Next week is National Park Week. If you haven’t been to one lately, it’s a great time to get out and celebrate America’s Treasures. To help you do that, Saturday, April 21st, is a fee free day at any of the US National Parks that normally charge an entrance fee.
And, if you want to be able to go any time without worrying about those entrance fees, you can purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass that grants you access to all national parks that normally charge an entrance fee for only $80/year. If you’re a senior citizen, permanently disabled, an active duty military member, a federal volunteer, or the family of a fourth-grader, there are special discounts available for you, making it even more of a bargain. Learn more here.
In case you haven’t noticed, I am a huge fan of our National Park Service. I have long thought being a park ranger would be about the coolest job on earth (and it would mesh nicely with my being a writer and photographer). But since I’m not, I try to visit as many parks as I can as often as I can. I have a friend whose husband set a goal to visit every single NPS site. Every family vacation has been planned around visiting the different sites in a region. I’ve visited somewhere around 100 so far. They’re way ahead of me.
To enhance your visit to the parks with your family, you’ll want to check out the Junior Ranger program.
When our children were small, they completed the Junior Ranger program at every park they could. Not only is it a great way to keep your kids engaged and increase their enjoyment and appreciation for each national park they visit, it’s a fun family activity. Each participating National Park or Monument provides activity books for kids to complete. The books have age-appropriate activities for kids from 5-13, though all ages can participate. And when kids return their completed activity books to a ranger, they receive a Junior Ranger badge and certificate as a memento of their trip. There are even Junior Ranger activities they can complete at home. This Saturday is also Junior Ranger Day. You can learn more about the Junior Ranger program here.
In honor of National Park week, here are five of my favorite national parks.
First, I have to share an awesome book about the women who helped make Yellowstone National Park what it is today. The book is Women in Wonderland by Elizabeth A. Watry, and you can read my review about it here. And now on to the parks.
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is one of my favorite parks. I visit Grand Teton at every opportunity, which has been at least a dozen times in the last few years. One of my favorite outings was a summer outing a couple of years ago, where I was fortunate enough to not only create this midnight image, but then to be around to watch the sunrise at Oxbow Bend.
Hands down, my favorite national park is Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. It’s close to home. It has endless hiking trails, the scenery is spectacular and the wildlife abundant. I’ve visited in every season for the last several years and visited nearly every summer before I moved to Colorado. Winter just might be Rocky Mountain’s most dramatic season and I captured it in this post.
Moab, Utah, is the outdoor lover’s paradise. With two national parks and an equally spectacular state park, you can’t go wrong visiting this part of southeastern Utah. If you’ve got a four-wheel drive, be sure and bring it because that’s what you’ll need to fully explore Canyonlands. Here are a few highlights of one of my previous trips to Canyonlands, Arches and Dead Horse Point State Park.
A short trip to South Dakota a couple of years ago included some time at Badlands National Park. Unfortunately for me, it was incredibly foggy and so I missed the expansive vistas I had planned on. On the upside, I do have some unique images, and most look very different from the average visitor’s photographs. I definitely have this park on my radar for a return visit, hopefully in better weather.
And finally, there is Yellowstone National Park. The granddaddy of all national parks, Yellowstone is the crown jewel of the National Park system for good reason. I’ve visited Yellowstone almost as many times as Grand Teton. It’s not difficult since it’s just up the road. In fact, to enter Yellowstone from the south, you have to drive through Grand Teton. Yellowstone is perhaps best known for its geysers, especially Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is equally spectacular, so much so that I devoted this entire blog post to it.
You can find some of my national parks photography in my gallery here. I am always adding more and I’d love your feedback.
And finally, which are your favorite national parks and why? Let me know in the comments below so I can start planning my next National Park adventure.