Top 5 Tuesday: Reasons to love our National Parks
One of my all time favorite sayings perfectly describes my feelings for our National Parks. The ancient Native American proverb says, “Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” Well after watching Pocahontas, I know the Native Americans were on point with how they treated the environment. And after visiting dozens of National Parks, I know conservation is the best way we can keep this promise to our children. My love of all things park related is well documented, at least on this blog. But for this week’s post, I thought it would be fun to look at the Top 5 reasons to love our national parks.
Anywhere and everywhere
With over 400 parks, preserves, and national monuments under their stewardship, there is certain to be a National Park Service property to visit nearby. These multitudes of destinations cover an immense 84 million acres, spread across every state, the District of Columbia, and even the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. This breadth of conserved spaces yields endless diversity that includes much more than just National Parks. Historic battlefields, scenic rivers, awe inspiring monuments, presidential birthplaces, Native American cultural sites, and even the White House fall under the privy of the National Park System. So whether you’re looking for adventures spread across this great country, or just seeking exploration in your own backyard, the National Park System provides ample opportunities.
Low Cost or Simply No Cost
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better overall value than what the National Parks deliver to its visitors. Traveling with the family is the perfect chance to make lifelong memories, however it can do a number on your wallet as well. But you can rest easy because the majority of parks and sites offer very economical entrance fees that allow for budget friendly daylong excursions. However, if you really want to squeeze the last drop out of your National Park dollar, take advantage of a yearly Federal Recreation Pass. For just $80, you and three adults (16 & Older) get access to the full list of locations the NPS operates. In addition, there are no entrance fees for children under the age of 15. Active Military members are entitled to a completely free membership as a tribute for their service, while; Senior Citizens (62 & Older) can receive a lifetime interagency park pass for just $10 that includes over 2,000 recreation sites. If you are looking for value, look no farther than the National Parks.
There is perhaps no activity that is more closely associated with the National Parks than family camping. And the thousands of camping sites throughout the system ensure that this time-honored tradition is passed onto the next generation. The wealth of destinations also guarantee that no matter how you and your family prefer to camp, there is a site perfect for you. Find refuge at the end of a long day backpacking at a secluded backcountry site. Rent out a completely outfitted rustic cabin. Or back up the RV and experience the outdoors with all the conveniences of your modern motor coach. Beach lovers will bask in the sun when they pitch a tent right on the sands of Assateague Island in Maryland. The crown jewel for RV enthusiasts is undoubtedly found in the ten campgrounds of the famed Yosemite National Park. But if you’re looking to escape the crowds, check out the remote campsites only accessible by boat and ferries at Voyagers National Park (MN) or Isle Royale (MI)
Real Life History Lessons
It’s one thing to read about America’s history from the pages of a book, but it’s a completely different experience when you can see it for yourself. The National Park Service offers visitors a chance to discover both natural and human history firsthand. Eons of time are instantly visible through the layers of rock exposed by the erosion created by the Colorado River in the otherworldly Grand Canyon National Park. The rich and storied Native American heritage is one display throughout the park system, with some of the best sites being the Badlands Nat’l Park (Lakota Tribe), the burial mounds of the Hopewell Culture Nat’l Historical Park (Hopewell Tribe), and cliff dwellings of Pecos Nat’l Historical Park (Pueblo Tribes). American history is diverse as the park system itself, evidenced by the wide-ranging historic sites such as the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Nat’l Historical Park in rural Kentucky. History comes alive at our national parks.
Trails, trails, and more trails.
For many people hiking offers not only a chance for physical activity, but also a whole new vantage point for exploring our parks. This holds true for strenuous mountain trails or bucolic flatland paths. Bryce Canyon in Utah offers amazing single and multi-day trails that weave through truly awe-inspiring landscape to showcase the famed spires of the park. Ever hike up a sand dune? Well at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve these massive sand mountains are the tallest in North America, rising over 750 feet high. Take a hike back in time, when you walk amongst the Native American cliff dwellings found in Mesa Verde National Park. No matter your skill level or age, the National Park System offers a trail certain to capture your imagination.