pass can be as low as $10 per car for Theodore Roosevelt National Park to as much as $25 per car for Yellowstone National Park. That’s per car! So no matter how many bodies you can stuff into that car – you all get in for that one entrance fee.
Better yet – many National Monuments and National Lakeshores have NO entrance fee. Yep – that means free! So don’t strap Grandma to the car roof. She can drive her own car to these destinations.
You can also purchase the America The Beautiful National Park Services Pass for $80 a year, which provides full, free access to over 2000 National Park and Federal Recreational Lands. Not bad, huh! For $80, get free entrance to as many parks as you can possibly visit in one year. Now that’s a bargain!
How does one start planning a National Parks adventure? So many parks, monuments, and lakeshores to choose from! A great place to begin is at the Winter Activities at Yellowstone National Park website. But it can be a bit overwhelming if you aren’t sure where you want to go. That’s ok. There are other sites that can help “clear the air” and get you out the door and enjoying these national splendors in no time.
- National Parks Traveler – Dedicated to bringing it’s readers the daily happenings in the U.S.’s National Park System and the National Park Service. The Traveler is a great resource for “all things National Parks” with feature articles, park news, and many other debates and discussions regarding the National Parks.
- Explore Your Parks-The National Parks Conservation Association – Chockful of detailed park information, and dedicated to the preservation of national landmarks for today and future generations. The NPCA works hard to ensure these national treasures are protected for generations to come.
- Explore Your Parks-National Park Foundation – Discover national parks with park tips, videos, photos and stories provided by other park supporters and visitors that have been there. One starting point might be their Travel Ideas list – jumpstart your own ideas by reviewing their suggestions.
- Oh, Ranger! Park Finder is a great resource for easily determining parks nearby or far-away, as well as what activities are available.
Have you explored a National Park, visited a National Monument, or enjoyed a National Lakeshore? Do you have a favorite one? Are you inspired to make a National Park your next family soiree? Let us know in the Comments section below.
Curious about which national treasures we will explore this summer? Acadia National Park in Maine, Gettysburg National Battlefield in Pennsylvania and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan are on our agenda.
Photos from www.nps.gov, the National Park Services website.