National Park Week is an annual event that is celebrated by America's National Park Service as a way to remind Americans and foreign visitors of the amazing opportunities that the parks provide. In terms of outdoor environments and historical significance, these places are amongst the very best that the U.S. has to offer, which is why the NPS goes to great lengths to celebrate these places each and every year.
Typically National Park Week takes place sometime in April each year, with many of the parks hosting special events to help celebrate public lands and the wild spaces that are contained within park boundaries. Since the event is held before the major summer travel rush, most of the parks are actually quieter and more accessible than they would be between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when family vacations often bring an overwhelming number of people. This makes Park Week a great time to visit, although be sure to check for updates on potential closures, as spring snows can often make some of the parks more challenging to get to.
Some of the more popular events that take place throughout the week include Park Rx Day, which stresses the health benefits of spending time in nature. Junior Ranger Day gives younger visitors the chance to earn a special merit badge by taking part in some fun and educational activities too. And, National Park Week also tends to overlap with Earth Day, which is another annual event meant to remind us to take care of our planet and protect or dwindling natural resources. The National Parks are definitely a symbol of those conservation efforts, as these iconic and beautiful places have been specifically set aside and protected so that everyone can enjoy them, including generations of travelers yet to come.
Of course, one of the hallmarks of National Parks Week is that the entry fees for each park is waived for the duration of the event That means that anyone who visits one of the parks during that period can gain access without having to pay the normal rates. That can add up to a substantial savings for travelers depending on which parks they visit during that time. It is important to point out however that this isn't the only time of the year when free entry is a possibility. You can find out when the Park Service waives fees on other days by clicking here.
For more than 100 years the men and women of the NPS have been working hard to not just protect and preserve these lands, but to promote them to the public as well. Judging from the record number of visitors over the past few years, they have been highly successful in that endeavor. While those increased numbers bode well for American's looking to experience true wilderness environments, they also bring bigger challenges for the Park Service. Dealing with larger crowds can put a strain on infrastructure and resources, which is why most parks are constantly on the lookout for volunteers to help build trails, make repairs, and keep the environment clean.
All told, there are 411 entities that make up the U.S. National Park System, with 59 of them actually being designated as parks, while the others fall into categories that include national monuments, national preserves, and national historical sites. Of those, about a third charge an entry fee throughout the year, although each of them allows free admission during National Park Week and other times throughout the year.
Additionally, in 2015 the Obama administration announced the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which allows all 4th graders – and their families – to enter the parks for free at any time. The children need to apply for a permit prior to embarking on their travels, but it is another way to allow people to experience these great places without having to pay the entry fee.
For me, the National Parks have always been great travel destinations. Whether you're looking for natural beauty in the landscapes, amazing wildlife encounters, or opportunities for outdoor adventure, it is tough to top places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon. If you haven't experienced those places for yourself yet, you must put them on your bucket list. And if you have been there before, then perhaps its time to consider going back. Either way, you won't regret it.