August 28, 2016 will be the Centennial Anniversary for our country’s National Park Service. Created by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, the creation of the National Park Service was a recognition of the value and necessity to preserve our country’s natural heritage. Including national parks, monuments, and reservations, the National Park Service is the custodian of America’s inheritance.
What an amazing inheritance it is. Some of the world’s most unique and beautiful landscapes are protected and waiting for you to explore them. So why don’t you? Get out there and take advantage of these amazing spaces and join over 305 million people who visited the parks in 2015. Furthermore, visiting the National Parks helps to keep these natural places beautiful for generations to come.
Perhaps you need a place to start? It can be overwhelming to the uninitiated outdoor enthusiast. Here is a 3 step path to begin your exploration of the bounty that is the National Park system.
1) START LOCAL
The good folks at the National Park Service have created an easy to use map. Find a Park is a perfect tool for you to explore your state. Simply click on the state or territory of your choice and dive in.
2) MAKE A PLAN
Going to a park without a plan can leave you feeling unfulfilled. Because the parks are wild places, you can’t count on everything being teed up and waiting for you. Wild animals have their own schedules, natural events like geysers are generally unpredictable (unless you are visiting Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park), and campgrounds/lodging need to be reserved ahead of time. It sounds silly, but a place to put your tent in a National Park is a hot commodity. While some parks are fist come first served, the popular parks have reservations and waiting lists.
Also keep in mind that parks have seasons and schedules that determine what is open to the pubic and when. Just like any business, the National Park Service must allocate resources based on season, weather, budget, and popularity. A campground or trail that was open last year may not be open this year. Sometimes parks will close trails to allow for restoration of plant life, to mitigate erosion, or to accommodate animal movements. However, the park service has you covered. They have special alerts and notifications on each park webpage to help you plan your trip. Not to mention a simple phone call could help greatly. Friendly park staff are always on had to answer questions in person or over the phone. Find a contact number here.
3) BUY A PASS
You can pay the fee at the park entrance or buy an annual pass. If you plan on visiting more parks, this is the cost effective way to go. An annual pass is $80 and includes access to 2,000 federal recreation sites. An annual pass covers entrance fees at national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and grasslands, lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That is a lot of land to explore! Are you in the military? If so, you get a pass for FREE!
Like grandma’s china, the National Parks are set aside and kept in a safe place for future generations to enjoy. Now go forth and explore your inheritance. While you have to wait for grandma’s fine china, the National Park’s are here for you now. Start planning your trip today.