It may be Tax Day today in the United States, but CHEER UP! You can get at least some of your money back if you travel to one of our magnificent National Parks in the coming week!
During the week of April 16 to April 24, admission to the country’s 394 national sites will be free. This includes 58 national parks, such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone* and the Great Smoky Mountains; monuments like Pinnacles National Monument in California; historic sites; and seashores.
Some parks are offering special hikes or ranger’s and children’s programs during that week. To learn more visit the National Park Service website . According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some concessions and gift shops also will offer discounts as well.
Normally you would pay from $3 per person to $25 per car for most parks, although some are free all the time. If you want to visit a pricey park with your whole family, this free week is the way to go.
The National Parks also have a permanent good deal for U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are age 62 or older. My Golden Age Passport has saved me hundreds of dollars. (The Golden Age Passport has been replaced by the America the Beautiful Senior Pass, but it is still honored.)
The National Park System’s web site is loaded with information. For instance, you can find a national park near you, learn what the largest and the smallest national parks are, get information about the flora, fauna, geography, geology and history of any park.
A NOT-FREE OPPORTUNITY
* One major National Park I have not yet visited is Yosemite, even though I’ve been quite near it several times. This July, you can participate in a hike that raises funds to advocate for the restoration of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. I’m passing on their press release in case you are thinking about your summer vacation.
Announcing the 2011 Muir’s March: a rare opportunity for adventure hikers and lovers of Yosemite to participate in guided treks following in the footsteps of famed naturalist John Muir. Muir’s March is organized as part of the fight to restore Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley.
What: Experienced guides will lead 1, 4 and 7-day guided hikes through scenic areas of Yosemite rarely experienced by tourists. Muir’s March is open to anyone who can raise a minimum of $90 (The money goes to the preservation effort and varies up to $2100 according to length of hike).
Why: Muir called Hetch Hetchy Valley “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” In 1913 the valley was flooded for use as a reservoir, destroying one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Muir’s March calls attention to both the devastation of – and the hope for – this rarest of natural treasures, as public momentum builds to restore the Hetchy Hetchy Valley to its original glory.
Where: Yosemite National Park. See a map of routes here.
When: July 24th – July 30th 2011
Who: Hikers and backpackers of all skill levels are welcome.
There are many good books about the National Parks, but my personal go-to favorites are the mysteries of Nevada Barr. Her latest, BURN, takes place in the New Orleans Jazz Historic Park, but I talked here last year about her mystery set in Yosemite. With sixteen books set in National Parks, you are sure to find one of your favorite parks.
Photos: All these photos are from my own trips to National Parks. I apologize for the slightly fuzzy ones that are scans from long-ago trips. If you are inclined to copy any of them, ask permission, please.
In Arizona, we are blessed with several National Parks and Monuments. The closest National Park to me is a mere 20 miles away, just outside the Tucson city limits. I live near Saguaro National Park-West. The park brackets Tucson, with another branch on the East. I don’t know if there are any other National Parks split in half like that by a city, do you?
What National Park is nearest to you? Have you been to the smallest National Park? The largest?